Playing a Different Tune: How Advertising is Changing in the Music Industry

by Alison Lukin

“No industry has been altered by the Internet like the recording industry, “stated Uproxx.com. For over 10 years, the entire format of how music is bought and sold has been forced to change. Gone are the days of driving to the record store to purchase an entire album. Now fans can pick and chose individual tracks from a myriad of websites and the industry has had no choice but to bow to the whim of the consumer.

But they did fight the change for a while. From the moment we gained the ability to stream and download music, it changed everything. At first, no regulations were in place and there was anarchy. Illegal file sharing sites like Napster and LimeWire were popping up everywhere thinking they had unlocked the key to free music forever.

Rightfully so, it sent the entire industry into quite a tizzy. A countless amount of time, money, and talent had been taken to create this art, and it was being robbed from them. Artists spend their lives practicing, performing, and creating for our enjoyment. Why shouldn’t they be compensated?

It wasn’t long before the recording industry got a hold of all the insanity. File sharing quickly became illegal and well-needed regulations were put in place. But still, not everyone was happy about it. You mean, we don’t go to the record store and buy an entire album? We can choose individual tracks for 99 cents?

All was not well on the artist end either. They were painstakingly creating this complete work of art, called an “album” only to have it chopped up in some iTunes store. Tracks were leaked before the artist was ready to have it heard by the public. They felt a huge lack of control.

Even today, we’re still adjusting. But it’s unbelievably better.

Billboard, which is the industry standard for music charts, changed its methodology in 2005 to include paid digital download purchases. And they are soon to include streaming as well.  This will greatly impact the results of the Hot 100 and the Billboard 200 charts.

Yet another industry shift is taking place, which is one of the biggest changes in decades. The GLOBAL release date of music is being switched from Tuesdays to Fridays. Why Tuesdays? There are a number of theories. Most say it’s because Billboard releases its charts on Wednesdays, so Tuesday will give you a maximum amount of time over the week.

Having music released on different days in different countries was OK until the Internet came along. Since the Internet is international, piracy had become a big issue. Having music available in one country and not another resulted in major leaks and disgruntled musicians.

Artists like Beyoncé and Drake started preempting the problem by having a digital release before hard copies went into stores. It didn’t seem to harm their careers in the least.

This shift goes well beyond music in the recording industry. Pandora, unofficial “king” of online radio, as labeled by digitaltrends.com, offers their service for free with occasional brief commercial spots by paid advertisers. Larger advertisers have opportunities as well. Auto-giant Toyota has it’s own custom Pandora station called the, “Toyota Sessions” that “features behind-the-scenes artist interviews.” It’s opportunities like these that have opened a whole new world for marketing.

In fact, radio giant iHeartMedia has taken this premise a step further and will begin offering services to marketers that will help pair them “with publishers to fashion ads that blend alongside editorial work.” Some see this as a threat to ad agencies who can be bypassed as brands go directly to the source for effective content.  Other contend that ad agencies (media and creative) can help filter through the myriad of content solutions being proposed to their clients.

With this whole new way to reach consumers, the music industry is changing their tactics for how they reach new audiences.  One answer, of course, is finding the best performers (influencers) to help introduce their products to the online world.  If you mention Now That’s What I Call Music! to your average 30-something they’d probably be surprised that these compilations are still being made. To keep their brand fresh, they’ve made a pretty smart move.

Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, the companies behind the popular brand started in the 90’s have turned to social video marketing to up the ante.  Yours truly, FullBottle Group, was hired to find 10influencers for their campaign ranging from comedians to a sassy housewife. “They each created looping 6-second videos that will be posted to the NowThatsMusic Vine account and shared with their followers.”

“The beauty of influencer advertising in this day and age is you have a slew of people on a variety of platforms, like Vine, who really are the experts in that language,” explains Reed Berglund, co-founder and CEO of FullBottle. “So you ask for what an interpretation of the campaign theme is, and each Viner has their own shtick. It could be comedy. Maybe their thing is dancing or singing. And they then interpret that theme in their own voice, which is precisely what their fans want from them. They don’t want something that is forced, heavy-handed or a square-peg, round-hole scenario.”

The recording industry is starting to understand this and continues to evolve how music is released, distributed and promoted. The industry we see today is a far cry from the machine it was 20 years ago or even five years ago. Here’s to change and improvement.  Now if you don’t mind, we’re going to logon to Spotify and create today’s “mix-tape”.

Happy listening!