Entertainment Opinions Social Media Word of Mouth

Did “Call Me Maybe” And Social Media Really Change Music Marketing?

Posted by Adam Leiter on September 19th, 2012 at 7:28 am

Are social media tactics “upending” the music industry, or are they simply becoming recognized as part of an integrated multi-platform approach to marketing?

Summer’s pretty much over, but the beat, as they say, goes on. Don’t think that those summertime music hits (or earworms, depending on your taste...I’m looking at you Gotye) are going away anytime soon. I’ve talked before about what the music industry gets right when it comes to good content and marketing channels, and a recent NYTimes article brings up some interesting points related to how a hit becomes a hit in the new social media-influenced marketing realm.

If anything though, the story in that article isn’t about how social media and artists like Carly Rae Jepsen have wreaked havoc on the “old model” of music marketing and promotion, it’s about how smart marketers have recognized ways to integrate social media into their mix for a stronger and more flexible program. But before even broaching the question of “how can we try to create viral buzz?” marketers need to ask, “do we even have the right content to promote?” The main takeaway from the NYTimes piece is that “Call Me Maybe” struck a chord with a wide audience because it was a fun, catchy song…not because of a grand marketing scheme.

Here‘s what I think are the three most interesting points from the article:

  1. Third party endorsement is critical – Bieber is the social media example here…an established artist recommends an up-and-comer and is able to ignite conversation. But marketers note! This is not a recommendation to start recklessly @ mentioning pop stars to promote your product.
  2. Viral videos have definitively become a driving force in promoting artists – But what really makes a song take off virally is not likely to be the original artist’s video, it’s fan-made copycats or tributes. Through online monitoring that can identify fan videos and commentary, it’s possible to weave unsolicited buzz into a marketing plan…more on that a little later.
  3. Radio (including emerging online streaming radio) is still important – “The song’s trajectory also demonstrates the continuing power of radio, which record executives say is still essential to turn any song — no matter how much online buzz it has — into a genuine smash.”

What this article actually shows, is that social media tactics aren’t “upending” the music industry, they’re simply becoming recognized as part of a synegrated multi-platform approach. The unpredictable nature of the social community, be it positive or negative, presents a challenge to marketers since plans require flexibility and opportunistic variables. As Carly Rae Jepsen’s manager discusses in regards to her Tumblr page of fan tributes “trying to control the energy wasn’t the point.” They’re successfully reacting to that energy, and therefore able to work with it.

If we can recognize where opportunities are being presented and react within brand guidelines, it’s possible to feed even ancillary tactics (a Tumblr page may not have been on the Jepsen radar from the outset) back into the broader marketing ecosystem. As marketers, sometimes the most we can do is put all the right pieces in place for things to get rolling. The social community will ignore or respond, and we need to be able to test, measure and adjust strategy based on where the music takes us.

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