How DM could save the music industry

The music industry has spent the last ten years trying to slow the irrevocable decline in physical music sales by getting to grips with a new digital reality. It is now turning to direct marketing channels to secure its future.

Record companies and music retailers have clambered to find ways to eke out revenue from alternate sources causing a paradigm shift in the industry.

Monies from live music events have been picked up some of the slack for artists and record companies, while retailers such as HMV have sought to diversify into selling mobile phones and, most recently, clothes.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the thorny issue of illegal digital downloads, said to account for upwards of 75% of all music downloads.

Record companies and artists first sought to counter this by force, launching lawsuits against file-sharing sites, most famously in the case of Metallica vs Napster.

When all damnation achieved was a further explosion in illegal downloading, the industry shifted gear and tried to keep up with prevailing consumer attitudes by developing and charging for their own downloads service.

To some success too, but illegal downloading has created a culture whereby consumers expect to receive free music anytime and any place and means.

There is evidence that the industry has recognised this and adopted the quite adage “if you can’t beat them, join them, but make sure you get potentially lucrative data in return”.

The other day I arrived at the website of superstar DJ Fatboy Slim. The site offered a free summer mix by said superstar DJ.

I eagerly clicked on the link to be presented not with a request for payment but a request for my email address.

It was an exchange that on-balance I was prepared to accept. I get free music, Mr Slim and his management get an email address allowing them to engage with a potentially willing future purchaser of FatBoy merchandise.

Direct marketing such as this helps the music industry create relationships with consumers that expect music to be free. Commercial and cultural realities are only likely to increase these kinds of approaches in the future.

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