How The Music Industry Fails At Marketing

Senior Contributor
07.23.12 13 Comments

I’m not really a “pop music” kind of guy. I’ve never listened to the radio regularly. I stopped watching MTV when I was sixteen. So I’m not quite the key market of the music industry.

But it dawned on me at a wedding I attended this weekend that they’re failing in an important respect: namely, to properly market and differentiate their products. It is “popular” music after all. The entire idea is that everybody owns this stuff and knows what it is, that it’s completely inescapable.

Yet this wedding was filled almost entirely with recent pop music and I realized that in a lot of cases, these are songs I’d heard about, and heard in a sonic wallpaper kind of way at the drugstore or in elevators, but I’d never actually heard as “this is this performer and this is their song.”

Part of that is, I learned, the sheer breakdown of the music industry’s marketing apparatus. Music videos are now expensive attempts at viral videos. Radio is falling apart like a rotting corpse — in major markets, it’s so bad that oldies stations can’t even stay on the air.

And apparently there is literally nothing to replace this as I learned the next day. I was going to go online, find all this music in one place, spend the forty bucks, and finally get at least somewhat up to speed with modern pop culture, dammit!

Except the music industry essentially makes this impossible by failing at basic marketing. I knew it was bad — I cover this industry screwing up all the time — but the depth of how broken their marketing apparatus is is frankly kind of shocking.

Here’s an example: go to Vevo, the music industry’s accepted YouTube channel, and you will find precisely zero videos from the current Top 40 on the front page. Really?! An intern can run a YouTube Top 40 playlist. Instead it’s a tangled mess of genre pages and “recommendations”.

Amazon had the same problem. Granted the site is built around user recommendations and pushing what sells the most, but that’s driven by prices more than popularity. If you’re wondering why Adele keeps hitting number one, check the price of her album at Amazon.

iTunes at least has a Top 40 section but it’s not exactly prominent in the store and it doesn’t seem to be updated in real time, which you’d think would be a stipulation by record labels. It was there that I finally found a “buy-all” option…buried behind about three pages worth of clicking.

In other words, I asked the music industry for the most basic demand in the world: give me your most popular products to buy in a convenient way at a fair price — and they failed. They not only failed, they failed miserably.

It makes me wonder: how many people are just like me? And how much money does the music industry lose by failing to put its most popular songs forward on the internet?

(Pic via Fail Blog)

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