Millennials and Music
I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually end up writing an article about millennials and music – I mean part of how I make my living is writing about the music industry and this is definitely a topic I would be remiss in ignoring. So let’s have at it. After all – a huge part of my career has been helping people market their bands to new demographic. This might be a hard article to write because even though I fall into the target demographic I don’t really identify with the term, but oh well – here goes nothing!
Here’s the thing – the thing that not a lot of people want to admit. I think that millennials are starting to get it. Despite what old white people might say, with more access to information than any other generation in the history of the species this generation has a much more diverse taste in music and they are increasingly aware of how hard it is for independent artists to make it. And young people now really place an emphasis on the individuality of their music tastes. That means that while there is less money coming into the music industry it’s being spread around more equally. It means that they are more willing to give an artist twenty bucks on Bandcamp for a record they adore, and in some way absolving them for having torrented the rest of that bands discography.
Remember – millennials love guiltless consumerism. One of the reasons that streaming has been so successful is because it provides exactly that – a way to listen to music for free whilst simultaneously supporting the artists they love. We live in a world where a band like Pomplamoose can get the word out about the financial struggles of touring (Even though – as you should realize by now – Pomplamoose were doing it wrong) The point being – there is a lot more to the music industry than meets the eye – but now in a world of centralized information sources like Facebook millennials (Which is an increasing number these days) are often exposed, in great detail, to the how and why of the music industry and the direct consequences of their actions.
The higher the level of education we have about bands and the music industry in general then the better things get for everybody. For years we operated under the illusion that musicians were Dionysian figures who were destined for greatness. Now young people are starting to know better. With the number of touring musicians and club shows on the rise, more and more folks seem to be getting a sense for what it means to live in the music industry. That being said – I write this as someone who lives and works in the music industry every day – my group of friends definitely isn’t indicative of the world as a whole – but the trends seem to suggest that I’m right.
What does this mean for you? The common fan is getting a better sense that your career in the music industry is still y’know a career. Part of what has improved the situation is celebrities like Will Wheaton who with vicious social media posts are helping normal people to realize that folks shouldn’t be willing to do things just for ‘exposure’. The general attitude and approach to the music industry is changing – and this is a very good thing. Even as I type this, industry experts are developing new-school techniques that allow us to take full advantage of this situation and delve into new ways of earning money for bands.
Of course – the millennial market is still very new and we would be remiss in saying that we know everything about marketing to millennials. Here’s the key thing though – to market to any group you have to look at their values. For millennials this means political activism, economic and social equality, charities, and of course the arts. Obviously as a musician the arts is covered, but any way that you can affiliate your work with these, and other ideas that millennials have become enamored with.
This isn’t the easiest thing – but an easy hack is to look at how popular websites and brands geared towards millennials market themselves. When you start to look at the ways they set up their websites and social media pages you can start to get a sense of what you need to do in order to help advance your own campaign. This isn’t always easy – but no one said it would be. Yet if you can start to get at what makes millennials tick then you’re closer than ever to a potential breakthrough.
At the end of the day – figuring out how to market to millennials should be a key struggle for any band out there trying to make their mark. A lot of very special things are rising up in the music industry right now – but we all need to work together to figure out how to get them to the biggest, most financially capable, and interested markets possible. As a millennial who doesn’t really understand other millennials, I too am in a kind of demented situation. But that doesn’t mean we should totally cast aside the millennial experience. After all, simply by being aware of the dedication to travel, and getting back to their roots that millennials seem to flaunt it seems like we might be on the verge of finding a whole generation of touring musicians.
The point I think I’m trying to make is the same point that should define a lot of your marketing strategies. To understand a demographic – look at their interests and then cater to that. If you get a sense of what makes millennials tick then you’re already far ahead of many of your peers. Remember that someone like Taylor Swift only succeeds because she perfectly reflects what millennials are all about. As a recent Noisey article put it – “She’s everyone’s BFF”. Fitting your work into the millennial experience is perhaps the most important aspect of surviving in the music industry and it’s the how that’s the struggle.