Monday, July 29, 2013

How embedded marketing is reshaping classical music

Within hours of uploading my post about transparency in music blogging a newly released Deutsche Grammophon CD arrived in the post - not sent by Universal Music I hasten to add. As can be seen above the CD artwork is plastered with advertising for Universal's Sinfini Music website, so welcome to the brave new world of embedded marketing. Embedded marketing is a technique developed in the fast moving consumer goods industry that uses the high profile of a major brand to boost awareness of a sub-brand, and it is reshaping classical music. One of the best examples of embedded marketing is the BBC, where the high profile of the main BBC brand is leveraged to boost awareness of the BBC Proms sub-brand - a conservative estimate puts the value of the free promotional exposure for the BBC Proms across all BBC networks and websites at more than £1 million.

Now many readers will be asking what is wrong with that? Classical music needs all the promotion it can get, and the Proms are a wonderful institution. All of which is perfectly true, but it isn't quite that simple. The problem is that the major brands have total control over what they promote via embedded marketing. Which means that unless you are part of a sub-brand you are left to wither and die in the un-marketed wilderness. So the pressure to align yourself with the major brands, in other words toe the party line, is immense.

Sinfini Music is a revealing case study of embedded marketing. Sinfini Music is owned and controlled by Universal Music - which controls almost 60% of the market for recorded classical music - but the site's ownership is hidden away in the terms and conditions small print. Sinfini Music has ported the technique of recruiting embedded journalists from fast moving consumer goods. Sinfini Music has spread its activities, via its owner, into concert promotion. And right now Sinfini Music's embedded journalists are hard at work at the Universal Music backed Bristol Proms.

Yes, classical music needs all the promotion it can get and the Bristol Proms are daring to be different and doing many of the things suggested On An Overgrown Path years ago. But let's get a few things clear. Blogger Elaine Fine recently wrote very convincingly about the The Gradual Fall of Musical Bloggery. Independent music blogs are vital taste makers, and, just like classical music, need all the promotion they can get. But you will not find a single link to an independent music blog on the "editorially independent" Sinfini Music website or on the "editorially independent" BBC Radio 3 website - see this example and this example for evidence of just how editorially independent the BBC is when it comes to classical music. If you are an embedded journalist you are in clover, but if you don't toe the party line you wither and die in the un-marketed wilderness. That is how embedded marketing is reshaping classical music.

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Pliable said...

Let's also not forget that Roger Wright, who is controller of BBC Radio 3 and director of the Proms, was vice-president, artists & repertoire, at the Universal Music owned Deutsche Grammophon label from 1992 to 1997.

Elaine Fine said...

I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head here.