Articles for July 2011

Modern music marketing: is what you don’t do more important than doing everything?

My evolution as a music lover over the years has basically gone something like this:

1. Buy everything I like on CD
2. Listen to everything on Spotify instead

Since discovering Spotify two years ago, shortly after it came out in the UK, I have stopped buying CDs. I don’t need them anymore. I’ve also run out of space for them in my house, but that’s just an aside…

These days, the majority of my music-listening takes place on a computer, so Spotify is fine for that need. 90% of the music I like is on there. I’m a proud premium user: I hate the ads and I am an iPhone user, plus I used to spend £10+ per month buying CDs (that’s about one CD per month), so I’d actually argue that the Premium is a bargain in comparison.

Even so, there’s just two albums I really, really want to buy on CD at the moment:

1. Adele’s 21
2. Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs

Why?

Because they’re not on Spotify.

As I said, “90% of the music I like is on there.” Whatever the reason for that other 10% not being on there, I’d argue that it’s potentially a good move on their part.

The musician’s mission is the musician’s dilemma

As a musician myself (from way back when), I can personally vouch for the two words that describe the goal of the little-known, unsigned musician: maximum exposure.

If/when we can afford the time and money, we market ourselves in a particular way because it’s the norm in the industry: we have to record demos or a proper album; we have to get a website made; we have to get on MySpace (once upon a time), Facebook, Spotify and various other social/music sites. The more you do, the better chance you stand. The goal is to maximise exposure, and by doing some or all of the above, you are attempting just that. I know because I did it. I even got myself onto Spotify, even though I’d stopped playing live by that point (note: for the curious among you who want to have a listen via that link, it’s the two EPs – the albums are by a different Steve Morgan).

Of course, fully-fledged signed musicians can be more selective, which their label/agents/managers/etc. will be responsible for, and yet Universal, Sony, EMI, Warner and more are all working with Spotify, according to Spotify’s Labels page.

Is this a bad thing? Yes and no, depending on how you look at it. No because it’s maximising exposure. Yes because it’s not profitable.

Spotify is not profitable to musicians. David McCandless’ infographic highlights the differences between Spotify’s royalties (£0.0012 per stream) and other ways a musician can earn money by selling their music. When Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” reached 1 million streams, the biggest news about it was the fact that she only earned £108 in royalties from it.

Pirates gonna pirate, but…

Arguably, tenths of pennies is better than nothing at all, say if someone were to download music illegally. Of course, if people are that way inclined, it’s likely that they’ll always download the stuff for free, regardless of whether it’s on Spotify or only available on CD.

However, what about those who don’t download illegally? Whether it’s a case of ethics, wanting to own ‘the real thing’ or they’re simply scared of ever getting caught, those who choose the non-piracy route (myself included) will want to hear the music by legitimate means. A CD might cost about £10, but Spotify membership is £10 monthly and I can listen to numerous albums without any ads interrupting. I know I’m basing a lot of this on my own experiences, but I’m sure I’m not the only one, and that a lot of Spotify users are in the same (or similar) boat at the moment.

So why wouldn’t a musician be on Spotify? It could be that their label hasn’t yet negotiated terms with Spotify, or maybe they simply don’t want to be on there. Adele’s latest album and Arcade Fire aren’t on there, so what’s the alternative? To buy the CDs or MP3s. If they were on there, I’d probably listen to them on there, without the need to buy the CDs.

Time for some quick maths: if I were to listen to the Arcade Fire’s album in full five times…

– It contains 16 tracks. 16 x 5 = 80. 80 x £0.0012 = £0.096, or £0.10 rounded up. 10p. Wow.

– Meanwhile, it’s £8.99 on Play.com.

Now there is the assumption that someone could listen on Spotify and then buy on CD as well, but that will still depend on a person’s needs. Someone might buy the CD so that they can listen to it on a proper stereo, in the car or so that they have the physical copy, but if someone can listen to an album for cheaper or for ‘free’ (depending on their type of Spotify membership), they probably will. Fair enough if you do, but why buy the CD if you don’t need to?

Profit comes from demand, demand comes from desire

I’m not saying that musicians have to become capitalists, plus there are other ways musicians can support themselves (e.g. touring and merchandise), but let’s be fair… The way the music industry is heading at the moment is ridiculous, with musicians expecting to pay money to record and release music that people will then listen to free or for a pittance – Spotify’s low royalty fees are reflective of that. That said, it can be argued that that’s a result of there being too much ‘supply’ and not enough demand: i.e. lots of people playing and recording music, with listeners only being able to invest so much of their time and money into a finite amount of music. Even if they are a fan of dozens or hundreds of different artists.

So what’s a musician to do? In the case of Adele and Arcade Fire, people who’d usually do all their listening via Spotify will be more inclined to buy a CD. For once, not achieving maximum exposure via every possible outlet might actually be beneficial to them, in that it forces people down a particular route, which might require spending more money than listening via a cheap or free alternative.

Of course, Adele and Arcade Fire have done really well in making themselves in demand. The former has appeared on everything recently, from about every radio station ever to the first episode of the most recent series of Doctor Who. The latter won a Grammy.

But then that’s easy for big artists like them, who are supported by big record labels. What about the small fry – the little guys – the unsigned? Well if you make all of your music available via Spotify and similar services, then less people will want to buy your CD. So give them a reason to want to buy: maybe only make your music only available via CD and at gigs. Create excitement. Create demand. After all, if you offer everything, people will gladly take everything.

Easier said than done maybe, but at the end of the day, if people want something that they can’t have for free, they’ll pay.

[Guitar case & money image credit: Brave Heart]

The #SMsceptic: The dangers of integrating and automating social media accounts

Picture the scene…

You dabble in social media for your [blank] (replace with website(s)/affiliate project(s)/company/clients or whatever’s applicable), making use of the main and most popular social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and possibly even the brand new Google+.

You’re a busy person. Maybe you’re in charge of all the offline marketing. Or maybe you do SEO and PPC as well. So fitting in the social media work – something that would ideally need to be monitored on an on-going basis – seems like a tedious and time-consuming task.

(…Or maybe you’re just unapologetically lazy, who knows…)

So when you find out that you can integrate all of the various accounts together and can automate them through just one of them, it sounds like a dream come true. Post a tweet and it also appears on Facebook and LinkedIn. Boom.

Of course, integrating and automating social media accounts in this way can be godsend and a lifesaver for the busy individual. But what do you lose by doing so? Are there any risks involved? Is it really just worth going to the effort of logging into each account and posting separately, which might take slightly longer but ultimately have a greater effect and impact?

I’ll admit that I’ve not experimented or played around with every single possibility and outcome (I do personally prefer to post separately on each account), but the most popular way seems to be automating one’s tweets, so that Twitter is the main account and its tweets automatically appear as Facebook and LinkedIn status updates. While this may seem good and harmless on the surface, there are some downsides to venturing down the integration/automation path…

Lost in tw-anslation

Here are the five biggest observations I’ve noticed so far, where social media integration and automation has not worked out so well:

1. Tweets on LinkedIn: personal posts on a professional page

Perhaps one of the biggest sins I see committed with social media integration is when all of an individual’s tweets – both professional and personal – also appear on their LinkedIn page, a social network which is particularly more formal and professional than Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn is great for talking about work-related and industry goings-on, but not so much when it comes to your weekend plans, the subsequent hangover or your thoughts on reality TV shows…

There’s the option to pick and choose which tweets you want to show on LinkedIn, by tagging tweets with “#in” (note: make sure that your Twitter settings on LinkedIn are configured accordingly). That way, your personal tweets can stay Twitter-based, whilst your more professional tweets can feature on LinkedIn and be presented to your more professional acquaintances.

2. Tweets on LinkedIn & Facebook: lost potential for longer posts

With Twitter’s 140 character limit, tweets will feature on Facebook and LinkedIn at the same length. However, LinkedIn and Facebook allow more room in their status updates than Twitter, so in this case, it may be worthwhile updating separately on those sites.

Arguably, short may be sweet, but sometimes the message can be lost when trying to squeeze it into the tight confines of a tweet. In which case, it may be best to type a longer, more in-depth message when posting to Facebook and LinkedIn, especially if it means avoiding abbreviations, trimmed words or txt speak.

3. Tweets on LinkedIn & Facebook: lost potential with links

While we’re on the subject – due to Twitter’s character limit restrictions, the platform thrives and relies on URL shorteners such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com. While these are great on Twitter for fitting more into the message, with the shortened URL taking up less character space than perhaps the lengthy original, when a tweet appears on Facebook and LinkedIn, the link will not be “attached” to the status update.

What does this mean? When sharing a link on Facebook and LinkedIn, you have the option to “attach” a link, which will show its title, a snippet (as its description) and an associated image (which you can usually choose, based on the page’s content). Otherwise, the alternative is just the written text link, as you would see it on Twitter. Although not the end of the world (after all, the link will still work), the description and image might help to make it more noticeable amongst all the other updates showing up on someone’s News Feed. You will be able to write a lengthier description of your own to go with the link, too.

4. LinkedIn & Facebook status updates on Twitter: the message is cut

In point #2, the issue was with losing potential with short tweets. This time, it’s the opposite: updating on either Facebook or LinkedIn and integrating it so that it automatically tweets on your behalf could mean that the message is cut, if it’s longer than a particular length (probably about 120 characters – maximum tweet length with a shortened URL).

Having a message that stops partway through a tweet with a “…” and a shortened link to either LinkedIn or Facebook to read the rest is pretty tacky-looking, I’m sure you’ll agr…

5. When integrating accounts, check all profiles

Of course, one of the most important things to remember is to check to see how an automated tweet/update looks on the other platforms. Just because you only have to update one site, doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the rest of them. Be sure to check the others, in case you encounter any of the above problems or something else entirely, which could affect your marketing efforts, even if only slightly – after all, everything counts.

[Robot vs. laptop image credit: Ѕolo]