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🔵 What happened to cohesive, connected marketing strategies in music?

The Motive Unknown Digest
Hi all -
Over the last few days I’ve been reflecting on the general state of affairs in music and marketing/A&R. I combine those last two because they have the same intent in the context of breaking new acts.
The factors don’t make for a pleasant summary:
  • labels - really, majors - are desperate to break artists, ideally worldwide
  • labels (as above) arguably signing more single tracks rather than multi album deals (surely making for more work all round)
  • managers pressured to please labels for fear of being passed over
  • all involved suffering greatly as a consequence of these pressures
(Before proceeding further, I am aware I may be accused of tarring all labels with the same brush in the same manner as Ted Gioia did recently. My intention here is to address those labels and managers who fit one or more of the profiles above.)
In chewing this all over, it finally occurred to me what the missing link in all of this was.
Going viral on TikTok, getting playlisted on Spotify or Apple Music, getting millions of views on YouTube… these aren’t strategies. They’re events. The strategy is how this all takes on a connected approach that engages, builds and retains audiences, delivers value and ultimately drives revenue.
Somehow, it feels like strategy is just getting left out of campaign (and wider career) planning. And if your strategy only involves betting the bank on going viral on TikTok (for example), well, then you have a shitty strategy.
I see a lot of workshops being offered to labels and managers that might educate them on anything from Spotify best practice to best ways to engage audiences on Instagram etc. This is all great info to learn, but again, I think what is missed is that these are not the solutions; they are tools to utilise within your over-arching campaign strategy. One piece of a bigger picture.
Think how many courses there are teaching you any of the aforementioned events and how to achieve them. There’s no end of them. Now think how many just offer basic marketing strategy; as in, the theory around marketing itself and how one connects that into a coherent strategy for success. Something that could be applied to almost any period because underlying it is the same core set of principles.
I would argue very few - if any - exist, and to me this might be why so much music marketing is in a dire place right now.
In his excellent - if a little dated now - book “Social Media Is Bullshit”, B.J. Mendelson argues that modern marketing gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk want you to believe that marketing has evolved, as have strategies along with them. In truth, he argues, the core principles of marketing have not changed. In fact, all modern marketing books are just re-workings of Dale Carnegie’s legendary “How To Win Friends And Influence People”.
I agree with Mr Mendelson.
My point here is that there are constant values around marketing strategy, but that along the way the music industry has somehow decided they are either not needed, not valid or in some other manner redundant.
This applies to all of us, too. Strategy isn’t something you can lazily claim is the label’s job. Whether you’re a manager or a label or any other partner, you are a stakeholder in the success of your artist, and so collectively you are all in some manner responsible for developing them. How do you do that? With a proper strategy for success.
Have a great evening,

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Motive Unknown @motiveunknownco

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