Music: I Knew You Were Trouble

Mike Fairburn, General Manager at Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, offers his thoughts on how music should be used more effectively by PRs and Marketers in the region…

 “Music skirts around the brand’s edges when really the two of them should be hitting the dance floor and doing the greatest Rumba we’ve ever seen.”

See what I’ve done there? Used a Taylor Swift track to cleverly set up my theme: Do regional brands see music and think ‘trouble’?

Well, to many professional PRs and marketers in the region music is a bit of an enigma; something we all know, and love, but somehow struggle when it comes to building meaningful brand campaigns. Brands flirt with it. Dabble here and there. Music skirts around the brand’s edges when really the two of them should be hitting the dance floor and doing the greatest Rumba we’ve ever seen.

It feels like trouble, but it isn’t really – it’s the world’s single most powerful communication tool. Music is the world’s number one leisure pursuit, number one driver of social traffic, number one reason for visiting YouTube and one of the biggest drivers of mobile data consumption. In some countries, music accounts for up to 60% of time spent online. In 2014, music was streamed over 400 billion times. We estimate there are 40+ million records in existence. It’s rapid, it’s everywhere, and it links us all; every culture, background and language.

This region has over 350 million listeners and one of the youngest listening groups on the planet (68% under the age of 34). Mobile penetration is through the roof with the growth of Internet penetration not far off. Music is interweaved with the heritage of Arabia, and Western music remains as popular as ever with major international platforms Apple Music and Guvera entering the market this year. Yet still, we see few examples of brands committing, long term, to deep music engagement – or ‘music platforms’ as we call them in the industry.

So why aren’t more regional brands hurling themselves into music?

There are many theories of course; budgets, agency priorities, global and local brand guidelines, traditional media spending or simply bad advice, but one reason is a lack of clear navigation around how to relate to and activate in music. Take sports, art and film. They all share one commonality – deep analytics, and a tried and tested model of brand activation.

For sports this model includes title sponsorship, a logo on advertising, activation stand at a stadium, crowd giveaways, a corporate meet and greet, TV exposure analysis – leading to brand approval.

For art, there’s a VIP screening evening, a ‘young talent’ sponsored work display, meet n greet with artists and access for gallery influencers – leading to brand approval.

For film, the model uses product placement in the movie, talent interviews, premiere tickets, inclusion in launch communications and a cinema and TV distribution report  – leading, again, to brand approval.

When it comes to music there’s, err… no logo, no stand, no giveaways, no VIP screening, no meet and greet… so no one seems to be sure of what to approve!

Well, I’ve had a 16+ year career taking brands from the err’s to the extremely satisfied mmm’s and I can tell you all of the above is happening right now for many brands in music. All of these brands shared a feeling that music was important to their DNA in some way, but to commit they needed clear guidance, insights, return on investment, and transparency in execution. Ticking these boxes is the way we make music meaningful and effective.

So in summary, whether you’re a brand that feels there’s something in music, have a long standing history working with music, or you have no idea but are sure you need to tap into young people across the region – you can do it and it can be tracked, tested and evaluated. There’s never been a better time for regional brands to enter the music space errs – it’s as easy as in sport, art and film.