Sunday, May 21, 2006

NETTWERK RECORDS AND THE FUTURE OF MUSIC MARKETING

For a while, blogger Mack Collier of the Viral Garden, BMA, and Marketing Profs has had an ongoing conversation with the powers that be at Nettwerk about the direction they're taking with their artists and marketing. (For those of you not in the know, Nettwerk is the label for Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne, Dido, and Sixpence None the Richer, among others.)

Nettwerk, by the way, is also the label that has acted AGAINST the RIAA, giving legal assistance to the Greubel family and agreeing to pay ALL the legal expenses should the Greubels lose in court. The Greubels were being sued by the RIAA for downloading songs from the internet, one of which was Nettwerk's own "Sk8r Boi" as recorded by Avril Lavigne.

"Suing music fans is not the solution, it's the problem," CEO Terry McBride said.

Truer words were never spoken. But that's not my point tonight.

Mack, Jordan, and Ryan have been corresponding with Nettwerk marketing staff and attending Nettwerk seminars to try to see what relationship bloggers can develop with record companies to help change the current marketing models of music and CDs.

Mack has developed an idea he calls "100 CDs for 100 bloggers," in which CDs would be distributed to bloggers to listen to, rate, and review prior to the CD's street date. It's not EXACTLY a new idea; rather, it's an old idea being re-worked for a new venue. Label reps have been distributing CDs for years and years to college stations for the same purposes, using CMJ and other meters to track airplay and usage. And labels routinely have their new albums screened by traditional print media and other more static and less community based websites. What Mack is suggesting is a new paradigm shift, wherein bloggers and other online information sources of note would be given the chance to audition the music and then introduce it to their respective communities, giving their review, hosting conversation, and helping to promote the album.

"But JD," you say, "can't I already find reviews on other websites and in magazines?" Yes, in fact, you can. The major difference, though, is that with a blog, there is a conversation between the reader and the writer. When you pick up your copy of, say, Entertainment Weekly, you can't ask the writer questions like "why didn't you like it?" (And believe me, people in that magazine and most others don't ever give a solid reason. How could they, when they have to do it in 100 words or less--whereas bloggers have space only limited by their imagination.) On the other hand, if I blog a review of, say, the next Avril Lavigne CD, you can challenge my review by commenting on it. Or you can ask me a question about it, and I can answer you back. All told, the marketing community with blogs is much more community based, and can be viral as all get-out. And it already works. Just look at the comment box for my review of the band Line of Fire and their CD. Most of the readers here would've never heard about them, but I found them, was amazed by their music, got my hands on their CD myself, and talked them up. Right off the bat there's one purchase! It may not sound like much, but any good marketer knows that it's a good start. The blogosphere is just waiting to be tapped.

Jordan and Ryan took some of these ideas to the Nettwerk seminar in Vancouver, so perhaps as dialogue opens up, record labels will figure out new and inventive ways of putting the music out in front of you, the buying public.

Okay, community comment time for my faithful readers: Do you guys think you'd be more likely to check out a CD if I gave you enough information to make an informed choice about it? Do you think my recommendation would carry any weight with you? Also, this is your chance to let Nettwerk know what you would like to see them do to promote artists in the future! Discuss!

5 Comments:

At 1:21 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

JD it's like what Rich (from Nettwerk) said at the seminar. You're more likely to trust what a 'buddy' tells you than what a magazine tells you.

And going further than that - the ability to interact with those around you, who have common interests, gives any review far greater weight.

So when the hell is a label going to make this happen?

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

JD the '100 cds for 100 bloggers' label was to put a name to an idea, that labels can and SHOULD be appealing to bloggers to help market their artists. This is TRULY a no-brainer.....take a person who is already a FAN of an artist, that has a COMMUNITY of readers that are influenced by their blog, and let them give an endorsement for that artist.

And as I keep saying, the FIRST label to step up to the plate and do this is going to benefit from an avalanche of positive feedback that will be linkbait to ripple throughout the blogosphere.

And if any labels are reading this and smirking that it would never work, consider this: Nettwerk had a marketing seminar last week in Vancouver that wasn't advertised to bloggers(as far as I know), and bloggers weren't even the intended audience. But one blogger in America found out about the seminar, alerted a pair of his friends in Canada that are also bloggers, and they attended, reported their recaps, and including JD's post here, there are now SIX blogs blogging about the seminar.

Imagine what the response would have been if the event had been advertised TO bloggers, and was aimed AT bloggers?

That's the power of a community of music fans that WANT to promote their favorite artists. It literally floors me that companies can try to gain the attention of customers that don't want to hear them, while totally ignoring other customers that are trying to get their attention so they can HELP sell their product.

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I'd certainly take your advice to heart, JD; but likely I'd download before I'd buy.

I haven't bought any cds for ages, but I do spend the odd buck on itunes.

I'm surprised that record companies aren't finding low-cost, viral word-of-mouth avenues of promoting their product.

CD purchases keep dropping, and yet they haven't seen the light and made a sincere effort to engage their die-hard fans.

Here's an idea: they could hire a trio of young cd reviewers to collaborate on an official label blog.

These three could blog all the recent dirt about their genre of choice, link to fan blogs and handle contesting on behalf of the label (free t-shirt for the best web-cam lip-sync, or blog post of the week, etc.)

Oh, and I suppose the kids would want a forum attached, too.

All for the kids, managed by kids, overseen by forward-thinking marketing execs.

 
At 10:14 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

To put things in perspective. Here's the word count for a recent review of Kelly Clarkson's concert tour in Entertainment Weekly: 49. And that counts "a," "and," & "the" as words. The review for Pharrell Williams's new album was a whopping 20 words.

And beyond that, what do I care what the reviewers at EW think? I don't know them. I can't talk to them. They don't answer me back.

Music, more than any other market, is littered with fans who are stumbling over themselves to promote the musicians. What other market do you know of where someone will pay you 20 dollars for a T-shirt that is essentially a billboard for your product and walk around with it all day long. The only other market that even close to happens in is pro sports. Fans are knocking each other over left and right to set up fan-sites for their favorite artists. (And then they often get sued by the musicians they're trying to promote. BRAINIACS!!)

As for downloading before buying, I think the Myspace model is one of the most effective I've seen, possibly ever. You have four songs set to stream on most musicians' pages. If you can show me on your Myspace page that four of your songs kick enough butt, then I'm all about buying your CD. I think it's a great way to sample.

Jordan, I think you're onto something there. I wonder how the labels would react to these ideas. I'd LOVE to get hired on to run a label blog!

 
At 8:17 AM, Anonymous Lorraine said...

I don't buy CDs anymore... I dl from Walmart, and probably from amazon once they get their downloadable music section up and running... but you know... I would be much more willing to check out a band or artist if I read reviews on blogs I trust.

Even seeing the music on AI helps. Heck, I didn't even know Live did a version of Walk the Line. I'm soo not a Johnny Cash fan... but I loved the version Daughtry did on AI... when I heard it was a cover of Live, I went and dl'ed the live version... love it! it's on my playlist. and I never heard of Natasha Bedingfield before Ayla did her song on AI.. Now "Unwritten" is another one on my daily playlist.

I don't listen to the radio... I've got three young kids, and lets face it, I really do not want my 5 year old son singing along with 99% of whats on the radio today... even country music radio isn't 100% family friendly anymore... I don't do MySpace either... so unless I am specifically sent to a MySpace site, I don't see it.

I would probably check out more artists and bands if I could get decent reviews from people I trust... Esp. when I can ask the reviewer questions, like does the artist curse? are there any songs that can be listened to with my 5 year old in the room? that kinda of stuff... *S*

 

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