Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The hazards of the new music economy

In the week when the 'Digital Britain' report was published - issues around digital piracy are once again making headlines. Record company execs (those that are left) continue to rub their chins and consider how money is to be made by their artists. Artist they have invested considerable sums in mentoring and promoting.

What is clear is that music piracy is unlikely to go away anytime soon, it seems to be a behaviour simply too ingrained into key consumer groups. Whilst pressure maybe brought to bear by the record industry on the ISPs, and a few more BitTorrents may get their wrists slapped. This doesn't solve the immediate issue of how to monetise music.

Clearly one route for bands/music is to partner even closer with brands. Its not my intention to list all good the and the ugly in this area. But a couple of tales of woe come to mind - one from the Wireless Festival last summer and one from about 20 mins ago

So last July, I went along to Wireless in Hyde Park - then still headline sponsored by O2 - an organisation who knows what its doing in this space with their Priority proposition. However, O2 wasn't the only brand to shell out to LiveNation for the chance to grab the attention of 30,000 music hungry consumers. I seem to recall Sony Ericcson were there, Tuburg bought the pouring rights and Tiscali did something neat to get VIP access to bands playing intimately in a tiny tent.

However it was digital storage leaders, SanDisk, who got it all wrong for me. Just consider their proposition - storage, never having to worry about getting your music/photos/video to fit. So please tell why oh why they decided to headline sponsor the 2nd stage - a seemingly huge circus big top yes - but with very limited storage. People simply couldn't get in to see headline acts without restorting to mild acts of violence against their fellow man or bribing the security staff. Madness.

This all came to mind again after hearing an interview with Gallows on BBC 6 just now. Apparently the neo-punksters are off to do a US tour, but these lads have got a clear eye on the bottom line. They have accepted a sponsorship deal with Coke's Relentless energy drink. Seemingly a pretty good match up for both parties. Gallows get to stay liquid and ensure themselves a steady supply of eye-liner. Relentless buys a bit of credibility.

However cracks begin to set in when either one of these parties stop playing by the accpeted rules of engagment in this new music economy.

BBC 6 interviewer: "Do you have any concerns that accepting a brand sponsoring your tour bus is an issue for band of your background"

Gallows member: "Not really, I would never drink that Relentless stuff, but if they want to chuck us 15 grand and a free tour bus, we can't turn our noses up at that"

This is paraphrased but I can't see the Coke PR team being overly chuffed.

If we don't want to buy music anymore, we as consumers have to expect brands to be part of the equation from now on. But there are clearly some lessons to learn and few basic rules to follow for both parties.

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