Music is Just Advertising.
Music is just advertising (for itself): it’s a self-promoting product. Another way of looking at it is that a single song is an advertisement for the artist that wrote it. Each single that’s released – aside from hopefully generating revenue in its own right – is a vehicle for winning another fan for the artist, in the hope of connecting with them again (and again) in one way or another. This could be by having them discover other material the artist has written (or will write), other projects the artist is involved in, or by attending a live performance.
It only becomes more than an ad when someone makes a personal connection with it. When we make a personal connection with a piece of music, it becomes more than just a vehicle for a commercial end. The meaning we attach to music – that makes us feel something – transforms it into art. Unless it moves someone in this way – hopefully large numbers of people – music is nothing more than noise.
It’s for the above reasons that bearish approach still being pedaled by major record execs, like Warner’s Edgar Bronfman Jr, is entirely backward.
In a nutshell:
1. Music is nothing more than promotional collateral unless a personal connection is made.
2. Legitimate free streaming services like MySpace Music, Last.FM, Spotify, Pandora (and to some degree aggregators like We Are Hunted and Hype Machine) are doing major labels a favour, by essentially serving free “ads”.
3. Label managers and music marketers should be approaching their products from the humble view that their audience only care for them as much as the next brand trying to sell them something.
John Herrman summarises Warner’s argument on Gizmodo:
Their problem with services like this seems to be twofold. The first and most obvious problem with a service like Pandora is that their advertising is probably bring in much, much less revenue that a simple digital or physical purchase. The second issue, subtle as it may be, is even more pernicious: to allow services to exist to appear to give away your music at no real cost is to devalue your product, making customers less likely to pay for it in the future. At least, that’s the thinking.
Are you a protestor of ‘free’, like Edgar Bronfman Jr?