Looking at the 2016 Standouts in Music Marketing

It is widely known that music sales have been declining for years due to numerous factors. One factor is the emergence of digital streaming and another because of consumers getting access to free music illegally. With these problems it makes it very important for artist and their labels to find creative ways to get the music consumers attention and to get them interested into purchasing music. In December of 2013 one of the biggest stars in the world, Beyoncé, introduced her long-awaited self-titled album “BEYONCÉ” unexpectedly. This way of marketing caught the entire world off-guard. Earlier in the years she performed at the super bowl, and at the time she was in a middle of a world tour. Saying this album release was shocking would be an understatement. Marketing tactics like this and other well thought strategic plans is what the music marketing and promotion is turning into. In 2016 we saw multiple artist attempt to use game-changing unique marketing strategy to introduce their new work to the world, and here are a few of them:


  • Rihanna – “Anti” (Album Release Promotion)
    • Pop music’s bad girl took longer than anticipated (4 years) to release her highly anticipated 7th studio album. On January 28th, 2016 she released her album “Anti” for free through the streaming service Tidal. Two days after the album was released it was announced that the album was certified platinum by the RIAA, due to a deal that the star made with Samsung. Individuals who had a Samsung phone received a special code to download the album, and the first million Samsung users who downloaded it received the album for free. A very interesting Marketing Strategy.

  • Kanye West – “The Life of Pablo” (Album Release and Fashion Show)
    • One of the most prolific rappers of all-time is also one of the most creative entertainers that the world has ever seen, if you let him tell it. I do have to give him credit on being one of the most creative musical acts of his time. This was displayed in 2016 when his highly anticipated 8th album, “The Life of Pablo”, was released. The promotion for the album was very confusing. He changed the name of the album a few times and he changed the release date often. This project has an unfinished quality about it which made some of his fans scratching his head. There was a method to his madness and during his “Yeezy 3” fashion show and debuted his long awaited album as well his clothing line to a packed Madison Square Garden, filled with his family, associates, peers, fans, and critics. So marketed his music with his clothes, which is an interesting concept. For weeks the album could only be heard on Tidal. This album became the top album ever streamed online with 250 million streams in the first 10 days and 400 million streams in the first 6 weeks before it was released to other streaming platforms.

  • Gwen Stefani & Target – “Make Me Like You” (Live Music Video)
    • At the 2016 Grammy’s something happened that never happened before, a live music video was broadcasted. Rocker Gwen Stefani teamed with target to produce a live music video for her then new single “Make Me Like You”. There was a lot of practice and preparation that went into being able to pull this off, and it was very risky to do it in front of the biggest night in music. This unique way of marketing her single didn’t help with the sales or the popularity of the song. However, it is still a tactic that maybe could work for another assist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uljUDtv1Kw
  • Beyoncé – “Lemonade”
    • It might seem crazy but she did it again! This time is was a little different but it was still centered-around the element of surprise (and the Super Bowl). Days before the Super Bowl she randomly released a video called, Formation. The video and song immediately went viral and days later she surprised the world again by making a guest appearance performing at the Super Bowl for the 2nd time in 4 years! Right after she her performance at the Super Bowl she had a commercial announcing her stadium world tour, which sold out immediately. Weeks later she announced that she would be releasing her album a week before the tour starts. However, this wouldn’t just be considered a regular album, this was a visual album that debuted on HBO before it was released on any streaming site or any other retailer. The rollout of this album along with the music, content and theme of the album made this one the most critically acclaimed albums of all time. Most have considered “Lemonade” her greatest body of work because of everything that went into the album. She performed elaborate mind-blowing performances to literally every song off the album on the biggest music stages in the world (MTV Awards, BET Awards, Grammys, Country Music Awards, Tidal X, Super Bowl). These are the biggest formats that music has to offer and she promoted her album on these shows. To cap it off at the end of the year the Formation Tour was rated the top tour of that year. She did 49 shows and grossed  $256 million.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60aCpaG2S6E


These are amazing feats by these artist but this shows how strategic you have to be as an artist now. Artist have to learn an authentically-unique way to market themselves to make them appealing to the music consumer so they ultimately want to support them. I believe we are in a time where music consumers want to see that artist are putting their all into their music, videos, and shows. They want to see top-level entertainment and thought in an artist’s work before they support them financially. Music marketing is growing into a creative and interesting field.

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3 Responses to Looking at the 2016 Standouts in Music Marketing

  1. tojo says:

    It really is interesting to see how musicians have to market themselves, with the rise of streaming and other ways of “free” access to music. I think for these artists in particular, because they already are currently big stars with massive followings, tactics like surprise visual albums, free downloads, and a album/clothing line drop at MSG work and are helpful and seeming innovative. I but wonder how helpful these types of marketing tactics are or would be for up and coming artists who don’t yet have many fans or press waiting for them to make their next move. Of course there is the added notion that free streaming aids the process of getting new artists’ music out into the ether, helping them to gain more followers, Chance the Rapper’s success comes to mind here. But because of the ease in releasing music in this manner, there are a lot more acts that new musicians must compete with for listener’s attentions.

    There are also examples of free download marketing not being as successful, even for successful artists. I recall, for example, the year when U2’s album automatically downloaded to everyone’s iTunes, which many Apple users complained about, forcing Bono to issue an apology. So, I too am curious to see how music industry marketing will continue to evolve.

  2. giotta says:

    People used to record songs off the radio to cassette tapes. Then, came the torrent sites, and now were have freemium platforms like Pandora and Spotify, where people can get all their music for free. Therefore, consumers stealing music is nothing new for the music industry. However, what has changed is the ease and method for attaining free music.

    In the days of recording songs to cassette tapes, people were still forced to listen to the radio. This meant they were still being exposed to large amounts of advertising and marketing. This would come in the form of commercials breaks and DJs promoting sponsors.

    The new aged torrent sites and platforms have little to no advertisements at all. So, it makes sense that artists have resorted to publicity stunts to gain attention. They must rely on generating buzz across social media since there has been a steady shift away from traditional radio and television marketing.

    I do not believe that consumers “stealing” music is a bad thing for the music industry though. It lessens the commitment of consumers. People no longer need to spend 15 – 20 dollars on an album they may or may not like. This allows artist to broaden the reach of their music. I think this is extremely important for artists because live performances are where real profits can be made.

    • pietro says:

      I agree with you on a lot of points, but also think that streaming websites are truly bad. I know the debate on paying the ticket to access art is always open. Should I pay a ticket to see a museum containing an artistic work that marked a milestone for our time? should I pay a ticket to see a less known work of art? Should I pay a fee to listen music from an artist, when I can find it for free online? Should I pay the ticket to a concert? shouldn’t art be public for all? isn’t exposure the highest form of compensation an artist could get?
      I don’t think so.

      Like an engineer wouldn’t give away for free an elaborate code that can help a platform classify millions of data more efficiently, or like a bakery would never give away for free all the cakes. To make music, as to make codes and cakes, requires time and resources. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills for most artists that, like most small entrepreneurs, haven’t found the key to transforming their business into a cash cow like Rihanna and Jay-z did.

      We all download things for free with streaming services. is it a problem? I don’t have an answer for this, but free streaming is not a solution. Rather, it is a hint to a mechanism that is broken: regulating access to music. Spotify did a good job to solve the issue, but its prices are still perceived as too high for a lot of consumer that are used to YouTube and free streming. An interesting question for a marketer would be: How do we persuade people that they will have a benefit paying for access to music? what value might we give to consumers, when asking for fees? Is it just access that people look for? are they interested in personalized curation and social features? how to build a system that outperform Spotify in providing all of this?