The joy of discovery; Marketing in the brave new media world
June 29, 2010
Esther O'Connor

I work in the music industry as a singer songwriter and record company director. I have been running my own record label ‘Redhed Records’ for the last 5 years and am grappling with the vast changes in the way music is marketed and accessed. 

To me there seems to be two quite distinct routes to introduce and bring an artist to the attention of a music lover.  

Historically, the traditional and familiar model the major record companies have used for the last 60 years to create successful album and ticket selling artists. Our stars appear from no-where and as if by magic are suddenly all over our TV’s, radios, magazines, stages and generally flooding our consciousness. The gorgeous, sexy demi-gods alongside the unique, talented and bizarre conspire to create the magical and heady business of Rock and Roll.  In reality, sexy, talented or not, they are also at the forefront of a very strategic, powerful, clever and expensive marketing campaign known as ‘The Big Push’. Audibly and visually bombarded we become buyers. 

Part of the reason it worked, I think, was the inherent mystery of the whole thing. It created potency. Working as a team, the artist’s star quality and the environment that was created for them by the label was an unstoppable force with the inner workings remaining just that. Now, however, with the huge popular success of the reality TV shows the internal, commercial machinations are well exposed and the artists revealed as little more than fronts for much less attractive mortals.

Who is responsible for exposing the process and bursting this particular bubble? Is it Simon Cowell for showing us Leona Lewis working in the call centre before entering the X factor on prime time TV? Do we believe it now when we see her glammed up on the front cover of vogue

Is it the level playing field of the internet? The fact that we can now access all the information we want to know about anything? Artists can access fans direct and visa versa. At one point in time our pop stars seemed totally remote from us in our normal lives. Now their tweets and video’s show us otherwise. 

Currently, the old model still works up to a point, but I think its effect is waning, with the continually declining sales of recorded music and the rumblings that the live music industry may even be faltering. Indie artists and record companies alike need to come up with a new way to create potency and engage fans to sustain long term artist/ fan relationships.

One possibility in my mind is to maximize the excitement in the sense of discovery. If you are marketing cleverly on the internet and a music lover (who is predisposed to like your music) ‘stumbles’ across you or your artist that sense of excitement is powerful stuff. Like finding treasure on a beach or seeing something of value glint among the grass, therein lies the basic human excitement of discovery. Artists need to be placed strategically so rather than just the mass saturation of the  ‘whether you like the music or not you will be subjected to it’ method, placed in the territory where folk who are highly likely to enjoy that specific artist will be browsing. Use websites, blogs, networks, keywords, and most importantly of all get to know the fans. What do they like? Where do they hang out? Then it can work like a treasure hunt where a gem is uncovered and the journey of discovery begins. Crucially the fan must be facilitated to be an active participant in the process. The new method must be 3 dimensional and interactive rather than the 2 dimensional passive approach of the traditional method. The marketing has to be just as clever, as creative as we can muster, but perhaps not as expensive as the old model, and it only just begins at the first stage of discovery. Create a labyrinth where the person is drawn in and the magic only begins for them there.

Esther O’Connor 15/6/10

This blog was written by Esther O’Connor. Esther is a singer songwriter based in Scotland. She has been described as ‘David Geffen crossed with Stevie Nicks’ by the Sunday Times. Tom Morton of BBC Radio Scotland describing one of her tracks as “Neil Young meets Beyonce round at Joni Mitchell’s house”, recognizing the retro flare that runs through Esther’s music and her love of a sassy pop hook. Journalists and fans alike recognize that Esther is a trailblazer, a talented musician forging the way ahead in this new musical landscape.

For more information on Esther O’Connor and a free download visit 


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