Music Marketing in an Age of Creative Transformation
Here are a handful of trends I’m thinking hard about in 2023. Many are driven by technology, but many are a product of an ongoing process of creative transformation that music, art, and writing are experiencing. Take them as food for thought as you plan out your year.
Marketing as world building
Confession: I write novels, and the best part of that kind of extended storytelling is the world you create, even if it’s just the landscape of emotion inside some character’s head. Musicians, songwriters, and producers are often engaging in a similar world-building act, even if it’s less obvious or explicitly narrative
Marketing, PR, and other promotional activities can be an extension of this part of the creative process, and as more and more tools make creating across media (video, images, design, text) more and more accessible to non-specialists, our ability to imagine and then produce the pieces of this world expand. I see more experimentation with online tools, synthetic media, and other cool tech that will allow artists to craft an entire world around their music. Music will always be the heart, of course.
It takes a community
“Community” is a buzzword among grassroots web3 enthusiasts—the NFT fans and tech folks attempting to build a different type of distribution and ownership model—and it’s defining an approach that has nothing to do with Polygon or memecoins.
Artists and those who love them are exploring new ways to reach superfans, and to transform superfandom into sustainable creative careers. Though not as revolutionary a departure from the social media strategies of yesteryear as some claim, it is a mindset shift we’ll see continuing to transform music marketing in 2023. Instead of the massive scale demanded by big platforms, artists can consider how these smaller, tighter, more engaged and engageable communities can support and shape their work.
Your fans as collaborators
The natural extension of this shift: Your fans want more than your pics from the road or studio; some of them want to get involved in playing with or extending the world you’re laying out for them. If you watch a very young music fan, you’ll notice many of them instantly want to make something out of a track, sound, or video that intrigues them. We’re just at the beginning of this new era, when audio-visual creation becomes second nature for fans, but it’s worth considering how you can take your fan relationships beyond broadcast mode and into interactivity.
In 2023, more artists will release stems, through gated channels like hardware devices made for playing them (like the Donda player or Orba), through structured interactions (remix contests), or simply by unleashing them into the digital wilds (via marketplaces like Airbit or places like Splice). Iteration, the making and remaking of a song, will really take off in 2023, opening up lots of interesting possibilities for artists to explore.
New channels for living
If trends point toward small superfan communities and interactive worldbuilding as a foundation for getting the right people to engage with your music, they also point to an incredible shattering of social channels. There’s no one big place you must be, and it’s enough to drive a marketing-minded creative person bonkers. Facebook feels as dead and drab as a bingo hall, Instagram has become QVC for millennials, and TikTok a cryptic variety show that may or may not fit what you’re doing. Don’t even get me started on Twitter.
There are other options out there, platforms that are poised to take off in 2023 and that may give you more room to find a groove and your community. Newer platforms and apps like Discord or Mastodon may have more of that community and worldbuilding energy that empowers you on your quest for community. With fragmentation comes opportunity, because you can more easily pin down who you’re communicating with. Finding these new channels that make sense for you and what you create will be essential in 2023 and beyond.
PR lives on in 2023
There’s one big, old-school channel that’s still alive and kicking. Yes, the media landscape has changed radically in the last 15 years. Yes, the classic pillars of music PR for artists have toppled or are tottering slightly, the alt weeklies, blogs, and review-loaded music mags of yore. But there are still excellent critics and music journalists out there, looking for stories, and it’s still worth having a PR strategy at the right time, for the right project. I’m sure you’re shocked to hear a PR pro saying this, but every day, I see the difference it makes for our clients, and for my friends and the artists I admire.
The operative word here is “stories:” if your album, single, tour, videos, what-have-you have a story beyond your creative process, PR is definitely worth exploring, even if it’s only a minimalist burst of outreach to media folks in your region. A short piece about you in your regional magazine or daily paper can be a stepping stone to bigger coverage and can provide validation for when you start hitting up the next tier of festivals or venues for bigger shows, for example.
If you’re in for a deeper PR dive, look for outlets and media that may not already be on your radar. There are music-oriented newsletters, podcasts, and other outlets that, like social platforms, are undergoing a period of intense fragmentation, one that will continue through 2023. Much like social media, this can be a good thing, even if their audiences are small. They may be the key to finding and engaging a meaningful community.
Author’s note: Thanks to Ariel Hyatt for provoking these thoughts!
About Rock Paper Scissors:
Founded in 1999, Rock Paper Scissors, Inc. is a music tech PR firm composed of a diverse team of communicators, creatives, and business minds. We have represented thousands of projects from six continents. Our roster includes clients in music technology, music gear, B2B music agencies, music consumer products and apps, artist-facing and label services, music sync platforms, music AI, fintech for music, and much more.
Get in touch:
- Contact our team so we can start crystallizing, articulating, and amplifying what makes your company unique.
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About Tristra Newyear Yeager:
As our Chief Strategy Officer, Tristra oversees PR and client services and guides strategic planning at a high level. Tristra has been a creative force at Rock Paper Scissors for nearly two decades, crafting PR strategy for clients at every stage of the business cycle and in many music innovation niches, from B2B back-end services to DTC music-making gear. With over 20 years of writing, editing, and research experience plus a PhD to her name, she’s known for synthesizing copious amounts of knowledge at the speed of light. Tristra’s work is driven by a love of music that stems from her days as a record store employee, continuing through her career as a professional singer and as a concert presenter in New York, and into her life as a publicist. She writes novels and researches Siberian history in her spare time.