Sunday, March 22, 2009

Community, Music, and Marketing

As a new co-contributor to this blog, I want to establish a context for my posts rather than randomly riffing on the topics of the day. I’m going to approach music within a theme: community-building. Not only do I consider it relevant, it's a subject I’ve previously written about, albeit with a somewhat different focus. A few years ago I created a blog discussing the cultural, social, and economic value of local music scenes. It was in conjunction with {noise:floor}, a Denver-based TV series created and produced by Isaac Slade (lead singer of The Fray) and his business partner Kelly Magelky. We all moved on to other activities, so the last entry was in 2007, but it is still online.

Let me start by saying that technology has given us more tools than ever before to promote community, and people are taking advantage of them.

If you are even moderately involved in Facebook, you know people are finding each other, commenting, exchanging photos, and so on. And if you are on Twitter, and particularly if you are following the social media discussions on and about Twitter, you know that leading edge marketers are looking for ways to insert themselves into social networks in some manner.

Other developments (e.g., the high cost of fuel over the summer, the economic decline which is encouraging a return to basics, the success of the Obama campaign at the grassroots level) have made us even more aware of our need for community.

Music is one of those community-building tools. It has long been used to bring people together. In tribes. In churches. At events. During wars. During protests.

According to Daniel Levitin (author of the book, Your Brain on Music):
Throughout most of our history as a species, music was a shared cultural experience. Early Homo sapiens coupled music with ritual to infuse special days with majesty and meaning. Before there was commerce, before there was anything to buy, our hunter-gatherer ancestors sat around campfire circles crafting pottery, jewelry and baskets, and they sang. Early humans didn't sit and listen to music by themselves -- music formed an inseparable part of community life. So much so, that when we sing together even today, our brains release oxytocin, a hormone that increases feelings of trust and social bonding. ("Do You Hear What I Hear?" The Wall Street Journal, 12/12/08)
Music can energize people. Calm them down. Inspire them. As Levitin notes:
Evolution selected music as an information-bearing medium precisely because it has this stick-in-your-head quality; all of us are descended from ancestors who used music to encapsulate important information.
If you haven’t considered using music as a tool to foster and enhance community, you may be missing an opportunity. According to Mary Dillon, CMO of McDonald’s, “Marketers that don't understand the power of music will simply be left behind." ("Sonic Branding Firms Get Increase in Sales Volume," Brandweek, 4/3/06)

Suzanne Lainson

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