This year’s CMJ Music Marathon presented over 50 panels, connecting people in the industry with festival participants through conversations about making a career out of music. Held at the New York University’s Kimmel Center in Greenwich Village, attendees had to wade through students going to classes by squeezing into elevators going from floor to floor. Although the whole notion of a band or artist as a brand is not new anymore, there’s a vast array of new tools to get noticed by fans as well as the general public: software for tracking tour details, Google analytics for website activity and other ways to manage social media campaigns (HootSuite, Chartbeat etc.) After attending a sampling of the sessions, the directive is clear. Find something that works and generate valuable content constantly across all platforms, tailoring a concise message for each particular medium.
Publishers, Music Supervisors and companies known as Sound Pluggers have joined what’s left of record companies as the new gatekeepers on the music scene. Some record companies even have a licensing person right on staff to pursue these opportunities. Sessions on synching music suggested custom digital pitches that require doing legwork about each show via TuneFind.com, imdb.com or Hollywood Reporter. For commercial work, lyrical relevance is important as well. In another panel, it was explained that younger consumers expect these partnerships, so to weigh this exposure to new audiences vs. the budget at hand. This is now a valuable revenue stream, in some cases funding other projects or even equipment as needed. The idea of “selling out” through licensing is a thing of the past, but artists still turn down projects that don’t align to their beliefs. On the other hand, it is also a way for artists to promote causes they believe in or assist a non-profit organization.
As things go viral, bands must allow fans to repurpose the message through their own photos, videos and even remixes. Fans have always felt an ownership in spreading the word about their favorite music and bands should embrace that in the world of social media. This direct relationship with fans has never been more crucial to those in the entertainment world, especially since everyone is expressing himself or herself in real time 24/7. Having a name that is easily “googable” is also extremely vital for any group, along with “an authenticity to be you” on and off stage. However, having a recognizable logo (“one you can drive by at 55 mph”), sound and even appearance was stressed to be sure there’s a united front for public consumption. Nice looking websites are wonderful, but hits aren’t necessarily translating into downloads or ticket sales. This is the same with Facebook, the number of ‘likes’ is not as meaningful as the rates of engagement, which is measured by the number of people actively commenting and posting on the page. It was suggested that bands find another artist they admire and emulate what they do or network with similar bands in order to “share the wins”. Of course, the greatest marketing in the world won’t matter if the music isn’t worth listening to.