January 27, 2003

Soundtracks from Future Marketing Campaigns

At 01:59 PM 1/27/2003, someone on the Pho list wrote:
"With the dismantling of the big labels, will people still be as interested in music? Why should they? If the demand was engineered as part of a 'lifestyle' on sale, what happens when there's no longer someone to engineer it?"

Well its painfully obvious that the music isn't going disappear anytime soon. Maybe all the dirty details haven't been finalized, but musicians will be doing just fine without the labels. There will always be a supply and demand for music, it core to human nature. That's been discussed ad nauseam. What hasn't really been discussed is the opposite, the fact that if cd sales went to zero tomorrow, there would still be a tremendous demand for "lifestyle". And who better to supply that demand then major label marketing departments?

If this were the 80's the majors would prime targets for a leveraged buyout. A hostile takeover of struggling companies by businessmen who realize that the parts are worth more then the whole. The car might only be worth $1,000 but the engine is worth $800, the wheels and tires $200 and the steel frame $200. Record labels as tools for making that dying technology called Cds? They ain't worth too much. But their marketing departments as tools for manufacturing lifestyle. That's commercial gold. And those A+R departments for filtering talent are worth at least a few bucks too. Course the labels themselves are so hung up on monetizing their assets by monopolizing distribution that they can't figure it out for themselves. And if they can't figure it out they'll be bankrupt soon enough...

How much are you willing to bet that Britney Spears made a large amount of money even without her revenue from CD sales. Between the tour, the merchandise and those Pepsi ads we are talking big time dollars. I'd take that sort of cash any day. And while she might have been constructed with record sales in mind, her counterpart 5 years down the line will be built by other means. And make no mistake there will be a new Britney Spears in 5 years or so. The Pepsi's of the world demand it, and they'll pay for it. The harder it is to make a new teen star the more they'll pay to be associated with the one that emerges. Supply and demand, real basic.

The Skateboarding industry offers a telling example of what might come. Skateboarders are giving away their "music" for free already. Doesn't cost a dime to watch the pros execute tricks down at the Brooklyn Banks in NY, 3rd and Army in SF or the local skate park. They don't get paid to do interviews in the skate mags or appear in skate videos. But they get paid to where brand X shoes, brand Y shirts and ride brand Z boards with brand whatever trucks. And if they are good they get their own board a then the all stars get their own shoes. Sponsorship through and through. And the skate kids eat it up.

This is lifestyle marketing at it essence. Different teams have different styles. Hesher, punk, pure athlete, hip hop, etc. You don't get sponsored unless you have a marketable style. You need enough raw skills to fake it, but pure skills will only get you as far as Joe Satriani, pure niche market stuff. But cop a fresh attitude, a new twist in the style department, say the right things in the interviews and pull off some decent handrails and you have a money machine. A kid who sells mad product, skates a bit and parties like rock stars used to. Its a formula dying to sold back to music industry, and I'll bet good money it will be...

The hip hop artists are halfway there already. Mixtapes and bootlegs are seen as promotional materials, just as MP3s will soon be. And can you name a major rap star without their own clothing line? Not to mention that fact that a hit album is more of a short cut to an acting career then a step towards a music career.

That's the pop/lifestyle way of doing it. The "pure" musicians will have their own paths. Live shows, session recordings, music for movies and tv, etc. Free MP3s will ensure they have a bigger audience they ever could have in other eras. And with more fans comes more support, better touring opportunities and so on. Not always the road to a mansion and a private jet, but a good life none the less.

The only losers in this whole process are the stubborn execs who stand against the wind as it turns into a hurricane. The industry is changing, and those that change with it will do just fine. Try and stand against the forces of history? History will just stomp all over them, or worse yet forget...

Posted by Abe at January 27, 2003 11:27 PM


Hi, my name is Joe Houck and I'm a singer/songwriter. I would like to send my produced music to someone in the movie business to get heard.
Do you know of anyone or are you the people to send it to?
Joe Houck

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