I recently read an article by Lindsay Gabler, Social Media specialist at The Recording Academy (previously at Universal Music Group) – she said that when she first started at UMG, she was told that ‘our artists are brands, we are not’ and she was to bear this in mind when putting together a social media strategy. This got me thinking about the impact of social media on the music industry, there is no doubt that the digital age has changed the industry landscape, but where does social media sit in all of this?
Record labels were once great music ‘curators’, go back just a few years and picture this: you’re in a record store and you come across a new band that you’ve not heard of before, without listening to the CD how would you have decided whether it’s worth a go? The record label. If you recognised the label’s logo as one of the labels that has some of your favourite artists on their roster, you’d think it a pretty safe bet – I know I would’ve! We once had a strong affiliation with our preferred labels, we trusted their judgement. This is something that we’ve lost over last decade or so, it seems the label actually has no to no significance for the audience. The internet boom, provided endless opportunities for unsigned artists to release their music into the world and for countless independent labels to start up. Let me ask you this, what label is Adele, Ben Howard or Ellie Goulding signed to? You could hazard a guess, but don’t know for sure right?
The amazing thing about the digital world, and social media in particular, is that it gives anybody the power to build their own brand. For the traditional music industry, the biggest change has been that now artists can connect with their fans directly whenever and wherever they want. So where does the label sit in that mix? Have the big record labels lost their voice?
I believe that they have, not necessarily all of them, but perhaps the more traditional labels that are struggling to embrace the possibilities and power of social media. I have learned a great deal about social and digital marketing over the last couple of years, it is a very fast moving industry in which content is front and centre. I maintain that brands/businesses/companies should have a personality on social media and add value to their audience in as many ways as possible. The content needs to be fresh, relevant and engaging. If you simply use social media as a means of harping on about how great your product is or how successful your company is, people will get very bored, very quickly. Record Labels are no different – they need to build an organic brand that resonates with music fans, ultimately add value and become a worthwhile part of the process again.
If a label shows more of its personality, music fans will feel more of a direct connection with the label itself, rather than through an artist. If record labels had stronger, more socially active brand identities then artists and fans would gravitate towards them.
There are still so many people who are skeptical about the power and relevance of social media within business, this quote by Lori Ruff sums it up perfectly “Social Media is here. It’s not going away: not a passing fad”. Record Labels, particularly the larger traditional ones, need to embrace the potential that social media has and use it as a tool for restoring the balance that seems to have been lost between artist, consumer and label.