The Fall Of Commercialization And The Rise Of The Music Fan

GUEST POST by Kyle Bylin of indie label 50 Entertainment

When marketer Seth Godin talks, people listen. In his Ted Talks video "Sliced Bread And Other Marketing Delights" he covers a wide range of topics that I would like to expand on.

Godin argues that at the heart of spreading ideas is TV and stuff like TV. Within the system that he calls the TV-Industrial Complex he explains the process of how early companies figured out how to spread their ideas by buying ads, which got them more distribution, this allowed them to make a bigger profit, and they then turned around to use the money to buy more ads, thus completing a cycle.

He goes on to say that companies used this complex to touch people in a way that they weren’t expecting, in a way they didn’t necessarily want, with an ad over and over again until they bought that product. What the marketers who brought us the likes of Fruity Pebbles and Pop Tarts have found over the last couple of years is that these old ways are no longer working. Record Labels used a system very Broken_record
similar to this idea, but added a few steps.

  1. Release the single 3 months before release
  2. Pay mass radio to play song, 3 times an hour
  3. 1 ½ months before release send MTV and Fuse video
  4. Release album on a Tuesday with other popular artists

5. Rise up the Billboard charts
6. Use profits to buy more distribution and tour support
7. Release the second single 2 months after release
8. Pay mass radio to play song, 3 times an hour
9. Top the billboard at #1
10. Make second video
11. Start tour of the United States
12. Halfway through, release third single
13. Make third video
14. Finish the tour dates
15. Use whatever money the label didn’t take to go on three year journey
16. Find your inner self before continuing to work on second album
17. Do it all over again

Years later the record labels found that the CD Release Complex stopped working, their money had been spent, and the bands they threw at pop radio no longer stuck. No one cared about what they had to say. In a world where people now have way more choices and far less time, the obvious thing happens, people start ignoring you.

To bring this full circle, in the YouTube video "An Anthropology Introduction To YouTube" professor Wesch highlights that there is a cultural inversion happening where people are becoming increasingly individual and the more individualized we become, the more we value this sense and want for community. We become more independent yet long for stronger relationships. There is commercialization all around us; therefore, we now seek out authenticity.

This cultural inversion that he speaks of is a perfect example of how the way people interact with music has changed. Many of us have developed very diverse and complex listening habits. We now form communities around our favorite bands, we want to establish a connection or relationship, and we have a strong desire for music that is real, authentic, and meaningful.

As music fans we are now walking in a crowded room where everyone wants our attention and what happens naturally is that we’ve tuned out the frequency of noise in our lives. The permeability of the walls we put up around ourselves now only lets certain messages through. You now have to be smarter about what you do, because it’s no longer as easy to buy your way into our headphones.

What relationships are you building, where is your community, what connections are being made, how authentic is your message?

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  1. Kyle – great post. Agree 100%. I’m fascinated by how many smart label marketing/sales pros are blinded to the fact that even though the are “embracing” online strategies, those strategies reflect the same thinking as before. Put up a poster/banner and people will buy your music/click through. Ummm… no.

  2. Michael – Thanks for the comment. I too have the same fascination, I believe it comes back to something Seth is all too familiar with. Rather than making content that embraces the features the web has to offer, they take all of their off line marketing materials and throw them on the web. It may not be a Meatball Sundae, but it’s indigestible nonetheless. When music fans are left with a bitter taste in their mouths, they are no longer your consumers.

  3. Excellent article. As a musician and indie label partner, marketing music is no easy task. I enjoyed the way the so called music business model was changing, from my days of buying cassette singles to now, iTunes singles.
    The cultural inversion point is intriguing. You are so right in explaining how peoples listening habits have become so diverse and seeking that authentic music means that much more. Tapping into social network development and connecting better with your fans is very important.

  4. This was a great read, and it struck me as a pretty perfect example of the old cliche on “preaching to the choir.” The concept that your art has to be authentic, and your communication with your audience has to reflect your art, is either second nature to those who get it — or it’s greek to those who don’t.
    As much as I want to believe in people, changing, I think the gap you articulate here is a very real dividing line. That’s simultaneously depressing and encouraging.
    Depressing because I would like to see humanity evolve in my lifetime and abandon the horseshit, antiquated zero-sum assumptions that fuel manipulative marketing and business plans.
    Encouraging because as long as the herd are trampling one another, there’s a huge opening for smart artists.

  5. Mario Mendoza – Thank you, I would definitely suggest checking out “An Anthropology Introduction To YouTube.” I have to credit Wesch for the cultural inversion insight, I only expanded on his idea. There are many more thought provoking insights he has.
    music. marketing. Management. – Glad you like it. Thanks for commenting.
    Justin Boland – I really liked your guest post on Music Think Tank. I’ve thought of submitting this one because I love the conversations it’s starting. Your right, these days it’s either completely clear idea or invisible to those looking for the “answer of all problems.” It is a huge opening for smart artists, it will be interesting to see what happens as the playing field gets leveled further.

  6. This is a great analysis of what’s going on in this business. The 17 steps are funny, but true unfortunately. And music fans are individualized. I think there’s some sort of oximoron with us – on 1 hand we want our fave bands to be our little secret and we don’t want them ‘blowing up’ or ‘selling out’ – and on the other hand we want them to be successful and create these comunities online where we interact with other fans about the band. It’s really… bizarre in a way. But I think that fans are ultimately the loyal ones in this game, we care about the band most. It’s the record labels who need to get with the program now.

  7. As someone who has an Anthropology degree and now works in the new music environment, this concept hit home for me, especially:
    “…there is a cultural inversion happening where people are becoming increasingly individual and the more individualized we become, the more we value this sense and want for community. We become more independent yet long for stronger relationships.”
    This is what I’ve been feeling and watching happen, but I’ve never heard someone explain so accurately.

  8. Alisha – Thanks for commenting, you right it is a weird paradox we have with our favorite band that we want everyone and no one to see at the same time.
    Sandra – Glad, you liked it. That insight comes from Wesch, I only typed it out. It is a very accurate description though. Thank you.

  9. Wow – I feel like I have found my tribe! I thought it was just me thinking that the emperor has no clothes, but Kyle you have written an eerily resonant article about what seems to be going on. I especially like your sentence “There is commercialization all around us: therefore, we now seek out authenticity.” Is there a correlation between this and the popularity of “reality TV shows”? But as the mass media continues to feed us “fake reality” are we in danger of suffering from mental obesity and craving more? Is the question “how do you compete with free” just a red herring? The whole concept of “free music” as a loss leader to other merch is making me queasy. A heartfelt welcome to you!

  10. Great post. Sorry for being late to the comments party. I think the challenge is how to identify the factors around which to seed the community. I wouldn’t say ‘build the community’ because only the community can build itself, but we can provide the tools for the community to build. any thoughts on this?

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