Music streaming brands need to prove they are more than freebies

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We7’s revelation that it is exploring the use of games and quizzes was an important step in streaming brands proving they are useful services in their own right rather than just facilitators for free music.

The UK service, which trails Spotify by just 1.5 million users, despite the lack of Facebook endorsement, is exploring new developments that will ensure users’ eyeballs stay on the music player, rather than drifting off to another site or the washing up.

The opportunity for brands here is obvious: an audience that is willing to interact with your content, for perhaps longer than the usual digital display offer because it is soundtracked by their own playlists rather than music at the creative director’s choice.

One of the biggest bug bears of big music fans (read: snobs) is that current streaming services don’t offer much of an opportunity to explore. They can listen to music, have a look at a very basic chart that details their listening habits and…well…not a whole lot else.

No wonder people are using music services in the background and exploring other sites in different tabs that offer them more.

Music streaming sites need to offer more than just libraries of tracks if they are going to prove to brands they are a worthwhile platform for them to stick their advertising spend.

Audio interruptions from trained voiceover specialists between songs certainly make listeners sit up and take notice – although more often than not in irritation – but if users aren’t even looking at the screen at the same time they surface, it’s difficult to drive click through and, most importantly, purchase.

Dominic Barker, We7’s senior vice president of ad sales, told me at the IAB Audio conference about one idea proposed by the team for a motors brand to ensure users interact with their content. The idea was an interactive map, in which users could “visit” various music-related cities by controlling a virtual car. They could then play a “beat the intro” game and share their scores with friends.

This isn’t necessarily ground breaking but I’d be surprised if it isn’t effective. It’s relevant to the brand (well, in as much as there’s a car involved), the context is right and the sharing and competitive element means users are likely to interact with it more than once.

Users of music streaming services are currently users in the most offensive definition of the word. They’re not particularly brand loyal; they’ve signed up to the most convenient service that means they don’t have to dig out their credit card to legally download or visit a record shop.

Brands can help change users of online music services into customers and even brand ambassadors. By applying simple sponsored content, such as games, quizzes or celebrity radio stations, they can change the perception of music streaming from being the freebie to becoming a platform consumers will visit again and again for entertainment and interaction – with a little of their favourite albums on the side.

If you have produced a digital campaign that has delivered brilliant business results then enter the Marketing Week Engage Awards 2012 by visiting www.marketingweekawards.co.uk

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