Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others have grown exponentially over the past few years. One of the entertainment genres that has benefited mightily from social media is music, rap, rock, hip-hop, country, and even classical music. This paper explores and analyzes how musicians and groups have exploited social media in their marketing strategies.
Key Reasons Music Marketing Thrives on Social Media
Social Media has carved out an enormous presence in the contemporary entertainment and information scene in the United States. In fact according to a 2010 book -- Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day -- a Harris Interactive study shows that "…48% of all American adults had either a Facebook or a MySpace account" (Treadaway, et al., 2010, p. 15). Also, as an indication of how extraordinarily fast Facebook has grown, in just eight months the giant social media company went from 100 million users to 200 million users, Treadaway writes. In contrast to that astronomical growth, it took the United States fifty-two years to go from 100 million to 200 million inhabitants, Treadaway goes on (15).
More importantly, Facebook users spend 13.9 "billion minutes" on the site in April of 2009, which was a significant jump from the 1.7 billion minutes in April of the previous year, Treadaway explains. Putting aside the technical data based on time, Facebook reaches an estimated 29.9% of all users of the Internet worldwide. And the astonishingly rapid rise of Facebook has "coincided with a decline in consumer use of traditional media" including television, newspapers, magazines and other more established media.
So, with a vast international audience of online users, it seems an ideal way to market entertainment -- in particular, music in all its forms and styles. This kind of marketing, according to Treadaway, represents a dramatic shift away from "push marketing" -- through which companies reached out directly to have conversations with customers through radio, billboards, television commercials and print advertising -- and into a kind of marketing where "our friends and colleagues" that have left opinions (and blogs) about products and services on Facebook are more trustworthy than traditional advertising. "Online retailers realized that they could increase sales by allowing visitors to their site to offer personal recommendations about products they were selling," Treadaway explains on page 15. Those "products" that Facebook users comment on are often new music albums and songs.
MySpace Rebounds With Music Marketing
The new owners of MySpace, which once was the unquestioned premier social media site but has fallen on hard times -- due in large part to the booming popularity of Facebook -- are going to re-launch MySpace as "…almost exclusively a music service," according to CMU, a music Website in the UK. The new MySpace owner is Specific Media, and its CEO is Tim Vanderhook, who says that "independent bands would be "a key target" for the new launch of MySpace. The previous owner, News Corp (Fox News), had overlooked the promotion of bands and music, according to Vanderhook; hence, many of those musical groups took their marketing needs to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites (CMU, 2011, p. 1).
And how will Vanderhook push MySpace back up to near where it was a few years ago? He seems "…keen to push the major label licensed streaming music service hidden away under the MySpace Music banner… [and he says] he can make ad-funded streaming music work" (CMU, p. 1). Vanderhook also says he has the rights to a catalogue of 25,000 independent artists and 42 million songs, which, if true, is impressive and shows that this social media site is serious about marketing music. What MySpace also has is an important and high-visibility artist, Justin Timberlake, to draw attention and media to the revamped site. "Justin is going to be the creative force behind MySpace and will help us drive the strategy of what the tools need to be for artists and what the [MySpace] community should look like" (CMY, p. 1).
Coldplay & Lady Gaga Understand YouTube & Facebook Marketing
Could there possibly be a better way to use social media for marketing one's music then letting fans enjoy a live concert performance? The answer is rhetorical, but the point is made. Indeed, not many artists or groups have launched a new album by streaming a concert live and free on the Internet, but the popular group Coldplay will be doing that October 26 from Madrid, Spain (Associated Press, 2011). Two days after Coldplay releases their new album, "Mylo Xyloto," they will stream their video live from the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas -- a bullfighting ring -- at 4:00 P.M. Eastern time. The concert will be available on YouTube, on smartphones and on tablets. The decision to stream this concert live is due to the availability of this technology through "Unstaged," a company that uses VEVO to stream music world wide, the AP explains. Sponsored by American Express, a company that has learned the value of social media marketing; American Express has sponsored five previous "Unstaged" musical performance, reaching an estimated 40 million through video streams (AP).
Meanwhile no contemporary pop artist uses social media more effectively than Lady Gaga. On Google's Chrome platform the message is simple, and obviously Gaga took it to heart: "The web is what you make of it," Google Chrome explains. On the blog Mashable, edited by Brian Hernandez, Gaga produced a marketing "spectacle" for her new album, Born This Way. In her marketing push on YouTube (she was first to reach "1 billion views"), Facebook (she beat President Obama to 10 million Facebook fans and now has nearly 35 million), and Twitter (she was first to gain 10 million followers), she presented a "juggernaut" (Hernandez, 2011, p. 4). She "fostered partnerships" with several companies, including Zynga, the online game developer that popularized "Farmville," to create "GagaVille." She partnered with Starbucks to create a "massive scavenger hunt"; she partnered with VEVO for "exclusive premiers" and with iTunes for a promotional countdown to the actual date her album went on the market (May 23, 2011) (Hernandez, p. 5). All of these companies of course have a presence on social media, and fans can interact (and do in huge volumes) with her marketing creations on those companies' sites.
"Gaga and her team are some of the best marketers around," Hernandez explains. "They understand the importance of integrating social with traditional media, engaging audiences in real-time, and most of all, telling a story that is relatable and worth spreading," according to Alexa Scordato, a digital strategist and manager for MAT@USC (she was quoted by Hernandez, p. 5).
The things to take away from Gaga's sensational social media-related launch of her new album, according to Hernandez, include: a) build momentum with elements of surprise along the way; b) "Integrate. Make sure all your marketing channels are working together to promote a single brand identity and message"; c) use your fans as "your best marketing asset…encourage and remind them to tell your story and never forget to thank them along the way"; and d) give users of the social media you are participating with "something to love. If you can do that, you've won half the battle" (Hernandez, p. 6).
Rap and Hip-Hop Musicians Use Social Media
"Social media is the new hip hop, the new rock and roll, the new equalizer, giving voice to the previously voiceless, the sound and thunder for social justice, the intimate forum for honest integration, which the new America yearns for…what it aspires to. Social Media made this happen. I watch its progress. I promote it shamelessly. I love it." (Richard Simmons, 2010).
After Lil Wayne was busted for carrying a loaded semi-automatic weapon on the bus he was touring with, and just before he was incarcerated in March, 2010, he used social media to stay in touch with his fans, and let them know he loved them. This is a powerful way (beyond Facebook and MySpace) musicians continue to embrace their listeners and fans. Said Lil Wayne on Twitter (his "Tweet"): "They kant lok up my heart bekuz y'all already have it on lok… thank u" (Martell, 2010). Once in prison for his felony, Lil Wayne has kept in close touch with his CD-buying followers through Twitter. He sends messages to his friends outside, and they relay the Tweets to his followers. Lil Wayne also started a blog, "…so his team could transcribe letters he sends them," Martell points out. In his blogs he tells his audience what he's been doing in the prison, and thanks the fans that write to him.
Meantime hip-hop star Kanye West has developed a very creative social media marketing strategy, according to Martell. His Web site is "Universe City," and in that site is West's original search engine he calls "SearchWithKanye.com"; when his visitors actually use West's search engine, they find a social and incentive-laden way to earn "Swag Bucks" (Martell, p. 3). How do users earn Swag…