Next Big Sound Presents 2014: State of The Industry
Next Big Sound - Industry Report 2014
NEXT BIG SOUND PRESENTS 2014: STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
Shares: {{ shareNumber }}
Brands. No longer a dirty word
in the music industry.
Why, you say? Money. And money means marketing. Labels, managers, artists - they have only so many tools at their disposal to market releases: promo (which costs money), radio (which costs money), touring (which costs money) – you get where we’re going with this. Brands – with a much bigger wallet – can help make these things happen. While some might consider this “selling out,” others argue that it is just downright “good business.” And it makes sense. Not only did brands spend a ballpark $1.3 billion* on music partnerships last year, brands are no longer looking to only work with the Beyoncés and Lady Gagas of the world.
Brands are striving to make genuine and long-lasting connections with both artists and customers.
Informed by data and with the right campaign, brands can provide additional leverage to spread the word, entice new fans that are otherwise out of reach, and actually help break an artist. In return, the kids think they’re cool. Win; win.
Beyond the new direction in brand-artist partnerships, 2014 was a year where even more of the music industry migrated online. Sure, vinyl is so hot right now, and that’s great. But the sheer volume of online activity is indisputable. Some artists did it better than others, some created a kerfuffle with the stands they took (wink, wink, Taylor), but what is clear is that the music industry has gone down a path it probably won’t come back from. As harsh as it may seem, if you’re not already on board, you’re probably irrelevant.
Frankly, the amount of online
activity for artists we’re tracking
is starting to get silly.
Back in 2012, when we tracked close to 100 billion online plays, we thought that was a lot (Like 100-Gangnam-Styles a lot!). This year’s total is not far off 450 billion. You might still be the type of consumer that buys cds at gas stations or Starbucks - but most of us are hunting down the content of our playlists through the myriad streaming services (Note: If you’re reading this report, you’re probably the latter type and we can be friends).
Total Plays
+363% from 2012
+95% from 2013
Sources: Spotify, YouTube, Vevo, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Rdio
+363% from 2012
+95% from 2013
Sources: Spotify, YouTube, Vevo, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Rdio
Total Fans
+202% from 2012
+186% from 2013
Sources: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, YouTube, Vine
+202% from 2012
+186% from 2013
Sources: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, YouTube, Vine
The times they are a’changin:
The way we social and stream
is always evolving.
With more than 200 different metrics on online activity for artists, Next Big Sound is in the position to take a step back and understand how exactly fans are interacting with artists and bands through these networks, and how this activity develops over time. We see some networks growing in leaps and bounds (hint, hint Instagram), and some that may have plateaued (sorry Twitter). Not to mention that millennials are still stalking their favorite artists on Facebook, contrary to popular opinion that only old people hang out there these days (that’s you Mom).
People aren’t using SoundCloud to follow artists like they used to, but they are using SoundCloud to listen to their music. We tracked 2.4 billion SoundCloud plays in December 2014.
In the realm of social music, Twitter remains the bigger platform for artists. But given how rapidly artists are adding followers on Instagram, and the relatively stable levels of growth on Twitter year over year, how long will that be the case?
Despite the many headlines espousing the rapid aging and certain demise of Facebook, millennials remain the most avid users of the network for music-related activity.
Not everybody is listening to
pop music. We promise.
Everyone has their theories on where different types of music fans go to find their favorite artists. SoundCloud has a rep for being EDM-heavy, Vevo hosts music videos for all the major pop and R&B stars (excluding Warner, of course. See YouTube for Bruno Mars). Is every hipster in Brooklyn streaming indie rock on Spotify? And are country fans too old-school for social? These questions are easily answered with a breakdown of the most prevalent genres across networks.

So maybe we lied just a little bit. A lot of people are indeed listening to pop music. In fact, artists defined as pop/rock, such as Billy Joel, Foreigner, and Kid Rock, represent 24% of activity on average across networks. And pure pop? The Ariana Grandes, the Madonnas, the Justin Biebers of the world? Well they make up another 8% of the pie. But don’t let that discourage you. Classical, country, R&B, electronic and more – there’s room for everyone in online music consumption. Even metal makes the cut (albeit a fairly small cut, but a cut nonetheless).



The distributions are less varied across networks than one might have hoped (at least in the interest of gripping storytelling). It seems we don’t in fact spend time on different services depending on what genre we’re seeking. There are outliers of course: a propensity for reggae on Instagram (go figure), a slightly lower share of country fans on Vevo and SoundCloud (no minds blown here), and the fact that about a quarter of all music-related follows on Twitter last year were for indie rockers (which IS kinda crazy, amirite?) twitter.



If brand partnerships are all the rage, which labels do the most deals?
Labels have long known the value of brand/artist partnerships. Universal recently announced a major partnership with Havas Media, all the majors have brand teams, and any marketing team worth their salt has an eye on which brands might provide a boost to their artist. To get a better sense of who is doing what, we took a look at more than 50 campaigns announced by Fortune 100 companies in 2014 (the list includes every household name from Walmart to Google) featuring artists with a current label association.


Universal is on the ball, taking a clear lead with more than 50% of deals announced. twitter Keep in mind however, this breakdown does not take into account the size of any one deal, but strictly the number of deals announced artists from each label. And value varies significantly from deal to deal.

So let’s dig deeper on value then.
Aloe Blacc worked with at least two Fortune 100 brands last year - Lincoln Motor Company and Coca-Cola. Teaming up with Lincoln, Blacc released an interactive music video for his track “Love is the Answer” in early 2014, allowing fans to view the video from four different perspectives. Working with Coca-Cola, he released World Cup anthem “The World Is Ours” with latin artist David Correy, as one of 17 tracks off One Love, One Rhythm: The 2014 Fifa World Cup Official Album.
In the month following announcements, both brands saw a similar earned media value (basically what it would cost to buy the same number of impressions on social), and audience overlap for either brand and the artist is only slightly higher for Coca-Cola amongst daily active users on Facebook. So for the brands: not much difference.



But for the artist on the other hand - a track-level comparison shows that there is a much bigger impact from the Lincoln campaign. In the three months following the release of the “Love is the Answer” interactive video,
Now, getting at why one campaign drove more attention for the artist than another, is still up for debate.
the version on Aloe Blacc’s Vevo page was viewed 11,000 times a day on average. That is 28x the daily average for “The World Is Ours.” The nature of the campaign could be a factor, perhaps people responded better to a tailored, interactive video than to one of many promotional releases during an already saturated World Cup season. Or it could all come down to the song itself.

As for brands working with more than one artist, Target has over the years worked out a tried and tested formula for artist collaboration. The brand works with several artists each year to release exclusive extended versions of albums, available only through the retailer. Among the artists that worked with Target this year are Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Sam Smith, and Trey Songz.



Interestingly enough, it is some of the lesser known, break-out artists that have led to the highest earned media value for the brand. For instance, while Taylor Swift has 25x the number of followers on Facebook as Sam Smith, and 15x the audience overlap with Target, the brand saw $1.8 million in earned media value in the month following the Sam Smith release, compared to only $663,000 for the Swift release.



And last, but not least, we couldn’t fail to mention the amazing comeback for Salt-N-Pepa that happened by way of insurance giant Geico this year. The ad featuring “Push It,” released in late November, quickly snapped the band back on the map as evidenced by an uptick in YouTube detections and Wikipedia page views. And what is more, the brand saw an earned media value of more than $1.8 million. Like we said. Win; win.

Fair enough. But who should I be working with then?
So if you represent a brand, and you’re on the bandwagon of “we need to nail down a killer artist to work with and cultivate,” where do you start? There are hundreds of thousands of seemingly viable candidates, creating music, playing shows – and let’s be honest, not every one of them is going to be the Next Big Sound. In fact, very few of them are.

So we’ve pulled a few highlights for you: artists that are on the rise, with both the data and the talent to back them up twitter, and who brands should seek to work with before the price tag gets too high.
You probably recognize the name, as Smallpools quickly became an industry darling after the online release of their track “Dreaming” in 2013, but the long wait for a full-length release is about to come to an end, catapulting their alt pop soundtrack to the top of the charts. Smallpools’ tour de force of popularity is their online fan base, driving steady, organic growth for the band over the past few years, and setting the stage for success.

As for previous alignment with brands, Smallpools made a big splash when partnering with Snapchat for the launch of their Stories feature, catapulting the promoted track to the top 20 on iTunes. Now their label team is casting a wide net for prospective brands to partner with, because the more important element is that the campaign is tailored to the artist. The scale of these partnerships can range from one-off promotions, to nation-wide television campaigns, but it all comes down what works for the band and brand.
It’s all coming up roses for James Bay. A few months out from dropping the singer-songwriter’s debut LP The Chaos and the Calm, he’s not only collecting accolades such as the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award at home, but making inroads in the US market.

Bay has already landed a few significant brand collaboration deals overseas. For instance, a live-streamed performance from the Burberry Prorsum runway sent the fashion community into a frenzy on Twitter. Whether acoustic or with a full band behind him, Bay has the power to instantly grab an audience with his raw, refreshing sound.

When talking about what’s in store for 2015, Bay’s team sees brand partnerships as a fundamental piece of the puzzle – an opportunity to get him in front of new audiences. Ideal partners are fashion, tech, instrument, or even automotive brands whose image fits that of the young artist, bound to be one of the big breakthroughs of 2015.
Sheppard are all about the fun, feel-good pop, and have already swept their native Australia, going 5x platinum with their addictive lead single “Geronimo.” The next step is releasing their LP in the US, where traction in radio airplay and YouTube detections indicates a warm welcome this spring.

Sheppard have already landed a few syncs in the Australian and European markets, from Subway Australia, to Hyundai Italy. The profile for brands the band is seeking to work with are young, hip, but influential brands such as Converse, Red Bull, Virgin or Urban Outfitters. Given Sheppard’s grassroots background, authentic vibe, broad appeal, and high likelihood of mainstream success - brands seeking a home-run with younger audiences should look no further.
It’s all happening! We’re no longer flailing around in the dark.
So, what? What does this tell us? This report is intended to give you insight into what is going on with the music industry. How much we are consuming online, how we are consuming online, and what steps the music industry is taking to adjust to this new landscape. The overall numbers, the user behavior, the successes and the failures – they all tell the story of a vibrant industry that continues to flourish.

We love music. We always will. And we’ll always find a way to listen and support artists.

Get In Touch
Next Big Sound is the #1 provider of
data-driven artist recommendations for brands.
Please enter an email
Got it. We'll keep you in the loop!