In this case, you’re isolating vocals, beats, instrumentals and other elements of the song, while maintaining the song’s original length. This is the key difference to me: stems, in their original form, are not “short-form content.” Stems are inherently not “snackable.” They are only as “short-form” as their original source, and therefore tie into much different motivations for the users who seek them. A power user of a Snapchat music lens may not necessarily be interested in playing around with the vocals of their favorite pop track, because their preferred tools and materials are fundamentally different.
There some notable exceptions to this concept: a handful of recent initiatives in music are trying to combine the two visuals above by “consumerizing” and monetizing bite-size snippets of stems. One great example is Jammer, which has licensing deals with a few major labels to lay out vocal and instrumental stems from chart-topping hits in a user-friendly, gridded and quantized environment—such that users can make their own remixes of singles by the likes of Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj regardless of their musical background.
Another example is Native Instruments’ Sounds Originals
, which just launched this week and is working with DJ-producers like Diplo and Richie Hawtin to unveil, and monetize, their “signature sound.” For instance, users can purchase a pack of Diplo’s signature vocal samples and synths and use them freely in their own production, without having to worry about royalties. Splice has been doing this for a few years as well, building exclusive “artist packs” with the likes of Slow Magic
. In this case, the target market isn’t necessarily the average fan, but rather the up-and-coming or seasoned producer using Native Instruments equipment or looking for new sounds to enhance their latest tracks.
In all of these different examples, you’re cutting music horizontally, not just vertically—which means you’re revealing its underlying ingredients.
Marketing the ingredients of a song is a fundamentally different challenge from marketing its “moments.” Understandably, most music copyright businesses avoid “ingredient marketing” altogether. This is due to a mix of perceived lack of consumer demand, concerns over brand control and stubborn legal structures that can’t support proper licensing and monetization of said ingredients.
Given the metaphor, I think we can actually learn a lot from the food and cooking world, when it comes to marketing ingredients effectively while still maximizing both consumer satisfaction and attention on the creator’s personality.
One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Chef’s Table
, a documentary series about Michelin-star chefs that just released its latest season on Netflix
. More than any other food series I’ve watched, Chef’s Table
treats its chef-subjects not merely as day-to-day manual laborers, but as serious artists who have spent decades honing their craft and assembling the right teams to execute on their groundbreaking creative philosophies.
The series is also an unabashed feat of ingredient marketing. In every single episode, there are several scenes in which the featured chef takes a stroll through the local, independent farms, gardens and greenhouses from which they source the ingredients for their dishes. The viewer has the opportunity to eavesdrop on chefs’ conversations with farmers, debating the quality of certain produce or explaining the nuanced layers of flavors that can only come from local soil.
In other words, Chef’s Table isn’t just stroking its subjects’ egos and giving them a one-directional megaphone. It’s also arguing that chefs are inseparable both from their ingredients and from the sprawling ecosystems of nature and human talent and labor that bring those ingredients to life.
Pardon the leaps of thinking, but there may be a lesson for the music industry here: in a world where fans have access to music’s ingredients, and where artists relinquish at least some control over how those ingredients are used, artists’ brands are increasingly about their surrounding creative ecosystems, not just about themselves. The source of creative innovation (and value) no longer lies solely in the creation or distribution of a finished product, but rather in how the ingredients underlying that product are made available to empower an entirely new ecosystem of self-organized self-expression.
From Musical.ly videos (RIP) and the oversaturated market of dance challenges to sample packs and remix apps, major labels and indie/DIY artists alike are now racing to create the strongest, highest-quality creative ecosystems around themselves.
I’d love to hear what you think about these ideas: Do you agree with Faxon’s thesis about the music companies of the future turning into facilitators rather than originators of content and its rights? Do you think the artists with the strongest, most open creative ecosystems will have the greatest long-term success—or is it something else? Is there even a demand for “ingredient marketing” in music when it comes to the everyday fan? Simply reply to this email and it’ll go straight to me!