Monday, February 20

The Inside Underground: The Future of Music Marketing.

Recently I conducted a Q&A for the Access to Music course, we focussed on Social Media, and Marketing, it was a pretty lively session and the students seemed engaged, and had a lot of questions which highlighted a slight shift Social Marketing, and threw up some interesting ideas and concepts that I'd like to talk about.

An artist accepting that they're a commodity, and offering a targeted market product is a dangerous and repulsive concept. It's always been safer and cooler for artists to ignore this, and let the record company deal with it, but increasingly that isn't possible, for a start there probably isn't a the record company support there, and if there is, there certainly aren't the budgets in place there use to be.

What's happening today is artists rebadging the concept of marketing and making this corporate activity more socially acceptable, and this is happening through Social Media. In spaces like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter bands are happy to talk about themselves and their music, knowing that this distribution of energy will generate new fans to their music naturally. It's easier to control this engagement and it doesn't feel like a corporate activity, but honestly it is, and it works in exactly the same way as a big corporation selling a product.

Finding a Social Audience for a band starts with remarkable content, there's no audience for shit music, except in Germany (that's not true, I don't even know what it means). With a good product in place you have the foundations for a simple effective Social Strategy that can drive people to you. I was asked in my session how somebody who writes from a darker place that's reflective of their neurosis is going to suddenly start Tweeting and Blogging about bight, happy issues to draw people in, but they're really missing the point of the communication. If your music is centered in a certain place, then it's only going to be engaging to people from a similar mindset, and they would be drawn in by a Social Strategy that is reflective of that way of life. Like everything it's about being yourself and hoping there's other people like you, because how ever large or small that group is, it always exists and this defines your market, and ultimately your success.

In the past the size of your potential market made a huge difference to how likely you were to forge a career, Swedish Doom House for example has a relatively small market, and is unlikely to attract record company investment. With social empowerment, coupled with the repositioning of the ideas behind the activity mean that bands can do more to self serve their product and reach their potential audience quicker, than just playing live up and down the country in the vein hope of playing to someone that gets them. In principal it could mean bands would be more selective about their shows, and the shows they do have could be communicated directly to an engaged audience and ultimately be more successful.

That's said, it's really important for bands to understand these techniques and actually do the groundwork themselves, because leaving an intern at the record company to tweet for you will probably lead to the kind of contrived messages Lana Del Ray posted proclaiming herself to be a 'Gangster Nancy Sinatra', and a disingenuous strategy is worse than no social strategy at all.

For me the really interesting question this brings up is the possibility of bands never playing live, to actually be in a successful band that only exists digitally and never ventures out of their home studio.

Bands will slog their guts out touring with other bands and playing anywhere that will put them on in the hope of exposing themselves to wider audience, but that seems fruitless in comparison to being in a band that sounds like 'Sleigh Bells', finding their Titter account, following everyone that follows them and pushing your music directly to people you know are going to be interested. Reaching a wider audience is now literally that easy, and with dedication and a strategy can be easily achieved.

Obviously what this doesn't consider is the fact bands love playing live, and everything that goes with that experience from the sticky stages to the showing-off, and that's never going to change, but what it opens up is exposure for the bands that can't get out, or don't want to. For every 100 bands desperate to set foot on the stage, there has to be 10 that just aren't interested, and this presents them a world of possibilities, and could spawn an Inside Underground scene of unseen heroes.

In broad terms vinyl was the first to go, then cassettes then CDs quickly died, and the music video followed it, then the record companies all withered away, until then live music seemingly saved the day, but when the greed creeps in, and the venues became all powerful, what if they died too? What if all we were left with were artists recording songs directly for people who liked them, in a way that's almost primeval, a return to the very basic concepts of music, devoid of gimmickry, the clutter of marketing and the fog of hype. Sounds amazing to me.

If you'd like to speak to Citizen about your Social Strategy please get in touch for a free consultation.

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