COVID-19 has significantly impacted all walks of life, and the only one not being bailed out is the music fan, who is in greater need of the emotional and spiritual lift that artists and music provide than ever before.
Brands are uniquely poised to save the music fan -- but will they heed the call?
Although artists have been working hard to stay connected to fans on social media, the current absence of the life experiences that fans typically crave (travel, celeb interaction, concerts, etc.) makes for far less opportunities to do so.
Late-night TV, press junkets, award ceremonies and more are on indefinite pause. Album releases and music video production has slowed. Festivals are dead.
Where does that leave the fan? And quite honestly, where does that leave the artist who depends on perpetual motion and noise to remain in the collective consideration set?
Fans aren’t only missing out on the concerts and new music -- they are doing without many of the un-monetized ways that artists typically connect with them.
Red-carpet interviews, pics with models on the Gram, radio shows, and festival B stages are all promotional in nature -- they don’t put 0’s on artists’ paychecks in the immediate short-term, but fuel fan interest and excitement.
But without the revenue stream of live performances and concerts, there is less money to spend on new content, music videos and flying to award ceremonies. COVID has broken that symbiotic relationship.
So where does that leave us? We’re left with fewer new releases, DIY social performances and a thirst for something more. Enter the brand…
According to research we conducted among 500 U.S. music fans in April, 67% feel lost without a concert or festival to look forward to, while 30% are concerned for the industry as a whole and another 30% for the individual artist’s ability to survive.
This is where brands can lend their support and their voice: 86% believe that for music festivals/live events to succeed in the future, they will need brands to lend their support.
Unlike record labels and concert promoters, brands aren’t looking for monetization -- they are looking for engagement.
The game is all about how they can create long-term brand affinity by associating with favorite acts.
Yet only a few have taken hold and scored a winning shot. Verizon was one of the few brands to deliver early in the quarantine, introducing a philanthropic content venture called "Pay It Forward Live" that moved the needle and drove 4M+ views an episode.
What Verizon (and very few others) proved is that brands have a significant opportunity to own the conversation and fill the music content void for fans.
Instead, many brands -- worried about taking an inadvertent misstep and being perceived as tone-deaf -- have chosen to sit on their hands and wait out a storm that hasn’t yet passed and may not for some time. That’s a tremendous mistake.
According to Live Nation, 76% of music fans will remember which brands stepped up during the quarantine.
The investment now will pay loyalty dividends later. The massive consumer appetite for music combined with a pandemic-induced content famine presents an extremely rare and powerful vehicle for brands to create coveted and long-lasting relationships with their audiences.
Even in an ever-shifting environment with different regions in different phases of the pandemic journey, the golden rule for brands stands firm -- create compelling content with real production value that provides fans with a new perspective on artists they love.
The difference is this content, now, has the potential to work harder than it did pre-pandemic.
The most important learning from our research is “fans long for the feeling of being present.” They miss the energy, the excitement and the passion for music that comes with an in-person experience. What an opportunity for brands!
In a time when the machine cannot figure out how to monetize the connection between artist and fan, the brand’s alternative KPIs provide a clear path toward fan engagement. Why did Post Malone’s quarantine Nirvana love fest garner 12M impressions? He figured out what fans want -- new perspectives on the artists they love.
The pandemic has been a destructive force on the music industry but also an affirming one. In a time of fear, discomfort, uncertainty and monotony, people turn to the music that lifts them up and connects them to the artists they love.
Brands that heed this desperate call and bail out the music fan will dance with their audiences well after the pandemic is in our collective rear-view mirror.