This post is by Mark Knight, strategy director at MEC.
MEC Access hosted a week-long programme that explored the multifaceted and ever-evolving opportunities that music presents to brands.
In the past ten years, the music industry has changed immeasurably, with declining physical sales, the growth of streaming models and the coming of age of mobile. Around 39% of the music industry's revenue now comes from digital channels and the number of paying subscribers to subscription services rose to 28 million in 2013, up 40% on 2012 (IFPI Digital Music Report 2014). These changes have resulted in greater and more varied brand partner involvement, as music rights holders look to exploit their rights, promote their artists and make up for the shortfall left by declining sales incomes.
Set against this backdrop, MEC access, the partnership and content team within the WPP-owned media agency set up and hosted a week-long programme of presentations, panel sessions and live music showcases featuring some of the UK's freshest emerging talent and daily discussions with thought leaders from across the music industry.
MEC Music Week set about exploring the vast, multi-faceted and ever-evolving opportunities that music presents to brands and the value of MEC's client media and partnership expertise to music rights holders.
Some key themes and opportunities emerged during the week.
Brand and artist partnerships are increasing; brands were responsible for investing £104.8m in the UK music industry during 2012, an increase of 6% on 2011, (source: The Guardian), with brands keen to align to talent, and artists and labels keen to tap into brand marketing budgets to extend their reach and fame. Music Week contributors highlighted the common mistake of leading with artists not ideas. Working with artists doesn't come without risk; release and promotional schedules frequently change resulting in artists unable to complete the proposed campaign. If the campaign is solely built around the involvement of one artist, and they are forced to pull out, the campaign can crumble. If, however, there is a clear creative idea, artist selection is less important and a replacement can be easily sourced.
Music isn't just a vehicle for reaching teens. Music stays with us throughout our lives; it's just our touchpoints and frequency of engagement that change. Opportunities exist to use music to reach all audience segments. As the live music landscape continues to evolve, so does the age profile. With a higher disposable income, the 35+ age group are among the biggest spenders on live music experiences (2013 ICCMSS UK Festival Market Report) and they also have more time to listen to streaming music services which are now used by 61% of internet users aged 16- 64, and can offer up to 37 million songs. (IFPI Digital Music Report 2014).
Brands' activation in music should always consider three components: hero, hub and hygiene. Hero activation relates to your key, headline activity spikes. This is the natural epicenter of your idea; it could be a big event or festival, major artist partnership or UK-wide, music-themed ad campaign.
The hub is the destination. Where do you want and expect people to go to experience your activity? How do you plan your online architecture to allow easy and seamless navigation to the content that matters?
The hygiene is the basic activation, the standard rights and consumer benefits. That could be everything from a Spotify playlist to free content, or advertisements on YouTube in support of the TV event they sponsor. Brand activation around music often falls into one of two camps. Either brands focus on the hero activation and forget about the hygiene activation, which can extend the reach and longevity of their campaign, or they rely solely on hygiene activation and are left with an undifferentiated and unimaginative music strategy which lacks excitement.
Using the framework of hero, hub and hygiene ensures a balanced and holistic approach to music strategy development.
Mobile music has come of age, with better connectivity and better devices enabling a frictionless mobile music experience. Spotify is beating piracy by offering a far better and richer alternative, while Shazam allows users to seamlessly answer that age-old question 'what is that song?' which has added a new interactive dimension to advertising. Nine out of ten of the most-watched videos on YouTube are music videos, while the NME continues to reinvent itself as an online music destination.
When these technologies and platforms are combined, the opportunities for brands in music become truly exciting and limitless. It's exciting to think how music can answer your brand challenges.