Digital Prescription: 3 Music Marketing Phobias and Their Cures

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Sean Rosenberg
Sean Rosenberg



music-fearsBrand marketers are creating original content in order to build deeper relationships with their customers online. It’s often said that music is a passion point, and we’re increasingly seeing brands gravitating towards musical content and its ability to connect emotionally with consumers and spread across the web.

However, there is a set of common fears from consumer brands when crafting a music strategy. The majority of music creation and distribution has historically been done in a bit of a black box, so I wanted to shed some light on these phobias. As the new digital entertainment economy is evolving, there are new ways to partner with artists, record labels, licensors and other players. Fear not.

1. Fear: Copyright

There are many rights and licenses required to build a powerful, music-led marketing campaign. The laws that govern these rights are constantly being tested as digital channels grow. There are multiple stakeholders in control of the different approvals that surround any single piece of music and associated songwriting and images. Say you want a new version of a classic song for your next commercial, to remix an existing recording of a song or even use a piece of album art in your campaign – each of those requires a different kind of license from a different group of rights holders.

Cure: Scoping

The most important way to tackle copyright is to have a clear plan for how the music will be used throughout the campaign. By defining the scope, a focused set of rights will always be easier to clear than the broad request of “global rights in perpetuity.” Partnering with a firm who understands how to unbundle these rights and how to position them to stakeholders is also important. By working with a trusted partner who is already engrained in the music industry, you can more readily ensure a successful, law-abiding music strategy.

2. Fear: Budget Planning

There is no formal market for pricing music so no two songs are valued the same. It can be alarming to brands when they realize that buying a license to one hit song in a TV commercial can eat up their entire marketing budget with no room to integrate and distribute the song through social channels.

Cure: Demographic Targeting

A music budget does not have to be spent on one piece of content alone (even though hot tracks are tempting to piggyback on). Selecting the right music for a brand should be partially based on quantitative requirements, not just what sounds familiar to the boardroom. The number of potential artists a brand can partner with expands greatly once target demographics are defined. Digital services like NextBigSound, Pandora and Facebook have the ability to match dozens of artists to a targeted demographic profile. While some artist matches will not be as well-known, they often mean everything to their fans and can be a more efficient way to reach a brand partner’s target demographic. A partnership with smaller artists has more potential to be multi-faceted and less expensive. This means that budgets can be spread across content creation and social media platforms to generate conversations with consumers that brands seek. Look for plans that propose multiple content choices before investing in a campaign that hinges on the popularity of one hit song.

3. Fear: Collaboration

Successful artists today realize that they need to strike when the iron is hot for partnerships, brand endorsement deals, etc. It can be intimidating for a brand to go out and try to find an artist who’s interested in a partnership that extends beyond the money and is willing to go the extra mile beyond what’s in the RFP.

Cure: Independent Music

Try working with independent talent – they are the key to creating fresh content that will engage consumers and position a brand to reap the benefits of the real music marketing “double-whammy” – the periods of both creation and digital distribution. These artists control their rights (taking care of the copyright fear), can be less expensive to partner with (taking care of budgeting concerns) and are hungry to embark on innovative campaigns that will help them build their own artistic brand.

As a brand, you are the new patron of the arts. Declining sales of recorded music makes it difficult for record labels and A&R groups to invest and develop new artists. Brands have the budgets and consumer interests in hand to truly keep music creation and innovation alive. Independent musicians all want an opportunity to be heard, and by working with an up-and-comer, a brand increases the chances of being associated with “breaking” a new artist, which can pay off handsomely for all parties.

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