Social Media and Music Marketing: An Industry Guide

It’s clear to see that many forms of industry have morphed enormously over the past century. With the industrial revolution and the vast globalisation of trade many marketplaces have been turned on their heads; the music industry is no outlier of this change. From means of distribution to artist networking the music industry has had a near total upheaval in order to function within the new technologically connected world. Of all of these variables however, none have affected the trade more-so than the rise of the internet. “Madonna said, “The paradigm in the music business has shifted and as an artist and a business woman, I have to move with that shift …For the first time in my career, the way that my music can reach my fans is unlimited. I’ve never wanted to think in a limited way and with this new partnership, the possibilities are endless.” (Thakur, P. 2012:399) A current upcoming artist’s priorities are infinitely different to those of an artist 2 decades ago and as such, both artists and the music industry have had to react in turn.

Origins

Prior to the internet, music was sold on numerous different formats both analogue and digital as well as in sheet format to be read and interpreted by other musicians. In this time the music industry was essentially an oligopoly between the major labels and was a self contained market. “Over the greater part of the last century, the entities that would come to be the big five record labels – Warner, Universal, BMG, Sony and EMI – crafted elaborate distribution pipelines to generate and safeguard hefty revenue.” (Alderman, J. 2001:1) They achieved this via the method of vertical integration: the acquisition of one or more firms within a separate stage of the production process. They controlled who entered the recording studios used to produce tracks contracted by them, they controlled an immense level of the production firms such as vinyl presses and ultimately controlled where this music was distributed. “The major record labels owned the content, the means of production (recording and manufacture), the publishing and licensing activities, the distribution channels – and in some cases, they even manufactured the hardware, owned the retail stores and promoted live concerts.” (Content in Context. 2013.) A good example of this is Sony Music Entertainment – part of the Sony Corporation – they have access to numerous levels of the production ladder, from tape, vinyl and CD production, right down to the construction of breakthrough hardware such as the Walkman. Factors such as this made the music industry an impenetrable market to enter for lesser businesses as they simply could not keep up – however, success in the industry no longer requires this as can be displayed by bands such as Enter Shikari with their debut album Take to the Skies receiving considerable success under their own independent label Ambush Reality.

Birth of the Social Space

Social Media was pioneered chiefly by the website Myspace, launched in 2003 it was a networking site with a heavy weighting on interaction between members of pop culture fandom. “Since 1999, 300 millions users, general social networking site with a focus on music and pop culture.” (Molloy, F. 2008) As such, it was a great focal point for sharing one’s interests and reputing your favourite bands and similarly, a great place for bands to interact with their fans in a time where connectivity was limited.

A famous example of such marketing is the Arctic Monkeys; a band of whom established themselves firmly through gigging, but secured their fan-base via  bridging the divide between fan and band by interaction, albeit to this being against industry standard. “The Arctic Monkeys were lauded as the band that rewrote the rules of music sales and marketing, embracing their fans using a medium which allowed that embrace to happen more directly.” (Young, S. & Collins, S. 2010:346) It is refuted by front-man Alex Turner that the band had any involvement with the social media page and that it was all fan-established. It is suspected however that it was orchestrated by management. “The band’s manager – had control of that. He may have initially have had fans running it, but that was controlled by management – the record label didn’t set that up.” (Osbourne, B. 2013.) Economically, intentional or not, this was a fantastic movement for the Arctic Monkeys, essentially globalising their influence far beyond their own financial and geographical limitations. This is a key factor to the effectiveness of social media advertising: it is extremely cost effective in comparison to physical advertisement.

Following Myspace many other mediums arose, such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter to name a few. These mediums are currently used to great effect by both growing and established artists, taking advantage of interactivity and internet culture to establish an emotional connection with their fanbase, removing the ‘fame-barrier’ from their image and subsequently humanising themselves. “Fans of pop musician Lady Gaga (known particularly for using social media to interact with fans), for example, perceive her social media outputs as involved, authentic, intimate, and reciprocal forms of communication.” (Krause, A.E et al. 2018)

File Sharing – Implications of Pirating

With the growth of internet connection came the birth of Social Media – requiring no more than a few kilobytes of data – users were able to converse in ways previously inconceivable to them. Users could interact with one another and form forums where they could discuss their interests, such as music (albeit on extremely slow connection). With this connectivity however, users were granted the ability to transfer data, particularly, the digital format of MP3s. This was undoubtedly the most destabilising occurrence to befall the music industry; individuals had unlimited access to one-another’s files, a huge percentage of which were of course, copyrighted music. This accessibility to unlawfully acquire material led to numerous cases and appeals including Metallica’s infamous Napster lawsuit.

Napster is widely believed as the beginning of online sharing as we know it. “Nothing like it exists. There are no large scale internet communities. And to transfer even a single music file takes hours, often without success.” (AOL Originals, 2013.)  The file sharing site served as a gateway, having users allow other paired users access to their music files on their hard drive.   With users going to such lengths as publicising their personal files, it was clear people were greatly adamant again paying for their music. “People’s emotional ties to music, their general interest in music was more than enough to overwhelm any kind of security or privacy concerns.” (The New York Times, 2014.)

Change of Priority?

It was the digital format which subsequently enabled the mass dissemination of media that we see today. With the digital nature of CDs, music was no longer stored as groves on vinyl, but rather, took its form from information – Binary. This is where the problem arises; this data takes its form in a sequences of ones and zeroes and as such, is easy to duplicate. The subsequent lack of reliable sales for physical releases shifted the industry’s priorities to a field which could not be duplicated, live music. “In the same time that record sales have plummeted, the live music sector has thrived, potentially presenting alternative business models and opportunities.” (Gamal, A.E. 2012.)

This depart from reliance on physical format leaves current artists heavily reliant upon live performance to supplement their emergence, as well as demographic specific tour merchandise and other miscellaneous commodities. As such, it can be said that placing one’s music on a streaming platform is not only generating potential revenue (however small) which may otherwise be lost to piracy, but also serves as an effective loss leader, redeeming the small return on music for a potential larger return on event revenue.

Benefits and Shortcomings of Streaming

The internet has brought about numerous platforms upon which we may listen to or acquire music on demand legally in the universally recognised MP3 format such as Spotify, Deezer, and Tidal to name a few streaming mediums. This has removed the great divide present causing musicians to require a record label for exposure. While this is a positive point, it has also caused considerable saturation within the market, making competition considerably tough. Streaming services also offer very low revenue – Spotify giving roughly $0.0084 per stream due to the freemium nature of the platform of which is purchased by only 25% of the consumer-base (growthhackers.com) These platforms can be very effective for discovering new artists due to such a huge portion of the consumer-base centralised around streaming and its steadily growing popularity. (see fig.1)

Naturally with this surge in independence, a time of destabilisation arose throughout the industry. Over time, social media has evolved and expanded, establishing itself in numerous different ways: from social networking to blogs and streaming sites and becoming a key component of people’s lives. As such, many advertisers have moved the brunt of their marketing to the digital sphere to interact with an environment the current generation understand.

Many hardworking musicians are competing to get recognition in both the local and global market, using marketing techniques such as social media and PR, techniques used such as Creating and Developing, Advertising & Promoting Yourself and Networking and Building Relationships through social online platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, they are essential to how an artist can develop in the industry they are in.

Electronic music is a rapidly rising interest in the music world but although seen as an ‘underground’ genre, shares many similarities with other genres in its marketing. Concerning DJs, they can have both advantages and disadvantages to the process of marketing. This section will provide you with all the marketing strategies for DJ’s and other independent artists. I will examine a number of artists which collectively make full use of marketing strategies referred to previously to gain a high following.

Amelie Lens

An example of an artist who uses a number of these techniques for their self-marketing is Amelie Lens. Lens is a Belgian electronic music DJ and record producer mostly working in the field of Techno. Lens is seen to be a Techno Phenomenon and is currently ‘completely unstoppable’ (Mixmag, 2019). With a total of 605,870 followers on her Facebook page. To start off with the creation and development of Amelie Lens’ musical style and form is shaped from the Acid house movement that was beginning to take hold in Chicago in late 1986 (Saunders, 2007). Lens has social media platform where her music is dispersed into her audience. The main platforms Lens is considered to be prominent upon are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Promotion

When considering promotion for yourself via online social media, online videos that Amelie Lens provides allows her fans to see her in action. This connects to an audience and they can have a live experience with Amelie Lens, making her seem more realistic. Showing off her performance skills makes other DJ’s more interested in following her on her Social media platforms such as YouTube or Instagram and consequently, opens up avenues for collaboration. The use of these platforms can gain recognition from people who are interested in her style of music due to the suggestion system implemented on Youtube and suggested profiles on Instagram. In terms of creation and development, Amelie Lens has developed from vinyl to digital whilst still using Vinyl. The history of DJing markets Lens as somebody who is considered to understand the logic behind digital, however, digital ways of Djing are more prominent today. Streaming services such as Soundcloud provide Lens with the platform to broadcast her own music whilst social media provides her with a chance to market herself by using relatable everyday posts.

Interaction

Lens humanises herself via these and consequently attracts the younger audience, who can relate to her normal life style over a facade seen on some artists. In terms of networking and building relationships, Amelie Lens talks about food, cats and family on her Twitter profile. “guys, what is the easiest way to order food in Buenos Aires? like Uber eats? because I am not leaving my bed tonight ” (Twitter.com.2019), fans of Amelie Lens can answer her questions and interact. Normalizing her lifestyle so fans feel they similar, this gains recognition for marketing purposes to her audience as they feel they know her and have a relationship with her in a similar way to the aforementioned Arctic Monkeys point.

One of the strengths of Lens’ persona is without a doubt her interaction with fans. With growing artist dependency on live performance it is integral you prioritise creating a dedicated fan-base over a non-returning consumer-base. The musical content she posts on her social media is also a considerable boon to her as it further portrays authenticity of the artist. Combined these points create an encompassing authentic nature to her that many other artists lack. “authenticity was ‘not simply a matter of romantic self-expression or a faithful devotion to a strict interpretation of tradition, but rather should define the musician in relation to reality” (Kruger, S & Moy, R. 2014)

There are however risks with these highly colloquial social media mannerisms. If Lens were to publish a tweet or update on her social media of a controversial nature, whether satire or accidental she will still suffer considerable backlash from her audience who may potentially disagree and can potentially present roadblocks in the future. This was demonstrated by Guardian of the Galaxy director James Gunn when old tweets from his past resurfaced on social media and subsequently had him fired from his position.

A potential weakness of Len’s marketing however is the lack of a comprehensive website. While she does have a domain dedicated to her act, it consists of only one URL which consists of a backdrop of herself at a gig as well as booking address and numerous social media hyperlinks. This equates to fans having to delve into social media to retrieve dates for particular gigs which may take place near to them. As such, it is vitally important to have an environment you can dedicate tour or performance dates to.

Marshmello & Alan Walker

Image

However, there are other means of marketing yourself. Providing an enigmatic approach can work to attract an audience’s attention. For example, the artist ‘Marshmello’, with a high following on Facebook of 6,898,796 people, Marshmello performs his sets of electronic music in an unusual way by wearing a mask which constitutes to a marshmallow on his head with a smiley face for comedy. The anonymous approach to his performances makes the audience intrigued when watching his videos via Instagram or YouTube, keeping the audience entertained. Alan Walker is a Norwegian DJ and record producer, who also presents the enigmatic move to his djing approach as Walker wears a mask for his audience. This is done to concentrate more on his music rather than on his face or appeal. This is the prime reason why he always wears a mask on his face. He also said that mask is a symbol of unity and equality. This story behind his attire creates an empathetic character for Walker, with consumers much more likely to buy into them if they respect the artist. The story behind an artist whether that be the relatability of their social media feed or their enigmatic approaches create a unique selling point for that artist that sets them apart from the rest. Marshmello uses his mask for a branding technique – DJ’s use the mask for standing out and be exempt from the crowd, this is a unique way of branding but also both artist are well-known, so this is a successful use of marketing.

Both artists are based on Resident Advisor which is an is an online music magazine and community platform dedicated to showcasing electronic music, artists and events across the globe. It was established in 2001. RA’s editorial team provides news, music and event reviews, as well as films, features and interviews. This is good for promotion as you have to be a popular artist to be featured on this platform.

Streaming

In terms of streaming methods for both artists, Streaming music is different because you don’t own the tracks – you only gain temporary borrowing rights for the song currently being played. Most services offer a free option with ad support and/or metered listening, while pushing you towards a premium tier that offers ad-free otherwise colloquialised as Freemium.

The decrease of sales for the recording industry in terms of digital streams outweighing purchases can have an effect on the artist’s sales. You now must stream in order to increase popularity of the artist music to be recognised. Through streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Soundcloud and Tidal, all have their own individual way of connecting to their audiences, for example, below is the way artists use each platform mentioned. (refer to Fig.2) With millions more paying subscribers than the next closest competition, Spotify is the most popular on-demand streaming service on the market today. A quote from IFBI.org says “Total streaming revenues grew 34.0% to nearly half of all revenue, driven by paid streaming” This quote proves the integrity of streaming services.

However, streaming can be seen as a double-edged sword, considering streaming services which Amelie Lens is connected to like Spotify or Soundcloud, Lens essentially gives away the music in return for nothing as displayed by Spotify’s royalty rates provided earlier in this piece. However, streaming services are essential for an artist to increase in popularity, providing their music for free streams can equate to that artist being recognised more as a greater amount of the audience can have access to the music; easy access is what has generated audience appeal to a greater degree as they will more likely switch on something which is conveniently streamed.

Particular opportunities arise within the streaming sector with regards to partnership. For example, Soundcloud integrates a number of lauded performance software modules into their catalogue such as Native Instruments, Serato, Virtual DJ and a number of others. (Soundcloud, 2019.) This allows otherwise economically stunted artists an opportunity to produce at industry standard with high quality software instruments and mixing capabilities.

To summarise, the main marketing ploys used by Lens, Marshmello and Walker are all by and large shared and so they are clearly functioning tactics. Firstly, through online networking, a personal connection with your audience may be established and interactivity reinforces an active and welcoming fandom. Then through anonymity the audience can effectively be more intrigued and pursue the artist in greater detail, the more you tease an audience the more they will react. Lastly in particular for DJs, streaming services are the main go-to places for marketing your music, especially Spotify due to its position of power in the streaming sphere and Soundcloud due to its similar popularity and vast partnership integration.  The strength of this is to appeal to a wider audience as potential fans, there is a particular reliance on playlist culture within the current musical sphere so pursuing plugs on popular playlists is likely an extremely effective way to broaden your reach. Ultimately, social media is a platform of sharing, and in a generation which revolves around posting their interests and personal life, what better way to convert your feed into fans than posting your content online? “Because consumers typically judge the information provided by other individuals to be trustworthy and credible (Pornpitakpan2004), user-generated social media communications have a greater effect on consumers’ overall perception of brands than firm-created social media communication.” (Schivinski, B & Dabrowski, D. n.d.)

 

Appendices

fig.1: ifpi.org

 

stats

fig.2:

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 16.02.53

fig.3: informationisbeautifulPicture1

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