‘Music marketing needs to be audience led’

The record industry has done a “poor” job at marketing in the past by focusing on artists and not audiences, according to one of Sony Music’s top marketers.

michael jackson
Michael Jackson, who appears on Sony’s roster

Speaking at commercial radio body RadioCentre’s member conference earlier this week, vice president of marketing services at Sony Music Fred Bolza said declining sales of high-margin CDs and the drift towards single track downloads and streams has presented music industry marketers with the “challenge of reinventing the industry”.

In more buoyant times for music sales, Bolza added, the industry had taken an artist-first approach to marketing with little regard for the needs of the audience, “unit based and not consumer based”, he said.

Previously, he continued, music industry marketers’ primary relationship was with retailers, with campaigns not progressing beyond ads that declared that the artist’s latest was “out now”.

“We have struggled because as a business we were obsessed by charts – an unholy, seething mess – but we are going to a place where you plan by audience and not by artist”.

Sony – which has Labrinth, Usher and Michael Jackson on its roster – now takes an “audience backwards approach”, Bolza said, employing the kind of marketing tools – consumer data analysis, segmentation, targeting – familiar to marketers in most other sectors but previously under used by the music industry.

A data-led approach should not come at the expense of “gut feeling” about an artist’s appeal, however, but should “go hand in hand with a passion for audiences”, Bolza added.

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