Even as a young music lover, I’ve seen the music industry evolving over the past years. Today, streaming services form an important distribution platform for music, with Gen Z even growing up using these as their main entry point to music. GenYers, like myself, probably still remember the time when obtaining music was mainly done via peer-to-peer channels such as Kazaa, Bearshare and BitTorrent, while physical releases, such as CD and vinyl, were more important for older generations.
Last year, InSites Consulting bundled today´s marketing beliefs in three main Brand Religions: the Penetration Religion, the Influencer Religion and the Relationship Religion. When looking at how music is marketed nowadays, we can see a close link with branding and the use of different branding frameworks. In a series of three blogposts, we will shed a light on each of the three Brand Religions with regards to the music industry, as music is considered a religion by some.
Hot tweetaway: Applying @InSites #BrandReligion to the #musicindustry. Discover 2 #musicreleases following the Penetration Brand Religion insit.es/2DkMjHD by Mike Broeren via @CoolBrands #U2 #Radiohead #musicmarketing #nextgen
Releasing an album always has been and still is a key moment for artists and bands to generate attention and buzz. If we make the link to branding, do album releases fit into the Brand Religions? In this blogpost, we will focus on two releases which fit into the Penetration Religion.
Let’s start with a short recap. The Penetration Religion is based on research by Byron Sharp and Andrew Ehrenberg, which shows that penetration (i.e. growing your customer base) is the most important driver for growth. This is in contrast with more conventional marketing thinking which states that sales growth can come from both growth in customer base (penetration) and purchase frequency. Yet research by Sharp highlights that penetration is almost linearly correlated with market share, while purchase frequency does not differentiate much across brands in a given sector. Competing brands have the same purchase frequency, which means this is not an accurate predictor of market share. Furthermore, loyalty, which most marketers strive for, is not as strong as people think. The Pareto rule (80% of revenues is made by 20% of our customers) does not apply and 100% brand loyalty does not exist. Therefore, according to this religion, each customer is equally important.
What should we do to reach as much penetration as possible according to this religion? Brands should undertake two main actions in their marketing:
1. Build (mental and physical) availability
Mental availability refers to your brand being top-of-mind when the need for your product arises. Think about Red Bull being top-of-mind when a consumer thinks about “the need for energy”. So be top-of-mind and be salient with regard to substitutes and competitors.
Physical availability refers to your brand being available (easy to purchase in as many buying situations as possible) when the need arises. Think about Coca-Cola’s “within arm’s reach of desire”.
2. Repeat brand activations through mass marketing. You should focus on all consumers and not on a select few.
So, let’s take a look at two album releases which use this thinking.
U2’s mass penetration via Apple
If you are an Apple lover, you might remember the 2014 release of U2’s ‘Songs for Innocence’. Apple paid the band a large fee to (pre-)release the album which Apple then released for free as a surprise gift for account holders of the Apple iTunes Store. By doing so, the album was installed on the phones of 500 million people. In their press release, Bono stated: “From the very beginning, U2 always wanted our music to reach as many people as possible […] It’s exciting and humbling to think that people who don’t know U2 or listen to rock music for that matter might check us out.”. This approach, one could argue, was a solid way to increase their user base (one of the core principles behind the Penetration Religion).
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So how did it work out?
The Apple wasn’t exactly small, since the 11 songs took up 60MB of space. Hence, the gift wasn’t appreciated by everyone. Some consumers even felt Apple harmed their privacy. As a result, Apple was forced to build a tool to easily delete the album from the iTunes Store, which, in a way, could be considered as their admission of failure. Furthermore, U2 might have found out they were not as relevant as they used to be. Research has shown that about one in four Apple users actually listened to U2 via the giveaway. U2 however managed to sell out 76 concerts in the tour following the release. Yet the question remains whether they managed to sustainably grow their user base, or whether the users were only existing fans who would show up anyway.
Really, it’s up to you – pay Radiohead what you want
Early 21st century, it was all about the leaking of albums, just think of Napster. For their much-anticipated album, Kid A, Radiohead decided not to provide their record label with singles or videos and they basically avoided the press. However, their label pre-released the album via one of the first streaming services available on 1,000 selected websites. Within hours, the album had been rerouted and was distributed unofficially via Napster, which frustrated the band largely (although this caused a hype and the album entered the Billboard charts as #1).
Radiohead no longer wanted anyhing to do with the traditional press-driven hype releases, so when the contract with their former label finished, they decided to take up their own management. For the launch of their latest album, they decided to leak it themselves. This new album, In Rainbows, was released via InRainbows.com, where people could download it for a limited time and pay as much (or as little) as they wanted. Later on, a deluxe box of the album also became available. Radiohead can be considered as a pioneer using a Pay Your Own Price (PYOP) strategy.
So, how did it work out?
No accurate numbers exist on the actual sales of the PYOP release. Both the band and the publisher said the online and in-store sales were very good. In Rainbows peaked on the #1 spot in the charts and went on to sell millions. Despite the album being available freely, piracy takeout even increased compared to other albums, so in a way the original goal of Radiohead did not succeed. However, in terms of physical and mental availability, Radiohead did a good job with their new album. The industry talked about them and obtaining the album (i.e. physical availability) was as easy as ever. And the album also grew their user base with at least one (taking into account myself).
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Penetration Religion in music
We have seen two examples from the music industry of releases which fit into the Penetration-Religion thinking. The U2 example may have been more marketing-driven than the Radiohead example. Nowadays, with the success of streaming services, music is becoming increasingly more available. However, not all music releases are increasing physical and mental availability, as we will see in the next posts, so stay tuned!
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