June 25, 2009:Interview: INgrooves on taking Spinal Tap to iPhone and YouTube

Interview: INgrooves on taking Spinal Tap to iPhone and YouTube

spinal-tapEarlier this month, INgrooves announced it was handling global digital distribution and marketing for the new Spinal Tap album, Back From The Dead.The campaign includes an iPhone application, and a YouTube contest for fans to create their own music videos for Spinal Tap songs. We talked to INgrooves CEO Robb McDaniels to find out more about this campaign, and his views on the wider digital music marketing sector.INgrooves has been working on the project since January. “It presented an interesting challenge in many respects,” he says.”They’re a band in a movie, not a real band. Yet they play as a real band! And their fans skew towards the older demographic that has not necessarily moved fully into the digital world. It made the project interesting and challenging to work on.”As with all INgrooves projects, this one started with an analysis of who these fans are and where they’re hanging out online, using that data to decide what direction the marketing campaign should take.”We analysed the best and most effective ways to reach them, and formulated a marketing plan,” says McDaniels. “It’s not that different to what happens in the physical world: a lot is trial and error. Although the errors cost less in the digital world…”So, about that iPhone app. Developed by Mobile Roadie, it offers news, video, tweets, video, tour dates and other goodies to fans, and is free to download. In that sense, it’s similar to other promotional iPhone apps that have been launched for artists recently. However, McDaniels says iPhone could become much more useful for artists in the coming months.spinal-tap-iphone“While mobile apps as a promotional tool is very valuable for music and entertainment, it’s increasingly valuable as an actual distribution mechanism,” he says.”Right now, you have to link to buy music through the iTunes Store, but there’s no reason why the music can’t live within the app. Applications as an end distribution mechanism are going to gain some foothold in the next 12 months.”He continues: “We plan on adding a lot more functionality to our apps in the future, and doing as much as iTunes and other platforms allow us to. Right now, it’s easy to launch a standard music application, but most fans don’t want to purchase that – it’s just promotional value. But if you customise your app it’s going to cost you more to develop, so you might want to charge. But you better be delivering something the consumer sees as valuable if you do.”What about the YouTube campaign then? It invites fans to create their own music videos for Spinal Tap songs, and has launched in the US this week.”We’re very excited about the creative ways consumers are going to perform the songs, whether it’s themselves, or animations,” says McDaniels. “It’s a way to engage fans combining the audio and visual element. It’s incredibly powerful, and YouTube offers that opportunity.”So how are things for INgrooves more generally? The company has been around for seven years now as a digital distributor, but McDaniels says it’s been focused on slow but steady growth, rather than over-expanding beyond its means.”We’ve really been hitting our stride in the last 12-18 months,” he says, citing the company’s strategic alliance with Universal Music Group last year as proof. “It was a great validation for our technology and model. Others seem to be crumbling under the weight of their large catalogues.”He says the focus now is on expanding INgrooves’ presence internationally, signing new content deals and retail partners, and benefitting from the rollout of innovative new music services.”I’m really optimistic about the growth in streaming services,” he says. “The advertising market will begin to come back around and help consumer migration to and acceptance of these services. And mobile applications are becoming more functional too.”What about initiatives like Comes With Music, which INgrooves signed up to earlier this year? With reports of lacklustre sales in the UK, is he equally optimistic about Nokia’s unlimited music model?”The panacea is all music available to all people in any way they want to consume it,” he says. “That seems so simple, but there’s all this crap in the way: all these lagcy systems, companies, laws and nonsense! It’s going to take a few generations to weed those people out. It’s primarily a licensing issue, and it also boils down to the fact that copyright owners want to control the perceived value of their copyright. But at a certain point, they might have to let go, and let the market decide what their copyright is worth.”So…”I’m a big believer in Comes With Music, Spotify, and those ISP models where consumers pay five or ten bucks a month for unlimited access to music,” he says. “But the current rightsholders, there are so many of them, all trying to protect their place in the ecosystem. But technology and automation is what’s going to save the industry from the perspective of artists and songwriters. All the people in between in the old model aren’t as needed any more.”He pauses for breath. “There’s a whole infrastructure and ecosystem that exists to support an industry that has changed dramatically. All those people need to realise that it’s changed forever.”You can get the Spinal Tap iPhone app by clicking here. The band’s YouTube video contest can be found here.

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