Socials + Spotifys = Syncs
The economics of music in 2017 is a unique and evolutionary animal. While making music has remained largely unchanged (with the exception of emerging sound production technologies, digitalization and software), economic opportunity has become much more varied.
Today, the key to long term artist success is found at the intersection of music, technology and branding. As the role of labels change -- or erodes completely lest they fail to evolve their core competencies -- artists will have to learn to fulfill their once common roles as gatekeepers and distributors or engage a coterie of help to push through.
Audiences today prefer spending on experiences over physical products. Engagement drives experience. And content drives engagement. At one point photos were enough. Now, the trifecta of photo, video and on-demand audio are essential.
Sensory experiential content that tells an authentic story over time is as important as the music itself. A constant flow of content that's sticky (thought provoking, entertaining, inspirational, aspirational) is the engine that drives the two metrics that count most right now: aggregate social followers and Spotify listens. At the risk of sounding over simplistic, these benchmarks create a feedback loop that drive each other and, critically, sync placements.
Syncs are the new paradigm. Getting music placed in film, tv, and other visual media is critical for long term sustainability and economic opportunity. And while the occasional esoteric music supervisor is out there, always hunting for obscure and fresh music, the lionshare of opportunity is untapped. The majority of the music that gets placed today is "discovered" largely through social and Spotify data. This is why fresh authentic content is absolutely critical. It's the catalyst that drives the equation: Socials + Spotifys = Syncs.
More and more content creators, however big or small a production, are seeking out original and fresh music for their projects. The fees aren't one-size-fits-all like they were in the past and the gatekeepers that traditionally controlled this environment are being disrupted and disintermediated.
Thanks to this disruption, more artists control their masters, their content, and their distribution. With that flexibility, however, comes challenges. Because audiences are fragmented across social media platforms, OTT subscription services, mobile and TV, top-of-mind level awareness is a struggle. Each platform comes with its own set of cultural norms, etiquette, quirks and styles.
Because artists can't possibly manage all of the intricacies of the various platforms that are in vogue today and keep tabs on the ones of the future, a strategic brand plan is necessary. The best brand plans create focus. They act as North Stars for ideation, production, distribution, and engagement. And they're nimble enough to adapt with the current culture.
Photo, video, and audio content must align around a set of core principles and beliefs. Then they must be deployed in such a way that fits each platform and invites engagement. Once engaged, artists must, to quote Seth Godin, use that new "permission" to convert engagement into a series of transactions: ticket sales, merchandise, and sync placements.
The key is an awareness that content is the catalyst that drives the economic engine. And not just musical content but rich photo, video and audio content.