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Monday, December 15, 2014

Musicians build marketing awareness as industry changes

Music marketing
Technology has changed the way music is marketed
The world of music marketing has changed significantly. A part of this has been a result of new technology. It has also opened up opportunities for distribution companies such as Spotify and Pandora, both of which have experienced an increasing market share.

Musicians themselves have the opportunity to shape how their creations are ultimately passed on. This requires them to be as aware about marketing practices, music trends and contractual arrangements as music management firms and distributors are within the industry.

In the recent past, musical artists grew impatient with unrealized financial pledges from the digital music streaming firm Spotify. Many artists such as Radiohead's Thom Yorke have removed their work from the company in protest. Several entertainers are also distraught because of meager royalties that are far less than offerings from competitors such as iTunes. National Public Radio reports that some bands, including the Black Keys, have refused to use the service at all.

Several artists have spoken out about their grief with Spotify. According to The New Yorker, musician Nigel Godrich states, “It’s an equation that just doesn’t work. Plus, people are scared to speak up or not take part, as they are told they will lose invaluable exposure if they don’t play ball.” In an attempt to rectify the low-paying advantages of Spotify, unionized musicians have sought a better pay deal per The Guardian. Fractions of a penny per play on streaming music is simply not enough money for artists to support themselves.

Counter claims to musicians' concerns are rooted in the entertainment industry. According to Time Magazine, services such as Spotify offer artists an alternative to piracy that is better than nothing. Moreover, a WBUR Boston interview with Greg Sandoval, senior reporter of The Verge, reveals that music production companies have actually shrunk due to piracy. A result of this is that they are being more particular about which musicians they promote; this makes it more difficult for artists to gain exposure via traditional music management.

If artists are motivated by money, then they will not be incredibly inspired by Spotify royalties. This is more the case if the company pays higher play rates to artists with label contracts and does not help facilitate relationships between listeners and artists. In addition, Spotify claims it will not be transparent about royalty payment rates per Digital Music News. This means relationship building with musicians is being passed off for stronger deals with music labels and more corporate financial control.

Musicians are becoming more aware of how their talent is exploited via corporate management of their product marketing. Spotify's revenue comes from advertisers and subscribers. Currently, Spotify has 24 million users, six million of whom pay for a subscription per Spin. The company claims it will have paid members over $1 billion by year's end, but it averages just a fraction of a penny per play; this nets many artists whose songs are played a million times just a few thousand dollars.

These days artists of the music industry are now more responsible for marketing themselves, and are also tasked with becoming better aware of product placement via various forms of media, multi-tiered distribution networks and broader delivery options. Recorded music that is streamed via digital media helps build exposure, but live performances and alternate distribution channels remain a better paying market. Furthermore, other sources of music financing such as crowd-funding or entertainment orientated venture capital firms may serve musicians more than traditional “labels” such as EMI.

Image: Aerokay, "Geddy Lee", CC BY-SA 3.0