CASE: I Playing to a new beat: marketing in the music industry
Good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll could be dead. If a mobile phone ringtone in the shape of the vocalizations of the animated Crazy Frog dominates the billboard charts for months on end, then it could well signal the death knell for the industry, and how it operates. If this ubiquitous amphibian’s aurally annoying song, converted from a mobile phone ringtone, outsold even mainstay acts such as Oasis and Coldplay, why should music companies invest millions in cultivating fresh musical talent, hoping for them to be the next big thing, when their efforts can be beaten by basic synthesizer music? The industry is facing a number of challenges that it has to address, such as strong competition, piracy, changing delivery formats, increasing cost pressures, demanding pri-madonnas and changing customer needs. Gone are the days when music moguls were reliant on sales from albums alone, now the industry trawls for revenue from a variety of sources, such as ringtones, merchandising, concerts, and music DVDs, leveraging extensive back catalogues, and music rights from advertising, movies and TV programming.
The music industry is in a state of flux at the moment. The cornerstone of the industry—the singles chart—has been facing terminal decline since the mid-1990s. Some retailers are now not even stocking singles due to this marked freefall. Some industry commentators blame the Internet as the sole cause, while others point to value differences between the price of an album and the price of a single as too much. Likewise, some commentators criticize the heavy pre-release promotion of new songs, the targeting of ever-younger markets by pop acts, and the explosion of digital television music channels as root causes of the single’s demise. The day when the typical record buyer browses through rows of shelves for a much sought-after band or song on a Saturday afternoon may be thing of the past.
Long-term success stories for the music industry are increasingly difficult to develop. The old tradition of A&R (which stands for ‘Artists & Repertoire’) was to sign, nurture and develop musical talent over a period of years. The industry relied on continually feeding the system with fresh talent that could prove to be the next big thing and capture the public imagination. Now corporate short-term thinking has enveloped business strategies. If an act fails to be an immediate hit, the record label drops them. The industry is now characterized by an endless succession of one-hit wonders and videogenic artist churning out classic cover songs, before vanishing off the celebrity radar. Four large music labels now dominate the industry (see Table 1), and have emerged through years of consolidation.
Table 1 The ‘big four’ music labels
|Universal Music |Sony BMG | |The largest music label, with 26 per cent of global music market|Merger consolidated its position; artists on its roster include | |share; artists on its roster include U2, Limp Bizkit, Mariah |Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Westlife, Dido, Outkast and | |Carey and No Doubt |Christina Aguilera | |Warner Music |EMI | |Third biggest music group; artists on its roster include Madonna,|Artists on its roster include the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Norah| |Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM |Jones, Radiohead, and Robbie Williams |
The ‘big four’ labels have the marketing clout and resources to invest heavily in their acts, providing them with expensive videos, publicity tours and PR coverage. This clout allows their...