Grass Roots Marketing & Audience Development In The Digital Age
1. What is the brand? Is it the label or the artist?
In most instances, it is the artist. Exceptions to rule would include Ministry of Sound, Mo Wax, Cream, – people would buy these releases because or the recognition of the label, but the artist is usually the brand, albums are usually sold with artist branding, after all. Eminem’s Shady Records says something about what the record is going to be.
2. If you are pursing the DIY approach to launching a new artist or your own band, how much do you encourage people to start building the brand around a label which may only have one artist?
Considerations: How much time & energy do you have? Some labels are based solely around 1 or 2 singles. Building a label in addition to an artist’s brand requires a lot of work, time & money. It also depends on your goals. Once a certain level of artist success is achieved, you could have your own branded label as a sub-brand of the label with whom you’ve signed. Fred Dirs, A & R Polydor in the US does this. He signs a band he likes to his own label and sells it onto the major.
3. What opportunies are there for artists/labels/managers using the new internet aggregators, (e.g. Vitiminic, Get out There, Peoplesound, etc).
The shake down in the businesses offering such services has benefited labels and artists. Originally, a disproportionate amount of money was spent advertising such services, which promised too much. Less was spent on implementation and delivery, and hence many floundered. The survivors didn’t promise too much, and delivered.
There is now more label support for those still in the market, Wippit, MP3.com and so-on, which helps the marketing of unknown labels or bands, by association with higher profile artists on the same system.
4. What are the lessons learned from the use of online marketing & development?
More likely to get picked up through services such as Amazon, who will recommend other artists you may be interested in having made an initial search or purchase.
Labels, managers, or artists should try to:
· find out from their fan base, what other artists their fans are listening to, and then market their product to this wider potential fan-base.
· Think about whom they themselves would align themselves with, and use this to position themselves in online marketing strategies.
Street Teams. Traditionally, a few fans would attend gigs and hand out flyers. Digital street teams have become a huge marketing tool during the last few years, especially in the US. At the initial stage, a band will get, say, 30 to 40 fans to spread the word electronically; e-mail DJ’s & texting, and hence build a community.
This is a far more effective means of grass roots marketing – using genuine, committed fans who are driven by the belief in the music/artist. In return give this core fan-base t-shirts, and make them feel part of the band and instrumental in their growth. This is far easier to do with pop acts than it is rock acts – a rock music fan’s attitude is typically more questioning, along the lines of, “why should we help to sell your records for you”, and are generally less compliant.
The traditional work of street teams can be difficult to measure, i.e. distributing fliers, etc. However, the use of technology makes tracking and logging street team activity far easier, and hence quantifiable and justifiable to record companies. Unsigned artists should consider this cost-effective form of grass roots marketing, before hiring press officers.
5. What is affinity marketing?
It takes a consumer-centric approach. Regardless of the client, the client is secondary to the public. Affinity marketing takes account as to what the individual is interested in. Brands are then aligned with a conduit that will enable them to develop a positive relationship with the consumer.
Guerilla and Street Teams are an example of affinity marketing. This involves finding an affinity with an audience, the common denominator being the artist, and effectively finding a way to leverage this relationship for mutual benefit. In an ideal world, affinity marketing creates a virtuous circle, so everyone benefits.
6. Record companies have been traditionally lax in terms of research. How much is based on assumption, as to who the brands audience is?
Demographics and pigeonholing is now recognised as being an outmoded form of targeting the market. The buyer/consumer is now far more savvy, more aware and discerning. They also know when they’re being marketed-to. Brand research tends to be specific and biased to the outcome – the brand is paying for it after all. Research is critical, not only for present day, but also for identifying trends and behaviour in the future.
Young adults today (11-24) have grown up in a technological age. Their expectations, source of reference and knowledge is so much greater than any previous generation. This gives rise to different thinking and behaviour.
Spero Communications have undertaken entirely independent research in collaboration with IBM. This looks at agents of change in young adults, from the perspective of lifestyle, purchasing decisions and so-on. The results of this study are available at www.sperocom.co.uk/agentsofchange.
7. What might be typical data and information an artist/label might seek to collect about a fanbase?
Core things are e-mail address, country and mobile. Gender, postcode, age, are often collected, depending on the requirements of a brand, and how general or niche a market they are targeting.
Campaigns typically encourage people to re-register in order to maintain a current and reliable e-mail database, by offering incentives in order to achieve this.
8. Free Music. Should this be made available in order to drive future sales/grow fanbase?
If you want people to buy music over the internet, you need to change perception. In the case of cover-mount CD’s, it’s not a case of giving things away for free, which implies there is no worth to music, but enabling the consumer to sample music they might otherwise not even consider buying, as a means to broaden the consumer base. This is particularly true for a breaking artist.
Websites should have the option to listen before you buy, whether purchased online or bought in a shop. US market is different – it does not have a singles market, they also do a lot of retail deals, incl. streaming of albums prior to release. Radiohead serves as a prime example. Despite making their entire album available for streaming 2 months prior to release they still achieved very high record sales…
9. Subscription Services. Do they have a future?
Dotmusic.co.uk is an example of an excellent subscription service, but does this represent how people want to buy music in the future? As an example, Satellite TV subscription is now highly popular and profitable, yet was initially questioned at the outset as a means by which people would buy pay-to-view programming.
10. Global or local niche marketing from the outset?
Although depending on type of music, most artists have to start out locally, playing live and growing an audience. The opportunity should be taken to draw their attention to a website, and get them to register for more information. It’s almost impossible to get an international following from the outset. Even establishes artists struggle in different territories. Robbie Williams in the USA serves as an example.
11. What might constitute a typical Online Marketing Campaign?
It varies according to label – some are more new media aware and enthusiastic than others. Some are particularly encouraging and forward thinking, with regard to online marketing and development.
Generally, up to 3/4 years ago, there was no pre-existing online artist development prior to an artist being signed. There would be no fan base database, no domain name registration. Now, increasingly when an artist is signed, they already have a domain name, an online community and so-on.
12. This has IP implications. What should the artist know and understand about the ownership and rights bound up in having a website designed for you?
An artist should own the source code. This enables you to change and update the site. Without these, the sites cannot be changed or updated. An artist should aim to own, or at the very least be aware as to who owns the source code, the URL, the database and the actual design, and how this will impact on the maintenance of the online presence.
13. What’s in the promotional mix of an online campaign?
Mobile applications represent the biggest shift. More people own mobiles than CD players in Europe. Considerable income can be generated via licensing of music for ringtones. The gathering of mobile ‘phone numbers for marketing, via MMS and SMS is becoming a crucial part of an online, mobile campaign. The use of Shazam, (the mobile service which you can use to identify music heard in a restaurant by way of a text) is being analysed by labels and pluggers to identify what music people are interested in. An obvious development would be to be able to text back and buy the track.
14. Where is the synergy between traditional and new media?
An often-asked question is “what is more important, online or offline. Should one differentiate? The consumer is looking for a live brand experience. They do not see the divide between new or old media. If you give them an off-line option, give an incentive for an online experience, for example, buying tickets online.
15. Are there any no-no’s to online campaigns?s
Do not hassle the online community/the online consumer. Protect them, and their data. A consumer does not expect a brand to be selling to them. If a brand impacts on them in a clear and transparent way it can be beneficial. If there are any underhand or hidden motives or procedures, a consumer will switch-off, and you’ve lost them, most probably for good. Do give a near immediate response if you have requested something online of your database.
16. Affordability of technology.
The 4Play™ technology is too expensive for grass-roots users. DRM solutions in such applications involve extremely expensive processes. The independent sector should look to pool resources to develop and grow micro online communities as a way around this.
17. How can things be done differently?
There is a lack of a new media policy across the record industry, from small indies through to the majors, both in terms of content and delivery platforms.