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5 Trends at the Intersection of Music and Brands in 2022

By Rebecca Jolly & Joe Belliotti.

TikTok, NFTs, sonic branding and more...

Toward the end of last year, in a piece on this site, we outlined five trends at the intersection of music and brands.

  • Live will be a hybrid of IRL and digital

  • Sound will become more strategic and comprehensive

  • Co-brand and social good partnerships

  • Brands tapping into music creator communities

  • Music is good business

For 2022, we have outlined the next five new trends we see—some as an extension of those previously discussed and some that are more recently emerging in a rapidly evolving industry. Over the last 12 months, we've seen marketers continue to be constructively challenged by the ongoing pandemic, changes in how people are consuming media and increasing emphasis on evolution in NFTs, the metaverse and Web3.

How brands are leveraging music and sound on TikTok.

Sometimes by design, sometimes by good fortune, brands are seeing how music plays a role in rocketing a brand to the top of the pop-culture conversation. Think Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." The now-famous skateboarding video by Nathan Apodaca turned Ocean Spray into a worldwide trend. And who could argue music's role in connecting to the moment and the emotion of that video clip?

And it's no surprise. Unlike Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others, TikTok is a firmly "sound-on" platform. Sound and music are central, even mandatory, to the enjoyment of the platform. Various reports show 90 percent or more of people reinforce this point, that sound is necessary for TikTok.

There is one criteria that defines the music of TikTok—it has to be new. It could be breaking new songs but it could also be music that is "new" to the TikTok audience. While I heard "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell growing up, it is new to our own kids and new to the TikTok audience. Classic songs are not the only pieces of music making an unexpected resurgence on TikTok. "I'm Lovin' It," the longstanding McDonald's sonic brand, has become the soundtrack and inspiration for countless consumer-created TikToks.

Brands have realized the importance of sound and the impact of music, now they are taking more calculated, strategic approaches to using these to go from branded content to pop-culture conversation.

A peek into the future of music and sound in the metaverse.

The metaverse offers a playground, a testing ground, for new brand-owned and inspired music experiences. A low-cost, quick way to try out ideas that could potentially be scaled into the real world. Ideas that would have been impossible to test without a heavy lift and hefty budget. Brands are already looking at the ways to use sound, and owned sonic assets, as tools to create recognition in these new immersive environments.

Today, though, the metaverse is more of a future state than current reality. So why should brands care now? Well, we've seen the benefits of first mover advantage. When it comes to new music platforms and music experiences, the brands that are prepared to take this advantage can benefit. From the first brands to offer digital rewards or those first on voice devices—or in this case, the metaverse—music is an easy and instant way to grab consumer attention. The key is then turning that attention into a foothold that becomes a business driver.

Music NFTs to drive rewards and loyalty programs.

Music artists and music companies are historically quicker to dive into innovations and future trends that one day brand marketers will use to attract audiences. NFTs are the latest example. As NFTs offer new distribution and revenue opportunities for music creators, for the first time music creators can earn on every iterative version of their music, unlike the archaic CD resale racks.

As digital forms like MP3s started to emerge in the early to mid 2000s, brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi offered these new digital files as rewards with purchase. It's no stretch to think that very soon brands will move beyond NFT offers for the press release to offering NFTs as incentives for purchase or even baked into redemption options for rewards programs.

One music company that is leading in this space is Beatport, the world's largest download and streaming tech platform for electronic music DJs. In late 2020, Beatport announced the first ever NFT audio/visual curated collection, "Music for Future Dance Floors," featuring exclusive and unreleased tracks from world-renowned artists including Sasha, Charlotte de Witte, Boys Noize, Pan-Pot, Nic Fanciulli and Sama' Abdulhadi with stunning accompanying visual art from Leif Podhajsky.

In January of this year, Beatport followed this by announcing a partnership with PIXELYNX, the new (metaverse) gaming venture from electronic music mavericks Joel Zimmerman (deadmau5) and Richie Hawtin, and the release of Synth Heads, a unique series of generative NFTs based on much-loved analog synthesizers. Due to launch imminently, Beatport is paving the way in terms of building long-tail NFT platforms that will eventually help guide brands into the space.

As Robb McDaniels, Beatport CEO explains: "When it benefits and strengthens the artist community, there is no reason to stop innovating. It's clear that, even in the midst of a pandemic, the DJ/producer community is willing to lead the industry toward embracing new technology and innovative mediums for engaging with their fans, and the world of cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens is a clear example of this fact."

Creative uses of sound as UX, UI and product sounds to build brand equity.

Until recently, the product development process would very rarely include a considered approach to sound. The realization that products, apps, websites and digital experiences all contribute to the consumer impression and perception of a brand has led brand builders to look at sound across all these interactions.

Apple realized this very early on. As the legend goes, the first version of the Mac included a startup sound that Steve Jobs instantly instructed his team to go back and fix. Today the Apple startup sound is distinctive, ownable and iconic—think Wall-E—and has paved the way for thousands of other brands to invest in figuring out their own product sound.

Artists as change-makers in the wider world.

Musicians have long-held political sway, applying their gravity to everything from cultural causes to political campaigns. Not the first, but one of the most notable, was John Lennon using his influence to drive a global uprising against the Vietnam War with his "Bed-ins for Peace" protests in 1969.

None of this is new, but as the world struggles to right itself after several years of upheaval, a new era of music-led influence and change-driving dawns. Unless you've been under a rock throughout January, you couldn't have escaped the movement to push Spotify to review its entire content and misinformation policy.

Artists, led by Neil Young and Joni Mitchell with (at the time of writing) Foo Fighters, Barry Manilow, India Arie tipped to follow-suit, pulled their catalogs from the platform in protest against podcast host Joe Rogan's vaccine misinformation, leading CEO Daniel Ek to issue a statement: "Based on the feedback … it's become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time."

It's not hard to notice that the majority of artists involved in this particular movement are, though undeniably legendary, not necessarily contemporary. Which leads to the question—what could be possible if younger artists with huge Gen Z audiences, connected into every content and information sharing platform imaginable, choose to take similar stances? And as brands are under increasing pressure to stand for something, to put their corporate weight behind a cause, a global crisis (of which there are currently thousands), or an initiative, how can alignment with music artists further these missions and make them accessible to an entire generation of culture warriors?

Is 2022 the year where music and brands forge a deeper alignment than ever before and work together to drive some real world-changing statements? We hope so.


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