New Report from Next Big Sound Explores Band-Brand Digital Relationships

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A new report by Next Big Sound presents the state of the music industry from a data point of view. Aimed at brands -- the traditional music industry can still find plenty of useful information -- the web-based report uses attractive charts and plain English to guide the reader through music's impact across the Internet. The main message is simple: artists want to work with brands, and artists' fans have a huge online presence.

What's the state of music on social media? NBS says Instagram is "growing in leaps and bounds" and Twitter "may have plateaued," although artists are still gaining more new followers on Twitter than Instagram each month (by nearly a 5-to-3 margin). Millennials -- the age group defined as 18 to 24 -- are the most-active users of Facebook for music purposes, and their 46-percent share of artist activity equals their share in early 2012 (it has slightly risen and fallen since then).

Also interesting is an analysis of music genres' activity across services ranging from social media to streaming and Wikipedia. Perhaps surprisingly, rock leads the way. Artists with the pop/rock classification (examples given were Billy Joel, Foreigner and Kid Rock) had 24 percent of activity. The standalone rock genre had another 8 percent, indie rock had 7 percent and metal had 1 percent. That's a total of 40 percent for various forms of rock and pop/rock music. (Pop itself has an 8-percent share.) Although it's an apples-and-oranges comparison, Nielsen says rock's share of U.S. music consumption in 2014 stood at 29 percent.

The broad category of urban music had a 20-percent share of NBS's online activity. Broken down that 20 percent is 11 percent for hip hop and 9 percent for R&B. The R&B/Hip hop category had only a 17.2 percent share of U.S. music consumption in 2014, according to Nielsen, suggesting urban music fans may have a higher than average level of online activity.

The opposite could be said about country. NBS says country had 7 percent of online activity, slightly lower than the genre's 8.2 percent of U.S. radio and considerably lower than its 11.2 percent of total U.S. music consumption as tracked by Nielsen. But country's share of NBS online activity bested its share of music streaming in 2014 of 6.4 percent, according to Nielsen. The country industry has always argued its fans are digitally savvy -- the CMA releases studies that argue just that -- but the numbers suggest fans of other genres are more active on streaming and social media.

Some less popular genres have a good amount of online activity given their sizes. Classical and world music have shares of 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively, and world music gets bumped up to 6 percent of you include reggae (as some systems of categorization put the two into one genre).

Another interesting aspect of the report is the focus on brands. NBS broke down ownership of 50 artist-brand campaigns announced by Fortune 500 companies (a small sample but helpful insight nonetheless). Universal Music Group's 57-percent share of deals (by deal count, not by the deals' value) far exceeded the shares of Warner Music Group (15 percent), independent labels (15 percent in aggregate) and Sony Music (13 percent).

NBS also took a look at Target's artist partnerships. Rather than approach this from an artist's point of view, NBS calculated campaigns' earned media value based on Facebook engagement (after all, the NBS platform can be used by brand managers as well as labels and artist managers). Trey Songz ranked first with $1.92 million in earned media value -- the price that would have been paid for those impressions -- and Sam Smith was a close second with $1.85 million.

The data in the report "tell the story of a vibrant industry that continues to flourish," the report says near its conclusion. That depends on one's definition of vibrant. To many of the traditional players, today's music business is more challenging than vibrant. But remember the report is aimed at brands, and the data point to a continued emphasis on connecting brands, artists and fans.