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?

  • http://www.popmedium.com/ Joel Connolly

    Hey Andy,

    Firstly, let me apologise for my brash twitter statement. I got fairly worked up, which is probably what you were hoping for.

    Okay, so practically there really isn’t much wrong with what you’ve said. The music industry is all about practicalities and I guess it’s within this paradigm that we must operate. From this perspective, yes, songs do act as an advertisement for the artist and in this respect I guess you could consider an artist to be a “brand”.

    Practically. Yes, I guess you’re right.

    But ideologically it feels like you’re all backwards. An artist doesn’t create a record to service the ad world, or the marketing mates or the music industry or whatever. An artist makes art as a form of expression, as a means of communicating with another person. The art and the intent come first, then everything else. The music industry inserts itself between the artist and their audience and from there they become product/brand/whatever.

    When all is said and done, it isn’t brilliant strategy, or effective branding that changes cultural landscapes, it’s the art and the audience that make our world special, that give it meaning and serve as the means by which we describe and understand everything.

    I’m reminded of a friend of mine in agency-land who once said that “facebook is a marketing tool and that’s it”. I almost spewed on him. People in the ad-space tend to forget their place and it grates on me.

    I’m not arguing against the industry, after all I am a part of it and I can’t deny my place within it. What I can’t take is the simulacrum effect industry tends to have on art.

    Done.

  • http://www.popmedium.com Joel Connolly

    Hey Andy,

    Firstly, let me apologise for my brash twitter statement. I got fairly worked up, which is probably what you were hoping for.

    Okay, so practically there really isn’t much wrong with what you’ve said. The music industry is all about practicalities and I guess it’s within this paradigm that we must operate. From this perspective, yes, songs do act as an advertisement for the artist and in this respect I guess you could consider an artist to be a “brand”.

    Practically. Yes, I guess you’re right.

    But ideologically it feels like you’re all backwards. An artist doesn’t create a record to service the ad world, or the marketing mates or the music industry or whatever. An artist makes art as a form of expression, as a means of communicating with another person. The art and the intent come first, then everything else. The music industry inserts itself between the artist and their audience and from there they become product/brand/whatever.

    When all is said and done, it isn’t brilliant strategy, or effective branding that changes cultural landscapes, it’s the art and the audience that make our world special, that give it meaning and serve as the means by which we describe and understand everything.

    I’m reminded of a friend of mine in agency-land who once said that “facebook is a marketing tool and that’s it”. I almost spewed on him. People in the ad-space tend to forget their place and it grates on me.

    I’m not arguing against the industry, after all I am a part of it and I can’t deny my place within it. What I can’t take is the simulacrum effect industry tends to have on art.

    Done.

  • http://pitythecool.com Andy

    Thanks for your reply Joel.

    Let me first clarify a few assumptions that we have both agreed on for the purposes of this discussion:

    1. Music acts as an advertisement for the artist.
    2. An artist is a ‘brand’.
    3. Ideologically, I’m a musician and a music fan. For this post, I’m ignoring those emotions to discuss some commercial realities.

    The above post deliberately left (important) elements out of the argument in order to promote some discussion –which is what’s happening here. Let me a fill a few of the gaps left.

    Firstly, the post is not directed at the artist, it’s discussing a strategy for marketing the products the artist creates . It’s goes without saying that artists and musicians alike create “…art as a form of expression…” And this post is not disputing the fact that – for musicians – the art and intent come first.

    The fact is, when it comes to selling records, it matters little what the artist intended. That is, if what the artist intended doesn’t communicate or connect in a personal way with their audience. In plain English, I suppose I’m referring to ‘poorly written songs’ when I say:

    “Unless it moves someone in this [personal] way, music is nothing more than noise.”

    Secondly, the post moves on from this first point to suggest that making an artist’s music freely available for streaming through legitimate sites like those listed above, is a sound way of achieving greater reach. Greater reach means more opportunity for personal connections to be made with the music.

    I agree that it isn’t brilliant strategy or effective branding that “changes cultural landscapes” and “makes our world special”. But neither of those ideas are related to this post.

    Facebook may not be just a marketing tool. But it is just a channel. Like art, what makes Facebook valuable is the value of the connections it facilitates. Without the personal (and on a larger scale, ‘cultural’) content that real people contribute to Facebook, it would be nothing more than code floating in space. Facebook is just a platform that could be replicated somewhere else if the people that contribute to it moved on. And I’m sure you’ll agree that culture and connections I’m referring to are not exclusive to Facebook –they exist offline too.

    To reiterate:
    Music becomes art when someone makes a personal connection with it. And art without personal connection is of no use to anyone by the artist who created it.

  • http://www.pitythecool.com Andy

    Thanks for your reply Joel.

    Let me first clarify a few assumptions that we have both agreed on for the purposes of this discussion:

    1. Music acts as an advertisement for the artist.
    2. An artist is a ‘brand’.
    3. Ideologically, I’m a musician and a music fan. For this post, I’m ignoring those emotions to discuss some commercial realities.

    The above post deliberately left (important) elements out of the argument in order to promote some discussion –which is what’s happening here. Let me a fill a few of the gaps left.

    Firstly, the post is not directed at the artist, it’s discussing a strategy for marketing the products the artist creates . It’s goes without saying that artists and musicians alike create “…art as a form of expression…” And this post is not disputing the fact that – for musicians – the art and intent come first.

    The fact is, when it comes to selling records, it matters little what the artist intended. That is, if what the artist intended doesn’t communicate or connect in a personal way with their audience. In plain English, I suppose I’m referring to ‘poorly written songs’ when I say:

    “Unless it moves someone in this [personal] way, music is nothing more than noise.”

    Secondly, the post moves on from this first point to suggest that making an artist’s music freely available for streaming through legitimate sites like those listed above, is a sound way of achieving greater reach. Greater reach means more opportunity for personal connections to be made with the music.

    I agree that it isn’t brilliant strategy or effective branding that “changes cultural landscapes” and “makes our world special”. But neither of those ideas are related to this post.

    Facebook may not be just a marketing tool. But it is just a channel. Like art, what makes Facebook valuable is the value of the connections it facilitates. Without the personal (and on a larger scale, ‘cultural’) content that real people contribute to Facebook, it would be nothing more than code floating in space. Facebook is just a platform that could be replicated somewhere else if the people that contribute to it moved on. And I’m sure you’ll agree that culture and connections I’m referring to are not exclusive to Facebook –they exist offline too.

    To reiterate:
    Music becomes art when someone makes a personal connection with it. And art without personal connection is of no use to anyone by the artist who created it.

  • http://www.tumbletogether.tumblr.com/ Scott Drummond

    Hey Andy,

    yours is a thought-provoking post and I enjoyed reading your discussion with Joel as well.

    I’m not sure I have a great deal to add but here is my 5c for what it’s worth.

    Whether we agree that commercially available music is advertising OR art is essentially irrelevant, mainly because it is always-already both. So you see it’s all good – both of you are right! (and wrong!)

    What I find more interesting – and I think what your post is moving towards Andy – is a more detailed look at what types of art or advertising are present in and around the cultural artefact itself.

    I could expand, but instead let’s take one musical artefact each and start a conversation about the relative artistic and advertising elements present in and around them.

    My choice?

    Paul Simon’s Graceland.

    So what are your choices Andy/Joel?

  • http://www.tumbletogether.tumblr.com Scott Drummond

    Hey Andy,

    yours is a thought-provoking post and I enjoyed reading your discussion with Joel as well.

    I’m not sure I have a great deal to add but here is my 5c for what it’s worth.

    Whether we agree that commercially available music is advertising OR art is essentially irrelevant, mainly because it is always-already both. So you see it’s all good – both of you are right! (and wrong!)

    What I find more interesting – and I think what your post is moving towards Andy – is a more detailed look at what types of art or advertising are present in and around the cultural artefact itself.

    I could expand, but instead let’s take one musical artefact each and start a conversation about the relative artistic and advertising elements present in and around them.

    My choice?

    Paul Simon’s Graceland.

    So what are your choices Andy/Joel?

  • http://www.patricksmarketing.com.au/products/clothing---apparel/t-shirts/ promotional clothing

    Its sounds like real promoting product through Music,  Promoting brand is an easy way, but its depends on you that what will be the strategies you will decide to marketing?