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A Hot 100 Revolution: Digital Investing & The Music Industry

Michael Kwolek, May 13, 2014

Which artists have the longest-charting songs on the Hot 100? The Beatles? Michael Jackson? Mariah Carey? Nope. Not even close. Read on to find out which under-the-radar artists are changing our perceptions of longevity in the music industry, and learn about the power of “digital investing” (introduced in a previous post) for artists and brands alike.

First, a quick refresher on digital investing: we believe that unlike traditional marketing alone, the cultivation of long-lasting digital content allows campaigns to have a much longer shelf life than was previously possible. So let’s dig into how this applies in the music industry.

Traditional media no longer leads

Let’s face it: magazines, billboards and terrestrial radio have become all but irrelevant for supporting new artists. We now have access to iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, SoundCloud and myriad other ways to find, share and indulge in music anytime, anywhere.

These innovations have made charts and reporting more complex. New ways to experience music mean extra data points, thus complicating how we gauge artist popularity – it’s no longer just a measure of how many CDs a band sells at big box stores. And this phenomenon has finally begun to influence the most mainstream of outlets – traditional radio playlists and the Billboard charts.

Counterintuitively, many songs are actually finding greater longevity in this new environment. With always-on access to songs, videos, articles, interviews, remixes and other content, tracks can remain popular for years instead of weeks. And these new ways to listen are changing traditional media – radio and TV no longer set trends, they now often reflect what music fans have already discovered online. Consider the case of the song “Sail” by relative unknown AWOLNATION.

“Sail” takes a long voyage

“Sail” is the first song in the Hot 100′s 55-year history to climb to its peak position after a year on the chart. It ended its run in March 2014 after logging 79 weeks – a streak that began over 3 years ago. In fact, it is now the 2nd-longest charting song ever.

After a modest showing on alternative radio in 2011, the song soundtracked a trailer for the History Channel series “Vikings”, clips of which have since garnered over 1m views on YouTube.

And it just took off from there: continuous touring, additional TV syncs and aggressive promotion by label Red Bull Records, along with a continuous stream of online conversations, videos and playlist sharing, led to “Sail” charting on and off for the next 3.5 years.

The track’s downtempo aggression initially met with little interest from mainstream radio, but programmers were eventually convinced after months and months of fan support. This support is best exemplified in the collection of fan-made videos on YouTube, one of which has garnered over 100 million views – a practice supported by the band.

And it’s not just one song…

“Sail” is not the only example of this recent outsized longevity. As of April 29, 2014, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons spent its 86th non-consecutive week on the Hot 100 (at #48). In fact, 8 of the 10 longest-charting songs on the Billboard Hot 100 have been released since 2005 (5 of those since 2011).

This phenomenon is thanks in no small part to digital investing – by establishing a base of easily shareable content (YouTube clips, song streams and even remixable tracks), artists allow fans to enjoy music on their terms. They also give new listeners plenty of chances to find emerging artists and take an active part in boosting their visibility.

According to Billboard, the “Hot 100 formula targets a ratio of sales (35-45%), airplay (30-40%) and streaming (20-30%)”. This streaming component, though relatively small, cannot be underestimated as tracks often generate millions of online listens without any commercial radio play. By nature, online sharing can have a longer-term impact than any single radio play as peers are much more likely to pay attention to what their friends are digging versus what happens to be on the radio. And again, they’ll have the instant ability to share those finds with their networks.

So what does this mean for artists?

The rules are changing – major labels and radio conglomerates no longer dictate what we listen to. Now that anyone can write, produce and release music essentially for free, it’s all about which tracks spread the most online. Here are a few tips:

  • Encourage friends and fans to share, share, share to build an audience. Offering free downloads and easily-shareable streams is essential.

  • Think long-term – a marketing plan for a new album should last more than the month of its release.

  • Embrace fan-created content – where once it was viewed as copyright infringement, most artists now see this practice as free publicity. Fan videos, artwork and remixes can all extend the life of a song way beyond an artist’s expectations.

And what does this mean for my brand?

The same ideas can apply to any brand looking to make a long-term impact online. The key is to think of the web as a repository for useful, inspiring and entertaining content that will be searchable for years.

Consider supplementing the digital ads and social posts you’re already doing with content that can continue to have an impact. Here are a few types we’ve seen generating awareness, leads and search visibility for years:

  • Blog posts with useful tips from an expert

  • Detailed responses on Quora to pertinent questions about your industry

  • Video tutorials that simplify complicated tasks

  • Interviews that express a controversial stance on a commonly held belief

 

In short, whether you’re an independent artist or a global brand, you can still make a real impact without billboards, glossy magazine spreads and mainstream radio play, and you just might cultivate more impassioned fans in the process. Keep checking back in the coming weeks as we continue to explore strategies for digital investing.

How New Media is Changing TV: Shifts in Consumer Behavior

Room 214, March 9, 2011

You are likely conscious that the television experience has changed in the past decade. We once participated in appointment TV, taking the time to sit down at a specific hour to watch a specific show. Today, two significant behavioral changes in consumers are redefining the entertainment landscape.

These changes require television networks and advertisers to evolve rapidly to keep their shows, content, and ad buys relevant to a demanding consumer set.

  1. People now consume television via time-shifted DVR, online (legally), online (illegally), mobile device, Internet streaming to TV, and a wide variety of other methods.
  2. Viewers now consume multiple forms of media at the same time, such as watching TV on a television while checking Facebook on a computer. This is commonly referred to as two-, three- or multi-screen viewing.

With these changes have come digital spaces like Facebook, Twitter, and U-Stream in which consumers can find information about, and interact with, a television network or show. While this notion is reaching the mainstream, few networks and advertisers are finding ways to properly capitalize on, as well as monetize, this opportunity (more on this in my next post).

Touchpoints, From Simple to Complex

When television first became a household staple, families gathered together around one device to share in an experience from one of three channels. For a network to reach a consumer, it pushed traditional methods of mass advertising.

Today, households have multiple televisions and watch multiple programs simultaneously. They engage in multi-screen viewing, and consume many streams of relevant and irrelevant data while watching television.

Networks push advertising through a wide variety of channels but, more importantly, consumers now have a measure of control by reaching out to networks through social media and other digital properties, in real time.

How Connected Are We, Actually?

While not all households are highly-connected, it’s important to note the continued penetration of smartphones and tablets, items that are slowly shedding their luxury product association. There are already 141 million 3G subscribers (read: smartphones) in the US. Increased sales, palatable price-points, and widespread adoptions means a huge increase in users at potential touchpoints between networks and consumers.

What We Do When We Watch TV

Over the past few months, I mined over a million conversations in Crimson Hexagon, in which consumers state they are watching some form of cable or internet entertainment. Looking at these conversations, divided by platform, lets us see how consumers express their multi-screen viewing behaviors, and if it differs by platform.

Tweeting

Twitter requires nothing more than a 140-character attention span; it’s easy to Tweet and watch TV at the same time.

  • The number of TV-related posts on Twitter continues to increase, hitting over 300,000 Tweets in January 2011
  • Few mention consumption method (DVR, for example), but 14% do state they are watching a show or movie online through both legal and illegal platforms

Facebooking

Users on Facebook are, predominantly, just letting us know they are watching a TV show. However, because Facebook allows more information to be shared, conversations are longer and more detailed.

  • 22% of users share additional information about their lives, either through context (where they are watching, who else is with them, etc.) or by sharing a list of all their activities throughout the day, including the media the currently consuming
  • 19% of users are starting a conversation about the show

What Does This Mean?

In this age of New Television, consumers are constantly expressing their thoughts online while simultaneously engaging in other social behaviors. The opportunity for networks and advertisers is huge; they can not only provide relevant, interesting content that keeps viewers engaged, but also grow relationships that are driven by the consumers’ stated needs, wants, and interests. The value of a click, an eyeball, or a connection when a consumer makes a choice to participate is infinitely higher than that of a passive action, like viewing a commercial.

This article originally appeared on Social Times on March 2nd, 2011, and has been cross-posted here. It is the first in a series of three discussing the impact of new media technologies on TV and entertainment. Want to learn more? Download the full report here.

New TV: How will your cable provider keep up?

Room 214, December 2, 2010

The internet has made us all demanding consumers. We expect to get whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we happen to be.

A recent comScore study found that viewers who watch online-only TV or a mix of live and online desire TV to be flexible to their needs:

  • 75% “selected online over TV because they were able to watch the show wherever they wanted”
  • 74% “selected online because they were able to watch the show on their own time”

Through DVR, Cable and Satellite providers have allowed us the ability to watch TV on our own time, while still placating the demands of individual networks. But while DVR and on-demand have changed the way we watch TV, they are a half-step in innovation. And these innovations are being surpassed, daily, by an ever-growing list of internet-based products and content delivery systems.

Let’s call this internet-based TV New TV. New TV is a bit complicated. It’s an infant. While Hulu and Netflix have widespread adoption, the use of technology like Boxee, Apple TV, XBox, etc. is still reserved for early adopters, mostly because it takes a lot of configuration to get just what you want, and you really can’t get everything (see: NFL).

Cable and satellite companies aren’t dense; they know their current model of TV will have to innovate, or else. Comcast launched Fancast, which is a re-skinned Hulu with some additional features, like On-Demand listings. AT&T U-Verse integrates with X-Box 360, and U-Verse Mobile allows you to watch a few shows. AT&T recently announced that U-Verse customers who subscribe to HBO or Cinemax will be able to stream content from these channels online, which means they can also get it through their X-Box. With the exception of this latest announcement, non of these attempts have been particularly innovative, and the press around each is overshadowed by ongoing legal battles between cable companies and, literally, any new device or service that brings consumers TV via internet.

As New TV is still cumbersome for the uninitiated, cable and satellite companies don’t exactly have a fire under them. Yet. But now that Netflix, which boasts over 16 million members, is offering a streaming-only subscription model, the average tech user has easy, simple access to a total New TV experience. The current battle between Level 3 and Comcast over this change in Netflix suggests, to me, just how hard the cable companies are going to fight back, instead of figuring out how to better provide solutions that are more relevant to our current consumption patterns. As I said at the beginning of this article, consumers have some serious demands about entertainment. And a lot of innovative companies are trying to figure out how to meet those demands. Didn’t we watch a similar battle happen when major newspapers went digital?

Sharing Your Social Devices

Room 214, November 16, 2010

While apps and websites may connect us socially, we rarely make the devices themselves a social experience. My phone is a very personal tool. It holds my emails, access to my Twitter and Facebook accounts (which, for me, have some business purpose), contact information for hundreds of people, and really neat pictures from Hipstamatic. While I don’t mind people making phone calls, I’d never be willing to share it. The same goes for my computer.

An iPad is a different story. I remember reading a post by Fred Wilson, who was revisiting his negative opinion on his iPad. He noted that the “iPad makes using a computer less of a commitment” and goes on to explain how, in addition to easily moving in and out of interaction with the device, his whole family share use together, as well as each having their own personal use. Some data from Nielsen supports his personal observations.

I’m interested in how this sharing takes place live, and how this shared aspect impacts the kinds of apps/sites popular on an iPad versus a phone or computer. While Google TV, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, etc. are including integration that makes my TV social, a shared tablet while watching TV could create a whole other kind of social experience layered onto the TV experience. No longer would I just sit there sharing IMDB and Facebook facts with my friends/anyone who will listen. We could actively participate around entertainment. Send me any examples you see of this happening, as I’d love to get them posted up here.

Artful Winemaking at Room 214

Glen Elkins, October 7, 2010

Back in August, a company called Artful Winemaker approached us requesting a proposal for the development of a social media strategy and implementation plan for their personal winemaking system. Their goal was to drive unique viewers to the website and educate potential customers about the option of making their own wine.

Artful Winemaker has a good story backed by a well-done blind taste test video and several instructional videos. They have a clean looking website and were already using YouTube and Facebook with some success. We delivered a proposal, and unfortunately, Artful Winemaker decided to go with someone else as our timeline didn’t work for them.

However, they did send us our very own Artful Winemaker and an all-inclusive kit with ingredients for 12 bottles of cabernet / shiraz worth almost $150 (but is currently on sale at ArtfulWinemaker.com for $99) in exchange for spreading the word about this product to our readers.

Making the wine was simple with the help of step-by-step instructions and instructional video. On October 1, our wine was ready for bottling – though it didn’t stay in the bottles long.

Here is me, presenting the wine to the crew:

Here are photos of our co-founders taste tests before we all headed out to the opening day showing of The Social Network:

The Verdict: Our Cabernet / Shiraz blend compares to a $8-10 bottle you might find in your local liquor store, though I think it will be even better once it’s had a chance to settle in the bottle for a few days.

I think it would be fantastic in some of the recipes on the Artful Winemaker website. Especially this sangria recipe. I’m already writing my grocery list…

How Social Media is Changing the Way We Read

Room 214, September 30, 2010

This week, Wendy took a look at the way that social media is impacting television and movies. Today, I’d like to explore books, which are an interesting piece of the entertainment puzzle.

Books Are a Social Badge

I continue to love paper books, because of the experience both while I read them and after I read them.  A book on a shelf is a mark of what I’ve done, what I am interested in, and what I think about. My digital friendships cover international ground, though, and many of those people will never get to see my bookshelf.  Luckily, Good Reads came along and provided me with a digital bookshelf (and social network) so I can share, globally, my story as told through book titles.  It gives me the ability to show others what I am reading, rate and review books I’ve read, and keep a list of things I want to read.

Good Reads also serves as a detailed and socially-relevant recommendation engine. I can browse my feed to see what friends are reading, search for a specific book and read reviews from my friends (and other users), and search through themed lists of books. I can also join groups with specific reading interests. It is neatly integrated with Facebook, as well, and allows for two-way sharing. This is reading, socialized. It doesn’t matter if I am reading a paper book or a digital one.

Books Are Digital

Though my world is digital, I read paper books. I am, apparently, archaic. Consumption platforms have changed entirely, and the impact of e-readers like the Kindle, the iPad, and the Nook have been tremendous. As Wendy noted, Amazon claims Kindle books have been outselling hardcovers by almost 50%.

I took a look at the kinds of things people discuss when they talk about E-Readers so I could get a sense for the features so key to these platforms.

I became really interested by the comparison to a paper book. What comes into play quite a bit is the concept of options. Users love downloading free samples so they can quickly scan for what’s most interesting, and then purchase depending on mood and setting. This leads to a totally different relationship between seller and buyer. I have countless books that I have purchased, read 20 pages of, and abandoned on my shelf. In this scenario, consumers can test drive before purchase. That is a game changer.

Amazon has clearly caught on to this, and just announced the release of Kindle for the Web, which allows for first chapter previews directly from your browser.

Books Have a Social Future

What I see happening is, simultaneously, doors opening and closing for the world of authors, publishers, and distributors. Books are about diving into other people’s lives (real, fictional, and instructional) and thus are, inherently, social experiences. It’s all a matter of how the industry capitalizes on the opportunity (or stumbles, painfully, like the newspaper industry has). Much like how Foursquare lays interesting data on top of a physical plant, social media has the opportunity to lay additional related information on top of a traditionally static document. Exciting, no? I’ll end with a beautiful movie by IDEO that envisions just this: the social, community-building, world-changing future of the book.

How Social Media is Changing Movies

Room 214, September 28, 2010

In yesterday’s post, How Social Media is Changing TV, we explored how TV networks are using social media to encourage viewership. The rise in online movie rental services (like Netflix) and the sudden saturation of cheap do-it-yourself rentals (Redbox), has forced the movie industry to rethink its marketing strategy as well.

In case you haven’t read about Paranormal Activity, it cost $15,000 to make and made $7.9 million at the box office. Before the movie aired, moviegoers could ‘Demand’ that the film be shown in theaters in their city. By creating a (false?) sense of scarcity, letting consumers create their own demand, and then delivering a movie they likely were going to deliver anyway, studios empowered consumers. Based on the box office numbers, this empowerment clearly drove theater attendance.

Now, Paranormal Activity 2 is coming out and they’re using a similar strategy. This time, moviegoers are “Demanding” to see it first.  The 20 cities with the most votes will win a free screening.

The second tactic I want to mention is not a social media strategy, but is too big of a trend to ignore: 3D films. You would have to be living under a rock not to notice the explosion of 3D films coming out as of late. By the end of 2009, 3D screens in the US had grown 129% from the previous year and are likely still on the upswing. Movie producers have figured out that for most consumers, the 3D experience can only be had in theaters.

Unfortunately, this tactic might be short-lived. According to this article, 3D’s box office trajectory is on a downward spiral. High ticket prices may be to blame.

As our consumption patterns continue to change, the question becomes: Will entertainment brands struggle to keep up or wow us with new integration and promotion strategies?  What do you think?

How Social Media is Changing TV

Room 214, September 27, 2010

People are shifting the way they consume content from entertainment brands, which in-turn is changing the way these brands do business.

Read More

Foursquare and Entertainment Brands. Why?

Room 214, August 13, 2010

Location-based mobile apps continue to be the latest rage, with Foursquare leading the pack. It seems like every day there is a new partnership announced, which leaves us social media marketers wondering, “Should we be jumping on the bandwagon?”

I have to admit, there are some pretty innovative Foursquare campaigns out there that help drive traffic and sales for local businesses. But what about entertainment brands? Bravo was the first TV network to partner with Foursquare and, according to Mashable, is one of the top five brands on the platform. They offer tips from their “Bravolebrities” on restaurants, bars, and stores.

History Channel provides Foursquare users with historical facts about locations they check-in to around the country.

MTV took some of their hottest celebs (DJ Pauly D anyone?) and gathered their tips and stories from local hot spots to share with fans.

All of these campaigns are missing something. The bottom line! If you’ve spent any time in the entertainment industry, you know it’s all about ratings and advertising dollars. None of these Foursquare campaigns contribute to that bottom line, because they don’t push traffic to the networks’ websites and they don’t encourage tune-in.  Branded Foursquare campaigns are far from cheap, and we have yet to see any published results from these entertainment campaigns to suggest they’re worthwhile for the brand.

A recent Forrester study finds that only 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used a service like Foursquare. These users skew heavily male and are most receptive to coupons and offers. My conclusion? Leave Foursquare for the retail-based brands.

Don’t get me wrong. I find the History Channel Foursquare tips very cool, and I always want to know what The Situation is doing, but these campaigns are not going to make me tune-in.

What are your thoughts?

World Cup 2010

Room 214, June 18, 2010

World Cup

By any measure, the World Cup is a pretty big deal. 2010′s games will land among the most watched sporting events in history. This time it’s not just about eyes on televisions, though. The last time the world cup came around, Facebook had about 7.5 Million users. Twitter was less than three months old with 500 users. This time? Twitter is peaking at ~3,000 tweets per second when goals are scored.

The experience for the non-attending fan is far richer than before. Aggregators like tweetbeat add context and commentary while watching matches (especialy with the sound off). Location-based networks are helping to bring fans together in the real world. I set off on a rainy Satruday morning to catch the first U.S. match vs England. Foursquare let me know which bars and restaurants the largest groups of people were gathered at and which teams they supported. I ended up at the Drafthouse, which happened to have the biggest U.S. crowd.

For matches during which I’ve been away from televisions and computer, I’ve been using the new version of Hot Potato. This service offers threaded discussions with people who are having the same experience as I am. I was happy when notifications (SMS or Push) became available for sports scores; I’m even happier now with my fully interactive experience. Although the games are taking place 9,000 miles and 8 time zones away, I’m having a better time than I’ve had attending other sporting events in person. [Go USA!]