Ad-funded music, eh? Without even touching the regrettable Qtrax at Midem episode, there’s clearly a major lump in the road to success.
Not that the trajectories of music and advertising are not due to collide and create new forms of consumer engagement. This has been on the cards for some years now – in fact, the opportunity has been begged ever since (a very Grim Reaper) Napster Mach One knocked on the door of traditional music copyright.
And of course, the unique brand relationship opportunities afforded by the musical experience have never been lost on marketers. Think, for example, about the marvellous Renault campaign that used Groove Armada’s “Shakin’ That Ass” track – the music, combined of course with that gloriously provocative footage – redefined a rather weary brand in one dangerous stroke. Music and great brand communications clearly belong together.
Copyright as currently exercised by Big Music cannot sustain the record business in the manner it expects. The mechanism was introduced, based, crucially as it’s turning out, at its root on land rights, to incentivise creators of new ideas, to assist them in protecting the fruits of their labours and (though you won’t hear this discussed so often among rights owners) to ensure that the public good (the value introduced by the exploitation of said inventions) is also served.
Based as it was on chunks of land, then chunks of paper and chunks of plastic, the physical expressions of copyright have till now been costly to make and to distribute, and correspondingly complicated to steal. Digital duplication and playback technologies, then global networks, have conclusively undermined this, and value (not merely through consumer and organised piracy, by the way) is draining fasted than Vitamin C from the body of the record industry. Music overall, in fact, is in rude health … it’s the business as we knew it that’s in its death throes. (And don’t talk to me about DRM. It’s like moving deckchairs around on the Titanic – and then padlocking them in place!)
Just as DRM is terribly far from being a silver bullet for the music industry, interruptive advertising as we knew and loved it is dying. What a neat parallel that, as advertising began its slide into the past, its own silver bullet was called CRM! There’s got to be a way of preserving the way it was, we cried to each other.
So, with CRM and DRM having failed, like two geriatric non-swimmers, music and advertising link arms, pinch their noses and jump over the side.
But two sinkers, as you know, don’t make one even half-decent swimmer, and the at-first-sight obvious marriage of desperation between these old players won’t work without brutal re-engineering of the context and the expectations on both sides.
Why so? Two reasons need your attention.
First, understand that philosophically, the musicman and the adman are from different planets. Rights exploitation and (for the sake of the argument) “the exploitation of consumer attention” have always sat on opposite sides of the table.
Advertisers, targeting aside, have always wanted maximum reach and frequency, and global distribution of brand messaging, as long as it happens in budget, is invariably desirable. Deaf ears, if you like, are still ears.
Rights-based businesses, to the contrary, while geared to blockbuster success and loving big hits as much as the next person, are valued according to the perceived shelf-life of their “box of rights”. For these guys, big numbers come at a price. Ludicrous cover-mount deals notwithstanding, as time passes and copies proliferate, rights value declines. And the record business badly needs to charge for this inevitable erosion of core value. (Remember, by the way, how Disney used to re-release its core video catalogue on 7-year cycles? It was to maintain the perceived scarcity and exclusivity that boxes of rights feed on.)
Secondly, and this is important, to subject music copyrights to the downward pressure of a CPT-based (cost per thousand) media buying industry that has the clearly-far-more-valuable online encounter still valued at under a third of the feeble TV equivalent, will be utterly disastrous for rights owners.
In sharp contrast to advertising, the music business has no credible framework with which to support an argument for a substantial share of ad spend. To the contrary, without the intervention of a radical new analysis and articulation of the contribution of the musical experience to brand ROI, music ends up the poor cousin of the poor cousin of online advertising. I propose that the embryonic work on a third axis of advertising value, engagement, needs introduction into the picture as a decent starting point.
Big Music leapt into the arms of Apple’s iTunes when Steve Jobs looked like the saviour of copyright, and 2 years later he’s less popular with the majors than MTV ever was.
Whatever the next stage, let’s pause, calm down and think awhile before heading down the aisle together. Big Music can’t afford yet another bad marriage.
Michael Bayler founded The Rights Marketing Company in London in early 2005, to offer strategic marketing services to brands, channels, talent and rights holders in the post-Internet age. The first project he took on was the development of the marketing and brand strategy, with ie music and The In Good Company, of the global partnership between Robbie Williams, T-mobile and later Sony Ericsson, a pioneering deal that remains the largest of its kind to date.