CHAPTER 2: Communicating With Our Sophisticated Audience
OUR MARKET’S SOPHISTICATION
Effectively communicating with our overexposed audience.
It is important that you appreciate how sophisticated your audience of music fans truly are. Simply put, understanding market sophistication means that your record label understands exactly how familiar your audience is with the type of product you are selling. It also considers how desensitized your market might be to the types of marketing that is common in your industry. For example, the simple act of an independent artist releasing an EP on Spotify often feels ignored by the public. This is because it is no longer the novel accomplishment it may have been in the past. The sophistication of your audience simply means they are harder to impress.
Acknowledging and understanding this concept of market sophistication will help you develop marketing strategies that are unorthodox, original, and innovative. It should help you avoid lazy or overused promotional tactics. A record label isn’t automatically entitled to an attentive audience, that is something you must earn.
Customers aren’t beholden to your company unless you have something novel and exciting, something that provides value.
Here are a few ways you can communicate with a sophisticated audience…
1. Highlighting your Unique Selling Point
The simplest way to elevate the communication with your audience is to clearly state your label’s unique selling point. Fans have endless options when it comes to finding new music, it is important that when they find you, they know why and how your label is special. This can be easily accomplished by declaring your value statement on your website, social media bios, or through your label’s regular communications.
Examples of a unique selling point for a record label might be a label that operates as an official not-for-profit, a record label/recording studio hybrid, a collective for both filmmakers and recording artists, or some other unusual and exciting value proposition. At the very least, you showcase your label’s identity by way of a cohesive aesthetic of your releases, a consistent genre, or a commitment to your local geographic region.
2. Creating Meaningful Connections
In today’s economy, consumers demand more meaningful connections. Purchases are no longer simply transactional; they are expected to be transformative.
Therefore, your emphasis needs to shift from whatever the widget is or what it does, to how it contributes to the identity and ideals of the end user. Put simply, how does what you do as a record label directly impact people’s lives?
You can accomplish this style of marketing by focusing on the results instead of the features. This can be done by strategically communicating the feelings and emotions your listeners receive when experiencing your releases, or by highlighting the impact that their financial contribution has on the lives of the artists they love.
3. Maximizing Transparency
I was interviewing a record label owner not too long ago who was telling me about the various complaints they receive from customers who order vinyl from their store. Some of the complaints centered around shipping costs, pre-order delays, or why they weren’t pressing more vinyl once a record has sold out. During this conversation, we realized that the problem wasn’t with the label, nor was it an issue of an entitled customer. The problem stemmed from the fact that most music fans don’t know how the music industry works. Hence, when they see a vinyl record priced at $40, with an international shipping cost of $25, they’ll assume the record label is greedy, or at best, out of touch. Open communication and transparency will help enlighten your customers to the challenges that come with running a record label. Don’t assume they know how everything works; they don’t live and breathe this industry like you do. Be empathetic and compassionate to their lack of understanding and find unique ways where you can educate them in a non-patronizing way. Show them how everything works, dispel myths, be forthcoming about manufacturing costs, supply chain issues, or shipping charges that are out of your control.
A record label that is aware of their market’s sophistication is a label that can create more impactful and empathetic products. You’ll be able to communicate the significant impact of the artist/fan relationship more effectively, and you should always be looking for ways to develop and nurture that relationship.
Find ways to clarify and communicate what makes your label unique in the music industry. Bring your customers into the experience of making music, enlighten them of how record labels operate, and the role they play in an artist’s career.
In the music industry, the audience doesn’t really care about the utility of a piece of music. Instead, they define value in terms of emotions, how the music makes them feel. For this reason, record labels must strive to connect on a more personal level with their audience, to focus less on the features (vinyl colors, recording quality, vanity metrics) and focus more on the feeling the art invokes.
Avoid being patronizing or pedantic to your audience. Understand that, unlike you, they don’t live in the weeds of the music industry daily. Be empathetic to their desire to enjoy great music and support the artists they love.
There’s a label called This and That Tapes from Philadelphia who has an extremely novel way of distributing digital music. When a customer purchases a cassette tape off them, they include a “digital rip” of the cassette. This means that the label has undergone the arduous task of digitally recording the playback of the actual cassette tape. These digital audio files now have the “sound” of playing a tape, but with the convenience of an mp3. It is a unique way to distribute music digitally, and it’s something I’ve never seen done before!