More Than a Hook: Five Extremes in Music Industry Marketing

Taylor Swift may have tapped into marketing genius after teasing celebrity cameo after cameo via Instagram for her “Bad Blood” music video. The marketing strategy, which meticulously unraveled over weeks through social media, unveiled Sin City/Kill Bill-inspired movie posters of singers (Ellie Goulding, Hayley Williams of Paramore and Selena Gomez), actresses (Jessica Alba, Ellen Pompeo and Mariska Hargitay) and world-class models (Cindy Crawford, Cara Delevigne and Swift’s BFF, Karlie Kloss). All of whom would play characters in Swift’s music video.

The marketing campaign created a frenzy and reached a crescendo as the “Bad Blood” music video premiered at the top of the 2015 Billboard Music Awards. Swift even had the presence of mind to breathe new life into the 1989 hit with two verses from Kendrick Lamar, one of hip-hop hottest MCs. Swift dominated the awards show with eight wins and was the talk of the night. Did T. Swift’s stellar marketing efforts of “Bad Blood lead to her conquering the awards show and catapult her to the number one spot in the music industry yet again?

Although methodical marketing campaigns for new albums is the customary approach in the music industry, there have been artists who have done little to no marketing whatsoever singing or rapping their way to critical acclaim. Beyoncé’s self-titled album Beyoncé was bereft of a marketing campaign. Out of the blue, Beyoncé released one Instagram video post that said, “Surprise!” Immediately, the album released exclusively on iTunes without warning and pleasantly shocked fans in the process. Twitter nearly exploded with 1.2 million tweets and re-tweets within a 12 hour span to spread the news of Beyoncé’s new album. In three days, Beyoncé sold 828,773 copies worldwide, setting the records for the largest single week in the history of the U.S. iTunes Store and fastest-selling iTunes’ album worldwide. Is T. Swift’s over-saturation of “Bad Blood” from a marketing perspective more effective than Beyoncé’s element of surprise, non-marketing strategy?

Kanye West—doesn’t seem right to have a Taylor Swift article without mentioning him—deployed an avant-garde marketing technique for his Yeezus album. On May 24, 2013, thousands of bystanders in 12 different cities across the country witnessed Kanye’s face projected onto landmark buildings, museums, buildings on college campuses and deserted penitentiaries. The projections debuted Kanye’s new song “New Slaves.” Despite the extreme creativity, the guerrilla marketing failed; city authorities shut down the projections, because major cities do not welcome unannounced gatherings.

Moreover, Brian Epstein, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who famously managed the Beatles, may be the best marketer in music industry history. He teased the arrival of the Beatles to America for months. He didn’t market the music. Epstein marketed them individually as people, a brand, through fashion—early 1960s mod suits—hair, radio, television, humor, toys, etc. If the music industry has taught us anything from a marketing perspective, differentiating yourself from your competitors and maintaining a constant voice in the market is paramount.

Taylor’s and Beyoncé’s marketing strategies reside on opposite end of the spectrum, yet they have one thing in common—creativity. Due to their vast social media reach, both artists can put little to no thought or effort into marketing “Bad Blood” and Beyoncé, and people will offer their undivided attention and present their hard earned dollars to purchase. Unless you have 53 million Facebook followers, 14 million Twitter followers, 8 million Instagram followers and your name is Beyoncé, word of mouth marketing is not your best option. Swift’s marketing strategy is the victor. It takes strategy, time and creativity to influence or compel people to care about your product and brand. Finding the right digital marketing agency with the creative skill set to promote your brand and disseminate your message to the right audience, at the right time, is the best course of action.

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