In the bad old days (long before The Beatles could be downloaded on iTunes) when shipping physical units was the the only way of measuring musical success, there used to be a marketing rule of thumb called the 3 P’s: Pricing, Placement, and Promotion.
The principle was that given limited space for physical choice within commercial shopping centers; the keys for success were making sure that the potential customer could easily see your “product”, could happily afford it, and had already made up their mind that they liked it. All these elements could separately induce sales but the accumulation of these three meant you had a hit.
In some ways this is still the case in the digital world…or at least in the basic “a la carte” store model. Pricing for example–finding the “right” price for any given item is still important since the notion that a fixed price of $9.99 per album or 0.99¢ per track is no longer existent (just check out the price of the top 100 albums or tracks on any iTunes storefront ). Particularly when several different sources can be found for similar content choice is often based on competitive pricing.
Placement still has an obvious and measurable impact too. Its not because search machines have become very efficient that the customer ignores the items that jump out at them from the front page. For the browsers out there (they also exist in the digital world), a look around a genre they know they like can lead them to be tempted by a specially attractive artwork or subject, ie a “Best of Bollywood” room.
Promotion is also a “no-brainer”. Although, just for the anecdote when radio first started, some major companies and music publishers tried to fight it (sound familiar?). We now know for a fact that giving away a free track encourages not only the sales of the album from which that track was taken but indeed the track itself. If we don’t give away the single but instead track #2, its track #2 that sells the most! Word of mouth anyone?
Here’s a little illustration of the cumulative effects of different forms of promotion linked to retail features. In the sales graph below, we can see the real effect of a spin on a high-profile show on national radio on sales of an album from a Danish soul duo in France (really!) that brought a first peak in sales. We reacted to this by promoting it on a local streaming service Deezer which brought a second and stronger peak of streams and downloads, which in turn was continued through a high plateau of sales by visibility on iTunes France. In turn, this also helped maintain a high level of attention on the streaming sites…showing a kind of bio-diversity of musical promotion and marketing and of course now we are systematically reaching out to the radio show concerned with tweets about our music….
As we can see in this example, the three P’s formula is still valid essentially but changing under the impact of non-traditional forms of musical consumption. As streaming sites like Spotify and Deezer develop momentum and impact in Europe, their role as “promoters” of music are increasing, and are increasingly being linked to social networking sites.
We are adapting our marketing strategies in the territories where this is happening–proactively working with the sites and our labels together to build their networks of fans, giving them incentives to become “radios” in their own right, loudspeakers to their friends, and driving more and more attention to the music we are trying to help get popular. This is surely what the goal is in the end–encouraging the sharing of musical pleasure in the conviction that this will be rewarded…“what goes around comes around”.