SXSW at a glance

The music side of things at SXSW sometimes receives a bad rep. Sure, there’s more free Tito’s and Taco Bell afoot than is decent, but there’s some seriously awesome knowledge being thrown around the Austin Convention Center between 11am-6pm. Between working for On Pitch as a marketing guru since 2011 and staring my own farm festival this year, SXSW proved an amazing space for me to alter my conceptions about branding, social media marketing and the music industry itself. Below I’ve transcribed some of my SXSW panel experiences, highlighting key points from industry experts who have insight into what we’re doing right and what we need to work on as the industry continues to grow.

The NYTimes ran an article back in February citing the first increase in global sales for the music industry since 1999, and that energy was alive this year at SXSW. Between the new reign of Spotify and the rise of digital sales all around, the music industry is in good shape for the foreseeable future.

Here’s why:

1) The Buyer and the Beat: Music Fans Could Spend Up to $2.6B Annually (if we pave the way and create content they want)

Nielsen, a leader in consumer-spending studies globally, sparked a great discussion in their panel “The Buyer and The Beat: The Music Fan and How to Reach Them” about how to get music fans to spend more money and what kind of content consumers are craving.

Key points:

  • For music, digital consumption is at an all-time high. In 2012, 1.3 billion digital tracks were sold, 37 billion music streams occurred and 161 million radio tracks were spun (the format that still exists as the #1 tool for music discovery for Americans).
  • The main spending comes from three kinds of fans: 1) The Aficionado Fan – likes indie, buys music in the form of concert tickets, artist merchandise and online streaming services, spends about $400 a year on music. 2) The Digital Fan – searches for trends, active on social networks, likely to listen through Youtube, spends about $300 a year on music. 3) The Big Box Fan – emotionally connected with music, especially pop and country, likely to buy in-store or via Walmart, largely influenced by deals and sale prices, spends about $200 a year on music.
  • Fans want content, and fans are different than consumers. Consumers maybe listen to Pandora once in awhile or check out the occasional concert, but fans want to become a part of the artists’ creative process and want a personal relationship with the product they’re buying.
  • Crowd-funding projects like PledgeMusic work because fans want exclusive content. It’s the basic principle of “give something, get something.”
  • Ideas for your artist or brand: signed CDs, signed vinyl, pre-order/exclusive access to album, liner notes, videos from inside the recording studio, streaming concerts online more frequently… the potential for further engagement is limitless.

2) Spotify: The streaming service that launched in 2006 is finally gaining the mainstream attention it deserves. Spotify is making it easy to legally consume media.

Spotify CEO & Founder Daniel Ek and Forbes Associate Editor Steven Bertoni talking about the future of music at SXSW 2013.

Spotify figured it out. Daniel Ek, founder and CEO, has dedicated the past six years to giving consumers a cheap, easy way to consume content, providing a convenient, important alternative to music piracy. In the panel, “Forbes 30 Under 30: Meet Spotify’s Daniel Ek,” we heard the ins and outs of Spotify from the man himself. Oh and also, if you haven’t yet, try the month of free premium. You’ll never turn back.

Key points:

  • We live in an age where the value of true artistry is being challenged. Ek feels as though true creative genius can still shine through in an age where everyone (your next-door neighbor, your little brother, your boss) can be a DJ or a photographer. Technology is only making creativity more accessible to the Average Joe, but that isn’t a bad thing. It helps true creativity shine.
  • Spotify’s chief objectives are notable and noble: 1) They strive to get everyone on the face of the planet more music. 2) They want to create a stronger music eco-system where artists can make a decent living.
  • Most music consumers and people aren’t inherently stealthy. Not many fans go out and think “Oh man, I’d love to steal stuff off the internet today.” Often times torrenting or downloading an illegal zip is faster and more accessible than logging into something like iTunes or Amazon, so consumers take the shortcut and resort to piracy because it’s simpler. Spotify offers a legal counter to that problem by offering free on-demand streaming.
  • 1/2 billion people are listening to music online, 6 million people are paying to use Spotify, 30-35 million people are iTunes users.
  • The goal of Spotify shouldn’t be to convert all 25 million Spotify users to paid members. The goal should be to convert 1.5 billion using piracy services to listen legally.
  • Ek also shared some pretty cool stories about being handed a guitar at age 4 and a computer at age 5. The rest is history.

3) Girls & Tech: As technology is becoming more and more accessible to a younger demographic, a new generation of taste-makers and marketers are cropping up organically.

Think about the young girls in your life. They are on Twitter, they are on Tumblr, they are on Instagram. These girls love music with an intense passion. They push out content about these passions on their social media platforms, which are all at their fingertips. The panel, “Girls and Tech: Why Young Women Rule in Music,” explained a little more about this phenomena and what it means for the industry.

Key points:

  • As brand experts, marketers and the like, we need to start taking young girls more seriously because they have market-influence on primary social media platforms.
  • Girls themselves are becoming excellent content creators. They are marketing inherently with their passion and constant output of content. They’re not even trying, but they’re doing an awesome job.
  • How can you use this demographic to your advantage while still holding them to a high regard? Give them exclusive access to an event. Let them take photos and make gifs. Do a Twitter contest and let them in the photo pit for the first three songs. For the right artist, it could be amazing.
  • Community managers must use an authentic, passionate voice to connect with this specific audience. Find out where these girls are and how they relate to your brand, but don’t fake it. Be authentic and passionate, and rise to meet them on their level.

4) Music Festivals: There’s a new eco-system of music festivals in America, which provides a great revenue potential for the industry (if we attune ourselves to the demands our markets and cultivate a unique brand experience).

What makes your event special? Are you charting your sales effectively? Do you know how your attendees are herding and moving in and out during your event? At “Music Festivals: The Real Deal from the Experts,” some insight was given into these pertinent questions.

Key points:

  • RFID technology can be extremely useful and could be worth way more than the money you’ll save on barcodes with its potential for data. It’s essentially just a chip in the wristband (you’ve seen them at Bonnaroo, Coachella and other major festivals), but there’s a wide variety of benefits. 1) They’re hard to rip off or duplicate. 2) As a festival organizer, you can add information onto the chip, so you know exactly where the wristband has been and how it may have fallen into someone’s hands or why difficulties may be arising with a particular band. 3) You can attain data, which applies to staffing, security and police (among other areas), which is another place to find cost savings. Too expensive? Have a sponsor underwrite that specific line item and enjoy the benefits of increased data.
  • Marketing for festival starts with a brand, idea, feel. The schedule comes next. Then announcements, news items and general hype-building.
  • Fan experience and safety should always be the number one priority of a festival organizer. Bottom line.
  • Work toward attaining partnerships with businesses and people who will personally invest in your project. Don’t settle for traditional marketing strategies. Let people spread the word rather than lifeless newsprint pages (which seems to be true, at least for some festival demographics).
  • Make attainable goals and set milestones for yourself to make sure you’re on track. Keep organized in something like Google Drive and keep track of all your media releases and blasts so you can coordinate with sales later.
  • Stay true to yourself. If you’re a small festival with huge success, don’t jump the gun and up your capacity by 10,000. Fans probably like the experience they had for a reason, and you don’t need to be huge to make more money. Up your ticket prices instead, up the quality of your experience. An example given: Prada. Prada built a brand of exclusivity and their products are worth a lot because not every bag or product is mass-produced. Ponder the idea of a boutique festival with that mentality and go from there. If that’s not your thing, figure out what exactly is.
  • Festivals are more than just bands on a stage. It’s about the experience you’re creating. Create something worthwhile.

Zoey Miller has been working for On Pitch since the summer of 2011. Active in the Iowa music scene, Zoey acts as Director of Marketing for SCOPE Productions, the University of Iowa’s independent concert promotion and production organization, and has been a marketing volunteer for 80/35 for the past two years.

Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

Turntable.fm offers interactive approach to free music streaming

While new ways to stream and download music online are constantly being unearthed, it can be difficult to choose one site that fits your needs as a listener. Discovering new music in the digital era can be overwhelming with so many ways to listen to free music online, making it hard to keep current with all the new music streaming and discovery sites. Getting acquainted with Turntable.fm is an easy first step to staying current in both of these fields. Turntable.fm is more than a music streaming site and unlike any free-music service you’ve ever experienced because Turntable.fm lets you play and listen to music with friends. Once you’ve experienced real-time collaborative DJ-ing with your pals, you will realize why this new interactive approach to free music streaming is garnering so much buzz.

In it’s current state, Turntable.fm is an invite-only beta that allows users to stream music in a browser-based chat room setting. Invite-only sounds more exclusive, but you can access the site if someone you connect with on Facebook uses the site. Music is selected by (up-to-five) rotating DJs, compromised of whoever happens to be in a room at any given time. As a DJ, you can compile a list of songs by uploading from your own music library or pulling from an extensive Medianet-powered library to generate your playlist. Once you have your own playlist of songs, the station will cycle through each DJ—which allows an interesting blend of every DJ’s music to be played. It’s also an option to simply go into a room and listen to what other DJs are putting out in the airwaves, much like a typical radio station.

DJs as well as other people in the room listening have power to choose what music plays by voting to decide if a track is “lame” or “awesome.” For 80/35, we made a room filled with only 80/35 tunes, which gave listeners a free, easy way to get a taste of new music. However, if someone played music that didn’t have anything to do with 80/35, everyone in the room voted the song “lame,” and the track was immediately skipped over. If you’ve ever wanted to skip over an annoying track on the radio, this takes the compliance out of radio listening and gives listeners more of a voice in their music intake. Conversely, DJs are awarded points for having the room vote their songs “awesome,” and these points allow users to unlock avatars.

Another cool feature of the site is the chat room function that allows users to interact with others in the room. This gives the whole Turntable.fm experience a similar feeling to being in a room with friends—simply listening to music and engaging in conversation that’s fueled by a mutual respect for the tunes. This arguably marks the best function of the site, allowing people to discover new music in a social manner. If you like a song, you can mouse over it and quickly be directed to iTunes to purchase it. This also ties to another aspect of the site’s functionality—music discovery. The idea of making collaborative playlists and being able to enter different rooms that all have their own theme or genre allows for an effective way to browse new music. Just as you would trust a friend to make you a mixtape of songs, Turntable.fm offers specific rooms of user-recommended content that might just turn you on to your next favorite artist or band. For more information, watch this demonstration video:

While Turntable.fm might evolve over time in order to generate income, it currently offers an easy, free approach to online music streaming that’s a little more interactive and personal than other sites like Pandora or Grooveshark because it relies on a community of listeners to keep the music playing. In the saturated online market of music listening, Turntable.fm is at minimum worth a test drive and has definitely introduced an innovative approach to interactive music streaming. We expect a whole subculture of interactive online DJ-ing to emerge from what’s turned out to be one of the most exciting social services to launch this year.

Meet Zoey, the On Pitch summer intern

Hey y’all, I’m the new summer intern here at On Pitch. Excited to really dig in and learn about the world of social media and music marketing. I’m currently a Journalism and English double major at the University of Iowa, but it’s good to be home in Des Moines for the summer, soaking up the rays and the emerging music scene. I’ve been involved with the arts since I was very young—I’ve always played a wide array of instruments, sang in as many choirs as time would allow, and loved doing speech and theatre stuff. Needless to say, having an opportunity to delve right into the local music scene is right up my alley.

To me every aspect of music marketing is directed toward a common goal—to make live music accessible to a grateful audience—and I’m honored to be more involved in that very process. The first show I ever attended (that wasn’t in a huge arena or the state fair) was at Skate South in West Des Moines. It was Senses Fail, and my preteen self felt so cool to thrash my limbs around in the mosh pit while doing everything in my power to ignore my mother watching closely from the snack area. Ever since that first concert experience—the lights, the energy, the joy of hearing the music that I played on my Walkman reverberating in a real room with real instruments and real musicians—I’ve only been eager to immerse myself more deeply in the concert lifestyle.

While I know that I have a lot to learn, I consider myself somewhat of a social media geek because I realize how much our society relies on technology and the innovative nature of the beast that is the internet—it’s fascinating to watch new possibilities for social and professional outreach emerge. That being said, I have a lot to learn, and I think it’s going to be a great summer learning from and working with Jill and Hillary at On Pitch.


Feel free to connect with me on social media:

twitter: @zoeysmiller

e-mail: zoey@on-pitch.com

facebook: zoeysmiller