Here’s a tip for getting more content on your blog: Interview smart people. Case in point, I was checking the profiles of some of the people I follow on Twitter, and I clicked on @REBlogGirl’s profile, which says she does “Something Something at a Major Record Label.” I had to learn more, so I DMed Mary and she told she works with artists on reputation management as well as social media and mobile marketing. As we all know, I am a big music marketing nerd, so I begged Mary to let me interview her, and she was gracious enough to share the following with us:
Mary: You know this is such a great question because we self identify in different ways with different brands and even with different personalities and most of that is due to the ways in which those things reach us through media channels.
For example: Justin Beiber had a huge following on YouTube long before he signed with label and produced his first album. He was his own marketing machine. He marketed himself as a human being and as a talent through mostly cover songs. It wasn’t really his music he was showcasing at the time, it was his talent and himself. We identified with Justin himself and his talent. That made it easier for us to start identifying with his original music once he was signed and had a produced album and singles. His brand is authentic, delivered in his own words through a very personal Youtube channel.
On the other hand take someone like Britney Spears that has had the full media power and protection of labels, studios and PR teams since she was a child. She reached us through the mass media and the PR machine of a major record label. Her brand is wholly different from Justin’s we identify with her and her talent but she never really spoke to us one on one and pushed her own talent, music brand. When we think of Britney we think of her videos, her songs, her album, not her personality. We see her as a parent company to her endorsed products/merchandise (perfumes and Candies clothing lines), her albums and songs and her tours. We see her life played out through tabloids and magazines in the words of others. Her brand is very produced and managed. That’s not to say we don’t love her any less than Justin, but we see her as slightly more mysterious and question the authenticity more.
Why did I wax on about the difference between the fame machines of Justin and Britney – because they really aren’t any different from the marketing behind brands like Virgin or Pepsi. Both companies that have done great jobs at marketing themselves through personalities… When we think Virgin, we think Richard Branson. When we think Pepsi we think their long line of famous spokespeople from Michael Jackson to Britney Spears. And in those ways, we are fans of brands. We have loyalties to brands. You could never get me to switch from Coke to Pepsi or trade my Mac in for a PC. I identify those brands with personalities and ideals I cling to in the same ways I cling to the traits of artists I identify with.
We find connection and authenticity where it is presented to us. It’s the quality of marketing behind any brand that personalizes it, gives it a face and an ideal we can relate to. When you think Ford, do you think American values? When you think Disney, do you think smiling kids? When you think Jessica Simpson, do you think adorably dumb? All these brands have coupled themselves to a concept or value that resonates with people on personal levels. Good brands and good celebrities do this. There are rock stars out there that fail to differentiate themselves just like there are brands that fail at this. Consider how many pop stars you have to occasional wonder “What ever happened to?” about. Those are brands that failed to differentiate and maintain their markets.
So, in answer to the question, no, rockstars as a group are not better at authentically engaging fans. Some rockstars just know how to market better than others. Britney Spears is the Pepsi of Rockstars – she has a good product, a recognizable brand and cash in the coiffeurs to spend on the marketing necessary to launch an album or a perfume successfully.
Mack: Social Media Marketing or Mobile Marketing. Which will be bigger for artists in 2011?
Mary: Mobile’s big year is still a few years out by all accounts, but with more smart phones in the market than ever before, it shouldn’t be long before social and mobile meet to offer artists something unique. The idea of the social entertainment checkin is what everyone is talking about. Imagine being able to checkin in at a not just a location but a concert itself, or to check in on Vevo or Hulu when you watch a video or movie. The value that offers marketers, viewers (who can engage with other fans virtually and online) and simultaneously share is really very interesting. That day is not too far off, not with Facebook and Google both trying to leverage their place based applications on mobile devices.
However, the key for artists right now is to leverage their fan base with exclusive content they drip through channels like Facebook, Twitter, Vevo, mobile ads on Pandora and in app advertising that allow the distribution of exclusive content that drives sales through to their itunes, endorsement and tour properties. Mobile, at least for now, can be best leveraged for download and concert sales. Social on the other hand needs to be leveraged for engagement and the building of personal and brand equity. Small to mid sized artists need to use their social channels to engage with fans in controlled ways – over engagements creates a false sense of connectivity one cannot maintain over times, but real occasional question and answer format or thanks for retweeting are really valuable. You never want to create a false expectation that you will answer all your fans – that would be impossible but by creating a standardized format for regular engagement you can manage the expectation of your fan base. Contests and Q&A sessions are the easiest and most effective engagement tools.
Example: Katy Perry Fire Work Contest
Mack: So do you get to go touring with an artists? What are your days like?
Mary: I don’t tour with artists – I just help them manage their reputation online so fans can be engaged in positive events in their lives, their endorsed products and tour rather than on negativity. For example, should someone (not mentioning any names here) think it might be edgy to post a photo of themselves half or wholly naked on Twitter, I work to make sure those images get dispatched quickly. I also help artists and their PR teams build engaged social presences on Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and Twitter and make sure these channels work together for a common goal – to sell merchandise, tickets, downloads and albums. The real key here is to manage the expectation of the fan when it comes to engagement. Making sure an artist can communicate effectively and authentically with their fans is important and making sure the fans understand how the artist shares and how they like to engage is really critical to the success of their social profiles.
Example: Lady GaGa’s Facebook page is booming with activity. She personally shares exclusive insight into her thoughts and life and wants to truly engage with her fan base, but her page makes it clear through the content she shares she is an unbelievably busy woman. That is what manages the expectation for the fan.
Mack: What’s the next ‘big thing’ in music marketing?
Mary: While everyone has had their eye on Spotify, I think the smartest thing the music industry has done is really build out Vevo. Based on the Hulu model, Vevo has really taken off. It serves exclusive content, hosts all the artists videos in one unified label owned place and is driving in more people than Hulu! What Universal CEO, Doug Morris said last yeat at launch, still rings true today, “What we’re really doing is taking back control of everything…this is really like MTV on steroids. We’re starting with that kind of audience. But now we’re in control of it. We don’t have to go through a middleman anymore.” The premium content model is leveraging fan base against both artist brand and artist product to deliver exactly what the fan wants – the ON DEMAND ALL ACCESS PASS to their favorite artist. It’s a simple model and it is working on Vevo. I see this as the way labels and artist can survive in the face of piracy, faltering 360 Deals and crumbling recorded music sales infrastructure.
Yowza! Thanks again to @REBlogGirl (who’s secret identity is Mary McKnight) for dropping that music marketing smartitude on us. Do me a big favor and please follow Mary on Twitter, and subscribe to her blog.