As of right now, it looks like the age of the music streaming exclusive might be drawing to a close. While providing albums exclusively to one service might have led to a financial windfall for some artists, the resulting piracy and fan backlash proved to be too much for Universal Music Group, which sent out a decree declaring the end of the practice a few weeks ago. This is great news for listeners who want to stick with one service, but it also creates a new problem for artists -- in an age of declining album sales and advances, they need more sources of revenue. Music streaming services can no longer provide that, and brands can be the ones to step in and fill that role. If done well, branded album exclusives can provide a benefit for the artist, brand, and fans -- but done poorly, they can result in bad press and frustration.
Music exclusives are nothing new
Exclusive partnerships with brands were nothing new in the physical age, as many big box retailers partnered with artists to sell albums. Even in the digital age, some artists have pulled off exclusive releases -- Jay-Z’s partnership with Samsung to give away copies of his album a few days before release to their customers proved to be a success for both the artist and the company.
Think outside the box when it comes to exclusive music content
First and foremost, brands need to make sure album exclusives aren’t too exclusive. The barrier to entry shouldn’t be too high -- the biggest issue with music streaming exclusives was that they required signing up for a whole new subscription service, which many customers were loath to do. A brand could host an exclusive stream on its mobile optimised site and require signing up for a mailing list, for example, and customers would likely respond affirmatively -- but requiring anything beyond that might be tricky.
When the stars align, exclusives can benefit everyone
If artists are open to it, brands can underwrite the creation of all kinds of exclusive content. The artist needs to be a fit for the brand, of course, and partnership shouldn’t feel forced. Blackberry’s partnership with Alicia Keys was greeted with derision after the singer was seen using an iPhone, and creating fake titles for artists is never a good idea. As long as there is a logical reason for an artist and a brand to align, though, the sky is the limit.
For brands, releasing exclusive content goes beyond the obvious aim to drawing new consumers and making more money. By aligning with specific creative visions and providing valuable content, brands further cement their images in certain communities -- and that’s almost more powerful than seeing an uptick in quarterly revenues. As the old ad model fades, brands need to push out more great material to keep customers engaged and set themselves apart, and providing exclusive music content is a great way to do that. Apple and Tidal might be mourning the end of the streaming exclusives, but for other brands, it represents a whole new set of opportunities to acquire, retain or reward loyal customers.
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