Engagement. Conversions. Metrics. All rather overused terms of late in the world of music marketing. I can’t talk – I’ve been as guilty as anyone of rolling them out alongside clangers such as “organic growth”.

It seems like these days digital marketing in music is starting to eat its own tail. We’ve lost sight of what is important and replaced it with any old gimmickry that might bag us some PR.

For any band I am working with the hope is that – with apologies to both the late D.Boon of The Minutemen and author Michael Azzerad – this band could be your life. I could bore you witless with innumerable tales of where I was or what I was doing when I heard or saw a band and had some kind of religious experience. We all forge emotional connections with artists that ensure that for years to come we buy their albums, see them live, grab their merch at gigs and more. They soundtrack the key moments of our existence. They become part of our lives.

So it is with some dismay that I look around and see a lot of campaigns which seem not to have the creation of an emotional connection with fans as their agenda as much as gaming the numbers.

“Likes shot up X percent”
“We got another X thousand views”
“A massive spike in the number of comments”
“It got retweeted X hundred times!”

… you get the picture.

As 2011 came to a close I reflected on the state of music – and with it the state of marketing music. It made my heart sink. Where has the genuine artistry gone? That’s not to say everything was bad – there’s been some great things happening too, no question – but overall I wasn’t left feeling optimistic.

I’ve seen campaigns requiring fans to have certain social media scores in order to get something. I’ve seen others where fans have to hold an album cover up to their webcam to get more music. I could go on, but this isn’t about specific campaigns so much as a general malaise affecting so many of them. It feels like we have fallen into a trap of waiting for any new music/tech service to launch before stampeding towards it so we can be the first to use it in a new, highly PR’d, marketing campaign.

Don’t get me wrong: new tech and services can of course play a part in delivering incredible things for fans that deepen their connection to an artist. Too often though, they’re being used simply so us marketing managers have something to PR. Who is this being done for: the fans or the campaign team?

Music is getting ever-more devalued over time. It has followed the usual economic laws of supply and demand and, as it is now easier than ever to access (be it via legal or illegal means), its value has dropped to an all-time low. We should be doing everything we can to inspire connections with music that deepen our emotional bond with it as the vital cultural commodity it is, not cheapening it further by aligning it with gimmicks and quick 2 minute timewasters. With passion comes value.

The bands I work with could be your life. If I have any resolution for 2012 it is that I will sidestep gimmickry and irrelevance and focus on bringing artistry and genuine emotional connection back to the fore.

We need them back.

Music needs them back.

Who’s with me?


UPDATE: I had an email from Eamonn Forde this morning who made this remark with reference to my comment above about rushing to be first to use new services. It summed up this article in two sentences, so I’m adding it here:

Being “first” is never worth much. But being “best” is.

I heartily agree.


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  1. Can’t possibly think of any social media/ digital marketing agencies who make a living out of peddling this schtick. Oooh no. Not one.

  2. Ha! Its a fair point and I’ve been on the receiving end of some myself. Problem is, unless they deliver on it their chances of repeat business are zero.

    So very tempting to beg for a “name and shame” moment here… but I’ll resist 😉

  3. I think your observation and analysis is spot on. However, I think the problem is even more nuanced, as it is two fold. Not only has the social media driven landscape enabled and urged musicians to supplant artistry for gimmickry. The emotional connection you rightly champion requires the audience to see past the digital gimmickry to hear the artistry . Aside from the economic decline in the value of recorded music, the album has suffered a cultural demise as the accepted representation of the art of the artist. Couple this with the disaggregation of listening to music the way artists intended to be heard, due to the listening choice digital has afforded us all. Means that, even if the art is their to be heard, the art of listening may not be there to hear it. 

  4. Funny thing – the last comment on this blog post – being first isnt important, being best is – has been tweeted a few thousand times this past week but backwards! ‘being first IS important, being best is not’. I cant disagree more.

    i too have been feeling deflated and somewhat looking to 2012 with trepidation – music is indeed undervalued and with Spotify now firmly entrenched for anyone to stream anything anytime and share without having to actually ‘share’ on FB, and the labels reaping the financial rewards rather than the artists – its a sad state – Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics tweeted numerous times to @Spotify last night ‘take my music down or i’ll take you down’ until someone pointed out that the label basically owns his stuff… I really wonder why artists still do what they do. Why? Love of the craft. Music is their life’s blood. They’d die if they had to give it up. THOSE are the artists who we need more of.

    Good blog. makes me think! There has to be a better way and yes I too have seen a shift in ‘chasing its own tail’. Its going the way that myspace started the decline.

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