The Big Ideas Notes


  • Ownership –
    Big 3, independent labels, DIY artists
    Democratization of music/media; power given to audience
    Technology companies have taken over control of distribution
  • Cross Media Convergence / Synergy –
    Multiple ways to “sell” music
    Star image is a marketing commodity, can be sold
    Synergy is about mutual benefit
  • Technology
    Flexibility and versatility; can be used any time any place
    Interactivity and engagement is more encouraged
    Streaming and downloading is much more available
  • Proliferation –
    Democratization of creating music; anybody can
    Piracy and streaming is more available
    Importance of live music
  • Technological Convergence –
    Mobile phones are now powerful multimedia tools
    Power has shifted more to artists and audiences rather than labels
    We are the media”; media based communities emerge
  • AudiencesHow they are targeted by conglomerates vs indies
    Global stars; the power they hold as celebrities
    Media influencers; huge online followings
  • Own experience –
    Own relationship with media
    Own platforms and communities
    Bespoke, targeted media


Marketing Essay

Marketing is a very significant factor for the music industry, as it allows artists to reach wider audiences and bring more attention to their music, allowing them to grow as creators and become more successful. It is vital that artists make use of it in order to achieve this, aiming to create a continuous increase in their listeners in order to sustain their career; without it they could end up losing appeal, as they may miss out on massive groups of potential listeners, fans will not be made excited for any new releases. Thankfully, as digital media becomes increasingly available and capable for more people it’s becoming easier for DIY artists to harness this and market themselves, as well as providing a much wider range of options and approaches to make their campaigns stand out in the competitive music scene. This marketing can be done within three main areas; viral marketing, traditional marketing and cross media convergence/synergy, I aim to cover examples of all of these and show how different artists gained success through them and successfully increased their publicity.

One example of a viral marketing method used by the industry is guerilla marketing, wherein unconventional and surprising methods are used to grab the potential audience’s attention, often involving attention-grabbing, stand-out public displays and including interactive elements. For example, the band Two Door Cinema Club launched a 2019 viral marketing campaign to promote their upcoming album which included guerilla marketing in the form of a large billboard with a giant, functional fire extinguisher, encouraging the public to interact with this by pressing a button to release smoke. This unconventional display immediately stands out to the public, not only as a three dimensional billboard but also though it’s interactivity. Overall, this undoubtedly contributed to the success of their release as they saw 131k more Spotify listeners after the full run of campaign, just showing how substantial of an impact the marketing had for this band and the promotion of their album. This exemplifies how successful such a bold display can be, despite the obvious costs of setting up such an extravagant piece.

Another example of how viral marketing has been used by musicians is online. There have been multiple instances of different bands encouraging their audience to engage through online codes, puzzles and treasure hunts, often referred to as “ARGs” (alternate reality games); in 2015 the band Creeper launched a paranormal investigation hunting down a man named James Scythe for the promotion of their first record release. Considering this, the campaign proved a massive success for them in gaining so much attention for their entry into the industry, giving them a massive advantage for the future as it gained them many more fans than other bands would begin with.

Traditional marketing follows more conventional methods than viral, including tv advertisements, posters, etc, all the formats that typically come to mind when hearing the word “advert”. But just because they are typical does not make them any less important or impactful, even if not consciously engaging with these examples, their placement within our everyday life can leave a subconscious impact, if you’ve recently seen traditional music marketing at some point in the day then later on when you’re browsing music you’re more likely to choose something you recognise from an advert as it’s more familiar and comfortable to the listener than something entirely new. This form of marketing has also been impacted by the growth of online platforms, as it provides more areas for artists to publish their advertisements; an example of this can be seen in 2017 when Taylor Swift chose to promote her release exclusively through social media, completely independently, and without interacting with journalists or giving interviews. This limitation to only traditional marketing online and in magazines proved as a success for her, standing out from the busy advertising scene for it’s exclusivity and rewarding her with 1.2 million copies sold in the first week of release. Showing how not only is traditional advertising important as a standard for a marketing campaign but is easily accessible, giving more opportunity to independant DIY artists who may not be able to afford more extravagant viral campaigns.

Artists can also get their music out there by working together with other creators, cross media convergence describes when a musician may come together to have their music featured in other media forms such as tv, film or radio. By making this connection they are able to spread their music to a much wider audience, as they gain attention from not only their pre-existing listeners but fans from other media projects, this also goes the other way for the producers of the other media platform, gaining attention from the musicians fans. This combined effort is referred to as synergy, benefiting both parties as they work together to create a stand-out, multimodal project. This can be seen in the BBC’s tv adaptation of Watership Down in 2018 which featured Sam Smith’s single Fire on Fire. Already guaranteed to gain attention as a show based on an iconic story, as well as featuring an all star cast this convergence was sure to be a success for Sam Smith and bring plenty of attention to his music. This also reflects well on the producers of the show as Sam Smith himself is already a popular and well-known musician, bringing even more attention and viewers for them. Overall this exemplifies how powerful synergy can be in benefitting all creators involved, and how, by sharing audiences and merging together, artists can gain a much larger net following by utilising cross media convergence and gain much success from this.

To conclude, the examples given here show just a few examples of how impactful marketing can be for both an artist and their audience, creating a connection between them. Even if an artist chose not to market their music and gained some followers they would undoubtedly benefit from it in order to expand their following further, even by simply encouraging that they be spread by word of mouth from their current supporters. On the flipside however, it should also be considered that launching a marketing campaign is not without its risks; many ambitious viral campaigns will often be very expensive to pull off, and if not done to a certain standard they could easily flop, leaving the artist at a loss. However if done successfully and efficiently marketing is still a vital consideration for any artists in the music industry wanting to gain more attention for their music and releases, especially with how easily music is shared and distributed with modern online technologies. Overall, in order to make money and earn a living in the music industry you want people to listen to your music, in order for more people to listen to your music you want your music to be known, in order for it to be known you need to market it and get it out there.

Marketing Case Study

Two Door Cinema Club are a Northern Irish Indie rock/pop band who launched this viral marketing campaign to promote the release of their upcoming album, “False Alarm”. The campaign involved multiple elements and examples of cross media convergence;

  • They published interactive billboards picturing the band on a fire extinguisher which could release smoke
  • They also released AR billboards which prompted fans to receive a message to enter a competition and win new merchandise
  • They also customized a phone box for their single “Talk”, in which the phone only played a loop of the song to anyone who picked it up.
  • Another single named “Satellite” inspired the band to launch their album into space with a balloon live on Facebook.
  • They launched a PR stunt announcing that one of their props –  a giant inflatable fire extinguisher – had been stolen and prompting fans to inform them if it was spotted, they created fake accounts on eBay and Reddit who offered the inflatable for sale which gained a lot of attention
  • Finally,they set up fake weather reports leading up to their performance at Glastonbury followed by the “False Alarm” message and the band name.

Overall, this collection of stunts and their synergy as a whole proved successful for the band as they saw a 33% increase in Instagram followers, 131k more spotify listeners and earned a #5 position in the charts all helped by the distinct and unique visual style used in the campaign.

This exemplifies how a collection of smaller individual actions such as this can build up and converge together to create a massive impact for a release, even as an Indie band you can still gain massive success from a well executed and coherent campaign.

Radiohead Case Study – ANIMA

Watch the videos and read the article and then answer these questions. Don’t need to be in sentences. 

  • What did Radiohead do in 2007 that shook the music world, in terms of distribution decisions?
    They asked fans to “pay-what-they-wish” for their album In Rainbows,
  • What did Radiohead do in response to blackmail from online pirates in 2019?
    They released the pirated content themselves to fans online, rendering the piracy profitless. They then donated all proceeds from this to Extinction Rebellion
  • What two stages of the music industry are primarily involved in the ‘drop release’ process of an album or track?
    Marketing and Distribution
  • How did the marketing campaign begin in June 2019?
    Advertisements, in the form of posters and flyers, began appearing around the world
  • What was the fictitious company called in these preliminary adverts?
    ANIMA Industries
  • What did the Dream Camera of this company promise to do for callers who called the mystery number?
    Get dreams back
  • Why was this campaign described as an ‘internet scavenger hunt’?
    As it consisted of multiple stages that would be followed by fans as if following a scavenger trail, from phoning the Dream Camera to finding the link to the ANIMA website
  • What did the huge projections on London landmarks point towards?
    The ANIMA website
  • Phase 2 consisted of what in the campaign?
    The release of their short film
  • Where did this film showcase and premiere and where was it later shown for free?
    As a simulcast, as well as in some IMAX cinemas, it was then later released on the ANIMA website and can also be found on Netflix
  • What was broadcast and relayed simultaneously as part of the ‘simulcast’ of events?
    The short film
  • The multi-format release strategy involved releasing the album in two places simultaneously – where were these?
    Both on the website and in record stores
  • What response was expected from the die-hard Radiohead fans? Why was the marketing/distribution campaign so engaging?
    They were expected to engage and seek out this form of “high art” as many fans share an appreciation for physical music artefacts, making the multi-formatted release especially appealing to them
  • Which entertainment platform looks set to become a new distribution, marketing platform?
    Social media and streaming sites, (Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Netflix)
  • What type of narrative is used for the music video – amplified, disjunctive or illustrative and why?
    Amplified/disjunctive, as it does not directly correlate to the music but instead takes a very abstract, metaphoric, surreal approach in its presentation.
  • What do you like/dislike about the video – 5 x bullet points.
    I like the clear flow and structure of a story/narrative over the course of the video
    I like the contemporary use of colours, lighting and structures
    I like the use of dance and movement to convey messages, relying less on props
    I like the industrial costumes and setting contrasting the strange and unnatural physics and distortions
    I dislike how some areas do feel quite repetitive, whilst important to the story, they can begin to drag on a little

Distribution Methods – Pros and Cons

Traditional Record Label deal with in-house distribution experts


Reputation and influence: Many record labels, especially major labels have well-established influence and connections in the music industry. They are better positioned to secure licensing and publishing deals, shows at larger venues and festivals, media coverage, radio plays, and other opportunities and also manage hard copy (Vinyl, CDs) production and distribution of your music.

Existing network and connections: One significant benefit of signing with a label is their existing network. It can present major opportunities for you and your music. Without a label, your network and reach to larger audiences can be limited. Established labels will have a larger fanbase. They may also have relationships with booking agents, music venues, publishing companies, PR companies, and other music industry professionals.

Available resources and budget: Established record labels have the resources and funding to provide support for mastering, distribution, album artwork creation, marketing, merchandise, touring, music videos, and other expenses. However, the budget and resources available depend on the label.

Implemented marketing strategy: Signing with a record label with a robust marketing strategy will increase your music sales, help you reach new fans, and boost your music career. Also, a label may have a large email list, regularly send newsletters, have a strong social media presence, music media support, and more. In addition, a label will have music industry experience.


Less personal attention: Resources of a record label are spread among many acts so a more limited personal attention from the label and often high staff turnover.

Limited creative control: Signing with a record label gives them control over your music. The label can make deals and decisions with your music without your approval. They also have full control over distribution, marketing, artwork, messaging, and more. However, the control over your music and brand depends on the terms set in the contract.

Transfer of copyright ownership: The record label owns the master rights to your music when you sign a deal. They have the freedom to negotiate music licensing and publishing deals without your approval. As a result, they can keep more profits generated from these deals.

Fewer profits: Records labels take a percentage of the profits generated from music sales, streams, licensing deals, and other revenue sources. Also, some labels use the royalties generated from music sales to pay for mastering, promotional mailers, and other expenses associated with the release.

Bad contract deals: Many independent record labels have artist-friendly contracts. However, major record labels are known to have contract deals that give the artist a lesser percentage of royalties. Also, signing with a label means you have to deal with these complicated contracts and expensive layers if needed. This means limited negotiating leverage for the artist.

Digital online distribution agents like cdbaby, distrokid


Will help independent artists without taking too much profit. When your album is sold online you will only have to share a small percentage with an online music distributor, but the cut you have to funnel to them will almost always be less than paying a physical distributor and a brick and mortar shop.

Online music services offered to independent musicians: Digital distribution companies can now deliver their music to digital music stores, music platforms, and streaming services without the need for the artist to have a record label behind them.

They do the leg work: Digital distribution companies understand how technology can be used to distribute music. They can respond to the algorithms and read the data accordingly so they can mastermind a campaign to maximise downloads or streams.

Relatively cheap: Digital Distribution companies  require some recompense for their services but in general the deals are now heavily weighted in the artist’s favour.


Will take some of the money:  Online digital distribution companies will require a certain percentage of the profit and sales made but this is historically much, much less than the record labels although it does mean the artist does not retain %100 control.

Which one?: Many of the digital distribution companies offer different deals which means independent artists may have to do a lot of research to find the deal that suits them best and they may get it wrong.

Totally independent/DIY artist


You can keep prices friendly. One common complaint cited by music fans about CDs/Vinyls is that the prices are sky high. Because DIY artists don’t have to share so much of the earnings and because they don’t have to consult with a distributor/shop to set the prices, they can make their album price buyer friendly.

100% ownership of your music: Independent artists own the master rights to their music. They also have the freedom to negotiate music licensing and publishing deals. Moreover, they don’t have to worry about confusing contracts, expensive lawyers, and signing over their music rights.

Keep 100% of the profits: DIY artists keep 100% of the profits generated from music sales, streams, licensing deals, merchandise, and other revenue sources.

100% creative control: Independent artists have complete control over the direction of their music. They also have full control over distribution, marketing, artwork, messaging, deadlines, and more. Moreover, an independent artist has free will to make decisions about their creative vision. It’s the ideal scenario for many artists.

It keeps the costs down. When DIY release an album online, you don’t have to pay for pressing or artwork printing, which makes up the bulk of the costs associated with releasing a record (after the recording, of course). All you need for a digital release is a website set up that is able to handle the download demands for your album.

It’s fast and easy. When they release a physical album, they have to deal with designers (who are always late), manufacturers (who are always late), distributors (who always seem to want to push back your release date for one reason or another) and so on. Independent artists need a long lead time to make sure everything falls into place the way they want it to, and a lot of patience to deal with things when they invariably don’t. With a digital album, releasing the tracks can be as easy and fast as point and click.


Competition is thick. “Competition is fierce” is the cliche, but competition is thick is a better way of describing what is out there on the internet. How the net bears up under the strain of the glut of bad music it contains is a mystery, but even if a DIY artist has the best songs in the world, they still have to get people to find them among the hundreds of thousands of websites hosted by people whose HTML is better than their songwriting.

Limited resources and budget: Funding mastering, distribution, marketing, merchandise, touring, and other expenses are expensive. Many independent artists don’t have the resources and money a record label can provide.

Limited time: Pursuing the independent artist route is time-consuming. Self-releasing music can seem like a full-time job. It requires a lot of time to set up distribution, create all the release assets, develop a marketing strategy, track sales, book shows, and everything else associated with releasing music. All this extra work also takes away valuable studio time.

Limited music business experience: Learning the ropes of the music business is challenging as a DIY artist. It takes time and experience to learn all aspects of the music business. There are a lot of parts to manage, changing trends, music laws, and much more. It’s a complex world! It can also be an expensive lesson to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

There are less people working to sell your music. When there is physical distribution, you have people actively working to sell your music to shops, who actively work to sell your music to people. This is all in addition to any press and radio they might have going. On the net, independent artists are flying blind and all alone.

Limited network: DIY artists starting their music career have a limited network of fans and industry contacts. Whereas record labels will have a larger fanbase and connections with music industry professionals such as promoters, booking agents, media, etc.

Promotion is a nightmare. Some of the larger music publications still show some resistance to covering online-only or a new artist in particular. Yes, a band like Radiohead can drum up a lot of press coverage when they release an album online, but they already have a lot of cache in the bank. Finding a good web promotion company can be tough, and promoting something on the net is hard work.


In conclusion it’s clear that each option has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the approach you choose to take as an artist. When working completely independently gives a massive amount of freedom and creative control, this comes at the cost of requiring a lot more time, effort and commitment to be put into a project. Whereas if choosing to sign to a record label a lot of this work is taken off of you so you can focus on actually creating the music, this however is at the substantial cost of needing to pay back the people who work on distributing your work, causing a significant decrease in your profits from releasing music. In some ways this could raise the use of online distribution companies as a comfortable middle ground, as they still allow a lot of creative freedom without as much cost for releases, however this option also has its own flaws, with many different companies on offer in a competitive market it can be difficult to narrow it down to the best one for you, especially with such a wide range of techniques and payments. Overall, this shows that it is very important that an artist looking to release music considers all these options and how they apply to their own requirements, as each artist is different and has a different amount of time and funds available to them.

Distribution – Video notes

Video 1 – Part 1

Traditional Method of Distribution

  • Busking, self managing, small artist
  • Noticed by record label
  • Music is recorded in studio
  • Tape is sent to vinyl factory
  • Vinyls are pressed
  • Vinyls are distributed to stores and radios
  • Customers can buy the vinyls and listen limitlessly
  • Artist gains recognition and can grow enough to perform live, continuing to grow their audience

Video 2 – Part 2

Modern Method of Distribution

  • Can all be done within home, recording, mixing, editing, publishing, marketing
  • Is cheaper quicker and easier
  • However a much more crowded marketplace meaning it is more important to be able to stand out as an artist

Video 3 – How the Music Industry works 

Typical record deal

  • Label gives artists an advance ($250000)
  • Artist records and sells the album ($10 each giving $5million returns)
  • Label takes around 85% of total sales, leaving the artists with the remaining minus production costs and the advance (-$425000 debt)

Video 4 – What is distribution – then and now 

Traditional Distribution

  • Primarily physical
  • Music distribution companies sign deals with artists/labels to have the right to sell the music

Digital Distribution

  • Music is now released through streaming platforms and online stores
  • Artists receive royalties depending on how much and where music is listened to
  • This comes with the benefit of overall increased speed and lower upfront costs, as well as receiving analytics on who’s listening to the music

Video 5 – who are the Digital Distributors – who’s the best and what do they do? 

Focal Digital Distributors

  • CD Baby
    • 9% commision
    • $10 per track
  • Distrokid
    • 0% commision
    • $20 a year

Production and Ownership Essay


  1. Discuss the pros and cons of traditional media production/ownership and compare to those of new emerging models of music production/ownership (@750 words).


Suggested timeline for this essay





Ownership, within the music industry, covers the rights and ability to earn money from music, and it is a scene that is constantly changing. 

Traditionally artists would sign contracts with record labels to have their work distributed, earning money for their music in exchange for the label retaining all rights to it’s distribution and marketing. However more recently, alongside the growth of technology and the impact it has on our lives the approach to music distribution and ownership has changed as many aspects of music publication have become much more accessible to the public. This digitalisation and democratisation have caused artists to turn to different methods of distribution, signing to smaller Indie labels or producing their music completely independently rather than signing to a larger conglomerate label.


Traditionally, an artist will be signed to one of the big three conglomerate labels of the music industry, Warner Music Group (WMG), Universal Music Group (UMG) or Sony BMG (or one of their subsidiaries). These three companies own around ⅔ of the overall market share of the industry and as a result of this have a tight grasp of the industry and strong influence on it. Many artists will sign to these labels due to their well established grasp and back catalogue of successful artists, with promises of success and publicity, among them working with massive artists such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and The Beatles. Their power is further demonstrated through how, in 2012, UMG bought Electronic Music Industries (EMI) for 1.9 million USD, another company previously considered a fourth contender in this group, showing just how powerful they could become when starting to merge together. However, this move by UMG to expand their power also caused some backlash from artists, many switching to smaller labels in protest, considering how the big three often demand a higher share of profits from each artists’ success than independent labels do. This displays how artists are actively choosing to challenge the unfair deals of the conglomerates and are, as a result, transforming the industry.

Alternatively, more recently many artists have begun signing with smaller and independent record labels (often called the “indies”), often specialising in specific genres and styles and appealing to artists through having more personal experience in the industry. Due to their smaller size they will often find some difficulty as a business to begin with, especially when competing against big conglomerate companies, but just because they’re smaller doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. Transgressive Records are a good example of this, over 15 years they went from a couple of friends with £1,000 and little experience as a record label to being called “Britain’s definitive indie label for the 21st Century”. Over this time they stayed loyal to their motives, giving honest feedback and always doing what was best for the artist even if it appeared unconventional. They act as great examples of how with commitment and dedication a small record label can grow to be greatly successful in the industry and that size does not limit your success, painting the picture of how indie labels can offer much more personalised management for their artists and create a more tailored deal for the artist’s individual needs than larger conglomerate labels can afford to.


Even more recently, however, a third approach to the industry has emerged, utilising the growing capabilities of digital and converged technologies when creating and distributing music artists can now release their work online completely independently. As the equipment needed to record, create, share and release music becomes increasingly available to the public many artists are shown to be taking advantage of these converged technologies to create a career for themselves. Alongside the wide reach of social media these DIY artists – such as Hardy Caprio, a university student producing music in his free time – can now distribute their music to a wide and expansive audience at no cost. This democratisation of music production introduces a new level of competition to record labels who previously relied on the exclusivity of the industry in order to gain artists, creating yet another defining line between the older, traditional, record label models and the newer, emerging, more independent ones.


However the freedom of DIY artists comes with it’s own downsides; as much of their music is released openly to the public it is much harder to defend from issues such as piracy. One perspective on this issue can be seen regarding royalty-free/stock music artists, who create music especially to be licensed for use in film, television, radio or other media. These artists will upload their music to online libraries so as to have the rights to use purchased, with the libraries’ owner taking a portion of their profits. This purchasing of the music’s rights-of-use through online libraries means that the original artists are much more difficult to track back to from where their music is heard. This means that whilst they still make profits from this work, it questions whether they are receiving the full recognition that they deserve, despite the wide audiences their work is reaching. Displaying how despite the freedom gained from emerging digital production technologies, this can come at the price of the artist’s recognition and create issues regarding their rights and ownership in a much more saturated market.

The issue of ownership and rights to music is not exclusive to DIY artists. The company Kobalt, specializing in the distribution of music in a more modern, online scene has addressed the issues surrounding this topic, “Kobalt’s global technology platform tracks and collects royalties for the billions of micro-payments per song in digital music today”. Kobalt are aware of the issues concerning piracy and illegal distribution of music and take actions to prevent it, furthering their success and appeal to artists by doing so. This addresses many of the concerns of the modern production and ownership models, with the company actively recognising and working on these issues for their artists and therefore creating a fair and healthy relationship between the label and artist by helping them earn what they deserve.

Despite Kobalt’s promises of protection to their artists however, there remain issues in this area concerning the platforms themselves on which artists distribute their music. Spotify is one of these platforms, one of the most successful music streaming businesses and worth over $19 billion, however with this power they are held responsible for paying artists correctly for their work, a responsibility they have been found failing to fulfil on occasion. In 2018 Spotify was sued by Wixen for unpaid royalties to artists, seeking damages of $150,000 per song for 10,000 songs. This highlights how easily artists can lose track of the money they are owed through online audiences and how important it is for artists to be able to trust the companies distributing their music, another example of the risks that come alongside the freedom of new technologies in a new industry model.


In conclusion, the music industry continues to be a complicated and ever changing landscape, as the decisions artists face when it comes to ownership and production remain massively important to their career yet offer a much wider range of options than ever before, each choice holding its own positives and negatives regarding artistic freedom, audience reach and recognition for your work.

The Big 3 Conglomerates

We were next asked to look into more specific examples of labels/distributors in order to compare them to one another