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What is music marketing? | Virginie Berger, Don't believe the hype | MIDEM exclusive


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Music strategist and founder of marketing and promo agency Don't believe the hype's Virginie Berger explains why marketing is important for all artists. With case studies... and without exceptions!

What is music marketing? | Virginie Berger, Don't believe the hype | MIDEM exclusive

  1. 1. Well,what is music marketing? By Virginie Berger, Founder and music strategist, Dont believe the Hype (France) 1
  2. 2. Table of Contents1. Music Marketing: why it matters more than ever2. Key learnings3. Case study from the real life: Thot, or the itinerary of an artist in his music marketing discovery 2
  3. 3. 1. MUSIC MARKETING: WHY IT MATTERS MORE THAN EVERFor almost a decade, the music industry is undergoing a complete (r)evolution. The change is substantial. We don’t onlywitness a transformation in the format, as from the tape to the CD support, but also a fundamental change, similar to thetransition from the partition to recorded music.Facing all theses changes at once has become the most significant challenge for an artist. The times when the artist wasdiscovered by the A&R at the back of a smoky pub are over. So are the times where the artist relied on his label to get hisname across.Nowadays, the recorded music business represents under a third of the music industry’s global business.Music, with its business model and its consumption, is undergoing a radical transformation. The Internet has definitelychanged the whole music industry in less than ten years. It has deeply disturbed the balance of power and theconcentration of authority switched from the hands of a happy few to those of an army. Distribution has become a simpleaspect, now available via Zimbalam, Tunecore, Ditto Music and many more.Radio, the only marketing channel able to launch artists over the last sixty years, is no longer effective and has literarily beentaken over by millions of new references such as MySpace, Bandcamp, Pitchfork, Twitter and an astronomical number ofblogs and online medias.New business models are emerging.Direct-to-fan marketing – a set of marketing actions mainly focusing on the monetization of the artist/fan relationship – is infull development. This business model doesn’t solely depend on radio air-play or TV broadcast of video clips. It now mainlydepends on the relationship kept up between the artists and their fans.Mike Masnick (Techdirt’s editor in chief) has translated this through a theory formula:Connecting with Fans (CwF) + Providing a Reason to Buy (RtB) = $$$.To sum up, find your (true) fans, secure their loyalty, give them a reason to buy, and on this condition will you make profits. 3
  4. 4. Many artists, mainstream or independent, have radically changed their marketing model to principally use thedirect-to-fan marketing, and this successfully. Amongst the most famous ones, we could cite Nine Inch Nails,Radiohead, Imogen Heap, Amanda Palmer, David Byrne, Weezer, Jonah Matranga, and Exsonvaldes, Cyril Paulus,Charly et sa drôle de dame , Misteur Valaire and Thot as French examples …Artists who rely on their fan base to broadcast and monetize their music, are no apostles of any new concept.One could find examples of artists who used these tools and methods for every generation of musicians.In the case of established artists, it is all about using their visibility as a cheap leverage. But for most developingartist, it represents a necessity before a conviction. Without any record label or distributor, one of the options isto sell music in concerts, independent retail music stores or fan clubs. Nowadays, with the advances intechnology, music can be sold to fans through numerous channels.Beyond the changes in broadcast modes and consumption of music, artists, record labels, producers, andmanagers have to find new ways to get their content across, increase its visibility, monetize it, as well as adapt tonew behaviours.Fans don’t only want to connect through music; they want the artist to connect to them. It’s not only aboutmusic anymore; it’s about a context, an experience…Now, talking about music marketing or music strategy is one thing, but in practical terms, what are we talkingabout?How to define “a music strategy”? It is the analysis, the construction, the development and the execution of amarketing plan designed to broadcast and increase the visibility of his music in the digital world in order toenhance revenue-generating. In brief: visibility, connection, monetization.Digital here is used in the sense of web, mobile, applications and any other development to come.A MySpace page and a few friends on Facebook is not what we could call a strategy. As a matter of fact, it couldeven be worse if not thought carefully.Nowadays, most people discover and listen to music more online (music blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LastFM, etc.)than anywhere else. In this music world that has become over competitive, setting up a digital strategy isn’t anoption anymore, it’s essential. 4
  5. 5. Simply put, we could define a music strategy in six basic steps:1. Setting up a website2. Creating profiles on social networks3. Opening a channel on video platforms4. Optimizing the web ranking5. Producing content6. Regularly broadcasting content through all these channels.It could seem simplistic. You create a website and a few profiles, you broadcast your music then sell it. Exceptthat there are now hundreds of spots available to broadcast your music (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube,Last.FM, Bandcamp…) and billions of different contents.The issue is not to be everywhere no matter how, but to work on developing a coherent and adapted planbetween the website, the social networks and the monetization of your music.No one will buy music on a website or a platform if no one knows it exist. Marketing is here to help youintroduce, broadcast and monetize you music.What you need indeed to understand is that there are three consumption behaviours on the Internet when itcomes to music:•Those who buy or download music for free if it is legally on offer•Those who steal or download music for free (legally or illegally)•Those who will buy music only if too difficult to find it for free (legally or illegally)The strategy needs to be adapted to these different behaviours. Why should people pay attention to an artist, tohis/her music? Ask yourself seriously. What do you want people to remember?Marketing will help you differentiate your artist from the others. 5
  6. 6. Marketing will also help you create and develop direct relationships with your fans.One of the biggest opportunities offered by music marketing is the possibility to come in contact with your publicand fans, to establish a connection, to broadcast and share information, but also to sell your music directly tothem, on any format, and this, through Internet and mobiles.Modern music marketing is axed on the relationship between fans and artists.You don’t sell a product, but really a perception… You don’t sell to a public, but to a tribe. You should from nowon think in terms of dialogue and forget about the monologue.Remember what Bob Dylan says: “It is not a song, it is a movement”…..It could now seem quite easy: artist comes in contact with fans, artist provides fans a reason to buy, artist makesprofits. But how could the artist know who his/her fans are? How could he/she get in contact with them? Howcan he/she draw attention on his/her work when MySpace counts about 10 millions artists?Music marketing will answer these four fundamental points:Create and make and offer that will differentiate your artistBuild your fan base. It’s the “fan acquisition” step. It’s a matter of setting up opportunities and initiatives toacquire new fans.Commit your fan base. Involve your fans and secure their loyalty through a number of actions, on the Internetand social networks sites. A large range of tools that will allow you to communicate and interact with your fansare now available for free or at real competitive prices.Develop your fan base. For this step, you need to analyse your actions, then understand and precisely target thefan base and consistently think about innovative and effective tactics to monetize your content.Each individual is a consumer, a distributor and a producer. Therefore you need to talk WITH your fans, not tothem. Don’t think in terms of campaigns, but in terms of conversations. Each individual is influential.We will develop and detail all these steps throughout this series of white paper. 6
  7. 7. 2. KEYS LEARNINGS: HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO REMEMBERThe essentials of music marketing: visibility, connection, monetization•Visibility: It means how to increase your presence through numerous channels. By developing a coherent andadapted plan.•Connection: It means fans don’t only want to connect through music; they want the artist to connect tothem. The strategy needs to be adapted to these behaviours. You must answer to that question. Why shouldpeople pay attention to you, to your music?•Monetization: It means music can be sold to fans through numerous channels. You don’t sell a product, butreally a perception… Forget about the monologue. Add value to your content. 7
  8. 8. 3. CASE STUDY FROM REAL LIFE: THOT, OR THE ITINERARY OF ANARTIST IN HIS MUSIC MARKETING DISCOVERYThots leader, Grégoire, is on his own. Leader of the band, producer but also marketing strategist, he keepsexperimenting, testing and managing things by himself. A genuine DIY artist... which is also a topic for manydebates.The style of Thot is set between industrial or post industrial rock, electronic music and rock n roll, with also anambiant and acoustic touch. Not easy. Not commercial. Uncompromising in any way. Neither are theycompromising regarding the music, the lyrics, the sound approach, the dialogue and the strategic choicesconcerning the new album due for release end of 2010. Grégoire, leader of Thot, in collaboration with a graphicartist and a video artist, develops a strong visual identity whether via the artwork, the releases, the video clips orthe live video performances. On stage, full energy is delivered.Thot is a genuine DIY band. To this day, they have got neither label, distributor nor tour manager. The mostimportant to Grégoire is to share Thots universe with an ever-growing fan base and with the largest audience : adirect-to-fan strategy also based on social networks, on interactivity and encounters around the musical andvisual world of Thot.The Thot project has been going on since 2003/2004 and became visible on the web as early as 2005. First, withthe launching of internet site which has been re-shaped several times before arriving to itspresent form, then with Myspace, Lastfm, … and the posting of news on webzines and forums.Still, no proper strategy or reflection existed at the time concerning the use of these tools. After the début (self-produced) album released in 2005 with an independent physical distribution and a digital distribution via BelieveDigital, Grégoire released an album of remixes at the end of 2006 via a Creative Commons license and sent it toseveral blogs... Those were his early steps...In February 2009, Thot launches the (still self-produced) single “Ortie” (i.e Nettle, N.o.T) and invests moreheavily in the web. He creates a Facebook page and tries to understand how enriching social networking can be.Again here, no real strategy is at work apart from a rather classic promotion for single “Ortie” which is madeavailable in vinyl and in digital format and still distributed through Believe Digital. 8
  9. 9. Grégoire then starts reading from a lot of blogs dealing with digital marketing, aware that a revolution is takingplace via the web, a revolution which is essential to the record industry. His great concern was “Ok, writing a newalbum is a good thing, but then what? What will become of it once its finished??”.The writing of the album was definitely influenced by these considerations, hence Grégoires immediate idea touse the narrative threads of his songs to promote the album in a different manner, with an artistic approach tothe marketing. “Vegetal Noise Music for Vegetal Noise Lovers”. Each track then becomes a character with aparticular story to be told. Here we are then with a 14-track album, 14 characters and as many possibilities to tellthe story of the album, to release singles one by one, following an intriguing narrative logic.At the same time, Grégoire realizes that signing “Ortie” on Believe Digital was a mistake. It actually did not helphim at all. Plus, he hadnt dared, then, offer this single for free download on the net. “A big mistake of mine.”, hesays.In summer 2009, the album is mixed, mastered, and promo CDs are sent to numerous labels. He gets feedbacksuch as “Great stuff but we cant figure out how to sell your music.”Fair enough.Grégoire then vigorously points his finger towards another horizon... Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Bandcamp :finally an interactive, participatory, easy-to-use and completely social Internet. It is then decided to make the releases coincide with the planned tour dates so as to offer the attending publiclimited edition CD-Rs including download codes that give access to exclusive unreleased tracks. Video teasers aremade to announce the releases, the web site is re-shaped in the form of a more interactive blog.The Bandcamp platform is selected to broadcast the music on the web, thus allowing to collect the emailaddresses of the people who downloaded the songs and make a list of the official Vegetal Noise Lovers : thesewill receive a monthly newsletter with unreleased content, and enjoy an exclusive bond with the community.A great many ideas emerge in total freedom despite a tremendous task which implies a long-term vision anddemands flexibility so as to make each new step fit the previous ones.For several months Grégoire gives away different tracks for free...A concert is performed in Brussels with 50 CD-Rs and the famous Bandcamp download codes. The tracks seriouslystart spreading around, a great amount of downloads and positive reviews follow, the strategy starts drawingattention... 9
  10. 10. Thot decide to set up a video of their cover of Waters of Nazareth (by French duo Justice) made of live extractsand launch it on the Internet. Though it doesnt exactly follow the agenda for the singles release dates, Thot feelsthe need to offer something different at that point, to create a buzz and provide material for the next step. Onceagain, the track spreads like wildfire and Thot reaches new fans.A couple of concerts later, Grégoire decides to try the pay-what-you-want method for merchandising. The trackis sold from the stage after each gig and buyers are free to decide on its price. A genuine bond is created betweenThot and their public.Then, to launch the new track in May, he sends the track to all the fans : an email, a Bandcamp link, a personalcode for download... Its a success and fans start teasing by themselves directly on Facebook and Twitter.Then, Grégoire decides to use the open source application which allows anybody to download thetrack Moved Hills in exchange for a twitt on Twitter or clicking Like on Facebook. In parallel, he reveals thatfragments of an image are hidden inside the downloaded file and that other fragments will follow. He thenexplains that once the fragments are assembled, a link will appear and allow you to download the second track ofthe EP.Though the use of the cashmusic application does not work as well as expected, the quest for fragments draws inmore fans than ever before. The purpose? More teasing before the forthcoming official EP release planned forJune 21st : again, Bandcamp will be used to release the EP. Grégoire also creates a physical version of it in theform of an 8-page leaflet including artwork, lyrics and a 3-track CD (with unreleased track). Limited to 30 copiesat a minimum price of 7 euros. Some even go for 10 or 15 euros (Average price for our Fig. 2&3 book : 12 Euros.It is now sold out).. The fans remain supportive. And theres so much more to be done...…Continuing to build upon the relationship with fans with a remix battle, release an acoustic video, then newsingle video... And the album, at the end of this year. Maybe another single before then to follow the announcedtour dates. It is yet to be decided. Grégoire is willing to remain as reactive as possible, to quickly adapt to needsand possibilities. 10
  11. 11. Grégoire constantly remains in a dynamic and excited state as to what is left to be done. Theres still a longway to go but each new step confirms that this strategy is the right one for Thot, their universe, their dialogue,their position in todays context.They choose to take their time, to think about the right strategy, to build relationship, to connect, and then, 11
  12. 12. About the authorVirginie Berger, more than 12 years of experience in the media and musicindustry, former marketing and content director of MySpace France,reader for IMM, Nanterre university, Irma and author, is the founder andmusic strategist of "Dont believe the Hype", a website and a full servicemarketing and promotion company.Don’t believe the Hype the website ( isdedicated to musicians, artists, bands and people from the music industry.It gives them the tools, resources, expertise and guidance to help themtake their music career to the next level.Don’t believe the Hype the agency is a complete one stop label/artistsservices agency that implements 360 degree multi-tiered marketing andpromotion campaigns providing strategic plans, music marketing, socialmedia and website, business development, project management, mediapromotion, sync & license all under one roof.Twitter @virbergEmail virberg@gmail.comThis report is brought to you by MIDEM Contact us: info.midem@reedmidem.comMIDEM is the most important event for the world’s music community,providing valuable knowledge and connections to source business and find Visit MIDEM website - www.midem.comsolutions. MidemNet is the definitive event for monetising music in thedigital age. Follow usMIDEM/MidemNet takes place every 3rd week of January and bringstogether 7,200 professionals from more than 3,200 different companiesand 78 countries, and 400 international journalists. Download MIDEM iPhone App 12