Music is not an appliance. It’s an ancient, living, breathing community with a very colorful cast of characters. It’s the fourth dimension in a 3-D world. It’s a humanizing form of communication. It’s a passion. Treating music like a passion instead of an appliance means taking the numbers out of the selection process when giving this intangible gift, which means taking some risks.
By the time a song makes it near the top of the Billboard charts, chances are good that a lot of your customers have had enough of it. Granted, those songs are even on those charts because a relatively large number of people purchased them and therefore probably like them. Balancing music discovery with some familiarity in a store’s playlist is smart for a majority of brands. But including songs just because they’re chart toppers is nearsighted for several reasons, not the least of which is that Billboard tracks sales, not style. It’s a strictly quantitative measurement.
What about music-by-autopilot? Algorithms are useful for many things. But automating any aspect of your brand voice is risky. Sure, you can pick a few representative artists and ask a program to pick songs of the same kind, and that might work for a while. But you’ll eventually have to touch the wheel to prevent a wreck. Artists aren’t necessarily consistent in style and the metadata used by algorithms to link songs into threads is still fairly coarse and inconsistent, and the catalogs are still limited.
Invariably, users have to feed the software more information, and you could end up spending more time babysitting the autopilot to mixed results, or inadvertently “thumbs-downing” the playlist into over-pruned monotony. No matter how advanced the catalogs, metadata and algorithms get in the future, music-on-autopilot can’t adapt to changing floor-set themes, promotions, seasons, or day-parts (easy mornings, upbeat days, high energy nights and weekends, etc.).
Finding great new artists and developing an honest musical point of view takes work, commitment and time. But to relegate your important music choices purely to quantitative and automated methods for economy’s sake is missing an opportunity to tell a more compelling story about the environments you create, who you are as a company and what you stand for. Sharing music with your customer is a chance to display your passion, create common cultural ground, and impart a sense of place and belonging. Companies that actively contribute to the music ecosystem and cultivate a genuine appreciation for it will benefit from the fertile social soil that exists between brand, art, and audience.
PlayNetwork is the leading global provider of music and entertainment media experiences for brands worldwide. We partner with over 400 brands spanning 110,000 customer locations in more than 110 countries, our work reaching 100 million people every day. This post is a part of our Keys to Marketing with Music series. To learn more about PlayNetwork, visit www.PlayNetwork.com.