brands are labels too

worst case scenario, who would lose out if the music industry disappeared?

the fans and musicians would still be able to connect now that they have the internet to act as matchmaker. in fact, even huge acts such as Radiohead and NIN are starting to ditch their labels , cutting out the despotic middleman to regain more control over the relationship with their fans. so they would always have each other.

sure, the record *industry people* would lose out, but no one seems to really like them that much anyway, so that’s not really enough to rally around.

and then there’s the third element of this music ecosystem: brands. beyond being simply sensory crack, music is a significant community-creating, identity-defining force. often, it has been the primordial ooze from which new cultural shifts evolve. for brands (and hence the advertising/marketing industry) that need to speak to specific communities, facilitate the expression of specific identities, and that are affected by changing cultural tides, there is ALOT invested in this industry. and conveniently, the investment isn’t dependent on selling music.

from NPR’s on the beat

Honda announced this week an online-advertising initiative that would generate $500,000 to $1 million for Sony/BMG. The advertising plans will include interactive video exposure for Avril Lavigne, Dido, Christina Aguilera, and Alicia Keyes.

For decades, artists and record labels scoffed at the notion that Madison Avenue would one day own the record business, but those days are over. Advertising agencies are now doing significant business with all the major labels, generating millions of dollars in income. This seismic philosophical shift was inevitable. As music sales began to recede, the market had to change.

so if you’re wondering about what’s going to “save” the music industry (and no, it’s not gonna be rick rubin’s ridiculous “subscription model” idea— i got mad love for rick as a producer, but give me a break), it can ONLY be a model that does not depend on the desperate idea of trying to sell something which can easily be copied for free.

that is the inevitable future of digital music recordings. face it. and rather than trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the titanic, or even worse, as the glitch mob’s justin boreta says, “getting rid of extra weight by sniping the passengers ,” the music industry ought to be focusing on how it can make this new model profitable.

it’s not fucking rocket science. after all, advertising figured it out. and now music has something that advertisers are in desperate search of: people’s attention. in a consumer landscape where all the standard channels for disseminating a message are fracturing, music still compels people’s attention and sustains that relationship like nothing else. music itself has become a channel. obviously one that needs to be treated differently than some kind of affiliate TV network, but a channel nonetheless.

and at the end of the day, artists stand to gain from this model too. according to on the beat:

While some bands would rather quit music than sell their songs to a commercial advertiser, many have made the transition with great ease. Money, of course, is a great motivator, but the secondary benefits of a strong advertising campaign can be equally important to an artist’s career. Consider this: In the past, hit songs got repeated commercial radio airplay in America, but with programming so tight, many artists will never achieve a hit record that way. Commercial radio programming is just too narrowcast.

So, artists have to look elsewhere for their exposure and TV advertising is the most effective way to generate mass awareness.

Putting a song in a car commercial still won’t get an artist a hit single, but millions will be exposed to their music.

As the Norwegian band Royksopp knows, selling the rights to a strong song can be enormously effective. Their track, Remind Me, has been used on many of the Geico “Caveman” commercials. Royksopp is not alone. The list of recent bands who sold their music for ad campaigns is amazing. Critical darlings like Postal Service, Bloc Party, Of Montreal, the Flaming Lips, MIA and Badly Drawn Boy are all on that list. And legacy artists can really cash in. Songs like Queen’s You’re my Best Friend to AT&T and the Rolling StonesI’m Free to Chase have earned a pretty penny for these bands.

When done right, the advertisers add credibility to their brand in selecting the right songs. Target, Apple, Budweiser, Volkswagen and Motorola have all demonstrated excellent A&R sensibilities with their choice in song selections on TV ads.

For those naysayers, it’s important to remember that the artist makes the final decision whether to associate with a product or service.

And given that it’s impossible to watch more than a few minutes of ads, without a contemporary song cutting in, the artists are clearly comfortable with this change in the business marketplace.


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