With the rise of marketing technology, businesses are now working together with musicians and artists more closely, and further blending of brands and brands. The discussion revolved around how music and marketing work together, and how artists break through the noise in an increasingly connected world.

On Nov. 20, the Globe Content Studio’s creative lead Monica Bialobrzeski moderated a MarTech Mornings panel on music marketing. Here’s what you missed:

What does music marketing look like today?

“Everything in the music industry is case by case. It depends on the artist and their specific goals,” says Emily Smart, vice-president of marketing and publicity for Six Shooter Records. In fact, sometimes marketing takes the shape of saying ‘no’ to new things, or ‘yes’ whether it’s a new partnership, a tour or an interview, she explains. 

Six Shooter takes a long-term approach to building relationships with artists and their families. This means that marketing decisions are never made in a vacuum. “It’s important to always ask: ‘Where are we now and where do we want to be in five, 10 or 20 years?’ ”

How has music marketing changed over time?

One of the biggest shifts in the music industry has been the sheer volume of content available. “Having so many options can be crippling, so Spotify is focused on building personalized experiences through playlists,” says Claudia Seti, marketing lead at Spotify Canada.

“Spotify’s uploading 20,000 tracks a day. YouTube’s uploading years and years of music videos every day. You can go to 450 streaming sights where people will consume your music,” music publicist Eric Alper says.  

And as a result, it’s exhausting. As a brand new artist, your competition is “Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles,” he adds. 

The amount of data we have access to is also staggering. But this information also allows platforms to customize listener experience in incredible new ways. “We dig into the data and algorithms and try to serve the right content at the right time,” Seti says.

For cinematographer Liam Higgins, a transformation he’s seen in music marketing is how artists connect with their listeners. “It’s not just about music videos,” he says. Now artists reach out directly to their communities — whether it’s hosting an art show or an event — and design for experience. “They’re much more methodical,” he adds.

What hasn’t really changed?
There are few barriers to entry for musicians, Smart says, but the “actual infrastructure has not progressed in terms of equity.” She believes the industry needs to do some soul-searching on this front. “We may see some of the structures we take for granted are changing.” Intersectionality, accessibility, diversity and equity are not present from the top down, she says. “So when we’re talking about marketing, the system needs to change because the marketing models are based on genres of music that aren’t being consumed as much as others, like rock and folk music.”

Higgins points to the fact that artists will always have to adapt to the changing landscape. The trick is not to lose yourself. An artist will always have to balance being true to him or herself, but also how the music will live on these emerging platforms. “It’s a challenge for all of us. Once one thing shifts, we all have to adapt to new things. But not everything works for everyone.”

Another fixture of the industry is the “fluke,” Smart says. And the fact that a song can pick up at any time. She points to Lizzo’s Good as Hell which caught fire in 2019 but actually came out in 2016. “Formats, aspect ratios change, but there’s this exciting possibility of anything picking up at any time. One of the random things about the business is that nothing is ever really done. It’s a little counterintuitive. The pieces an artist is creating are not going away.”

MarTech Mornings is hosted at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto, Ont.

What’s your take on branding in the industry?

Quoting Mark Twain, Higgins says, “The person who tells the truth doesn’t have to remember what they said.” The industry is chaotic, mad and unpredictable, in his view, so it’s more important than ever to be true to yourself and your story. “As long as our narrative is focused on you, it’s possible to make the change and adapt,” he says. 

Alper echoes this sentiment. “It’s about knowing who you are, more than anything else. These 65-year-old blues artists think they need to be on Instagram. But I tell them you don’t have to be there. You could be on there if you want to be, but you don’t have to.”

How do artists make money these days?

Royalties, streaming, merchandise, sales, sound exchange are some of the things that keep artists on the road, Smart says. “Also, we’re in Canada, so there are various levels of public and private funding.” There’s also brand partnership opportunities, but these don’t necessarily lead to a paycheque, she says. “A lot of these opportunities are in kind.” 

It’s difficult for artist-brand partnerships to cross over unless they really make sense. As much as it looks great on paper, as an artist, you need to think methodically whether the relationship makes sense over the long term. 

Alper points to the reliance of artists on government funding, but “we’re seeing a real lack of diversification in the music that’s being played. Now I just go to Bell Media’s office and try to get 17 stations. That’s great if you’re an artist with that narrow attitude,” he says. 

What’s some advice you can provide to new artists looking to cut through the clutter?

Create a backlog of content, Higgins says. “It’s important for artists to create a strategy that works on multiple platforms. Create content for the vault so that you’re ready to release content leading up to a single’s official release.”

Know thyself and know thy fan, Alper says. “The second you take your eye off what the consumer wants, you’re dead. If your listeners want cassettes, give them cassettes! If your audience is only watching seven seconds of a video on TikTok, give them that.”

Katherine Scarrow is the general manager of Globe Content Studio, the content-marketing division of The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national media organization.

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