From Live Streams to Virtual Reality: How Digital Marketing in the Music Industry Has Been Impacted by the Pandemic

Imagine. You see a tweet, and your favourite musical artist is playing a show. You immediately rush to get a ticket from their website. While you’re on their page, you watch all of their videos on YouTube and like a bunch of their photos on Instagram. You tune into their TikTok Live and ask a question about the upcoming show. To your surprise, they read it and answer it. You count down the seconds until they hit the stage. A few days pass, and it’s time for the show. You walk into your living room and put on your Oculus headset. Suddenly, you’re immersed in a new digital world, sharing this experience with millions of other fans around the world. This scenario isn’t science fiction, this reality, albeit virtual, is underway now. 

The Impact of Technology on the Music Industry

Virtual reality concert experiences are one of the experiential marketing experiences that have risen in popularity in the past year. The entertainment industry is no stranger to digital innovation. The rise of streaming services and platforms like Netflix, Spotify and YouTube have been the catalyst of digital transformation for many creators. The pandemic has been another major factor pushing businesses to come up with creative ways to capture their audience. 

In the decades preceding the internet, musicians and the teams behind them earned most of their money from sales and radio plays. Since the advent of Napster, which has since metamorphosed into today’s streaming services, a smaller portion of revenue comes from music sales. Now, the music industry makes a significant portion of its revenue from ticket sales for live appearances and tour merchandise. When music venues shut down last spring, it forced record labels, distribution companies and musicians to work with marketing professionals to create new channels of revenue that are pandemic-proof. 

Fortunately for marketing teams, most people have been stuck at home with nothing to do but scroll social media. This collective uncertainty and let’s face it, boredom, has led a captive audience seeking distraction. The past year has seen a major boom in digital consumption. Platforms like Instagram Live, Twitch, TikTok and Zoom have all been utilized to bring the concert experience into fan’s living rooms. 

How TikTok is Changing the Music Industry

It’s no secret that TikTok has a stronghold in the music industry. Songs that become popular sounds used in videos on this app could go number one even when they were released decades ago. Fleetwood Mac’s song, Dreams, was released in 1977, but it reached the top 10 on the Billboard charts in October 2021 after TikTok user Nathan Apodaca posted a video of himself on a longboard drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice and lip-syncing along to the song. 

TikTok dances are another way musicians can capture the captive digital audience. The Toosie Slide is an incredible example of an artist leveraging TikTok. Drake worked with dancer Toosie to create an easy dance to go along with a single from his upcoming album, Dark Lane Demo Tapes. Before the song was officially released, a clip of it was released on the app as a sound. Quickly, millions were doing the simple “right foot up, left foot slide, left foot up, right foot slide” dance. When the song and its music video (shot from Drake’s Toronto mansion) were officially released, it already had millions of fans. Digital marketing genius!

TikTok has additionally used its live streaming feature to host live performances from major pop stars like Justin Bieber and The Weeknd. These two artists have additionally seen success on the app with popular dances to their songs Yummy and Blinding Lights. 

The Rise of TikTok Copycats And Live Streaming Experiences

Instagram Live has also been thriving since the beginning of the pandemic. On March 24, music producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland faced off in a 5-hour “producer clash” on Instagram Live that had 20,000 viewers at its climax. On this night, “Verzuz” was born. There has since been 13 Verzuz featuring artists like T-Pain, Lil Jon, Snoop Dog, DMX and Alicia Keys. Brandy and Monica, who had a number one in 1998 called The Boy Is Mine, garnered 1.4 million views on their Verzuz battle. In March 2021, Triller, a video-sharing app similar to TikTok, acquired the rights to Verzuz with Timbaland and Swizz Beatz and now battles are streamed through their platform. 

Even online video games like Minecraft and Fortnite have been utilized to hold concerts by Lil Nas X and Travis Scott, respectively. The possibilities are endless. The viewership for Travis Scott’s Fortnite show was 12 million people. There’s not a concert venue in the world that could accommodate that many people. The limitless viewership makes a compelling case for live streaming. Fans will no longer have to compete for ticket sales before the concert sells out as there is an infinite number of tickets! 

The pivot to live streaming experiences has led Facebook to launch Venues. Still in its beta phase, this exciting new project will allow users with Oculos Quest devices to watch live events, including concerts, comedy and sports in virtual reality. This new development will lead to exciting new integrated omnichannel marketing opportunities. Musicians and the teams behind them can use all the tools in Facebook’s arsenal, including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, to interact with fans and promote their VR concerts. 

Music is a powerful, unifying force. People have been creating, sharing and listening to songs since practically the dawn of time. The dissemination of music is an industry that is future-proof. However, the future is unpredictable and constantly evolving. Even when music venues open again and we embrace another “new normal” post-pandemic, it’s hard to say whether or not people will feel comfortable paying hundreds of dollars and fighting traffic to cram into a concert hall with a bunch of strangers when they can experience the magic of live music in their own homes. Inversely, musicians have likely grown to prefer live streaming performances instead of fighting jet lag on a gruelling tour schedule with hours of meet and greets before concerts.

The ever-changing nature of the music industry always presents new challenges from a digital marketing standpoint. We can’t wait to see which artists and their teams go to see these challenges as opportunities and create new ventures like Verzuz, Venues and Virtual Reality! 

At Arnold Street Media, Inc., we always stay on top of the latest digital marketing trends and integrate them into our work. Contact us today to get your business to stand out in a competitive digital landscape!