Advertising Week 2014

Four Takeaways From the Latest 'Death of the Music Industry' Panel

It's Still Not Dead, But Opportunities For Agencies Abound

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The cover of the Kanye West album 'Yeezus'
The cover of the Kanye West album 'Yeezus'

Every few years, someone hosts a "Death of the Music Industry" panel at an industry conference like Advertising Week. The title is provocative enough to get some butts into seats (even if it doesn't guarantee that people will stay in them), and it's seen as an effective way to lure a wide swath of executives and marketers.

The tradition continued Tuesday at B.B. King's on 42nd St., where five panelists discussed how the music industry isn't dying so much as evolving. Here are four key takeaways, most courtesy of Riyhana Bey, the director of client services and strategic planning at Spike DDB.

1. Artist behavior is the main thing standing in the way of more artist-brand partnerships
Artists and managers are more than willing to partner with brands, and brands are keen to work with artists. So why aren't more artist-brand partnerships being forged? Apparently, lots of clients are leery of working with artists because they're so unpredictable.

"When you're doing partnerships, you don't know what you're getting, and that's a risk," Ms. Bey said. "Kanye doesn't really do very many deals. They might not want to buy into him, but they take his music all the time."

2. Digital is always going to beat word of mouth

Once upon a time, smaller artists (and smaller brands) could painstakingly build something out of nothing thanks to word of mouth. Today, thanks to the abundance of measurable digital channels, word of mouth is losing out. "It's very difficult to compete with YouTube," Ms. Bey said. "Views are a really easy way for people who are looking to fund things."

3. Ads are the best exposure a band can get

Record companies have slashed their budgets in lots of areas, but media buys are arguably the biggest. To make up for those losses, they are turning to advertisers, who can provide exposure on a scale that trumps even terrestrial radio, which was once the gold standard for exposure.

"Advertising provides eyeballs that most labels can't buy," Ms. Bey said. "You can't get into NFL Sunday night unless you're paying $5 million."

4. The music industry isn't actually dying

"I don't see it going away," said Londell McMillan, CEO at The Northstar Group and publisher of The Source. "I just see the fat getting trimmed down."

"It'll probably be around," said Shahendra Ohneswere, VP-creative marketing at Roc Nation.

"I don't anticipate anything being extinct that's been so important to our culture and our community," said Chaka Pilgrim, another Roc Nation VP. "I don't plan to be out of a job in ten years. I have lots of bills."

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