The current music market is so saturated that names both small and big are always looking for ways to stand out. Interesting trends around the release of new music are popping up more and more. 2017 saw a deluge of hip ploys that herald a new era of music marketing. Because why would you want to make the consumer feel like they are being force-fed something when you can make them believe that what you’re selling is all they’ve ever wanted?
360° music videos
Interactivity is the future of music videos. People love to feel in control and even a minimal amount of it will make a difference. 360° or VR music videos use this knowledge expertly and allow for the viewer to feel like a part of the experience when really their say in what happens is inconsequential. Look at Sampha’s 360° video for “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano”. It’s fun to look at his hands and can even serve as a tutorial, but this is just a 2-minute taster, and the beautiful Adwoa Aboah looks just as stunning in two dimensions, so the add-on value is small.
Artists that have used the 360° feature more successfully include Imagine Dragons, whose video for “Believer” gives the audience something new to see in every single corner. Essentially what they’ve created is one video containing a multitude of different videos, and the onlooker can decide which one they like best, or create their own edit by switching between angles.
I’m sure we’ll see many 360° videos in the years to come. From the first (Noa Neal’s “Graffiti” which is hardly a music video and more like a sales pitch for the medium) in 2015 we’ve seen quite a few and it’s only a matter of time until these videos start taking on video game proportions, letting you choose what happens.
Cassettes are back. Who’d have thunk those words would be uttered in 2017. To be fair, they are currently used as a novelty more than anything else. It’s now commonly accepted that we are living in a time where nostalgia is romanticised more than ever before. So is it surprising that people will buy a Stranger Things soundtrack on cassette? Not really. This doesn’t mean that people will actually listen to them (I mean, where do you even find a cassette player?), but it markets the product and people will probably go back onto Spotify to listen to the songs in the way that is most convenient. Added value is that the cassettes are often released as limited edition. Someone who understand that term better than anyone right now is Tyler, the Creator. Linked up with his fashion brand Golf and his deal with Converse, 2017 was golden for him. It’s no surprise that cassettes were also featured.
Playlists are the way forward. I’m not just saying that because I love a good playlist and my “brand” if you could call it that is kind of built around the theme of (seemingly) random collections of awesome music. I don’t think there is a problem with people’s attention span and think this is a baby boomer way of saying that with heightened intelligence (especially around media, data, anything internet) comes boredom. It’s the reason gifted kids end up failing in school: they’re not being challenged in the right ways. I think playlists that offer diverse sounds and genres keep us focussed and interested for similar reasons. How do artists in today’s market deal with this challenge? By giving you exactly what you want. Rather than you doing the research, they’ll give you a comprehensive catalogue of other musicians that inspire them. This doesn’t only make the fan feel more connected to the artist, it also allows the artist to control what their fans listen to, i.e. they can easily sneak up to ten of their own songs into these curated playlists and still get enough streams that way. Curated playlists are now all over Spotify and I expect this trend to continue its growth in the year to come.
Surprise releases appear to be the hottest trend, used by the biggest names in music. In a time when the next best thing is literally minutes away, the best way to cause a stir is by dropping a new product that has been years in the making out of nowhere. Being able to make people scramble to be among the first to have an opinion must be a powerful feeling. I believe that it is exactly this desire that makes this technique so successful. Everyone wants to be a tastemaker, and influencer. This holds true for other media. The reason Netflix releases its new shows in bulk mean that there is a pressure to consume new media as quickly as possible, so as to not be the last to know what the hype is about. But bingeing is not only behaviour that is popular among tv-aficionados. We are constantly being challenged to process fact after fact, whether they be life hacks, videos of French bulldogs in tutus, political discussions, memes, ads, or new music. Yesterday’s news loses relevance so quickly that you really need to shock to retain attention.
Not only do surprise release create a shockwave among fans, it also starts a discussion. Who knew about this already? Is the album on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal? Is there a video? Is there more? When Kendrick Lamar released DAMN. it took no time at all for people to suggest that there might be a second half coming. On top of that, the lack of announcements/campaigns surrounding an album’s release gives a record the (sometimes false) image of being DYI, highly personal. In the current market artists like Frank Ocean and Chance the Rapper are praised for their independence, and it is a very smart move of record labels to mimic this style of working. It appears that this DYI style is the way forward. This doesn’t mean the death of record labels, but it does imply that something will have to change, and that some power will finally be claimed by the artists themselves. Like Kanye rightly says on “New Slaves”: there’s leaders and there’s followers, but…