Exclusive: Group M Study Finds Live Music, Digital Key to 'New Music Model for Brands'

Lil Jon performs at Billboard Winterfest at Park City Live! on Jan. 26, 2015 in Park City, Utah.

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Advertising and sponsorship continues to be one of the biggest growth areas for the music industry, with $1.43 billion spent on U.S. music partnerships in 2014 alone, according to analytics firm IEG, a 33 percent increase from 2010. But getting big brands to earmark budgets for music-driven campaigns can be challenging, as live music often falls into a bucket pooled from ad dollars brands set aside for TV, digital and other media.

Seeking to simplify that process, GroupM Entertainment & Sports Partnerships (ESP) and GroupMNext -- buying, planning and research units of WPP, the world's largest media-buying firm -- conducted a 12-month study titled "The New Music Model For Brands" to measure how different consumers interact with brands in music environments. The data will be shared with Group M's client base, which includes top brands at companies like Unilever, Kellogg and Kimberly-Clark.

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"We've found that our clients are not as familiar with music as they are with other passion point areas like sports, which has been intrinsically linked to big media spends from a broadcast and online standpoint," says Morgan Buksbaum, VP of Group M ESP. "The music industry has begun to evolve even more rapidly, and there's more media opportunities in the form of digital, new media and experiential that have created a comfort zone for our clients in wanting to explore the music space a little more, and this study will help them better navigate."

The study polled 2,000 respondents of all age groups, and found that music was the most important medium in consumers' lives, out-ranking TV, reading, social media and going to the movies. Among all age groups, 93 percent listen to music at least weekly, with 71 percent listening daily and 50 percent attending at least one live show in the last 12 months, a number that rose to 68 percent among 18-to-24-year-olds. Frequent concertgoers were found more likely to pay a premium for recorded music, attaching as much as a $2.60 value to an exclusive song download from a show they attended.

"I think there's going to be a lot more done with recordings of live events. The beauty of the new digital space is, you're not confined to shelf space in a store," Rob Wells, president of global digital business at Universal Music Group, says in a statement exclusive to the study. "So if someone goes to a gig and they want to download the set list, or they want to see the video, it's just about putting it up on a server. The rights for those recordings will reside with the record companies and the publishers, so I think we're going to see a lot more exploration of monetizing live performances."

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Brand favorability also increases in live-music settings: consumers were 44 percent more likely to have positive feelings about a brand that sponsors a concert or venue, compared to a 38 percent likelihood at a sports event. Though brands often utilize one of five common tactics in live-music sponsorship (pre-sale, ticket promotions, VIP/on-site hospitality, on-site product sampling, or social-media messaging), the study explores other potential marketing avenues. For instance, 56 percent of concertgoers reported a willingness to pay extra for an LED bracelet that lit up in synch with the performance, while 50 percent said they would pay for an app that would enable song requests -- both technologies that have become a point of experimentation for brands.

"The access to live music and ability to share has grown exponentially in the past few years," says Russell Wallach, president of media and sponsorship at Live Nation. "It can extend the life of the show well before it starts and ends, and that, therefore, opens the opportunities for brands to connect and expose fans to brand new forms of content."