The fact that record company execs look at you and either see dollar signs or don’t is not news. What I’m talking about is how much they genuinely look after their investment – you!
It’s not the sexiest angle to producing and selling music, but vocal health of our artists should be an important point for consideration when planning marketing campaigns. Conversely, it’s vital Music Artists understand their own vocal health and take steps to ensure their key asset (the voice) is protected from being overworked and undervalued, else they run the risk of running into short or longer term difficulties.
Currently at Midem, Cannes (France) and have just listened to Roc nation’s inspiring director of digital marketing Megan Healey discussing Rihanna’s 777 tour, along with details of its digital marketing campaign (sponsored by htc, river island and budweiser). 7 countries, 7 days, 7shows. Megan told of the immense media hype the tour generated and the subsequent album successes this campaign generated for Rihanna. The aim of the talk was to promote network effects – the more subscribers to a concept in digital format, the more useful the network to an artist’s brand. The 777 party plane allowed numerous fans and journalists to be aligned in identity to brand ‘Rihanna’, causing a ripple effect of interest and improved involvement and listening/viewing figures from fans.
I found this talk fascinating because, as the first talk I had attended at Midem I was blown away by how much of a ‘product’ artists are to the industry. I began to think – Rihanna’s only human and the very nature of such an intense tour would present a huge amount of risk factors that could lead to a knackered voice and a run of sub-standard performances: Alcohol, dehydration, lack of sleep, poor posture whilst travelling, masses of vocal loading through networking and partying, physical fatigue, vocal fatigue, poor nutrition, plus the demands of the shows themselves. Who was looking out for Rihanna so that she was able to produce top class performances night after night on this crazy condensed tour??
Megan mentioned in her talk that Rhianna was ill on the 777 tour and had her work cut out running backwards and forwards to the venues in preparation for the shows. Cause of illness? Reportedly flu. I’d like to think a girl as hard-working and talented as Rihanna was demonstrating how invested into her own health (and future career) she is, and was looking out for her voice over the course of the campaign / tour. Maybe not flu so much as the unsexy need for a vocalist to get some sleep, to drink water and to rest her voice?!!
Marketing/branding an artist is possibly the most important aspect of music in today’s music marketplace because it adds a story to the music that makes music mean more to the consumer than just the expression of music itself. People buy into the complete package. Companies pour so much money, time and effort into the brand of an artist. It is a 360 investment. So why do record companies continue to risk wrecking their artists voices?
Going back to Rihanna’s 777 tour… Marketing in this way should be a balancing act: it is important to gather fans and reach the masses to create sales, but at the same time we should remember that although artists are ‘products’ to record companies, they are HUMAN products that need looking after so they can continue to work.
Rhianna is unique, not typical. Rock and roll image is important to uphold but is it the reality? Was there secretly the dowdy role of ‘nanny’ being played out in the back rooms of the venues, someone advising Rihanna and ensuring she took care of herself enough to be able to deliver the shows? I suspect any more than these 7 shows and brand Rihanna may have found they had no product to promote because of vocal fatigue and/or injury.
A word to record company execs… Artists are your investment. You have a duty to protect your investment and ensure artists are given the care they require for optimum vocal health. We all take our voices for granted – until something goes wrong.
A word to developing vocal artists – don’t blindly follow the perceived lifestyle choices of multi-platinum selling artists. The truth is rarely what we get to see as consumers of media. Look out for yourselves and your future careers in music. Look after your voices.