Brands have long been involved in the music business. The call letters for WSM, the home of the Grand Ole Opry, stand for "We Shield Millions," the slogan of former owner National Life & Accident Insurance Company. Brands that funded radio stations and shows have long helped people hear new music. Now there are new digital products that allow music to enhance brand advertising. The kicker is they could also help time-starved consumers discover new music.
F#, a company that helps advertisers incorporate music into their campaigns, has just released AdPlayer, a new product that lets consumers listen to music inside a 300x250 ad unit served through standard advertising networks. The AdPlayer can stream select songs by a particular artists or group of artists. A brand may choose to offer a sponsored radio station. F# is able to personalize the station based on information available in cookies.
Brands commonly use music in commercials, but F# CEO Dan Merritts says advertisements can be more creative in the way they incorporate music.
"We believe and have found through our experiences is that brands are able to be far more nuanced in how they approach music with digital music since they're able to target at a regional level or even a personal level," he says.
AdPlayer provides brands with higher levels of engagement. Merritts says advertising campaigns that use music are 14 times more engaging than advertisements without music. With F# products, listeners can listen to music on the AdPlayer, pop out the AdPlayer as a separate window and share with friends on Facebook and Twitter.
What's good for brands and advertising networks could also be good for the music industry and consumers. Surveys always show that many consumers want new and better ways to discover music. But the numbers clearly show that most people do not spend the time and money to seek out new music.
The most in-depth, hands-on services available to music consumers have the fewest customers. Somewhere around five million Americans (just a ballpark figure) subscribe to on-demand music services like Spotify, arguably the best type of service for satiating a desire for music. More people use the free tier of the few subscription services that offer them (Spotify, Rdio), but these services are only being used by the most avid of music fans.
More people buy music than subscribe to services, but it's not a huge number given the size of the country. About 44 million Americans buy digital music downloads in a given year, according to NPD Group. Those buyers are not exactly adventurous in their purchasing: iTunes had a 63% share of 2012 download sales even though Amazon tends to have lower prices.
Passive music services have the biggest audiences. According to Edison Research, about 53% of Americans age 12 and over are active users of Internet radio services (the figure also includes users of on-demand services like Spotify) and 92% listen to broadcast radio every week (about 85% of time with broadcast radio is spent listening to music).
Other types of music discovery are fairly low. According to a Nielsen survey released earlier this year, 28% of music consumers like to read music blogs and about 15% have used the music identification app Shazam. But nearly everybody -- anybody who goes on the Web -- is likely to run across Internet advertising at some point.
Advertising that brings music to all types of music consumers -- from the avid buyers to the passive radio listeners -- has the potential to bring new music to more people. Products like F#'s AdPlayer may not drastically change the way people experience new music. But consumers can only dedicate so much time seeking out musical discoveries. Anything that reduces the friction in music discovery has the potential to benefit everyone in the music business.