1. Content marketing: less is more, and relationships are everything

It’s no surprise to say that 2014 will be the year of content marketing. However, I think there will be a few interesting consequences arising from this shift.

The first is that the deluge of content will cause so much noise that the bar for successful content will be raised extremely high. As a result, we’ll see savvy music companies trying to do more with less i.e. working on a small number of very creative campaigns. 

In a study that Venture Harbour conducted with MIDEM, we found that our sample of 64 music industry executives collectively spent in the region of £1.9m on content marketing.

As the ability to measure content effectiveness improves, I think budgets will increase around content marketing, and companies will allocate their budgets more wisely to what works for them. 


2. More music / brand partnerships

In 2013, brands injected £104.8m into the UK music industry, a 6% increase from 2011.

Given the increasing number of success stories and research around how music affects consumer behaviour, I think we’ll see more brands jumping on the opportunity of using associations with artists to develop their brands in 2014. 

3. A serious adoption of mobile & user experience

Across all of the music website we have access to, approximately 20% of website visits come from a mobile device.

This number varies quite a lot between streaming platforms, artist websites, B2B services, and other types of website, but one thing is true of all of them: the proportion of visits from mobile or tablet devices is increasing. 

In twelve months time, I imagine this number increasing to 30-35%. On top of this, I think there’ll be an increase in mobile commerce conversion rates, as more people get accustomed to making purchases from a mobile device.

The combination of these factors will make it practically essential for music companies to take their mobile strategy seriously.   

The increasing proportion of mobile (green) and tablet (orange) traffic to a typical music industry website in 2013 vs. 2012. 

4. The year that Google gets a grip on music

Google has been under a lot of pressure from the UK government regarding the prominence of illegal download sites in their search results.  

Earlier this year I speculated that Google Play Music All Access was not about competing with other music streaming platforms (as much of the press suggested), but more or less a move to improve their search results. 

Here’s the situation: more than 25m searches for music are made in Google every single month. None of the streaming platforms capitalised on this opportunity (from my conversations, many weren’t aware of it, or were limited by their technology / licensing deals).  

As such, Google had a problem: with a mission statement of “delivering the best result to the user as quickly as possible”, and the best result being illegal, behind a pay wall, or covered in ads, it had to respond with a solution.  

A few days ago, Google rolled out a few changes to the music-term search results, proving my theory (that Google would prominently serve up Google-owned music listings) to be true.

From a digital marketing perspective, this will likely have some consequences for labels, artists and streaming platforms.

On a macro-level, Google’s influence on the music industry will creep rapidly, making other Google-owned properties (Google+, YouTube, Google Play) more important to the overall marketing strategy of artists and labels.

5. More tools, more skepticism, better results 

Over the past two years, the music industry has been flooded with tech startups trying to helps artists and labels get a better understanding of data, save time, and increase the loyalty / size of their fan base.

Because of all of the noise in this space (and the presence of a few less ethical companies), the amount of skepticism around new tools seems to have heightened.

I think the industry as a whole is becoming smarter at separating the shiny toys from the valuable tools. The tools that offer a genuinely valuable service to artists, such as Pledge Music, Next Big Sound, BandPage, and EmuBands will flourish throughout the industry.

Those who can’t prove their value, or pivot quickly enough, will phase out. 

I am hoping that something will also emerge this year helping artists and labels differentiate the wheat from the chaff e.g. a ‘Trip Advisor for musicians’.

6. Visual media will become more important

We already know that infographics are, on average, the most shareable form of content in the music industry. In general, shorter attention spans are making ‘quick content’, such as infographics, Vine videos, and tweets more appealing.

I think this consumer trend will shift more music companies to consider the visual aspects of their digital marketing strategy.

At the artist level, I think their will be more adoption of platforms like Instagram and Vine to share updates from the band.  

From the tech and B2B space, I think infographics and image-based social posts will continue to increase in prominence. At a brand level, I think the solution will focus around video and crowd-sourced visual content.