Music marketing today: A tale of great innovation, creative brilliance, but also self-indulgence and irrelevance and cultural noise

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Music continues to be the passion point that Brands experiment with and where artists redefine marketing. Since the digital chapter of the industry has gotten proper hold, new models have been emerging regularly igniting the creative imagination of the artists and marketing community alike. Whether it is unique distribution mechanisms kicked off with artists such as Prince (see here), Radiohead (see here), Mos Def (see here), Beck (see here), and others, or it is different ways of self-promotion such as Jay-Z’s Decoded (see here), or Blink 182’s fan-pirating reward idea (see here), or the Vaccines Instagram video project (see here), etc. It is the same creativity that generates amazing songs that is finding ways of using the music to reach its fans, make them part of the ride, and thus get them into the “band’s circle”. Off of that, they can find ways to make money out of these fans.

Jay-Z is one of these artists that pushes ways of self-promoting but also pushing the music marketing landscape. Clearly he now has the means to try a lot of things and isn’t worried about failing. This is actually really good because as long as his curiosity is alive, he will continue to innovate. His latest experiment is he has partnered up with Google Play and Samsung to release 1 million free copies of his album 72 hours before it hits the regular channels on July 4th through the Magna Carta app. Have a look.

The Brands that have truly made the most out of music have committed themselves to the industry and its artists. Red Bull with its Music Academy (see here and here) have helped the birth of great artists through its platform, Converse has helped struggling artists get their music recorded through their NYC studio called Rubber Tracks (see here), Bacardi has helped mentor artists through Beginnings (see here) , Heineken helps bands market themselves through their Green Room Sessions (see here), and so on. The core thread running through all these initiatives is that they further great music, great artists, and thus help advance the music business.

Unfortunately, the amount of Brands involved with music extensively can get caught up in the fun of it all and become self-indulgent, not really furthering their own value to consumers and not adding any value to the music industry. Many of the examples of this are where Brands try and innovate off their products and get caught up in technological possibility versus actual usability or industry relevance. I have stumbled on 2 examples of this: the Becks first playable bottle, and the Converse Wah Chuck.

Becks has its own version of the Red Bull Academy call the Becks Record Label Project. As part of this initiative they attempted to create the worlds first playable bottle, leaning into the ancient innovation by Edison. The idea is novel enough but it doesn’t really add value to anyone. Geeks don’t find it all that interesting, musicians find it obscure in a useless way, and consumers don’t see any value. It feels like the agency and client just wanted to do something different and had money to burn. How about doing something useful to artists that need it instead of using precious money for an item that will sit in a glass case collecting dust.


The Beck’s Edison Bottle from Shine Limited on Vimeo.

Converse is usually a pioneer in music innovation and has time and again done things to further music and music culture. For a recent hack project on Google + (see here) they pushed a project where the famous Chuck got turned into a Wah Wah peddle. While the idea is pretty cool, when you see the end result and its clear non-usability you will wonder what on earth they were thinking. It is almost a joke and doesn’t live up to their stature within the music industry. Maybe next time guys.

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