Streaming services changing the tide in the music industry

Taylor Swift – you love her, or you love her. Already having won over millions of fans, Swift’s recent media moves have her turning her peers into “Swiftes” too.

In an open letter posted on her Tumblr page, Swift took aim and victor at Apple. Apple’s new and anticipated music app, Apple Music – which includes a subscription streaming service, a free internet radio station, and a media platform on which artists can upload songs and videos – planned to entice users with a three month free trial. However, during those three months, Apple also planned to not pay artists. As such, Taylor planned to withhold her 1989 album from the service.

Claiming to be the voice of, and for, new and established artists, songwriters, and producers in the industry, Swift said the proposal to be, “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

“Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing,” said Swift. “… We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Less than 24 hours after her posting, Eddy Cue announced that Apple will pay artists, labels, and publishers (on a per-play basis) during Apple Music’s three-month free trial.

This isn’t the first time Swift has taken on music services. In another public battle, Swift withdrew, and has withheld, her music from the online streaming service Spotify. The issue? The minimal royalties the payout stream offers artists while consumers get to listen to millions of tracks for free on the ad-supported tier.

If you haven’t noticed already, it’s all about the money. And it’s no wonder that artists are demanding fair share in royalties when album sales continue to decline. It seems that streaming services are an easy target for pinning the responsibility of such decline, however, while Swift has been busy condemning streaming platforms, she has failed to appreciate that “streaming services contributed 27 percent of total industry revenues in the first half of 2014 – up seven percent from last year”.

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Furthermore, the report by RIAA also notes that streaming made up almost the same percent of sales as physical album purchases, and that “streaming and vinyl records are the only portion of the music industry that has seen financial growth in the past five years”.

“Album sales are the story of this moment, just as Taylor Swift is, but streaming is the story of the future of music, for us and for Taylor Swift,” says Kelsey McKinney in her article discussing the Swift v. streaming relationship.

Spotify, a leader in music streaming, has 75 million active/paying users. With numbers like that, it’s easy to see how the service can garner an impressive exposure reach. It’s also not hard to see how that kind of exposure can mean serious business, not just for artist, but for advertisers as well.

Screen-Shot-2015-03-02-at-11.03.07During their 1st 2015-quarter, ad revenue increased by 53% (year-over-year comparison) and mobile ad revenue has grown by 380%. Even though ad income is less than that of paid subscribers ($100 million out of $1 billion), advertiser’s continued switch to digital ads gives hope that more revenue is possible.

Spotify seems to be betting on this as it now offers more options for audience segments – including target divisions based on demographics, musical taste, and listening habits. The company also announced in May that they were adding video content capability to the platform in hopes to keep listeners better entertained. Or, as CNET puts it, “better ensure that people are actually watching the commercials, rather than simply hearing them as the service plays in the background.”

The launch of Apple Music is highly anticipated because if it is as successful as Apple predicts, and Spotify continues to grow (in both ad-supported and subscription tiers), the source of revenue for the music industry will change drastically. The only question is what streaming model will prevail?

What do you think? Will you pay for Apple Music or Spotify Premium to avoid the ads? Or will you stick with “free” radio? What factors influence your decision?

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson

The skinny on body shaming

This Sunday will mark the first day of SUMMER! While many of us love the BBQ’s, pool parties, and beach trips that accompany such warm weather, many of us groan at the idea of pulling out the old bathing suit.

The pain of finding suits that not only fit our body shape, make us feel comfortable, and also look good, is a seasonal struggle. This year however, Target has claimed to offer affordable bathing suits for all sizes and body types.

The “Target Loves Every Body” campaign was released this past week to promote their bathing suit collection. The campaign follows the styling of four fashion bloggers in the Target swimsuit collection.

From a marketing standpoint, Target seems to have hit the bull’s-eye. The positive message and use of real, diverse women is what customers want to see. For the company it was almost a necessity to promote such messages after last year’s bikini Photoshop incident and the decision earlier this year to make plus sizes of Lilly Pulitzer’s bathing suit collection only available online.

Body image is a personal issue for many women everyday, but this year it’s been a real forefront controversy in advertising. Companies such as Lane Bryant, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), and Protein World have all experienced some backlash to their ad campaigns.

Lane Bryant

Earlier this year Lane Bryant put in motion the #ImNoAngel campaign. The campaign focused on promoting plus size sexy while dissing Victoria’s Secret Angel ads. While many women loved the campaign there were some who thought they took it too far and bashed skinny women.

The skinny shaming controversy has not been restricted to the ad industry. Even chart topping songs like “All About That Bass”, which seemingly promote positive body image, have been accused of slighting those who are “size two”. Both these incidents prove just how hard it is to create work that promotes positive body image.

Yves Saint Laurent (YSL)

Britan’s Advertising Standards Authority have recently banned a YSL ad for featuring an extremely thin model. They stated, “… the model appeared unhealthily underweight in the image and concluded that the ad was irresponsible.” The UK is not the only country taking stands on fashion’s unhealthy and underweight models. France passed a law in April that required models to retain a BMI level of at least 18. If modeling agents break the rule they can face jail and fines. The law was passed to combat body disorder diseases such as anorexia.

Protein World

“Are you beach body ready?” is more than just a question we ask ourselves and most of the time say “no” to, it’s the tagline for Protein’s World advertisement that has stirred major controversy in the UK and is making it ways to the states. The advertisement, which features bikini clad Australian model Renee Somerfield, was met with vandalism, a Change.org petition, and protest. Ultimately the Advertising Standards Authority ruled for the ad to be taken down, stating, “Due to our concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims made in the ad, it can’t appear again in its current form.” However, the ad crossed the pond and made a debut in NYC via a Time Square poster and an encompassing subway campaign. Both “Dove” and “swimsuitsforall” posted rebuttal ads on social media featuring curvier women with body positive messages and hashtags.

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Protein World’s model Renee Somerfield spoke out after criticism began to flood social media, saying, “body shaming the image is very contradictory. Two wrongs don’t make a right.” She makes a valid point that leaves us pondering, is there a right way for advertisers to approach body image without slighting the “other” group?

Isabel Foxen Duke explores the answer to this question in “Why ‘Love Your Body’ Campaigns Aren’t Working”. She writes,

Unfortunately, we’ve been taught that looking a certain way is a prerequisite for “achieving” throughout the rest of our lives.” … “While changing the figures and images in the media is an important and wonderful first step (particularly for building new beliefs in younger generations), it may fall on deaf ears amongst those who have already been brainwashed that “thin” is where life happens.”

Is the key to a successful positive body image campaign the ability to show that life dreams are attainable at any size? Does Target do this in the “Target Loves Every Body” campaign by taking four ordinary fashion bloggers and giving them the opportunity to participate in a dream job?

-Caroline Robinson & Savannah Valade

In Television Ads We Trust

We live in a world where we are constantly craving novelty – the newest trend, the next big thing, the most up to date gadget. And it’s not just us as consumers, marketers want in too. Advertisers know that in order to keep up with consumers they have to join, post and add to latest social, app, and technology crazes. However, recent data shows that the mantra “out with the old, in with the new” may need some revisiting.

Despite the millennial trend of cord cutting, competition from Netflix, online streaming sites, and social media platforms in general, it’s the oldie – TV – that still remains a goodie for marketers.

The effectiveness of TV ads were contested in a collaborative new study conducted by Turner Broadcasting, Horizon Media and MarketShare. Their research found that TV ads were more effective in driving sales and new accounts than online and other media platforms.

This might be due to the fact that consumers trust messages sent to them via TV more than messages sent via ads that show up in search engines, online video ads, social networks and banner ads.

As Issac Weber, VP of Strategy at MarketShare puts it, “TV is the giant megaphone. … When you want to get the message out, that’s still really the most powerful means to do it.”

The study seems to have made quite the impression as Turner Broadcasting unveiled its in-house branded content studio for CNN and HLN on Monday. Dubbed “Courageous”, according to the press release, “the studio’s production capabilities will range from multimedia “super stories” to longer-form flagship series, along with distinct integration opportunities that capitalize on CNN’s all-screen global power.”

Staffed with editors, producers, videographers, and data scientists, the Courageous team plans to implement “RED methodology to brand partnerships: Relevancy, Execution and Distribution.”

“Now we can offer marketers the opportunity to harness the value proposition of CNN like never before,” said Dan Riess, Executive Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Branded Content.

Examples of the type of works that would be created in the studio are ones that highlight things that have news value, such as building of a manufacturing plant or a philanthropic effort, according to Otto Bell, Vice President and Group Creative Director of Courageous.

While CNN may be leading such an endeavor on the television front, it seems to be a trending move for media companies to create such in-house shops. Music companies such as iHeartMedia and Pandora offer branded content studios, and news companies such as New York Times, BuzzFeed, and The Wall Street Journal have units that create advertiser content. Condé Nast even has a program in which magazine editors work directly with brands.

So what exactly is branded content? The definition given by the Branded Content Marketing Association – “Branded content is any content that can be associated with a brand in the eye of the beholder” – doesn’t define exactly what it is, but really what it does.

One way to look at it is branded content can be anything as long as it connects emotionally with audiences first, and focuses on building a positive image of the brand rather than generating leads and sales. Ali Savar a judge at Cannes Lions, describes the difference between branded content and other advertising, “Traditional advertising is about delivering features, benefits, and a USP through a product story, and then finding creative ways to connect that to people. Branded content is sort of the reverse of this.”

Here are a few of my favorite and different examples of branded content.

  • The Lego Movie

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  • The Chipotle Animations
  • Oscar Mayer’s Wake Up and Smell the Bacon App

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  • Hootsuite Game of Social Thrones

As Jeremy Taylor from Our Social Times specifies, “branded content marketing campaigns are often associated with entertainment-type content, such as creative video advertising.” So it is easy to see how 24-hour news stations can attract brands to this new option with viewership numbers, while filling their own programming vacancies for a profit. Dan Riess said CNN’s trustworthiness is why advertisers will be attracted to Courageous. The only question is, will viewers mind that the content is sponsored?

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson

Bridging the gap between no experience and entry-level

Over the past few year marketers seem to have caught on to what we want – customization, integration, instant gratification. But it’s time to really start paying attention to what we are – “collaborative, inventive, giving, entrepreneurial”. And by “we” I mean myself, Caroline, our peers, and our generation itself – millennials.

We’re not just important in how we have reshaped the consumerism market; we are simultaneously laying the groundwork for a much bigger shift in reshaping corporate culture as a whole – companies are not just selling to us, they are also hiring us. Defined as the 80 million people born between 1980 and 2000, we are posed to make up 46% of the workforce by 2020.

While described with praise as adaptable and eager, millennials are also being plagued with names such as selfish and entitled. Our generational mantra does seem to be “we want more!” However, to shine a negative light on such misconstrues the positive realities of what we actually want more of: fulfillment, collaborative corporate structure, work-life balance, meaningful/purposeful work.

Yet for as much optimism, talent, and education we possess, as well as are ready and able to pour into the workforce, millennials are facing some deeply acknowledged hardship. Swimming in the workforce is a competitive pool, but doing so in the wake of a recession makes it incredibly more so – and with two main disadvantages. First, we are faced with less job openings – unemployment rates for those between 18 and 29 years of age are calculated to be about 7.9 or 13.8 percent, depending on the factors considered. Secondly, we are making less than young professionals of 10 years ago.

Not only are we competing among our own peers, but due to unemployment rates across the population, even entry-level positions are being coveted, and taken, by more experienced candidates. So how are millennials supposed to successfully compete in the job market?

Many job-seeking individuals try tactics such as uniquely designed resumes and humorously toned cover letters, yet many still find these efforts not enough.

A Newsweek article summed up the challenges millennials face, “You’re like, ‘I’ll do anything and apply for everything, but usually it’s an electronic filing and you’re spending all your time on it and never hear back. … So far, I have applied for around 30 jobs, if not more, and have heard back on two of them. … I didn’t get either job because I don’t have enough experience. These are entry-level jobs, but experienced people are taking them.”

But what if there was a way to bypass the traditional job application process? One guy, Petar Vujosevic, is trying to do just that. His website GapJumpers works to connect employers with the best and most talented candidates regardless of education and/or experience, and connect untraditional candidates (those without education/experience) a chance to prove they have what it takes to not only do the job, but be the best person for it.

So instead of creating a job-listing, employers post a question or a problem and ask applicants to submit a response. If the employer likes the applicant’s answer they can further reach out to continue the interview process.

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Vujosevic comments on job-seeking in an interview with NPR, “There is definitely room to improve how we view talent, how we screen talent, how we engage with talent and how we end up interviewing talent.”

An article by The Resumator, highlights how companies should plan to adapt to different hiring approaches for the new wave of job seekers, “Millennials are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than previous generations, so remind hiring managers not to focus too much on past work experience. Instead, get into the intangibles; look for personality traits and hobbies that indicate motivation and commitment.” This seems to be exactly what GapJumpers is aiming to help employers accomplish.

The consensus is that millennials want and support equality; data shows that we collectively appreciate it across the spectrum – marriage, race, and pay. It seems that GapJumpers is identifying with that value through elevating equal opportunity via its blind auditions.

As the last of the millennials make their way through school and emerge into the highly saturated job market, we wonder how this new and improved way of job searching will affect the way we view educational obtainment and ourselves. Do platforms that take away all individualization show a shift in our cultural values? Are we placing less emphasis on educational background and more on learned skills?

Let us know what you think of GapJumpers. Would you apply for a job listed on their platform, or do you prefer to stick with the more traditional applications?

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson