Last week I was privileged to present on ‘Streaming, Social And Damned Statistics’ at Amsterdam Dance Event 2015. To celebrate the milestone 20th anniversary edition of the world’s biggest and best dance music conference, I was asked to take part in a series of special ’20×20′ talks. The idea behind the 20×20 series was for each of the speakers to talk for 20 minutes about a music business-related topic close to their heart.
The Importance Of Our Emotional Connection To Music
I chose to tell three short personal stories that illustrate the power of our emotional connection to music, and the power of music to bring people together. Music lies at the heart of human emotions and relationships; it evolved as a way for us to communicate with each other before we even had language, and it’s a key way in which we identify both with ourselves and with each other. The epicentre of music is emotion, and how and what it makes you feel; and that very primal power is where the real value of music lies.
Despite this indisputable fact, in 2015 we find ourselves in a place where our emotional connection to music is weaker than ever, and music is less valued than ever. The shift from sales to streaming and the dominance of social networks as the channels via which we consume media are diminishing the value of each of these platforms, the value of the artist-fan relationship, and the value of music itself. Discussions around streaming seem to focus solely on issues like transparency, payments, monetisation, curation and discovery, while our emotional connection to music is lost, buried or ignored; and yet, it lies at the heart of solving so many of these problems.
In my presentation, I decided to delve into recent research by music industry analyst Mark Mulligan, which demonstrated that the abundance of music available on demand on streaming services, and the seismic shift in youth culture being driven by the rise of a new generation of YouTube and social media stars, are leading to more fickle artist-fan relationships. Meanwhile, the music industry is still laser-focused on all the wrong things – release dates, campaign cycles and budgets, and the need to sell product right now. We’re still marketing and releasing music in the same cookie-cutter, set-template ways that stem straight from the heyday of the CD era. And we’re more obsessed than ever by meaningless vanity metrics like follower numbers, video views and chart positions. But numbers on their own mean nothing – if you have 10,000 Facebook fans, does that mean that you can sell 10,000 records, or gig tickets? We all know the answer to that.
How To Connect Artists And Audiences In A Streaming Economy
In a streaming-dominated attention economy, the challenge isn’t to reach more people, and nor is it to increase the amount of people that you sell to; it’s to make people care. Too often, artists and labels seem to approach digital marketing from a perspective of “What can this do for me and my career?” But now, the listener is the power player; in order to successfully build and monetise an audience, you have to start with your listeners, and put them first. You have to give people a reason to care about you, and to follow you – because the most important factor in any potential fan’s decision as to whether or not they want to support you is how you’re making them feel. The only metric that the music industry really needs to be concerned with is customer lifetime value; artists need to focus on turning fans into high-value, loyal, long-term customers, who keep coming back, and keep streaming their music. But you’ll only succeed in doing so if you get to know your audience, invest time into developing a more personal and direct relationship with them, and go above and beyond to add value for them. It’s a combination of data and engagement that holds the key to successful music marketing in 2015 and beyond.
Yet while many of the ways in which we’re now connecting to music are new, the scary and frustrating thing is that none of the points that I’m making in my presentation are. In fact, they’re all long-established tenets of wisdom in the world of marketing. So why aren’t more artists, labels and digital music services focusing on engaging listeners emotionally?
We need to stop selling product, and start prioritising our emotional, cultural and social relationship to music. It’s time to reconnect audiences to music and to artists on an emotional level – before those audiences switch the lights off on their way out…
NB: you can watch the full video of my live presentation below (apologies for the shakiness in parts, and the fact that the quality isn’t professional – this was shot on an iPhone. The darkness of the room isn’t down to the phone, but rather the choice of the ADE crew, so beyond our control). Thank you to ADE’s Gary Smith for the introduction (some of which has been edited out to make the video that bit shorter).