Business News Digital Labels & Publishers The Great Escape 2015

The music marketing plan of the future is longer term and more collaborative

By | Published on Tuesday 19 May 2015

Music Marketing Is Broken: Let's Fix It

Following his keynote speech at CMU Insights @ The Great Escape on Friday, Spotify’s Will Hope sat down with a panel of label and PR representatives to further discuss the impact the shift to streaming is having on the way the music industry markets its artists and releases.

Hope started by discussing the challenge of convincing the music industry to switch its mindset when it comes to marketing music. “One of the biggest legacies, I guess, is that the music industry always wants to think of different services as different things”, he said. “So, radio’s for discovery and the store is for buying, and so on. But streaming brings all of those things together”.

“Playlisting is really key”, he went on. “But because more and more of it’s on mobile there’s less space for people to take over, and that is something we struggle with”. Often, he said, industry people still want something big, like a frontpage banner for their artist, and are less impressed when they are simply placed at the top of a popular playlist.

“This is something I like to refer as the ‘cycle of bullshit'”, Hope continued. “The priority becomes having something impressive looking that you can copy and paste into an email and send to your boss, or to management, so you can say, ‘Look, I’m doing a good job’. But no one considers whether that banner is actually doing anything. [The problem is that] you can’t visualise 60 million people listening to a track on a playlist, but that’s where the real kickback will come from”.

Beyond recognising that a simple listing, rather than a big advert, is what will drive listening, and therefore revenue, another challenge in the streaming space is convincing everyone – labels, artists, managers – to take a more long-term approach, both in terms of activity and results.

Asked by CMU’s Sam Taylor whether it was a struggle to convince artists and managers of the need for a new approach in the streaming age, Cooking Vinyl’s Head Of Digital Sammy Andrews explained: “It really varies depending on who it is. At Cooking Vinyl, Billy Bragg and The Prodigy have really embraced streaming, and get that they need to create different content beyond a traditional release plan. But some people don’t”.

“I’ve spent months sitting in meetings with artists and managers who just don’t get it, and who sometimes bluntly refuse to engage with the streaming platforms”, she continued. “But it’s trying to explain to people that longevity that is where streaming comes into its own. We can’t just go for those first week sales. We’ve built this hits-based industry, but that doesn’t work for streaming – if you only focus on first week, you get fuck all money. But more and more now, people want to do it and they’re starting to get it”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some heritage and catalogue artists have been particularly slow to come on board with streaming, but Hope said that as they see their music being discovered by a new generation of fans as a result of online playlisting, more are seeing the benefits.

“You’ve got a generation of people who wouldn’t find that music otherwise. That’s why we’ve had a lot of catalogue wins recently, like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Rammstein out of Germany. At first heritage acts may be a little begrudging of having to engage, but once we start working together, they find out a lot about their fanbase, they find out who’s listening and where”.

From a PR perspective, Division Promotions’ Joe Parry added: “Streaming has completely changed things. We can’t see things in the same way as before. It’s a lot more about profile building in the early stages, and then finding ways to keep pushing the music”.

“It’s not the traditional idea of setting a record up three or four months in advance, throwing it all at the wall and seeing what sticks”, added Absolute Label Service’s Adam Cardew. “What we need to do now is look at each project individually, and understand it”.

Picking up on this point Warp’s Head Of PR Leah Ellis added: “In the past, we’d have all the assets in up front and it would be a straightforward three month campaign. Now it’s thinking about what can come after the album, say a video in six months time, and directing people to streaming services. A lot of our artists are not radio friendly, so it’s about what we can do online to get the whole album across, whether that be album samplers to launch a campaign, or an album stream that’s interactive”.

She added that a problem with this new model was that the traditional media were still focused on album release dates, even when artists and labels were staging more long-running campaigns. “Traditional media always want to pinpoint around an album or a re-issue and I think that model really does need to change, especially in the print press”.

Parry agreed, saying: “Gone are the days when you say, ‘this is what we’re going to do at this time, and this is what we’re going to do at this time’, it has to be a lot more fluid. But that doesn’t really play to the model of three or four month lead times at some magazines. I think there are a lot more changes that need to happen with print publications. And that’s significant when you look at the dwindling sales of those publications, it’s obvious that things aren’t quite gelling properly”.

As things become more fluid, communication between each of the different stakeholders involved in a release campaign is more important than ever too, added Parry: “PR is just a cog in a bigger machine, and you’ve got to communicate with everybody in that machine in order for it to work properly. It’s the product managers at the labels that have the hardest job, communicating with everybody and making sure they’re all on the same track. If I don’t get a radio report in three weeks, I don’t know what’s going on there, and it doesn’t help me to go to journalists to give them the bigger picture”.

On the data that streaming services provide, Andrews said: “The data is amazing. One of the things that the digital revolution has done for our industry, that people didn’t necessarily get early on, is that we can look between streaming data and live stuff, and see how it all feeds in. We can see when a band goes on tour that we get streams in, we can really see where the fanbase is from a digital marketing perspective. We’ve never had such amazing data. Obviously, you don’t want to be completely data-led, but it’s really interesting to see who your fans are, and for us to be able to take that and have a pretty good idea if these people like this”.

Cardew added: “The data really does help, particularly with getting artists on board who may not be so enthusiastic initially. Because we can help inform those artist’s wider activity. A good example would be a single release we did with Lethal Bizzle last year. He was going out on tour, and we said, ‘Have you seen that you’ve got a load of streams coming from Coventry? You’re not doing a date in Coventry’. So he set up a date and sold it out. And that wouldn’t have happened without the data from streaming services”.

However, added Andrews, the different services could be doing more on this front: “It would be nice for some of the streaming services to give us a little more access to the fanbases that we’re pushing their way. It’s the same with all the social networks. We’re fuelling all of these services, whether it be Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or Spotify. We have great relationships with all of them, but it would be lovely if we could contact users a little bit easier. It would be lovely to be able to drop an email into someone’s inbox, who’s listened to my album directly”.

But wouldn’t that just be spam, asked Taylor. “Not if they’re engaged”, insisted Cardew. “Spotify could say, ‘These are your engaged listeners’, and you could drop some sort of push notification”.

“I’d love to be able to email people that have listened to the album 20 times and tell them that the artist has got something else going on”, added Andrews.

“I guess on the one hand users wouldn’t be thrilled and there’s data protection stuff that means you couldn’t do that”, countered Hope. “But it’s just beginning, there’s loads more to do. That ability to talk to people and know better and better who they are, we’re at the beginning of that process”.

We’ll look more at how companies are finding new ways to engage listeners and promote music via the streaming services in the coming days as we continue to cover this year’s CMU Insights @ The Great Escape. Keep an eye on our microsite for all the updates.

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