As technology becomes an ever increasing part of our daily lives, the way we interact with the things we label as entertainment evolve as well. Whether substituting regular cable for Netflix or curating a coveted music playlist with Spotify, the consumer is consciously changing the way companies market to them. With the focus of most marketing initiatives shifting from web 2.0 to the era of data collection and mobile, it should be noted that most marketing initiatives and the archaic ways we try to get fans or consumers to engage with the product should follow suit. It’s no longer okay to just have a Facebook page where posts are made on a somewhat normal basis or a Twitter account where a tweet lives for thirty seconds. The shift to mobile and data collection has seen an increase in how fans want to be not only engaged with but to have the content of engagement be compelling.
A work day doesn’t pass where the computer screen isn’t fixed with an artist hawking some sort of new and genius way to market their music to their fans. It could be an iPhone application which turns into a strobe light so the user can participate more evocatively during a concert. It could be an iPad application that is an instrument which is used in the artist’s album and by giving access to that instrument the fan should feel closer to the music. It could be a website experience where there is a game that the fan interacts with and when they get to a certain level they get a piece of exclusive content. While all of the ideas are appreciated from a consumer perspective, the real link between and artist and fan can get lost among all of the new ways to get them to engage with a product.
With all of the advances in technology purposefully being geared and marketed to bring the fan closer to the artist and in a default way their music, a fan can lose the reason they fell in love with that artist in the first place. It might seem antiquated to wax poetic about the music, man, but in all of the new ways to feel closer to the artist: why as a fan do I feel nothing but disconnected and unsatisfied? Why with all of these great tools here to help a musician get closer to their audience do some fans feel like the meaning or message behind those tools in disingenuous?
When did the bottom line become more important than the substance which brought a profit?
I’m sure everyone has a moment or memory where they can pinpoint when their love affair began with their favorite band. I remember the first time I fell in love with music distinctly in my mind as much as any other of my life’s milestones. When the feel of the song evoked some long buried emotion. When the song I was listening to offered me more than an iPhone app, it offered me a connection in this lonely, miserable world. Something I could tangibly associate in my mind as a feeling of happiness. It was 1996 and the song was “Because The Night” by 10000 Maniacs from their unplugged special on MTV. I remember it coming on the television and I became enamored. Immediately after I had my Mother take me to the Wherehouse (remember those?) and I bought the tape. I listened to the song rewind after rewind until the tape eventually was worn out. But I was obsessed with everything about the music, the melody, Natalie’s voice, the cacophony of the band. It just broke through.
Since that one moment, there have been many where my entire world will become obsessed with this one piece of music or an entire album. The album would play and I would just feel better or I would just want to cry. No matter what it was it would evoke some sort of human emotional reaction. Where is that experience in any of these iPhone applications or websites? Where is the experience of going to an artist’s website and being enamored or engaged with some aspect of it in a fandom like way? If an application is truly meant to be engaging then why aren’t any of them engaging with the fan themselves? It’s always through some distribution portal like Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr involving authentication and displaying a profile photo or some other piece of content from the user.
If applications or websites are supposed to be an extension of an artist enabling the fan to engage with them, where is the engagement?