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Bands As Tech-Leading Brands
November 21, 2012
The music industry has been on the forefront of new technology for years. From early and interactive adopters (John Mayer’s Augmented Reality music video back in 2009) to innovative exploration with existing platforms (Arcade Fire’s Google Chrome Experiment) musicians have a brilliant track record of utilizing technology to involve their fans.
As musicians continue to look for ways to engage their audiences they’ve started to act a lot like brands. The widespread availability of music from free sources – and the commoditization of ‘singles’ – has caused artists to work harder to sell albums. This has resulted in musicians creating interactive experiences where they can both collaborate with – and learn more about –their fans. Similar to brands today, the music industry is going above and beyond their products (albums, singles, shows, merchandise) to create more meaningful, salient connections with their audiences. How are they doing it? Just ask Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris: Built-In Dance Party
While most music can be purchased with the push of a button, Calvin Harris’ new album18 Months – requires something a bit different: dancing. That’s right. 18 Months was released last week as an app, which lets anyone listen to the new tracks for free – in full – as long as they’re moving. The idea is to keep people dancing throughout the entire album, which will result in them enjoying it even more. It’s simple, fun and free. As an additional incentive for downloading the app, image recognition unlocks exclusive remixes upon when someone takes a photo of the album cover.
Lady Gaga: Ever-Expanding Social Domination
Lady Gaga is perhaps the most socially savvy artist in the music business. She was the first musician who truly understood how to connect with her fans in social media, building up a highly engaged community across social channels and maintaining a very personal, ongoing conversation with them at all times. Team Gaga continues to innovate and experiment in social and tech faster than most of her peers.
We’ve already covered Gaga’s new social network, LittleMonsters.com, on Curious Fridays. Fans get exclusive Gaga updates and are encouraged to connect with each other around multiple topics and interests. The site already has 1 million registered users and dwell times of around 14-15 minutes. Why create another social network when Gaga is already the most followed musician on Twitter, and second to only Rihanna on Facebook? The move reflects a deep understanding of audience segmentation and a focus on Gaga ‘super fans’. Gaga’s lauded manager, Troy Carter, recently explained to The Guardian UK, “A ‘like’ [on Facebook] doesn’t necessarily translate as a fan. It’s a very passive relationship. It’s more important to have the one million diehard fans, than to have 54 million people who aren’t necessarily fans or they might have liked one thing you said, or one video. It’s being able to segregate those audiences and knowing who the super-fans are.” - PSFK.
Gaga is also venturing in to the mobile space; the superstar recently announced that her next album, ARTPOP, will be an app. The paid-for app will be available on iPhone, iPad, mobile and desktop, and promises chats, film, bonus tracks, games, and even Gaga fashion updates. Team Gaga expects fans to pay for the app for all of the extra content wrapped around the album, providing value beyond the music.
Rihanna: Interactive Album Launch
The Rihanna Navy, as her fans are called, is strong across social media with thousands of pages dedicated to the singer’s fashion, music and personal life. Rihanna has been extremely public with her fans on both Instagram and Twitter, in addition to her massive following on Facebook, strengthening her brand through emotional connections.
To promote her new album, UNAPOLOGETIC, Rihanna launched the #R7 campaign, an interactive gaming experience where fans explore a microsite with the aim of unveiling – or ‘RIHvealing” – clues about the new album. Each week fans are assigned trivia questions, which unlock new missions, content and prizes in preparation for the launch. The experience itself has 37,000 “likes” on Facebook and has been Tweeted over 24,000 times.
Needless to say, a large factor in the success of these examples requires a certain level of built-in loyalty. Lady Gaga and Rihanna are the two biggest artists in the world and in social media (52.5MM and 63.5MM Facebook fans, respectively) allowing them to take advantage of an already engaged fan base. Calvin Harris also has a fairly large international profile as a respected and up-and-coming DJ, singer and producer. Despite their musical talent, though, these artists continue to earn and maintain customer engagement and loyalty by pioneering two-way relationships and exciting value exchanges for their fans.