The Death of the Music Album

Katy Perry's Prism isn't getting off to a colourful start (courtesy of The Katy Perry Wiki)

Katy Perry is a global mega-star.

Her music videos on YouTube generate hundreds of million views (over 201 million for "Roar"). Her Facebook fan page has almost 60 million "likes". Over 47 million followers worship her on Twitter. Her hits (like "Fireworks" and "Teenage Dream") are so well known that anybody from school kids to grandparents are humming along to their melodies.

Despite being catapulted to super stardom, her latest album only sold 287,000 copies for its debut. Media magnet Miley Cyrus hardly did better. Her fourth studio album "Bangerz" didn't even hit 45,000 copies in its 4th week of release.

Compare these results to N'Sync's "No Strings Attached" in 2000 which sold 2.4 million copies in its first week. Or even Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" which sold close to 412,000 copies in its first week (source: Wikipedia).

What in the world has happened to our mega-stars?

Well, according to this article in Variety, our consumption patterns have changed. Quoting the article:

"Labels are no longer in the record business, they’re in the star business. How to maximize the revenue of an individual or band in as many media as possible, in as many ways as possible. Yes, while you were bitching about piracy, your whole business model disappeared."

Those closely following the music business would know that revenue for musicians now comes from multiple streams - advertisements on YouTube, endorsements, concerts, merchandise, ringtone downloads, i-Tune song purchases, and so on. Nobody wants to buy or listen to an entire album of 10 to 15 songs when they only love one or two singles.

Quoting Variety once again, the following aptly describes our current consumption phenomena:

"We’ve turned into a nation of grazers. And the artist’s job is to constantly be at the smorgasbord. Not to deliver one big meal that is picked at and thrown away, but to constantly provide tantalizing bites to the public."

How does this relate to our jobs as marketers of content oriented products or services?

Well, if you think of your product as a brand, the objective here may be more about providing varied branded experiences on multiple platforms than dishing out a singular "bundled" product every once in a while.

Keep your customers constantly engaged. Feed them with helpful advice and suggestions related to your brand. Provide regular updates and news on what's happening in the innovation front. Don't let the pipeline dry up - ever.

For your more hardcore fans, recruit them as beta-testers for new products and services. Grant them early sneak peeks into what's in store next season. Fan the flames of anticipation and excitement.

In short, build a community of customers. Find varied ways to add value while generating revenue from multiple sources beyond your primary product. These can take the shape of upgrades, different formats (books, videos, audio, interactive games, webinars etc), discounts on add-ons, deals on complementary services, and so on.

Think like Apple. While they do make money from selling you their iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, it is the iTunes shop which generates ongoing revenue while maintaining customer links. Plus their accessories and service packages, of course.

In a world offering endless choices, you need to keep your brand flag flying high by being present when and where it matters. Relying solely on a singular "blockbuster" product category alone no longer suffices.

Does this ring true for your industry? Let me know what your experience has been.

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