Not many people are mourning digital technology’s takedown of the once-mighty music industry. But in today’s music landscape, who is looking out for the 16-year-old kid — or the 16-year-old inside all of us — whose only chance at impressing someone was a painstakingly made mixtape?
OK, I’m exaggerating, but these days most of us share music via social-media links of YouTube clips, music blogs and song streams. We share quickly, at our desks, on the go — and often almost without thought. Heck, today you can share music without ever even listening to it.
The good news is that there’s more great music to discover than ever before — and more and more people are sharing it. The bad news, at least from my music-nerd perspective, is in the quality of our interactions.
Back in the glory days of the cassette (as tangible a medium as there’s ever been), sharing was a whole lot more involved. It often incorporated a slew of disciplines: writing (a clever title), design (a hand-drawn cover), curation (song order meant everything), QA (you didn’t give out a special mixtape without testing it), etc.
By the time you shared your one-of-a-kind mixtape, you practically felt as if you’d had a hand in making the music on it. In other words, sharing was personal.
As the guy at Leo Burnett who handles the relationships between bands and musicians and our clients, I’ve got to ask a follow-up question as well: Is there a role that brands can play in enhancing our music-sharing experiences?
Brands, of course, have long used music to harness its power and appeal — initially via commercials and tour sponsorships and now via digital content and brand-owned festivals. None of these things are going away anytime soon. But none of them exactly qualify as sharing, either.
More and more of our clients, though, are realizing the value of ideas and programs that invite people to feel a part of their brands, or to “participate” with them. In other words, brands want to reach people in the same way our favorite bands and musicians always have done.
If ever there were a perfect time for brands to help music (not just co-opt it) and help their consumers enjoy it, it’s now.
I won’t pretend to have one omnibus answer for how all brands can work with musicians, composers, singers and bands in a way that will create the brand participation they seek while facilitating a richer kind of music sharing. (If I’ve learned anything at my job, it’s that what’s right for one brand may be wrong for another.)
If your brand or product exists to make people's lives happier, then share positive vibes playlists on social media and encourage people to tell you which artists make them smile. If your brand exists to bring a moment of relaxation to peoples lives, find a way for people to fuse music into product usage during leisurely moments. If you think your product is simply a utility item (ahem, vacuum cleaners), and can't possibly play into music sharing . . . challenge people to co-create the ultimate bass and melody heavy soundtrack for jamming out above the hum of their vacuums!
Every human being shares music in some way — so every brand should be able to find an unforced, fun way to do the same.