Music can still play to the audience's tune

The music industry might have changed beyond all recognition, but tapping into audiences' passions is as crucial as ever.

Alan Edwards: "People no longer have the time and patience to sit through an entire album."
Alan Edwards: "People no longer have the time and patience to sit through an entire album."

As we know, the world of content is undergoing seismic change and music is no exception.The decline of the record industry has been fast and spectacular. Sales have been declining at an alarming rate as the digital world hopefully takes up the slack.

One stark statistic highlights how tough things are: this is the first time in almost three decades that there was no million-album-selling artist in the UK in 2013.

It’s not just about a change in format: it’s the purchasing habits of a generation that are different. People no longer have the time and patience to sit through an entire album; they buy individual songs now.

From the record industry point of view this shift creates massive challenges. Artists are also disconcerted by the loss of the album format as it restricts their ability to write entire pieces of music as opposed to selling individual songs.

But we shouldn’t completely confuse the record industry with the music industry. There are plenty of sectors of in rude health, notably music publishing, which is not always visible but continues to generate enormous revenues.

The other area that has seen a massive boom is, of course, live music. Arguably London has seen some of its greatest concerts ever over the past few years, including the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park shows last summer, Led Zeppelin’s reunion, Prince 21 Nights at the O2 and the return of Leonard Cohen ­– and that’s just for starters.

Bon Jovi became the biggest live music act in the world last year. Their global touring revenues are the equivalent of some smaller countries’ whole economic output and they’re a band that have long recognised the importance of their brand as a business. In Spain, where purse strings are tight to say the least, Bon Jovi took the long-term view of maintaining and growing audiences by bucking the trend and reducing ticket prices to under €20 for many of their gigs.

Brands’ associations with music are more important than ever. With communication channels fragmenting, brands are seeing greater returns from tapping into the passion of audiences and nurturing that passion by helping fans to get closer to the artists they love.

Like me, millions of people love live music and as long as any brand involved with an event is not just crashing the party but helping to create a greater sense of passion on the day, they will be welcomed further with open arms. Content is king yet again.

From a PR and marketing perspective it’s a case of constantly rethinking our strategies. The audiences’ consumption habits may change but, if anything, music becomes ever more a part of people’s lives and continues to be one of the UK’s greatest exports. The words may have changed but the song still remains the same.

Alan Edwards is CEO of Outside Organisation

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