January 31, 2012
The Current State of Music & Marketing – some of my random thoughts.
I am just returning from a global music conference called Midem. The conference takes place in Cannes, France. Yeah, I know what you’re saying……..but you should know that it poured down rain the entire time. (OK, I know you still don’t feel sorry for me).
I love music. I love just about everything about it – how it can make me feel, how it can bring me together with friends at a Radiohead show, how I share a love of certain songs or artists with my wife and two beautiful teenage daughters, how intimate and personal it can be – all at the same time.
While attending this conference I sat thru multiple panel discussions (I even participated in a few), listened to presentations, talked to people between sessions, and made some new friends.
There were major global brands in attendance. Brands like Facebook, Yahoo, Coca-Cola. American Express, Vodaphone, Nokia, Microsoft (are these really music companies?). Apple was also quietly present behind the scenes. There were up and coming companies such as Spotify, TopSpin, and a few others. There was a tremendous amount of energy spent on talking about the “future” of the business of music. This music business is something that I have always been fascinated with. Its fun to sit where I do, outside of it, and watch the old guard attempt to act as if they are the new guard…..and to see the new up and comers hustle their ideas of the future state of their business.
I have good news to report – the future of music looks pretty bright.
- Global brands are starting to understand that it is more about the art than the endorsement.
Brands are starting to get it. They are starting to understand that it is about the art…..not just the borrowing of it. Let me explain. For years & years brands “used music” to market their brands. They do this by paying established artists huge sums of money to sing or dance (sometimes both) for them in hopes of increasing their sales via their “association” or endorsement of their product. This is a pretty standard model and its been in place for years. The issue with it is that consumers today (insert “music fans” here if you’d like) see right thru this model. There are a number of big brands still using this model. Some will never change and that’s ok by me.
There are a number of brands who have finally discovered that its better to invest in the process of music than spending their time trying to cool hunt. Public funding for the arts continues to decline. Music & art programs in our public school system are dying….and its sad. Instead of making big donations to public institutions and hoping their money is going to good use, companies are starting to invest directly into the creative process. Coca-Cola is starting to do this – and it will have an impact on the future of music if they stick with it (I am hopeful they will).
Brands and artists are now working directly in ways never before imagined. The more this happens, and the more that the brands focus on the art, the better off we’ll all be. One warning to all brands though – understand your place and don’t forget that YOU are not in the music business. Always remember who you are, and maintain a focus on your core business, then find ways to connect with the arts. Many (in fact almost all) brands get involved in music and lose their way because they get caught up in it, and they start to believe they can be “in the business”. Remember Starbucks and their run at it? Yes, I do…I was a big part of it. They lost focus for a bit and actually thought a coffee company could change the industry. They did some super cool stuff, made a few great records, and sold a ton of CDs….but in the end the focus on being a great provider of coffee was pushed to the side and the pursuit to change an industry that was far older than itself. As much as I have criticized them along the way, I am happy to see that they have found their center again and are clearly focused on who they are and what they do……and they’ve determined the role of music in their business vs trying to be in it in a meaningful way.
2. Music is intensely personal while at the same time social.
Technology continues to march forward, making it easier to access music on your own terms AND to leverage the technology in ways that allow it to be what it has always been – social.
Things are changing pretty rapidly. Facebook’s world dominance continues to roll on. Their pending IPO is going to be all we hear about for the next 6 months, watching the new millionaire club continue its expansion. I say – good for them. They have created something that allows us to easily connect with each other, while at the same time allow each of us to curate ourselves as brands (yes, YOU are a brand). Their recent moves to integrate music into their platform via Spotify is changing the way we share music with each other. We’ve always shared our music tastes with each other, but now it’s a bit easier and immediate. I am anxious to see what becomes of this new partnership. It may or may not work…but I am confident that it will lead us to new places…..and I believe at some point the good folks at iTunes will take the idea of social music to another level. Lets not forget – Apple is the one who changed the landscape for all of us. While they may have been a little quiet as of late when it comes to music – my gut tells me that they are not finished blowing our minds just yet. Their “ping” service has fallen short which I can only imagine has stoked their competitive fires. Stay tuned there.
Brands can also play an interesting role in the social media space. Someone at the conference posed the question yesterday, “Is Facebook the new network or channel for new music discovery?”. I think not. I actually think that Facebook is the cable system, and that the “channels” are the pages of brands, artists, & people. Facebook has 800+ million people on their platform but people still look to their friends (or others) for the new and interesting things. Facebook isn’t the one talking to me when I am on there…..my friends are the ones. They are the new media channels. Brands can play this role too, now more than ever.
Fifteen years ago brands made big (and sometime famously expensive) tv commercials. We then paid big artists to be in them – to sing and dance to sell our products. We then bought time on big event TV like the Super Bowl and we broadcast our message. We then bought even more and more media in order to make sure that you heard what we had to say…….and if we had a big enough marketing budget and our message was funny or clever…..we would wear you down…..and you would likely buy what we were selling. That model is somewhat obsolete (although can still be extremely effective if used strategically today). That was the easiest approach in the world for marketers……stand on a town and yell your message…….TELL people what to think, how to act, what to believe.
Then the digital revolution hit us….remember that? We were all running to buy banner ads, then we got a little creative using Flash……..we chased the digital revolution not really knowing what we were after. All we knew (and were told by the experts) was that we needed to be there. “What % of your media budget is in digital?” we were constantly asked by AdWeek and the likes. We chased our tails……but things kept moving forward and we got better. We learned from our mistakes and started to understand that it wasn’t “digital” we should have been chasing….it was connection (and relationships) we needed to build. This scared us because we needed to start listening.
Today the world is a very different place. Today the consumer is actually in charge. Or, at least they are an equal partner is this journey. Ten years ago “new media” was defined as digital marketing.
Today – people are media. And the experiences you provide to them ARE the message.
Brands need to understand this. In today’s social world, we’re only a click away from thousands of other people…..and “friends” listen to what other “friends” have to say about things, including brands. We’re in a world of advocacy now. If you have advocates for your brand – you will succeed. If you don’t, all the advertising in the world won’t save you from yourself. The sooner you understand this basic thing, the better off you’ll be, Build advocates and have the confidence (and guts) to believe in them, to deliver your message……just make sure that the experiences you give them, the interactions you have with them are pure, honest, and true.
3. Art is alive and kicking.
I’ve said this a few times before. The music business is in trouble BUT music has never been more popular. This is true. Art is alive and well. We knew it would be. While the world’s economy continues to fluctuate, we’ve always known that in the toughest of economic times that creativity is always what brings us out of it. It’s creativity in music, business, and thinking that always saves us. And right now just look around. There is music playing everywhere…….and it’s a great thing to hear.
These artists now have new & interesting ways to expose their music to audiences all over the world. It used to be that an artist needed to get signed, make a record, and hope like hell it would get played on the radio…..man, that must have been a painful process for a young and impressionable artist. Today, they can record a track in their garage, upload it, then start spreading the word via Twitter, facebook, and dozens of other channels at their fingertips. Although this model still comes with many of its own challenges (finding an audience in a sea of madness), it does however still offer great potential for these people.
One thing for us all to consider – these artists will still need the help & expertise of the industry. I don’t think this will ever go away….but it will continue to change. The “industry” is going to need to be at the forefront of how to leverage the technology to find paying audiences – whether it’s through streaming, downloads, live performances, or new experiences these artists will need the industry (labels) to innovate. This is your challenge music industry – YOU must innovate as well….not just watch those around you in the technology and brand worlds do it for you. We need you to also innovate, bring new and interesting models, ideas, and experiences to the marketplace. The technology companies (or other brands) don’t really understand the music like you do.
So, there you have it. A few thoughts.
We (brands, technology, and the industry) need to work together FOR the artist…….not have the artist work FOR us. If we do this, everyone wins….including those people who pay the bills….our fans, our consumers, the ones who download the apps, buy the shoes, go to the shows, and who love the music…..OUR advocates.
Yes, I have great hope for this thing I love.
This thing called music.
Thanks for listening. Peace.
PS – here’s a list of songs that served as the soundtrack as I wrote this piece.
Lana Del Rey – Video Games (get her new album NOW)
Down Like Silver – Wolves (you need to hear this song)
The Head & The Heart – Lost In My Mind
Jay Farrar & Ben GIbbard – These Roads Don’t Move
Arcade Fire – We Used To Wait