Nov 7, 2017 Ahmed Juhany
2017, music promotion is broken and no one seems to care. Over the last decade, artists and labels have been pouring billions into building direct-to-fan channels on social media. Today, organic reach is virtually nonexistent. Instead, new music is being promoted with $1.7bn annually, of which 80% are wasted on marketing to existing fans. Sean Adams, founder of iconic music blog “Drowned In Sound and now Social Media Manager at BBC 6 Music, recently called this “the biggest form of waste in today’s music industry”. Shouldn’t that money be spent on growing audiences rather than paying to reach people who already follow those artists?
Given their dominance, social media are adopting more and more the role of gatekeepers to the music industry and beyond, deciding which information is shown in a fan’s news feed and which isn’t. While music is historically a very engaging topic, organic page reach on Facebook for instance (the % of your fans you reach per post without paying for it) is at an all time low of <10%, and in some cases <1% even. The only way to boost your reach is by spending more money – a costly reality for artists and a frustrating one for fans, who inevitably miss out on new records, tracks and videos. As marketing expenditure rises (Facebook and Google now capture 85 Cents of every new marketing Dollar in the US), so do the companies’ stock prices.
But what if things were different? What if, whenever an artist announces or releases new material, tracks, videos or albums, all of their fans receive real-time notifications on their phones: automated, personalized, direct as well as free for both artist and fan? Wouldn’t conversion rates to purchase, watch and stream be higher if fans were instantly messaged about new material by their favourite artists and bands regardless of platform? What’s guaranteed is that the music industry would save north of a billion dollars every year on marketing it doesn’t need to spend. Not when the technology is available. Free information is the natural extension of freedom of speech, which must be recognized and defended. Fans want to be informed and artists want to be heard, but old industry thinking and vested interests are to be overcome.
Equally challenging to the technical innovation part to this, is creating a scalable and sustainable business model that benefits the industry instead of hampering it. If a free and uninhibited flow of information is the goal then it will require a model that does not itself become the new gatekeeper further down the line.
At Record Bird, we innovate at the forefront of this movement. With its chatbot, website and mobile apps, our young team at Record Bird strives towards this new reality, however we’re just one potential solution to this multifaceted problem. Musician-turned-entrepreneur Ryan Leslie famously developed Superphone – a supposedly AI powered CRM tool for the smartphone, where the artist leverages smart fan-data analysis to engage with their fans on a day to day basis via simple text messages. The potential for the artist is massive: SuperPhone has enabled Leslie to independently earn over $2 million in one album cycle with the support of just 15,000 fans.
Congenial and ambitious is the work of tech enthusiast and longtime independent artist Imogen Heap. With “creative passports” that sit on the blockchain, Heap wants to create a transparent and non-fraudulent data layer which could enable real-time remuneration of all artists involved in the creation of a song or video. Furthermore, this pool of verified data points could serve as the basis for developers to build music experiences on top, while remunerating the artist accordingly.
The stakes are high and so are the challenges ahead. We won’t solve this on our own. Instead this will require many if not all of us to do our part in defending the belief in universally accessible and free flowing information. Get drawn into the hustle for a free information flow within music, so that – which at its core is a noble cause as much as it needs to allow for the creation of high-growth, sustainable businesses.
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