Mobile phones can be considered either an asset or a hindrance depending on whom you ask. At one point, mobile phones were only available in brick sizes reminiscent of the scenes in A Night At The Roxbury. Fast forward to the present day when mobile phones dominate nearly every facet of human behavior. They have disrupted how we communicate with one another, how we function in a work environment, and how we choose to spend our free time. You can’t walk by a crowd of people without seeing someone typing on their Blackberry or iPhone. With the amount of impact the mobile phone has had on daily life, it is only recently that this disruption has infiltrated music.
There are over 5.6 billion people in the world with cellphones. Statistically, if there are 7.1 billion people on this planet, that means three fourths of the entire human population have a mobile phone. With these kinds of figures and usage, there is a huge audience of people who have yet to be tapped for disruption and engagement. Through the use of mobile applications and successful leverage of mobile technologies, musicians would be able to reach an entirely new audience of people in a very personal way: mobile applications.
Mobile applications are a recent advance in this sector of the mobile marketplace. If you browse through any application storefront whether it is for Blackberry, Apple or Android, there is an application for everything imaginable. Applications like Instagram allow you to add filters to images taken on your mobile phone. In need of an activity for the night? Look no further than Draw Something, an application, which allows you to draw on your mobile phone. In an already oversaturated market, how do musicians and music marketers take advantage of recent technological advances to disrupt and engage with an audience?
Mobile Music Marketing
Every person who listens to music has one band or artist they have a connection with. Whether it was a seminal personal moment or the wonderfully insightful lyrics, the ability to transcend and identify with music is an extremely personal event. While interacting with bands or artists we have these kinds of connections with, it’s important for the fan to be able to gain an insight into the artist persona. The connection goes beyond reading their Facebook post about their favorite book or tweeting them a question anticipating a response, it’s about interaction: the ability to interact on a personal level with an artist or band, identify with their music, and create an experience with them.
The reason most campaigns for artists fail is the fact they equate fan interactions with conversions and sales. If the interaction between a fan is to be measured into how likely they are to purchase something, the value of creating an experience is lost and so is the fan. When combining interactions and mobile applications, the ability to create the experience is amplified because you are taking a device the fan communicates with and uses every day and engaging them.
Levels of Mobile Fan Engagement
When making a mobile application, the first thing that should be taken into account is how it will function and its purpose. Any mobile application can be placed within one of three levels of interaction. The first would provide basic functions such as displaying blog posts, offering ticket buy links, and incorporating regular updates via third party applications (Facebook or Twitter). The second level would engage the fan beyond basic necessities and add the artist’s music in the mobile environment. The third level would engage, disrupt, and create an experience for the fan beyond the basic scope of an application. These third level applications would mimic the successful elements of the mobile phone philosophy.
There are basic functions such as those provided by a service like Mobile Roadie where the artist can create a simple application to upload music and video content, put up ticket buy links, and update fans with blog posts. This would be the basic level of function for a mobile application: content curator. The next step above this would be involving some sort of action with music for example the popular game Tap Tap Revenge. This engages the fan with an action and incorporates a musical element into the equation. Another example of this level would be a streaming service such as Spotify where a fan can create a playlist for an artist or genre and listen to it on their mobile phone.
The highest functioning level for a mobile application would be something which creates an experience and encourages an interaction. A perfect example of this would be Shazam. The application identifies music based on what is currently playing. If you are watching a television show, hear a song, and are struggling to identify which song it is, you can enable Shazam, which will take in the music and identify it for you. Once the song is identified you can take that song and share it across social media sites thereby engaging your friends in your experience.
Most digital marketing plans for album releases include basic principles such as Facebook ads, email newsletters (no more than twice a month), and a complete revamp of a website with the new approved creative. While these principles are currently considered to be boiler plate, if reincarnated on a mobile level they are fresh. If there were a mobile service similar to Topspin which provided customized text messages or mobile messaging services, many artists would have the ability to communicate with fans in this way.
While using Broadtexter for a band campaign a few years ago, the band I was working for was able to text message fans based on the fans’ locations. What intrigued me even more was that it was free. Services like Mozes were becoming increasingly popular and cost quite a bit of money, but free services were available. If applied properly, artists and bands can use mobile messaging services to communicate with fans beyond just texting to a number to conduct a poll. They can have them text to their mobile application and when they do they get sent a link via text message to download a free song.
Mobile applications are a huge asset when it comes to marketing music that have yet to be amplified to another level of engagement. With virtually anything available when making a mobile application, there should not be any limitations placed on how it could function and disrupt. Within the next few years, the development of mobile applications in music is only going to get larger as companies begin to take notice of the emerging marketplace. As Fortune 500 companies such as Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson shift their focuses from social media to mobile, musicians and music marketers should do so as well.