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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.