Belt it Out: What Communicators Can Learn from the Music Industry

In observing the music industry from afar, I have picked up on a few interesting insights that offer relevancy to my role as a communicator.

I’ve always found music to be a great escape; a way to dial-up or -down my emotional state depending on what I choose to play. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more interested in the process and industry of music. I love hearing how an artist approaches their songwriting. And I’ve been fascinated by the distribution disruption now that streaming platforms have changed the way music is consumed and monetized (though I still love a good vinyl). 

In observing the music industry from afar, I have picked up on a few interesting insights that offer relevancy to my role as a communicator. Take a look at a few of my favorite examples, and let us know what else you think applies: 

Reinvent for Relevancy 

Madonna. Prince. Taylor Swift. Snoop Dog. Countless artists have reinvented – and in some cases renamed – themselves as their music evolves. This evolution can be seen in their physical appearance, in the sounds and rhythms of their music, or even in their professional ambitions. 

Just as musicians fear turning into a one-hit wonder, brands and organizations need to continue to reinvent their brands to remain relevant in the market. Just look at Netflix. It has reinvented its image as its business model has evolved from DVDs-by-mail to streaming, from streaming to creating original content. In this case, its visual brand identity has remained essentially the same, but it has managed to redefine what value it offers customers, and surprise and delight its audience to ensure they stick with them as it continues to evolve. In this cluttered market of streaming platforms, it will be interesting to see where they go from here. 

Embrace the Fandom

Justin Bieber has his Beliebers. Beyonce has her Beyhive. BTS has its ARMY. For some pop musicians, their fanbase has taken on a life and persona of its own. These fans go to great lengths to show their appreciation for the artists they love, and in some cases the artist reciprocates to show their fans just how much they mean to them. Take the queen herself Taylor Swift.

As communicators, we have the opportunity – and responsibility – to build real relationships with our target audiences. People love to feel appreciated and it is vital to show that appreciation to those around you. Like Taylor, taking the time to be authentic and personable in your communication can go a long way. 

Shorten Your Content

According to Spotify, artists have roughly five seconds to grab a listener's attention before deciding whether they will skip a song. Knowing this, songwriters have changed up their approach for making music, often cutting long-winded intros, adding an ear-grabbing first note, and reducing the sequence to verse / chorus / verse / chorus / verse (and maybe a bridge for good measure). From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 went from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to 3 minutes and 30 seconds. 

The attention spans of consumers are shrinking and that means it may be time to reevaluate the length of some of your content. Are there areas in your content that could be more concise? Is pivoting to TikTok and relying on more video-based messaging something you should consider? In 2022 we are flooded with content and are in constant competition for attention spans. Don’t be afraid to shorten your messaging while still keeping that same great quality that you are known for.

Collaborate with Intent 

It’s become increasingly common for music artists to work together on a project. Sometimes it’s an up-and-coming singer with a well-known superstar like The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s hit STAY. Sometimes it’s two musicians with similar sensibilities and mutual adoration for one another like Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers’ song Nothing New. Sometimes it’s two artists of very different age demographics who can bring their audiences together like Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s album Cheek to Cheek. And sometimes it’s two completely different musical genres pairing up to experiment with the unexpected, like Run DMC’s song Walk This Way with Aerosmith. In any case, these strategic partnerships created exceptional content and allowed a wider audience base to appreciate the art; something brands should think about as they approach partnerships. 

Next time you’re immersed in the musical experience of your favorite artist, consider all of the creativity and inspiration at play. As Hans Christian Anderson once brilliantly said, “where words fail, music speaks.”