Rock Band Network & The Thin Lizzy Paradox

My previous post on the Thin Lizzy Paradox (TLP) considered what Music Promotion 2.0 means in today’s world.  The Paradox, briefly re-stated, is that either there is an deterministic way to successfully promote music today or MUSIC, over time, IS DISPOSABLE.   Thin Lizzy is a reasonably good example of the challenge because their lead singer is dead, they have a substantial, professional body of work, and there isn’t much new news about the band these days…so either there is a way to find and convert potential Thin Lizzy fans into actual fans or the Thin Lizzy library’s value (and fan-base) slides hopelessly down the long tail towards zero over time.

For the sake of this conversation (or monologue as the case may be), let’s agree that the basic difference between advertising and promotion is that advertising is generally strategically inclined, more long term, and typically designed to create positive feelings towards a brand (making you a “Toyota Person” instead of a “GM Person”), while promotion is more tactically inclined, tends to be coupled with an event or time period, and focuses on immediate sales.   Advertising gets you into the top of the funnel in the first place, while promotional tactics aim to convert you to a customer.

As far as I can tell, in the music industry advertising and promotion tend to converge into the same thing;  On the other hand, the automotive industry uses advertising (making you a “GM person”) and promotion (“no cash down” or “cash for clunkers”) very differently.

Because promotion itself tends to be coupled with an event or specific time period, “news” or “what’s new” is one of the core requirements in promotion of music.  That said, I wonder how the concept of brand building applies to bands in today’s digital, social, on-line world.  Historically, I’d argue, most band brands develop organically over time, largely based on their “body of work” and tenure – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones – are all powerful brands.   Fabricated bands (such as ‘N Sync or Puerto Rician boy-band Menudo) are probably an exception to that rule and put effort around quickly creating buzz and sales (and fraud in some cases). Could one start now and re-develop the Thin Lizzy brand?  What’s the news? What is new that could be used as the catalyst or foundation for such an effort?

The Rock Band Network

One of the more interesting potential answers to this question has to do with the recently-announced Rock Band Network (be sure to watch the video).  The Rock Band site says the following:

The Rock Band music catalog is about to get a lot bigger. We′re making a set of professional authoring tools available to bands, studios, and record labels everywhere in order to build a diverse and growing library of music that’s sure to satisfy the tastes of hardcore gamers and casual fans alike. Every day, new tracks will become available* from top indie artists, newcomers, classic acts, and upstarts from the far reaches of the rock universe.

The idea of opening up Rock Band and effectively making it a platform is genius. Applications such as Reaper have been modified to create a set of professional authoring tools that will at least enable labels and artists to create Rock Band tracks to be sold in what amounts to an iTunes like Rock Band store.  One looming question will be how big will the gray market be for tracks created by end-users without official rights or permission?

In any event, the Rock Band Network will absolutely create a set of news – for potentially a long period of time – that could be the foundation of Music Promotion 2.0.  RBN is particularly interesting because, while it works great for breaking new bands, it might actually work better for bands with extensive libraries that could be doled out over time, socially discovered & discussed, and basically mapped into the context of the next 2 generations.

…not to mention new sites such as The Next Big Sound and Hype Machine (next discussion) suggest that we may be starting to converge on a very interesting set of ideas.

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4 Responses

  1. http://www.nme.com/news/the-white-stripes/45521

    I thought Jack White’s take on the Rock Band phenomenon was really interesting: “It’s depressing to have a label come and tell you that [‘Guitar Hero’] is how kids are learning about music and experiencing music,” White said. He added that although he doesn’t try to dictate “which format people should get their music in…if you have to be in a video game to get in front of them, that’s a little sad.”

    As for myself, I find myself buying more vinyl as it seems to be the only format standing the test of time. I’m drawn to new artists that realize the value of the physical medium of music and a full length album rather than the $.99 iTunes flavor of the week.

    • interesting for sure; perhaps a bit overly idealistic as well? “these kids today” are engaging with music in very different ways than even 10 years ago…I’d say it’s impressive to have a label suggest a better way to engage a younger audience that he may really want/need down the road. … or maybe he needs to get less popular to understand that.

  2. Interesting topic.

    Our 11, 7 and 3-year old children are definitely learning about the music of my youth from Rock Band. In fact, this reminds me to post my 3-year old’s rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” on YouTube. Maybe Sony BMG will turn a blind eye after the JK Wedding Dance video pushed Chris Brown’s year-old song, “Forever” to number 4 on iTunes’ top downloads.

    In the vinyl era, “engagement” with recorded music generally meant repeated listening and obsessively poring over cover art and lyrics. Not to mention the occasional air guitar accompaniment. If “engagement” today means strumming, drumming and singing along with Rock Band, the industry should be ecstatic.

  3. Now Trent Reznor pipes in and helps confirm The Thin Lizzy Paradox:

    http://www.joystiq.com/2009/09/24/interview-trent-reznor-page-2/

    “Are you fans of Rock Band or Guitar Hero?

    Trent: I dabble around in them and I actually think those games are fun. As a gamer, it’s interesting, fun and surprisingly rewarding when you get it right. As a musician, who’s watching the record industry look at these games as a type of salvation … it’s laughable. That’s just desperate people in the record business thinking. “Man, we finally have a way to turn people onto music.”

    In a good way, a friend of mine who is my age, he has a couple kids under ten years old who now really like AC/DC and other classic music. Music they may not have discovered at their age. It’s kind of fun to walk into Best Buy and hear people get excited about trying to play a Beck song and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m kind of excited to see how they did on Beatles: Rock Band. I read about that in Wired, and it sounds like they did an A-list job in creating the depth of the experience.”

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