Why music is the best way to reach your audience…

As streaming stats have exploded people are listening to more music, more than ever...

Robin Shaw from Warm Street shares insights from their brilliant new magazine with our Brand Editor, Jade French...

Music production has been democratised by apps like Vochlea, the kit that turns your voice into the ultimate real-time MIDI controller, and innovative start-ups like AWAL, who offer an alternative to the traditional music label. With the likes of KOBALT allowing independent artists the opportunities of a major label record deal with all the creative control, we are in a huge moment of change within music.

So, as the industry develops, how can brands work within these changes to go beyond just hitting up the most popular artists in their campaigns?

Warm Street work with the underground to create the future of music. They recently set out some insights on the emerging landscape of modern music, where the digital meets emotion, where AI might just take over, and where passion meets playlists. Find out more in their newest issue ‘The Talent’ (get your copy here) and read on for some insights they shared recently with Amplify...

Make connections

Musicians and brands have always worked closely together, from Debbie Harry’s 80s jeans ads to the Red Bull Music Academy. However, recently, something has started to change. As streaming stats grow year on year, music is everywhere and accessible anytime. But, for younger audiences, the rise of tech comes with a growing need for emotional connection.

Warm Street picked up on a new genre born out of gen z angst and internet access, saying “emo-rap is the fastest growing genre on Spotify with artists like $uicideboy$, Joji (88 Rising), Juice WRLD, and Bladee coming through beside the SoundCloud rappers that propelled the genre”. The genre is linked to a real-world mental health crisis, in which 9/10 gen z adults said they had experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom because of stress. This conscious hip-hop can also be seen in UK stars like Kojey Radical, Louis III, and Green Tea Peng who address addiction, and anxiety in their lyrics and are picking up critical nods and plenty of cred from fans hungry for deeper music that resonates.

Technology + brand power

With the social media explosion over the last decade, it has become easier to share content. With this growth has come the common (and slightly boring) complaint that gigs are packed with mobile phones waving in the air rather than focused gig-goers. The lack of phones in this iconic picture is what makes the likes of Noel Gallegher get nostalgic about a gig like Knebworth; 125,000 people per night, no phones. But in 1996, commercial mobile phones with a built in video recording equipment weren’t invented. Fast forward a decade and they’re ubiquitous.

And if you're worried about phones, you definitely aren't ready for what the future has in store...

AI performance artist Yona, created by Ninja Tune signed artist Ash Koosha, is an example of where our future connections (and future gripes) might lie. Yona can create her own lyrics, chords and melodies that can still create an emotional response in a listener, despite their non-human origins.

It’s time, then, to think more deeply about how technology can be leveraged best and the ways in which it can create an emotional connection – embrace the change.

Some other things to think about if you’re a brand looking to work with musicians:

Don’t be playlist passive...

Curated playlists tap into our moods and match our locations (you can Get Home Happy! with Spotify or listen to Heartbreak Pop with Apple Music). If you want to keep up to date with new releases or rewind the clock with classics then playlists have you covered.

This curatorial turn is both good and bad. It means we’re never without access to music mood-boosters and more people can engage with new sounds but, equally, we’re entrusting our taste to pre-chosen lists.

For artists featured in Warm Street's magazine, playlists represent both the chance to be heard as well as the fear that they might get plonked on a list that doesn’t fit their sound. Musicians are creating art, even when they’re being used to target certain fans.

If you’re researching which bands to connect with then a playlist is a great place to start. But, you have to think: a band might have made a Top 100 but do they fit with your brand aims? Don’t just shoe-horn Skepta into your campaign for the sake of popularity… you have to chime with and champion what grime is about.

Do embrace emotional connections…

If you’re worried about the advent of AI, then it’s live gigs and pure talent that can bring us back into the moment. The live experience takes us beyond anything marketing insight and pitches ever will. Forbes suggest that 83% of young people leave with a greater trust for brands that support a live music experience. That’s because it connects to us on a deeper level.

Josh Byrne of XVI & High Praise Records told Warm Street: ‘Witnessing true talent allows us to tap into our most basic human emotions instantly. It evokes immediate feelings’. And we couldn’t agree more.

Emotions and brand experience go hand in hand. It’s about creating a moment, something to remember. Don’t be afraid to tap into that power.

Don’t underestimate the fans…

Trust is the crucial word. Brands should totally avoid culturally co-opting the emotion generated by a great musician – consumers can spot very quickly when brands are jumping on a trend. If you’re tapping into fan mentality then they’re going to be your harshest critics when it goes wrong. The fans know their favourite genre inside out.

Music brings fans all into one place (whether that's an online playlist or an IRL gig) so brands have the chance to laser focus on an audience – but if you're missing the mark they're the ones who'll definitely know you've messed up!

Do have a strategy

Brands need to have a music strategy and to consider their role in the industry. We want to stop a love of music from turning into background noise or, worse yet, being co-opted by brands who want to cash in without giving back. Music culture provides a rich narrative where brands can excitingly align their own ethos with musical energy – but this has be done meaningfully and respectfully, with genuine enthusiasm for the ways in which music can connect with different audiences.