The Music Industry has just entered into the great battle of its life and nobody realizes it. Nothing since the launch of Napster has had larger impact on the future of the recording business than Beyonce’s decision to push forward with an iTunes-only release.
It wasn’t the lack of promotion that was the shocker, nor the visual album that broke the ground. It was the mere decision to move ahead of physical retail. As only Tamar Braxton could say it best, SHE DID THAT. And not only did she do that, she did it well, breaking sales records all along the way.
Now, Target (in an entirely unwise move, in my opinion) has mobilized its rumored army and met Beyonce and the entire rest of the music industry, unwittingly dragged along, in the epic battle that no one previously wanted to fight. See, in all the years that I’ve worked in music, the most serious tension that existed, the push backwards against the trend toward digital, was the absolute paralyzing fear that if we did anything to upset physical retail, namely move forward with a digital release ahead of them, the world would absolutely end. Sun, so more. Just pitch. black. night. And no more record sales. It would end us. That fear kept us beholden to piracy, album leaks, and huge promotional spends to guarantee rack space and prioritization, even though everyone knows that physical CD’s are used as a loss leader everywhere it counts. Yes, the wrath of physical retail was the boogeyman that no one wanted to face, that no one in the music industry felt that we were strong enough to fight.
Enter Beyonce and her army of girl-power-infused “she-devil” feminists. And I use the term “she devil” with the utmost respect – it connotes a lack of fear. An “I don’t give a single f*ck and haven’t had any to give in an while” kind of bravado that not only must you respect, but if you’re any kind of institution, any kind of old school retail gatekeeper or guardsman, has got to have you shaking just a little in your well-entrenched boots. This battle you never thought you’d have to fight. This battle you’re going to lose; and truth be told, it was lost before the battle began. To borrow from Tamar Braxton again, SHE WON.
It was only the fear of what might happen (loss of sales, not loss of physical retail support) that kept the music industry stuck with day and date release parity with physical retail. Now, thanks to Target, we get to see what actually will (or in this case won’t) be the actual repercussion. Remember the Cold War? Well, it was a war that was never intended to be fought. As was this with the music industry. Target should have never entered the battlefield. Walmart and Best Buy didn’t. At least this way, they could have always held the fear overhead and continued, for a while at least, to say “what if.” But now we know what if. Nothing is what. More sales at digital is what. Lack of leaks and thwarting piracy is what. iTunes is officially crowned King of Music is what. Digital wins.
And for all other industries living in fear of fighting this same battle, both sides should watch closely. Because if you chose to fight, one will have to die. If you choose to cooperate, you actually might step forward into what we like to call INNOVATION.
Generally, when people think of “social media,” they envision the platform side of things, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Path, Foursquare, Tumblr, etc. Well, when working on the “Born This Way” release, we were responsible for having a much broader view of things, at least, those of us ‘riding the bench’ at social media and digital strategy agency.
While most of the larger “all hands” meetings were dedicated to reviewing the major touchpoints of the album, which I’ve outlined in previous posts, and which have been discussed in the Mashable article, amongst other features, I think that some additionally interesting work was being done in the break out sessions that my team was responsible for. I thought that this information might be particularly helpful for you and your own pursuits in social media marketing and branding.
If you had the chance to read “Life as a ‘Bench Player’ on Lady Gaga’s Team – ‘Born This Way’ Launch Edition,” you would see the word “touchpoints” listed very frequently, as I personally felt like that was a key element to the campaign. The objective was to create as many touchpoints as possible, or places and ways in which fans and potential customers could interact with the album on their turf and (mostly) on their terms. We wanted to bring the album to them.
Well, another element that fits into the concept of touchpoints, which is very, very important, is blogs (awkward construction, but yes grammatically correct “is blogs” – go figure). A large part of a digital/social media marketing agency’s job is to have their finger on the pulse of the universe of blogs in existence, classified across all of the various possibilities of lifestyle verticals. We had and actively developed and maintained robust lists or indexes of blogs for unimaginable segments, from as broad as fashion and pop music, to fantasy book readers (because we had some early information that a unicorn would in some way be involved in the album and its graphical elements).
The idea was to find as many different lifestyle intersections as possible with the album and essentially create windows into the project from that lifestyle perspective. The unicorn example is a great one – ok, so there will be unicorns? Who would be interested in that? Fantasy book readers? Ok, let’s find out where they live online. Now, who else? With that information, we were then armed to super-serve those people, where they reside, with content relevant to them, but that also tied into the larger project. In this way, you give the audience an authentic and personalized entry point, but still maintain the integrity of the project. Think of an octopus with specially-themed tentacles.
This can work for you as well. The beauty of social media is not only just the ability to get your message out there, but it is also to be able to better understand (first) and then specifically target (second) potential customers (or employers, fans, listeners, viewers, etc.) by bringing relevant tentacles of your project directly to them, where they normally reside online.
If you want to learn more about this “tentacle” approach in the aspect of social media marketing and brand development concerning blogs, my book “Piece of the Fame” contains a great interview with Paul Brunson (star of OWN Network’s new show Lovetown) as he discusses building his brand in 18 months nearly exclusively via the Internet.
I’m still catching up with all of the outpouring of positive comments, new connections and contacts from Friday’s feature on Mashable syndicated from Business News Daily. I know that people must be curious to know what it was like to work on Lady Gaga’s team, and I have to say that it was a far cry from what it would appear based on a certain comment made.
First, there was really no “I” in team. We all worked tirelessly to make this a successful project. From my team that worked for me at Atom Digital, to the team at the label, the management team, to everyone from the receptionist, to the woman at the top – we all pushed on overdrive for this record. We wanted to break records and were constantly trying to figure out how to leverage everything possible to make that happen. It was an effort to create as many touchpoints as possible. Remember that term, touchpoints, it will become important later.
Second, there was a lot of hard work. From everyone, especially Gaga. I remember being at the Oakland, California show, which was on the same night as the Google visit (what an incredible day, I got to meet Larry Page and Marissa Mayer, who are my kind of tech rockstars) for Google goes Gaga.
http://twitpic.com/4c9kwk – Just left Google, what a genius team. Tweeting video interview soon with details about album+Judas!
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) March 22, 2011
Not only did she do the fabulous interview (accessible here), but she also sat through a pretty extensive meeting that I can’t tell you about because I had to sign an NDA.
Let’s just say that of the 15+ people in the room, I was one and Gaga was another, Larry Page was another…amazing. But even geek-ish excitement is not what I remember most about that day. It was Gaga’s work ethic. She performed a 2-hour concert and then after backstage, had almost 100 people to individually meet, greet, take pictures with and play samples for of her (then) new album. And she treated the last person just as graciously (if not more) as she did the first. We didn’t wrap up until after 3:30 am. She was ready to head out to a club to party with the boys and meanwhile, I was exhausted by the day’s events, in the tour production office dazed waiting for a ride to my hotel to try to be ready for Twitter and Zynga the next day. She definitely outworked me, by far…this too is something to take note of if you’re looking for your own success.
Third, more ideas were generated than actual things we were able to fully accomplish. There were meetings upon meetings starting early into the process with the one question of “how can we make this even bigger?” When you have that one question driving the conversation, and if asked repeatedly, you get some pretty great responses. There was an idea for a “takeover” of various locations in New York (including Central Park), my personal favorite was “Born This Way” pop-up shops (party storefronts), and then there was the idea of getting a record…and a “healthy sandwich” at the same time (would have made for a massive “retail” footprint). BTW (by the way, not “born this way”), did you know that the largest retail music distributor in Indonesia is Kentucky Fried Chicken? But, anyway, I digress.
As the executive vice president, in charge of the digital marketing and strategy agency, we were responsible for being there, at every meeting, ready with ideas and solutions to help make this project successful. Not for the benefit of taking credit, but for the possibility of contributing to something groundbreaking and incredible.
Other than for the benefit of this post, I really hate the idea that was introduced of the concept of a “bench player.” From my role as the head of the digital strategy agency, to the project managers and account coordinators that worked for me, absolutely no one fit that description, nor should they feel that they did. As the leader of any organization, I would never use such a term. It just doesn’t exist in the context of a successful team. Oh well, it’s out there, so I might as well own it. Shout out to all the other “bench players” with Championship rings! (If you know of any specific names of these players, please let me know – maybe I should do a tribute video).
As far as the “Championship,” it was the result of many practice and strategy sessions, strategic planning and insights, ideas, dreams, actions and much effort.
If you’re reading this and dreaming of your own success, my key takeaway for you would be the following, find the touchpoints, whether they be blogs that your audience reads, places where they might go for coffee, other thought leaders in your space, YouTube videos, Google AdWords, magazines, newspapers, whatever you can identify, and maximize the number of them that you incorporate into your campaign.
In a later post, I’ll also speak about the importance of email and the role of the most important touchpoint of all, connecting to a customer at the retail point of sale, particularly online. I don’t know how many were aware, but in my opinion, one of the strongest pushes came from online retailer iTunes, who emailed every one of their customers who had ever bought a Lady Gaga track. First time in iTunes history that happened. I could only find Perez Hilton’s coverage of it, but see here.
And finally, work ethic is the most important. Be willing to work harder than everyone else, including all of the “bench players” comprising your team.
My best, Jaunique
And by the way, if you’re interested in reading more about my thoughts on successful social media strategy, I encourage you to check out my book, “Piece of the Fame” available on Amazon and the iBookstore
Wow, Mashable. As a dedicated reader of Mashable, BusinessNewsDaily, NME, TechCrunch, PandoDaily and the numerous other media platforms that describe aspects of my industry, or at least a large portion of it (amen to my Google RSS Reader), I was humbled and excited to see the recent article discussing some of my previous work with Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album during the time that I was running the Atom Digital agency. Even more awe-some (yes, I do mean it that way, awe-some) was the literal outpouring of kind words, outreach, contacts and connections with some pretty amazing people. So again, wow, Mashable! And double WOW BusinessNewsDaily, where the original article was published.
And if we’re just “meeting” because of Mashable, or Fox News, or even word of mouth, I’d like to welcome you and let you know that I plan to stay interesting enough to hopefully keep you coming back. I have a lot to share.
My blog has been a little silent lately because in addition to speaking/consulting and the associated travel, I’m hard at work on a Webisode series (found an amazing editor who matches my sense of humor) and I thought that might be more engaging than just words on a page. Time crunch aside, what I did want to take the opportunity to do, here, was to add more context and color to the strategy work that I did with Lady Gaga and hopefully give people (or you, who’s reading) more info that they can use.
First, the “Born This Way” album was a major, major release. It had so many touchpoints that were worked on by so many people, it almost could be the subject of its own book (or its own Mashable post that you can access here). The directive for the team (including the management team, my team which was the Atom Digital digital/social media marketing and strategy agency, the label, and the PR team) was to bring the album to as many people as possible. But, that’s the directive for most albums. Where this strategy differed, was to bring the album to people, where they were. So, you like to hang out in coffee shops? Great, we’re going to bring you the album in the coffee shop and give you the opportunity to hear it there. You like to play Farmville? Great, we’re going to place the album in the middle of your game play in a compelling and interesting way, authentic to Gaga’s brand. You like to shop? Great, come see what’s on Gilt and by the way, check out the album. The same philosophy went for the iTunes countdown, the Google Chrome commercial, the HBO Concert and everything else. In fact, if we had managed to pull off everything we planned, you would have truly had your socks and shoes knocked off. But this was all in the effort to make it easy for you the customer, and you the potential customer, fan, friend, follower and listener, to have access to a product that everyone felt we could stand behind, because of the quality and the devotion in putting it together.
And, I guess the results speak for themselves. And like I said in the Mashable article, I would never take the credit for the success of something that large. I did my best and played my role, as did everyone else, with tireless effort. Props to the team, and most of all props go to Gaga for her vision + passion and work ethic that I had the privilege of observing on numerous occasions.
Anyway, I’m breaking my own rule of brevity, but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t take the time to acknowledge that I might have a few new readers and friends these days. Stay tuned, I’ll make sure to keep it coming. My best, Jaunique
As you can imagine, as the author of “Piece of the Fame: Rockstar Social Media Marketing Strategy for Everyone to Ignite Your Business, Career and Personal Brand,” I’m often asked questions about specific issues relating to music campaigns. Some of the best and/or broadest reaching questions, I’ve decided to answer here periodically, for the benefit of everyone.
I was asked recently, “how can independent artists best make use of music streaming services?” which I thought was a great question, and probably one that would apply to a number of my readers. So, here goes:
As an independent artist, I would imagine that you’d be looking for three possible outcomes from a music streaming service:
1. Access to your music (reasonable)
2. Discovery of your music (somewhat reasonable)
3. Source of revenue (not so much)
Let’s just look at each of these options in a nutshell:
1. Access to your music
At this point, I would say the “big three” of easy-to-upload-to music streaming services, in order of ease are: Soundcloud, YouTube and Spotify. Yes, there are others (MOG, Pandora, Last.fm, Rdio, etc.). Of the three I originally mentioned, only YouTube provides seamless integration if you’re posting your music across the largest social media platforms (e.g., Twitter and Facebook). But, Soundcloud integrates pretty seamlessly with Facebook. As we know, Spotify is sort-of seamless, in a world where everyone has a Spotify account. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world…yet.
One thing that I will say about using YouTube as a streaming music solution is that #1, if you’re wildly successful, it can get you paid (see this Pamplemoose interview that I Tweeted) and #2, it doubles as still the best music discovery engine (and is the second largest search engine), and #3 if you’re smart about how you leverage the visuals that you couple with the audio, you might actually make a name for yourself – the suggestion for this is to create something visually interesting that could stand on its own – I personally love what Goyte does with his vids, but that’s neither here, nor there.
2. Discovery of your music.
So, generally, there’s little to no in-house editorial curation (no reviews, artists to watch, etc. – and algorithms don’t count) on any of the largest music streaming platforms (which I think is a pity), so you’d have to turn to outside parties to find a way into a discovery pipeline. Good thing is, since your music is accessible, if someone “discovers” you and wants to spread the word to their friends, there’s no problem getting to a sample of your sound. Still, there are a few ways to tip discovery features in your favor using each of the music streaming platforms that I listed above. I’ll give a few suggestions below:
A. Get all of your friends and fans to start including your songs in their playlists.
B. Make your own playlists of popular music that would fit in-genre with yours and include your music in those playlists (your playlist might come up for someone searching for popular music).
C. Get a buzz going on some other platform and hope that the third-party developers on Spotify pick you up on their radar (e.g., We Are Hunted, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone Recommends).
A. Send your track to people via their SoundCloud inbox (a la the old days with MySpace) and cross your fingers that they check it.
B. Post your cover songs material and remixes and hope that people stumble across it while searching for the original material.
C. Create playlists and mixes that include your tracks.
A. Make the most of the YouTube search engine function and post cover songs (I talk about this at length in “Piece of the Fame“).
B. Create playlists that include your tracks.
What I haven’t covered are services like Pandora, and even MOG, Rdio and Last.fm, that each in their own way use some kind of radio function and are tipped in favor of serendipity, or discovery. There’s not much that you can do in that situation to control how you get discovered, but you can make sure that if people to happen to come across your music and want to know or hear more, that you’re easy to find, especially with a simple Google search (i.e., make sure that you have posted your song + some kind of video on YouTube with correct labeling). So, make sure that from time to time you clear your browser cookies and check your band’s name and track titles to ensure that your web properties are coming up correctly.
3. And finally…Source of Revenue
I don’t know how to make the sad drumroll sound for you through print, but the reality is that as an independent artist, unless you become a viral phenomenon, you’re not likely to generate any appreciable income from music streaming services on a large platform basis (although, see the Pamplemoose interview). We’re just not there yet in terms of saturation of this type of distribution for music. To point you to a couple of articles that provide a breakdown of the economics, I’d send you here:
All told, at this phase of the evolution of music streaming services, you should be most focused on how you can leverage them for access and discovery, especially YouTube, which is still the second largest search engine in the world (behind Google) and still the largest “unofficial” streaming music service. There are detailed tips and explanations on how to best make this platform work for you in our own social media marketing campaign in my book, “Piece of the Fame,” available now on Amazon.com (in paperback and Kindle versions) and the iBookstore.
I read an article coming from Ad Age that confirmed the need for Piece of the Fame. Even among large-footprint researchers, leading minds in the business of digital media and advertising don’t have all of their facts straight, and this article proved to be a prime example. Half of it is correct and consistent with the metrics that I’ve seen across a number of Facebook Pages with which I’ve been involved, huge and not-so-huge: the truth is that if you include the initial “Like” only 1.5% of the Fans of a Page actually interact with that Page. If you take the initial “Like” action out of the equation, that number drops precipitously to 0.45%.
And then the other half of the article was not correct and was inconsistent with the nature of Facebook. A quote from the researcher that was included in this article, speaking on the engagement numbers:
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said Karen Nelson-Field, senior research associate for Ehrenberg-Bass Institute who describes herself as a “Facebook advocate.” “People need to understand what it can do for a brand and what it can’t do. Facebook doesn’t really differ from mass media. It’s great to get decent reach, but to change the way people interact with a brand overnight is just unrealistic.”
I’m not going to make a comment on their data collection methods or the fact that they didn’t measure inbound traffic from links that may have been posted (they only used the “People Talking About This” feature to measure engagement), but what I will say is the conclusion above does not take into account Facebook’s use of EdgeRank, which is their algorithm that decides out of all the content posted on Facebook that your connected to, what you actually see in your Feed. So, that means for a brand operating a Page on Facebook, essentially, if people don’t engage with your content on Facebook, they will never see your content. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. If you’re putting a ton of time and resources (in other words, $$$) into your Facebook marketing efforts, and you’re seeing results of under 0.5% engagement, that means that for all those Likes that you purchased at about $1.00 each on average, you’re getting essentially no return on your investment. So, contrary to the above statement, a lack of engagement on Facebook is actually very bad because Facebook does differ from mass media, significantly. An analogy would be, let’s say you watch CNN and every time a car commercial came on, you changed the channel. Well, if CNN operated like Facebook, they would modify the commercials that you saw so that you specifically never saw another car commercial again, or any other commercial that made you change the channel. Mass media is a one-size-fits-all model where all content, whether it be advertising or premium creative, is weighted equally and seen by the entire audience. Facebook doesn’t do that.
I think that brands still have a long way to go in understanding what their efforts on Facebook mean in terms of real results. Somebody paid that researcher above a lot of money for the conclusion that she reached…
To learn more about EdgeRank and what it means for brands on Facebook, pick up a copy of my book, Piece of the Fame: Rockstar Social Media Marketing Strategy for Everyone to Ignite Your Business, Career and Personal Brand on Amazon. I tried to clear up a lot of this misunderstanding about what is actually going on with Facebook Likes, because it seems as if even the major research shops are still somewhat in the dark. If you already have the book, discussion starts on Page 154.
In all honesty, I had a bit of struggle deciding whether or not to include Google+ in Piece of the Fame. The reality is that despite the blockbuster numbers recently quoted by Larry Page, of 90 Million registered accounts (just shy of Twitter’s numbers), my sense is that this platform is a far ways off from becoming a social media staple for a critical mass of people. I consider myself in a social circle of early adopters of technology, and I have yet to feel any kind of pressure to move to Google+ for fear of “missing something” that has been posted or published. Everything that I need to know or share is found within the realms of either Twitter or Facebook. So, for all of Google’s scale, which I’m sure bolsters those Google+ numbers, the reality is that this is still a new social network that is struggling with the discovery of its identity and role. It’s premature for brands to divert valuable time and resources to trying to figure out their place, as the personal users haven’t really shown up yet. That said, I’ve been keeping my eye on this developing platform, a very very close and active eye on it. I want it to do well. As far as social networks go, I’m at a point where I want a new option and alternative that makes sense.
Further to this idea, I saw an interesting article on TechCrunch by Bindu Reddy that provides some insightful possible solutions to Google+’s adoption problem. If you’re going to check it out, the best part is the comments section: gives a great overview of how the industry is really responding to Google’s new social product.
I saw an interesting article the other day on TheVerge.com and at first, I was wondering, what is “The Verge” and why is it in my RSS reader? Then I remembered that it was a start up media platform focused on tech that I read about late last year and decided to start following. Turns out, that was a good idea. They discussed the “Homecoming Queen” of today’s music industry, subscription music streaming services, with an investigation of whether or not there’s actually real money there for artists and labels. I’ve worked on a few subscription music streaming deals in my day, and my opinion is that there could be money for the industry in this space, but not just for subscription streaming alone. I’m not a fan of the access model. Plain access is not a money-maker. Why? Because YouTube already does it for free, and better than every audio-only subscription service available. They don’t want to say that, but it’s true.
What do I think that customers will pay for? Expertly-curated passive listening. I’m not just talking radio, because radio already does radio, for free. What people are looking for is the right mix of discovery and familiar, plus no-work-required hours of seamless passive musical enjoyment. For this reason, of the options, Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, etc., I’ve always been the biggest fan of MOG – just waiting for them to get their user interface right. One thing they have done better than others is worked out their programming, their lean-back listening experience algorithm.
The train has already left the station on access, so what’s next? Spotify is working on their radio experience, but shouldn’t that be a core product? I mean, who really wants access to all the world’s music without knowing what to do with it? I can’t even get my gym playlist right for a 45 minute session on the treadmill. There are a lot of out-of-work radio programmers and music magazine editors. If I was in charge of Spotify, or Mog, or Pandora, I’d be snatching them up like hotcakes to work with my programmers in perfecting my passive listening experience and site editorial.
Funny enough, when I was in Paris last summer, I met with the lovely folks at Deezer, Alex Dauchez and team. Despite their licensing troubles, they have something very interesting. At the time of our conversation, more people were using their platform in France than were using iTunes. That’s major. What was the difference with this music subscription service? EDITORIAL! Deezer has the music catalog, but has put major money and focus behind their editorial, making the site feel more like a music discovery community and resource than anything else. A tastemaker, rather than just a pool of audio files. And their consumers love it. Their model of optimizing for mobile handsets, working with the smaller markets and playing the market aggregation game works. They’re not in the US yet, but other players should be taking notes. This is how you do subscription.
And so this brings me back to the original question. Can labels and artists really make money with music subscription services? Nope. Not unless there’s some kind of push to your content. So you win if you have a big catalog or name recognition. But if you’re a baby artist, or a label with a small catalog of only minimally popular songs, you’re kinda toast. Unless, there was some kind of spectacular programming and editorial that ensured that good, unknown music gets played. So, consumers decide to pay, and baby artists get enough plays that they actually see a fraction of the royalty pool. That’s the win in my book.