Since the beginning of the recorded music business, record labels have had in-house A&R teams – individuals responsible for discovering, signing and developing ‘content partnerships’ with emerging talent. Their job was (and is) to develop a scouting network to keep track of the hundreds – thousands, even – of performers emerging on the scene locally every year and to make sure they reached future stars first.
In the brand world, there was no equivalent. There was no need for such a team. All content relevant to customers was made in-house or through agencies and distributed through paid media. Consumers never saw anything other than content the brand wanted them to see.
Brands losing control
The only other influencers of sales came from a relatively small community of national and local journalists within traditional print, radio and TV. Most of these were well known to the brand’s PR team – and, crucially, that group rarely changed. The discovery of new creators or influencers was easy. But all that has changed. Brands and their agencies have lost control.
User-generated content or, perhaps better named, consumer-generated content reaches a significantly larger audience than official branded media on social platforms.
This new generation of opinion-formers create and upload content with images and views on brands, products, services, media and tech on a constant basis, and build incredibly engaged audiences that are overtaking traditional media in terms of influence. As a result, journalists are no longer the most important drivers of sales – they are being replaced by a vast number of independent, authentic ‘amateur’ brand fans.
One of today’s key challenges in PR and comms is discovering, tracking and partnering this talent – 365 days a year, 24/7. It is about seeing through all the social noise and filtering out the key individuals who PR teams and brands need to partner.
Brands and PR teams are now confronted with the same challenges that record companies have wrestled with since they started. At Instrumental, we are calling for brands to respond by starting their own A&R departments.
In fact, this may be the only time in history where consumer products and services businesses can learn something from the music sector – which has, to date, struggled to cope with the disruptions and opportunities presented by the digital age. But, in the structure and goals of A&R teams, we find a solution to the challenges presented by the digital content world and influencer marketing.
We set up Instrumental to develop the skills, through a combination of technology and team expertise, to find new musicians around the world emerging on social-video platforms. We now scout globally for Warner Music Group – but one of the first questions we had from non-music businesses interested in what we were doing was could we discover talent for them?
Nearly every brand said they were tired of seeing the same influencers presented by management companies. All were weary of the increasing fees charged by the first generation of online stars. And they were frustrated by the lack of quality analytics, measurement and reporting, and were convinced there must be more talent out there than their intern could discover through native search.
And, of course, that is true; organic search discovers nothing. Google’s algorithm was set up to show you things it thinks you like based on previous search and not new, undiscovered and hard-to-reach content – while Facebook, Instagram and Vine are not oriented to discovery. This challenge is exactly why brands will have to begin A&R processes and hire in-house or third-party teams to support them.
The top five reasons for brands to get into A&R
THERE ARE SO MANY INFLUENCERS
CONSUMERS ARE INFLUENCERS
THINGS CHANGE EVERY DAY
INFLUENCE IS GLOBAL
INFLUENCE GETS EXPENSIVE
Case study: Channel 5’s Lip Sync Battle UK and Impractical Jokers UK
Creative solution/Execution: Lip Sync battle UK
As well as promoting official show trailers, the artists performed their own lip sync, encouraging their audience to do the same. One influencer was selected to attend the filming of the show, creating a backstage vlog, interviewing presenter Mel B and Professor Green and performing his lip sync on stage.
Creative solution/Execution: Impractical Jokers UK
The original production crew filmed the hilarity, and the influencers then shared content on their YouTube channels while promoting the show across all social platforms.
Results/impact: Lip Sync Battle UK
Results/impact: Impractical Jokers UK
To find out more about how brand A&R could work for you, email: firstname.lastname@example.org