Each year I break down the standouts in music marketing, picking the best performers based on the concept, innovation, presence in culture and execution. This year we can firmly say the divide between music promotion and brand collaborations no longer exists and record labels are building out their creative, content and influencer offerings.
This year was all about live, as VR/AR takes a backseat for now. Brands and artists were looking to take advantage of Facebook's favorable live video algorithm and the growth of live across all platforms. Mobile and data were once again rich territories for expanding the way audiences engage with music.
In no set order, here are my favorites:
OK Go / Morton Salt - "The One Moment"
Not only did OK Go continue to push the boundaries with their anti gravity "Upside Down & Out" video, they followed it up with the phenomenal "The One Moment." Shot in 4.2 seconds and featuring the Morton Salt Girl, this video earned its spot on many levels and firmly positions them as one of the go-to music partners in the business.
Kanye West - "The Life of Pablo" (A Work in Progress)
It's hard to argue with the constantly evolving model that Kanye used for the creation and release of "The Life of Pablo." There was the massive amount of buzz and press that the teased release generated, the MSG listening party/fashion show and let's not forget the wax sculptures. He barely needed the beef with Taylor Swift to remain in the spotlight.
Beyoncé - "Lemonade"
The queen of surprise executed a stunning hour-long film to introduce "Lemonade." She employed scarcity and exclusively, driving attention to partners Tidal and HBO. Credit her and Kanye with keeping Tidal in the game.
Rae Sremmurd / Doritos - Multi Screen Music Video for "Over Here"
Building on the insight that fans enjoy a music video more when it is watched as a group, this execution is a music video that builds and gets bigger as multiple viewers join the screens together in the real world. It's a great example of community building and use of mobile.
Miles Davis - The Universe of Miles Davis
An impressive use of data storytelling to celebrate what would be his 90th birthday. This interactive infographic displays his ongoing impact helping old fans discover something new, drawing in new listeners and driving sales/streams of legacy and new records.
Gwen Stefani / Target - "Make Me Like You" Live Music Video
A crew of 250 people, a 32,000 square foot sound stage and a live Grammys broadcast with additional live experiences via Periscope, Facebook Live and Snapchat makes this live music video an impressive undertaking. Target continues to develop its music marketing by offering exclusive tracks and cover art.
Alex Da Kid / IBM - Cognitive Music
Grammy winning producer Alex Da Kid used IBM's Watson to inspire his latest song "Not Easy," the first of a 4-track collaboration EP. Watson Tone Analyzer analyzed over 2 million lines of social content related to cultural and music sentiment. Watson Beat was then used to examine popular musical trends in an interesting example of the new creative tools having an impact on the industry. (Full disclosure: IBM is a client of my agency, Ogilvy.)
Kendrick Lamar / Grammys - "Compton"
"Alright" became the unofficial anthem of a movement; the Grammys worked with Lamar to create this powerful message by giving Compton locals a voice through the lyrics, offering a tribute to his home town and insight into his inspiration.
Frank Ocean - "Endless"/"Blonde"
Ocean finally broke his silence, emerging with a teasing live stream as the prelude to a full visual album ("Endless"), followed quickly by "Blonde," deployed equally as a marketing and business strategy. "Endless" fulfilled his commitments to Def Jam and "Blonde" was an independent release. His effort channeled Beyoncé and Kanye with pop-up stores, a zine and Snapchat filters all combing to make the weekend of the release all about Frank.
Metallica / Vans - House of Vans London Livestream
An intimate gig with 600 fans to launch their new tour and album "Hardwired... To Self Destruct," naturally live streamed around the world. Brands have learned that live streaming allows them to throw smaller events, invite loyal fans and influencers, then extended the engagement via digital channels and content.
Childish Gambino - VR Performance and Vinyl
With surprisingly few VR music standouts this year, Donald Glover sneaks in with this performance from his Pharos event accessed via his Pharos Earth app. How he executes on his "VR Vinyl" concept is yet to be seen.