Student Post: User-Driven Change: Replacing Competition With Collaboration in the Music Industry

Artists like DJ Steve Aoki emphasize personal connection with audience as a form of self-promotion
Artists like DJ Steve Aoki emphasize personal connection with audience as a form of self-promotion.

My generation consumes media at a startlingly rapid pace, bouncing between audio, video, text, and back again in the blink of an eye.  This behavior, termed ‘media multiplexing‘ in recent Mack Institute funded research, reflects a distinctive generational mindset that is entirely reconfiguring how music is marketed.  Instead of trying to sell a song to the consumer, music has become an experience that includes visual, social, and active elements.

Take for instance, the recent explosion in the popularity of music festivals. These events bring together a huge selection of artists, and they tend to stress the atmosphere created by the experience more than the music itself. The main component that makes this formula work is the social aspect. This key point—social experience—explains why a common form of marketing has become live broadcasting performances over sites like Youtube: the watcher gets a taste of the music without the in person aspect.  The free streaming via social media alone is only enough to show the viewer exactly what they’re missing out on, so the sharing actually increases concert attendance.

The interesting part about industry leveraging social media for innovation in advertising is that it has replaced industry’s panic over consumers’ illegal downloads, instead using it to its advantage. Add in streaming sites (like Spotify) that can be accessed anywhere with a smart phone, and it’s clear why album purchases account for much less revenue than they once did. In turn, the music industry has appropriated its own free platform: social media.

The very topic that was discussed at yesterday’s Mack Institute spring conference in San Francisco—how companies adapt to a user-driven environment—is at the core of recent changes in music advertising. Traditional advertising is passé. Now it’s all about blurring the traditional lines and collaborating, whether it be Soundcloud collaborating with Tumblr to allow users to post any song to their blogs, or a producer promoting himself and his industry peers by creating a personalized summer playlist for fans.

To me, the most interesting part about the flip toward user-driven business strategies is the sense of community that has come from it. Whether it’s aimed at generating revenue or not, for the first time fans are encouraged to connect with their favorite artists, and artists can promote each other without feeling as if they’re competing for a listener’s ear space. The beautiful thing about my generation is that we have enough attention for every new collaboration and musical platform that the internet can throw at us.