I’ve been in the music business for more than 20 years. As a mixer, producer and engineer, I’ve been fortunate to work behind the glass for some of the greats, including The Rolling Stones, Ziggy Marley and Brian Wilson, to name a few, placing me firmly on the evolutionary timeline of the industry as we know it. I have had a front row seat to watch music become a wasteland where creativity goes to die.
It used to be that you could walk into a studio any given day and there’d be one star in one, and another right next door. It was amazing. There was real money. Real revenue. Real energy. Not so anymore. Everything has consolidated and new talent is a risk. There is no other industry that is forced to ignore its future talent.
Artists today, particularly new artists, simply don’t have the same opportunities to monetize their art in a way that comes remotely close to earning a living. Digital disruption, going all the way back to Napster and file sharing, then iTunes, YouTube, Spotify and beyond has, for better or worse, devalued music in a way that threatens its fate.
When you think about today’s top artists, that might sound a bit dramatic. People are still making music and many are making a ton of money while doing it (though no one is invincible to streaming and distribution woes). The problem is, not everyone can be Taylor Swift, and it shouldn’t just be the Swifts of the world who are taking a stand for artists. The next generation of talent quite literally pays to play.
Indie duo Pomplamoose, for example, with more than one hundred million YouTube views, recently finished a 28-day tour in 23 cities around the U.S. When all was said and done they had brought in nearly $136,000. After ticket sales, merch sales and a small sponsorship from Lenovo were annihilated by the myriad of expenses involved in touring, they ended up almost $12,000 in the red. If Pomplamoose were ever to hang up their mics for want of a life outside of debt, hundreds of thousands of fans would be very, very upset.
And they are not alone.
Musical artists have lost 10 billion dollars in collective support over the past 15 years. There are extremely talented and passionate people in music who have been left behind, and it’s critical that we find new opportunities to empower them to continue creating…for themselves, for their fans and for the industry.
So where do we go from here?
The modern music model belongs to brands and advertisers, which have also been impacted in enormous ways by digital and social media. What used to be captive eyeballs is now people who have far too many things to look at. And then there is the ever-infuriating issue with diminishing organic reach. Brands are ponying up huge budgets just to make it into the newsfeed and, once there, they’re only getting noticed when they invest even more dollars in compelling creative.
Marketers themselves are losing control of distribution and their messages are not getting through. But at the end of the day, social media is where we as consumers are making our decisions and taking actions – based on conversations with friends and people we trust. Brands cannot afford to not be in those conversations.
Enter: music. Music has always been The Great Connector, as a constant reflection of our culture and society. People define themselves by music. Punk, Hip Hop, you name it. In a recent study by Repucom, young people were asked what they value when it comes to entertainment. Eighty three percent said music. Sports came in second at 78 percent.
Through artists who have highly engaged audiences on social and in the real world, brands have an opportunity to connect with their fans in a way that is truly meaningful and authentic. Fans take valuable actions to support brands that are supporting their favorite artists, because brands enable them to go on tour and to get into the studio to continue creating music. It’s the most symbiotic relationship to ever exist in marketing.
In recognizing that music is a core passion point among fans, some brands, such as Red Bull, have gone so far as to form labels. Converse, a longtime supporter of music artists, has its Rubber Tracks program in partnership with a global community of recording studios, allowing selected artists to record in studio free of charge. Taco Bell’s Feed the Beat exists to connect new bands to new fans. Brands such as Ford are doing fully integrated content programs on social media to support emerging talent. In a recent Ford Campaign a BYG Music artist was able to use the power of sponsorship to buy a tour bus. Not rent, but actually buy their own. This is what artist empowerment looks like.
This is entertainment sponsorship and advocacy as we’ve always known it, just on new channels, and at scale. It’s a win-win-win for all involved.
Brands have an opportunity to take a stand for young artists so that we never have to imagine a world without new music.
That is no world I would ever want to live in.
CEO and Founder, BYGMusic