Digital marketing has only been in its current form for the last decade. Despite the application of digital marketing within various industries, the majority of initiatives and campaigns have focused on the idea of direct-to-consumer (or within music as direct-to-fan). The focus lies solely on cutting out the middleman and reaching consumers directly.
The current conventions of digital marketing within the music industry focus on basic direct-to-consumer tenets but these ideas are now beginning to become obsolete. With the rise of hardware-focused technology such as the smartphone, the relationship between an artist and fan is facilitated through their devices.
The new way to reach fans will be direct-to-device.
A Real Meet and Greet
Reaching fans in decades past was simple because there wasn’t a technological barrier. Fans were able to go to a local record store, buy an album and connect with the artist through their music and their cover art. The anticipation of finding out what an artist was like was emoted through interviews, television appearances and fan magazines, which told you what your artist’s favorite color was.
Fans were able to connect with their favorite artists and support them through items such as zines.
The Riot Girl music movement of the Pacific Northwest found its strongest support in zines from around the country between its two epicenters, Olympia, WA and Washington, DC. The scene quickly spread across the country by and large due to the network of fans. Marissa Meltzer offers her take on how the word of the Riot Grrl scene spread in her book, Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution In Music (22). “In those pre-Internet times,” she wrote, “word spread through the punk community via zines, letters between pen pals in far-flung music scenes and bands going on tour.”
As Internet use became more prominent amongst fans, the way artists used technology to communicate with their fans changed the scope of how music is sold.
In 2007, Topspin launched their direct-to-consumer software, which was available to artists by invitation only.
Topspin introduced the concept of direct-to-consumer to the music industry using their easy-to-use software comprised of a central dashboard. The suite of software offered tools such as an email for media widget, allowing fans to enter their email address for access to an exclusive piece of content, such as an MP3.
Topspin took a simple idea and suite of tools and was the first company to make them for the artist instead of the record label. By utilizing the technology the company provided, artists were able to market their music directly to fans. They could offer music and fan packages directly to their super fans. With the email tools, they were also offered a chance to educate themselves on email marketing.
As the old model of distributing music was disrupted, artists such as Eminem, Brian Eno and the Beastie Boys used Topspin to release their music. When Eminem released his last record, Relapse, he had a few special packages that were offered to fans on his website. They were able to choose from special packages, which included limited run t-shirts, special memorabilia from the album and prints autographed by the rapper.
One of the most successful features offered by Topspin was the ability to use their technology to bundle certain packages and sell them directly to fans, as was the case with Eminem’s album release campaign.
As artists increasingly used Topspin, they were able to cut out the label directly and sell their music on their own. With this sort of power, the artists are able to communicate directly with fans through their music. However with the rise of artist applications, the way an artist communicates with their fans is changing yet again.
As the focus of digital marketing switched to direct-to-consumer initiatives, there was a shift in how artists communicated with their fans online. Suddenly the need to be on social networks such as Myspace, Facebook and Twitter were a main focus of digital marketing teams. Artist focus was directed to two areas: their websites and their social networking profiles. The focus shifted to fan aggregation and retention within both areas.
Content management systems such as NING or Wordpress offered artists ways to upgrade from static websites and offer fans ways to not only communicate with each other but with the artists directly. By allowing fans a central portal to communicate, their audiences were all pooled into a location where they could effectively promote upcoming initiatives such as tours or album releases.
As more and more artists shifted focus to their social networking profiles, the need to be able to creatively promote their initiatives became more relevant. Fans were looking for new and innovative ways to hear and share their favorite artist’s music. Innovation came in the form of one off applications, which supported a certain marketing driver for an artist’s campaign.
While there are many artist application examples to choose from, the execution and originality of the use of these technologies is key. When Slash from Guns ‘N Roses was about to release his last album, Apocalyptic Love, there were standard tools used to market the music such as Topspin. The originality behind the use of his marketing campaign came in the form of an application called, Slash360.
The application was developed by Mativision and showcases both the music from the album and provided the fan a compelling interactive element: a 360 degree view of Slash in the studio with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators performing tracks off of the new album. This sort of application use case as both a native application for iOS and a creative way of engaging fans with the use of a mobile application was a great way to showcase the future of mobile marketing.
Most of the application use cases audiences are familiar with are the standard artist application which is basically an extension of their website. These native applications really have no use other than the power to send push notifications to their audiences. If artists or their digital marketing teams, were more willing to extend themselves beyond the basic applications they would be able to participate in the new form of engagement and leave the stale ideas behind.
As artist-to-fan communication evolves beyond social networks, it is crucial for digital marketing to shift its focus to the future of music marketing: direct-to-device.
Snapchat, WhatsApp, and More?
Data is the most valuable asset to an artist. It can help show them who their fans are, where they are located and the amount of them who actually engage with their content and purchase items from them. Since data is so valuable, marketing initiatives, which focus on how to collect these data insights, are increasingly valuable. As social networks such as Facebook close off access to valuable data, the value in driving traffic to the artist’s central point of information their website is becoming more prominent.
Distribution points such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, are seen as places where you post content to either engage with artist specific content (Youtube videos for example) or links to blog posts on the artist’s website. A way of collecting valuable data besides on an artist site is through either partnerships with applications or partnerships with platform service providers through specific marketing initiatives (a campaign with Creative Allies for a poster promotion for example).
Snapchat is the perfect application for the multi-tasking and short-lived memory of the millennial generation. Their audience takes snaps of themselves and sends them to each other with the promise of the content deleting itself automatically after a certain number of seconds. With the release of their new Stories features, the application is allowing artists to focus on the content of the messaging with their audience. For example, an artist could debut 15 seconds of a new single through the application without worrying about a fan sharing it online because of the unique deletion feature.
WhatsApp is another example of an application with significant data collection and massive distribution. The application, according to their Crunchbase profile, is a “cross-platform mobile messaging app, which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS.” By partnering with a messaging application, an artist would have the ability to directly communicate with fans through their smartphones, which is the future of marketing for both music and every other industry. An artist could directly communicate with fans through the application without ever having to go through Facebook or Twitter again.
As more and more fans use their mobile devices for every facet of their lives, a marketing campaign should take into account the new way of communicating. An artist with the ability to send push notifications to an audience they have specific information about will be a more effective way to promote an album. If you had the ability to geo-target push notifications based on a fan’s location, the messaging and data would be more complete.
An artist with deals within applications such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, and other popular mobile applications will have the ability to distribute their content more effectively to a fan’s device. A device they have with them for the majority of the day and something they use in their daily lives. The ability to have such deals in place is something few artists are really taking advantage of and using to message their music.
There has been a lull in the past few years within the digital marketing field. Everyone uses the same tactics to sell music to their audiences with a comparable number of sales each time. As the technology of applications and devices advances, marketing tactics should shift to the consumer’s behavior with their device.
The future of music marketing is direct-to-device.