Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Music's Digital Trends - A War Against Illegal Piracy??

With piracy rampant in an over-saturated market and with CD sales tanking causing many performers to bank on live performances, creative PR, and even corporate gigs to make a living. Ringtones, sponsorships, partnerships, legal downloads, and even branded content may be the only glimmers of hope at the moment for the war against piracy, illegal downloads, or black markets.

One example is the latest trend in the UK where Virgin Media and Universal Music unveiled plans for a ground-breaking digital music service designed to bring about a rapid and permanent change in the way UK consumers buy and listen to music. The service – a world first – will enable any Virgin Media broadband customer or user to stream and download as many music tracks and albums as they want from Universal Music’s entire catalog, in return for a great-value monthly subscription fee.

Downloaded music will be theirs to keep permanently and to store on any MP3 compatible device. An “entry level” offer will be available for customers who download music regularly, but may not want an unlimited service. The service is intended to launch later this year. Virgin Media is negotiating with other UK major and independent music labels and publishers to ensure it can offer a complete, compelling catalogue by the time it launches.
This new service reflects the shared commitment of Virgin Media and Universal Music to keep up to step with the ever growing demand for online music in an increasingly digital world. In parallel, the two companies will be working together to protect Universal Music’s intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media’s network.

This will involve implementing a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives. They include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access. No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media.

Commenting on the new service, Virgin Media’s CEO, Neil Berkett, said: “In terms of both convenience and value, our new music service will be superior to anything that’s available online today and provides a fair deal for both consumers and artists. There is no better example of Virgin Media’s commitment to harnessing digital technology to give customers what they want, when they want and how they want.”

Lucian Grainge, Chairman and Chief Executive of Universal Music Group International, said: “Britain has a world-class reputation for artists and music. Now British consumers will have access to a world-class digital music service. I believe this puts all of us at the forefront of a new era.”

The issue at heart is this - while this is a generally pretty decent offer, the existence of sites like Limewire and many other digital "black markets" can never really be taken out. Its as huge a battle as the drug wars, prostitution wars, etc. The demand for product will never diminish and the ways of getting the products will never decrease. People will always find ways of getting what they want. Thats how this industry has survived, everybody wants and needs it, but they all have different ways of getting it!! Hence, the different ways of distribution.

Its a waste of time and breath for any individual, company, or entity to even say that they are fighting against something like piracy or black market. There is no need to fight, but there are a lot of needs to co-exist. Both the sides of this "war" have a pretty big playing field and certainly, a few number of consumers to attract.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Marketing Around Negativity to Create a Positive Campaign

Marketing a negative can be a real positive for music artists. An example is how the negative trend of album leaks can be used to hype up a musician’s upcoming release. One such brave, and smart, artist is Lil’ Wayne. His album "Tha Carter III" became 2008's best-seller despite the fact that most of its songs were available and downloaded countless times before official release. According to an Advertising Age article, this was “a rare hip-hop crossover success story, he scored major mainstream, if surreal, PR coups in the form of a CBS interview with Katie Couric and an appearance on ABC's "The View." He even provided his voice to the narration of Gatorade's massive branding campaign around the Super Bowl.

Last year was Lil Wayne's year thanks to the massive success of the "Tha Carter III". In marketing terms, it was notable for the fact that most of its tracks were distributed on mixtapes that delayed the initial planned release. But rather than hurt album sales, the internet leaks acted as the best marketing the album could have had, helping it become the first album to sell a million copies in the first week of release since 2005, when 50 Cent's "The Massacre" did it. It was an example of how to build and maintain a community by giving it what it wants: in this case - more and more music. The business followed.
"He stayed connected and nurtured his audience," Sylvia Rhone, president of Universal Motown Records, told The New York Times. "He was always working. And I think the rabid following he's cultivated is reflected in those sales numbers."

That type of buzz and the decision not to try to control the content was without a doubt the biggest lesson of Lil Wayne's marketing team. But also backing the release were TV ads from Universal Motown and online partnerships with MySpace, Yahoo and AOL and a promotion on Apple's iTunes. His cultural ubiquity continued with his blogging and Super Bowl-party reportage for ESPN.

As he's gotten bigger, Lil Wayne has pulled no punches, talking frankly with Ms. Couric about his marijuana use and penchant for drinking cough-syrup-laced cocktails of the sort that have been linked with deaths. That consistency has helped form a virtual critical consensus that's taken him from the favorite of hard-core hip-hop aficionados to the mainstream press to indie-rock snobs.

Mix Tape King

"Weezy [became] the biggest brand in hip-hop by spitting fire on countless free internet mixtapes," said Gabe McDonough, senior producer of music and integration at DDB. "By always saying exactly what he wanted to say, with no apologies, Lil Wayne has simultaneously become the voice of hip hop in the streets and for the Pitchfork Media cognoscenti."
Not surprisingly given the subject matter that typically surrounds Lil Wayne, the jury is still out on whether Weezy can do for brands what other top rappers have done. Beyond the recent Gatorade spots, he's been most associated with endorsing little-known brands such as Strapped condoms and Milestone Brands' Halo Champagne, which, though yet to be launched, made an appearance in Lil Wayne's video for his hit "Lollipop."

The lesson learned overall is that when you cannot control the inevitable – why not take advantage of it and worry about what you can control!! As an artist looking to get exposure - no one controls your creativity, your choices/decisions, and your ability to take action.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How the Music Industry Can Thrive by Using Websites Like Twitter

According to Advertising Age, musicians from Q-Tip to Jimmy Eat World have discovered Twitter as a means of engaging fans, using the conversational medium to not only let people know where they'll be, but get them to feel personally involved enough to actually show up. And now, one of the best-selling hip-hop artists of the past decade is using it in a very different way to build up substantial buzz for what might become the first album of the year to go platinum.

In the music industry, a five-year absence is an eternity. Eminem's new album, "The Relapse," gave the marketing team at Aftermath/Interscope Records a chance to mount an audacious campaign that playfully smears the lines between the rapper's troubled past and the nightmarish, fictionalized world of his latest work. They used Twitter to write up short, controversial thoughts and links to multimedia components revolving around a mental institution. They've helped make the album the most highly anticipated hip-hop release of the year

In an Advertising Age interview, Paul Rosenberg, the nine-time Grammy-winning rapper's manager, said the marketing effort isn't necessarily the biggest push Eminem has attempted, but it's clearly the most creative.

"In the past, when we've tried to do things in a new way for Eminem, it was just more of OK, cookie-cutter types of ideas," he said. "But in this one we really pushed ourselves, because of the time we're living in, to create a different experience."

Two kinds of tweets
That experience lives on several social networks, but for many fans it has originated on Twitter. Some of the tweets are behind-the-scenes updates leading up to the album's release tomorrow ("They are still editing my video") while others are seemingly non-sequitur paranoia ("There's no place to hide ..."), complete with links to images that suggest Eminem is in a mental hospital and/or rehab facility called Pompsomp Hills.

Other tweets have included a link to the album's cover, a mosaic of pills that form an image of Eminem's face; a screenshot of his upcoming paid iPhone and iPod Touch game set in Pompsomp Hills; a link to a blood-splattered video for his single "3 A.M." that's set in the fictional clinic; and a link to an interactive web experience that's set there as well. That a simple Google search reveals a just-amateur-enough-to-look-real website for Pompsomp Hills makes the narrative details even more discomforting for fans familiar with Eminem's recent real-life troubles with prescription drugs, which put him in rehab and led to his hospitalization for pneumonia in early 2008, as he recently revealed in a Vibe cover story. Omelet, a branding, advertising and entertainment agency based in Los Angeles, helped develop the Pompsomp Hills website, along with other facets of the nontraditional push.

The entirety of "Relapse" was leaked onto the web last week, and in it the rapper reportedly describes his problems in both blunt terms and twisted fantasies, bringing life, marketing and product full circle.

Dennis Dennehy, head of marketing and publicity at Interscope, said Twitter has been the perfect platform to slowly build anticipation since October 2008, when the album was first announced.

"By the nature of the way the information came out, you've had a trail of breadcrumbs to the album," Mr. Dennehy said. "The way we approached this is 'Let's keep that trail coming.'"

Impressive results
While Eminem hasn't relied exclusively on Twitter to get the word out, the effort has produced some impressive results. According to Compete, reached 113,868 unique visitors during April, while the most popular of his tweets -- which linked to on May 7 -- reached at least 41,704 people within just one week, according to an analysis of data provided to Ad Age by Tweetreach. And data provided by Native Digital, the start-up behind music-buzz tracker We Are Hunted, suggest that Eminem was the most-talked-about artist on Twitter last week, the week before the album's release.

"Twitter is, in a way, the world of 'stans' who now have access to artists," Mr. Wilson said. Although Eminem is using the service in a "real typical promotion way, the fact that he's willing to be part of that, to be in that world, has helped him build up mystery around the record."

Scott Yeti, a marketing consultant to film studios and record labels who runs the hip-hop-marketing blog Woooha, said Eminem's use of storytelling on the web for this campaign goes well beyond the scope of most music marketing.

Not the first
Eminem isn't the first artist to build up a reality-melting, cinematic backdrop for an album release. For Nine Inch Nails' album "Year Zero" in 2007, frontman Trent Reznor hired 42 Entertainment to expand the album's dystopian story line into a dizzying array of cryptic websites that could be discovered only by rabid fans. Mr. Reznor recently announced -- through Twitter, of course -- that he's continuing to develop the concept, and it may become a TV show.

Keep in check, though, because some in the hip-hop-marketing world downplay the impact of the messaging service, and Eminem and Aftermath/Interscope are not putting all their eggs in the Twitter nest. They're also hitting a mass media approach normally used in music campaigns, such as radio appearances, a performance at the MTV Movie Awards, and cover stories in Vibe and XXL. Yet some of those "old media" placements are atypical as well: On, Eminem is a celebrity judge for the "No. 1 Stan" freestyle-rap competition, and XXL is featuring the first part of a Punisher-Eminem comic in conjunction with Marvel Comics; the second half is free online.

Characteristic publicity
Now that the album is out in the wild, some of the rapper's lyrical barbs are generating much of the attention-grabbing publicity he's created in the past. The single "We Made You" and its video skewer a number of women pop stars and make lewd references to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, which prompted an unsurprising response from conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly, and some have taken notice of (and offense to) the track "My Mom," which contains an unflattering pill-popping reference to the late Heath Ledger. But perhaps the biggest blowback from the album has come from TV personality Nick Cannon, who took offense to criticism of his wife, pop icon Mariah Carey, and publicly challenged Eminem to a fight.

That kind of raw reaction is exactly what feeds Eminem. Its his M.O. to get the public thinking and feeling agitated because it creates his mystique. Regardless of how well "Relapse" sells, his work on the album and its holistic promotion are signs that Twitter can be just as effective at drawing out mystery and building anticipation as it is at making bands and brands more accessible.