CMU Trends Marketing & PR The Great Escape 2015

Trends: Music marketing is broken – let’s fix it

By | Published on Friday 29 May 2015

Music Marketing Is Broken

The team from CMU Insights began the proceedings of each conference strand at The Great Escape this year by reviewing the part of the business under the spotlight. Taking those insights beyond the room, here we present a bullet point summary of the marketing intro.

• Traditionally artist marketing has been led by record companies, and built around album campaigns, which customarily run for the three to four months either side of release.

• While these album campaigns now involve digital and social channels, all the traditional activities remain part of the mix: advertising, mailing lists, music PR, plugging TV and radio etc.

• But increasingly marketing activity is now needed before the label is on board, and then between album campaigns, to build the buzz that makes an artist ‘label ready’ and to keep fanbase engaged between records.

• Most of this marketing takes place through digital and social channels, backed up by gigging, which remains a key fanbase building tool.

• This activity is often led by management rather than the label, with many record companies still prone to be super proactive around album releases, but more hands-off the rest of the time.

• This ‘between-album marketing’ is becoming ever more key as artists seek to grow revenue streams beyond record sales, and especially as they try to capitalise on the potential of direct-to-fan businesses.

• But who pays for this marketing? Do managers need to hire marketing and PR agencies direct, or recruit their own marketing teams? Or can labels be incentivised to take on this work now that they are often cut into other artist revenue streams? Especially if that includes direct-to-fan.

• However, there is another reason for labels to get involved with between album marketing.

• As we shift towards a streaming model, first-week sales are less important, sustained listening is what matters.

• Some of this can be achieved during the album campaign, by getting tracks playlisted, and then encouraging fans to add songs to their own personal libraries on playlists they routinely play.

• But it is likely that additional marketing is needed beyond release to keep albums and tracks in people’s minds, so they repeat listen and additional royalties come in.

• This poses challenges: Can labels afford to provide marketing support beyond the album campaign? Do labels need to restructure their marketing departments, and the way employees are rewarded, to take into account more long-term marketing objectives? Do labels need to change the way they engage marketing and PR agencies? And what is the ‘message’ of the campaign once the actual album release is old news?