The Arctic Monkeys album Whatever People Say I Am Thats What Im Not and the reality TV Show Popstars
The Arctic Monkeys album “Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not” and the reality TV Show Popstars: The Rivals which produced the band Girls Aloud used innovative but very different marketing techniques to sell themselves to their target audiences. How have those strategies changed from previous techniques to make music more accessible to audiences? The music industry is a worldwide business covering many genres and it is hard to define it as one single thing. Within the music industry are a large range of different markets, all targeting their products and musicians to very different audiences.
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There are many aspects to the music industry that need to be considered in terms of image, audience, audience size and genre. These will all affect the way a band is marketed to its audience. It is well known that “making it” in the music industry as an artist is no easy task. Over the past 40-50 years, many bands have tried and failed spectacularly. However, some have flourished and made their mark in music history, such examples include “The Beatles”, “Queen” and “The Rolling Stones”.
Audiences that need to be considered by music marketers are divided into a wide range of categories such as age, gender, occupation, social grouping, region etc. In order to target specific audiences effectively, bands may need to be branded in a certain way. Branding is usually described in terms of products and is where the product is given a certain image and personality traits in order to appeal to its audience. For example, the brand Levis describes itself as “Sexy, Original and American” therefore personifying its products.
In terms of bands, branding should incorporate image and music style, especially when targeting niche groups of people. Over the years, there have been clear differences in audience, shown by their different personal images e. g. Punks, Mods, Grungers, Goths etc. Marketing of bands has to adapt and be completely specific to the typical audience of that music genre and so must be presented in an appropriate style that will sell their music. People are eager to buy into the brand of a band by incorporating that certain image into their personal appearance and lifestyle.
For some bands, promotional tactics must fiercely focus on image to sell the product to that particular audience who are themselves branded a certain way. This effort by record labels to promote bands by appealing and emphasizing a certain image is becoming increasingly popular. Scissor Sisters are one example of a band who’s image is a central focus of who they are and what they do. Their image is evident of records companies efforts to appeal to particular audience niches.
Although in the USA Scissor Sisters have had much less success than they have had in Britain (many main stores such as Wal*Mart did in fact refuse to stock the first album due to their image and portrayal) they still vigorously emphasize their happy, camp image. In their videos they have used varying techniques to play on the ideas of sexuality in our modern society, thus creating a new and varied piece which is not comparable with anything from the past. They frequently use a colourful range of backdrops which are sometimes quite cosmic or fantastical (e. g. in the videos for “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin'” and “Take Your Mama”. in one of their earlier videos for the single “Filthy Gorgeous” MTV were forced to eventually stop showing much of the content of the video as it contained sexually semi-explicit scenes.
This did cause some controversy as complaints were made about the content of the video, this only sought to increase popularity and radio air play of the single which eventually achieved a chart position of number 5 in January 2005 and number one in the dance chart. Scissor Sisters although new in terms of its topical coverage of sexuality also dates back to the era of glam rock, their influences are also seen to be varying e. the Bee Gees, Duran Duran, Queen, David Bowie etc. Therefore they may appeal to some of the older generations as well as to members of the gay scene, for whom they have become a major symbol in British society. They have also broadened to reach a younger audience through their success in the UK Charts and frequent air play on radio stations aimed at the 11-25/30 age group such as Radio 1. This in itself shows how the branding and image of a band is adamantly important if people are going to want to relate and buy into the music and values of that band and why it is such a major focus for record companies.
A major tool for music marketers in recent years has been the Internet. From vinyl to cassettes to CD’s to downloading files, music has developed with technology over the past 40 years. The increasing accessibility for people to music was brought about originally by the increasing numbers of record stores and increasing interest in different music. In the early 1970’s, for example, Richard Branson originally ran a mail order service for buying records, this then developed into “Virgin Megastore”, a high street chain that made music readily available to a larger audience.
The development of access to music continued steadily throughout this period with the introduction of more music extravaganzas such as festivals and in the 1980’s, the launch of MTV, the first television channel to be entirely music orientated. The development in technology allowed widespread access to different audiences, as nearly every media division began to cover aspects of music e. g. TV, Radio, genre specific magazines etc. It fast became difficult to avoid exposure to music and its marketing.
The rise in popularity of the internet as a promotional medium today demonstrates this idea. In recent years, the Internet has become far more accessible to more people.This has led to increases in Internet marketing as a new way of letting everyone know about an artist. It is reasonably cost effective and the audience is a mass one, spanning the entire world (the number of people using the internet worldwide (as of November 27th 2006) was estimated at 1,076,203,987) A recent positive example of Internet marketing can be seen in the rise of the band “The Arctic Monkeys” to fame.
The bands marketing strategy has been clear-cut in showing the importance of fans to a bands success. This began in 2003, after several gigs, the Arctic Monkeys decided to burn their tracks onto CD’s to give away for free to fans. Due to limited copies, many of the fans ripped the music onto their computers in order to share the files with others through mediums such as instant messaging, e-mails and forums. The band did not object to the increased sharing of files, although this was technically illegal, as it led to increased popularity of the band, as they became better known.
This can be identified through an article and chart written by Heather Hopkins (Director Of Research for Hitwise UK website), November 11th 2005, shown in Figure 1 in the appendix and supported by the following quotation: “The first chart below shows that in April, when the band was virtually unknown, visits to www. arcticmonkeys. com came from chat rooms and blogs. Search engines became a more important source of visits in June as the band’s name recognition grew. ” This clearly demonstrates the importance of viral marketing to the success of the band.
Many mainstream music brands are slightly wary of viral marketing, despite its benefits it can prove quite negative and can also lead to illegal sharing and music being leaked onto the Internet prior to its official release, for example in 2002, Eminem’s album Encore was leaked on to the internet and the promoters were forced to bring the date of official release forward. As much as bands can gain high acclaim and popularity through forum and chat room discussion, there is also the risk they could gain a lot of negative criticism, which would discourage people from buying their music and merchandise.
Another example of effective Internet marketing, also used by The Arctic Monkeys and many other bands, are sites such as My Space and Yahoo music. My Space offers bands own personal pages where people can easily leave their own comments on the songs and the bands performance at recent gigs as well as listening to the songs free of charge or accessing previews of up and coming releases. Many bands also publish their tour dates on My Space.
My Space has generally appealed to a mass, younger audience from around 13-30 of both sexes, this is typically as a lot of the music promoted by My Space is new and there are fewer My Spaces for some of the older bands and therefore there is little to interest older audiences. It is also widely believed that todays young people are of the “technological revoloution” and the general acceptance is that computers are of more interest to them than some other older audience members. The popularity of My Space is now leading to other websites such as Bebo and Xanga being formed which offer similar services.
This again broadens the scope by which music promoters can publicise their musicians to different audiences. Rupert Murdoch, the owner of BskyB, The Times, News Of The World and The Sun recently purchased (through his international company News Corp. ) the company Intermix Media Inc which own My Space among other themed social networking websites for $580 million. Murdoch is often seen as a dominant figure in British Media, and rightly so as he owns two of the leading newspapers.
He is thought to be partially responsible for swinging to the side of the Labour party in 1997 and there by causing the election of PM Tony Blair, who soon became a close ally of Murdoch’s, much like Thatcher before him. Many British citizens feel threatened by Murdoch’s media power, yet still many of them buy into the My Space idea and the revenue continues building as more and more diverse and newly established bands start using My Space as the beginning of their steps to promote music. Increased hits on the site means more powerful companies advertising in association with My Space, therefore leading to higher annual revenue for Murdoch.
This shows evidence of the importance of internet advertising to modern business. Yahoo Music is another excellent promotional tool, which has a wide variety of music videos available free for public viewing. It also runs special features on certain bands as well as exclusive interviews and performances. This has proved extremely popular with bands and promoters alike, as it is a cheap form of marketing which is also highly effective. It requires little advertising as most fans of the bands are already aware of the bands website and they are usually linked to their My Space etc.
Viral marketing acts as the main promotional form behind the internet promotion phenomenon. Viral marketing refers to marketing techniques that use existing social networks to increase brand awareness, they may include many internet based mediums such as blogs (many bands use blogs to create on tour diaries e. g. Watford based band Mohair. ) chat rooms and instant messaging are also forms of Viral marketing. Throughout the 20th century, technology has experienced many developments and decades of technological advance, in particular in more media orientated areas. For example, the 50’s became the era of the television.
More and more families owned television sets in the UK and this was clear when 20 million tuned in on the 2nd of June 1953 to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. This showed just how popular television was becoming as a medium for broadcasting what was going on in the world. This technological revolution continues today as we go through what has become widely known as “The digital revolution”. Television has expanded further to include more and more channels, which can appeal to smaller, niche audiences. This has been of great value to musicians and their promoters; they can now target their audience more specifically.
For example, a band like the Arctic Monkeys who have become more of a “mainstream” rock act may be promoted through general chart music channels such as TMF and The Hits who appeal to those interested in that area of music. On the other hand, acts like Marilyn Manson and Iron Maiden may be promoted on Kerrang! As they are aimed at a more niche audience and are not so much part of the chart music industry. Kerrang! Is already an established brand in itself, the magazine from which it originates was first published in 1981 and originally covered a lot of new wave British metal.
If people have certain expectations of a television channel, they can make the decision as to whether it interests them or not and if it does the niche audience for that genre can be targeted effectively by the music promoters. The increase in channels has led to a wider variety in television broadcasting. As a result, to keep the publics interest, terrestrial channel corporations such as the BBC and ITV have realised they need to develop newer more innovative programmes to keep up their audience figures.
This is particularly important for Channels 4, 5 and ITV, Who unlike the BBC receive no public funding and gain all their income from advertisers. In order to increase viewing figures and boost profits, the channels have tried many different tactics and one of these has been the increasing development of Reality TV. Reality television is a genre of programming in itself, which usually presents unscripted pieces and may document actual events or people.
The use of real people instead of actors has led to a real explosion in the use of reality TV since around 2000 when Big Brother began in the UK. Comparatively to 10 years ago it is now much easier to become a celebrity, and in a society that is becoming more and more celebrity obsessed, this has increased the popularity of reality shows where normal every day people are documented. The audience almost craves the “fly on the wall” type documentary where they are able to perceive and form their own judgements of others through surveillance.
Simon Fullers “Pop Idol” originally kicked off the music and talent based reality television we know today. Simon Fuller was well know already in the music industry for being the manager of the Spice Girls during their highly successful mid-1990’s period. He was also responsible for the band S Club 7 who were formed to appear in the children’s television series LA 7 and Miami 7. The idea for “Pop Idol” proved exceedingly popular in the UK as hopeful singers entertained the nation with notorious displays of “talent” on our television screens.
Fuller went on to develop this idea in other countries such as America. The first series of American Idol was highly successful and was responsible for the discovery of Kelly Clarkson, now a hugely popular international pop star. The basic format of the programme has led to various spin offs including more recently X Factor and in September 2002 “Popstars: The Rivals”, which resulted in the band Girls Aloud. The show aimed to whittle down the thousands of contenders that auditioned to just two 5 piece groups of boys and girls, One True Voice and Girls Aloud.
The current success of Girls Aloud has proved that even manufactured bands can succeed in the record industry if they are promoted and marketed in the right way. A manufactured band is a group of people put together by a record company, or in this case a television show in order to make a profit and give publicity to the medium through which they are published. Manufactured bands are often selected because of looks rather than actual talent in an attempt to appeal to a modern society where beauty and appearance is clearly adamantly important.
In relation to Reception Analysis however, not everyone reacts in the same way to the presentation of these manufactured bands, although younger audiences may seem them as figures they can aspire to be, critics often think of manufactured bands as being damaging to the music industry and synthetically artificial. In the 1960’s, the first manufactured band “The Monkees” were brought together as the central focus for a television show of the same name in LA, California. However, the real era of the generic manufactured “girl/boy bands” began in the nineties.
In an attempt to focus on a younger audience, record companies compiled different individuals with certain images in order to appeal to different segments of that audience. Bands such as The Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten, Take That, N*Sync and Backstreet Boys all enjoyed chart success in the nineties and many critics have now built a formula of these bands that is easily recognisable. The media critics and the public have developed a definite dislike for these manufactured artists. Therefore it is questionable as to why Girls Aloud have been so successful.
Girls Aloud have been innovatively marketed right from the start of their careers in 2002. They began as contestants on a television show and viewers watched their progress all the way to the final. The Uses and Gratifications theory suggests that for a television show to captivate its audience, it should incorporate certain methods that allow the viewers to interact, relate and enjoy watching the characters in the programme. In the case of Girls Aloud, following their progress allowed viewers to develop personal relationships with the girls as they were regularly featured on an almost daily basis between September and December of 2002.
An added benefit to the band was that their first single “Sound Of The Underground” was put up against their rivals One True Voice for Christmas Number one that year, this in itself generated considerable publicity for the band. In Chart history, the Christmas number one shows a true landmark for an artist and to reach is considered a yearly achievement. Girls Aloud succeeded in gaining the Christmas number one position for that year pushing their opponents to one side.
Again, the idea of “Girl Power”, originally an element of the Spice Girls in the nineties was some what revived which may have given the band further appeal, especially to a younger audience. The beginnings of Girls Aloud and the Popstars: The Rivals show generated a lot of media interest especially from the tabloid newspapers. Particularly, the scandal involving potential band mates being disqualified from the show, or in the case of Nicola Ward, refusing to sign the contract. This proved to be good for the group and initiated promotion of the bands image, even before the television series ended.
When Girls Aloud then officially began their career as a band they had effectively been given a boost already by the television shows and so they already had an established fan base, giving them much advantage over bands starting from scratch. This was a similar tactic to that used by “The Monkees” 40 years previously, however developments in technology and increased television ownership and availability of channels made this all the more effective for Girls Aloud. From these origins, Girls Aloud have been marketed using many different media forms.
The girls themselves are seen as the typical models of female perfection that are such role models to young girls. They are regularly featured in such gossip magazines as Heat, Closer and OK! And so they are a central focus in today’s modern celebrity obsessed society. Girls Aloud have been described as remaining “constant tabloid fodder”. Suggesting their marketing strategy is to gain as much press attention as possible in order to increase their music and merchandise sales. In June 2006, the band successfully generated a large amount of press coverage through a variety of stories and scandals in the tabloids and celebrity magazines.
One such example was the press coverage of Cheryl Tweedy’s relationship with Ashley Cole and her holidaying with the “WAGS” at the World Cup. This was a frequent feature throughout the summer months in all the gossip magazines and red top tabloids. Although not planned as such, this also acted as a promotional tool for the band as Cheryl, as their representative, was showing a more glamorous, rich image. Her association with well known celebrities e. g. Victoria Beckham also meant that she was receiving more media attention for the band from a larger audience which could potentially increase their international scope of fans and record sales.
This increase of public interest may have also been part of the plan to further promote the bands other promotional tactics, for example their “Fly-On-The-Wall” Documentary “Girls Aloud: Off the Record”. Image is of course a central focus of the Girls Aloud current marketing strategy, they have a large male fan base and so their portrayal must be one that emanates both beauty and sex appeal as it is common media knowledge that “Sex Sells”. A recent criticism of bands like Girls Aloud and other popular female media figures is that they are projecting a bad image as role models to younger females.
Society has quickly become celebrity obsessed, especially as it is now more easy to become a celebrity than ever and the “perfect body image” has never been more important in the media than it is now. Eating disorders in young females are increasingly being blamed on the media as people strive for “perfection”. This problem has been largely illustrated recently by the decision by Milan Fashion Week to not include the so called “Stick thin women” and also Spanish fashion Week “Ban on skinny models”. However, anorexia is still proving a continuing problem in this country.
Another flaw in the bands representation was in January 2003 when Cheryl Cole became involved in an altercation in a nightclub with a toilet attendant, Cole was subsequently charged with racially aggravated assault (She apparently called the toilet attendant a “black bitch” among other racial insults) and later convicted to a i??500 fine and 120 hours community service. This story was a major one in 2003 for all the tabloids and gossip magazines and did little to enhance the girls image as a whole.
Four years on from this incident, the girls have been constantly striving to move away from this negative press to gain a more positive image, but one that still exudes beauty and sex appeal. Through promotion of the band Girls Aloud, the image focus means that they are always expected to have a certain glamorous look, if this is not achieved they are likely to receive criticism. However, music promoters must be careful in how they deal with the sensitive issue of eating disorders in relation to their band members in order to keep the press happy and in order to keep fans satisfied.
Certain expectations are put on major female media icons appearances, and as suggested by the hypodermic needle theory, if the audience see these icons, they may connote certain beliefs about their image. The hypodermic needle theory suggests that the audience are passively fed these values and ideas and as today’s society’s obsession with personal image becomes stronger, it is clear the issue needs to be tackled delicately by celebrities and bands such as Girls Aloud.
Berger suggested that “Men act women appear” and this is true to some extent in the case of Girls Aloud, despite their appeal to a younger audience, they often flaunt their sexuality to gain media attention and attention from fans. However they are in some control as they conduct the publicity and their ultimate aim is to entertain fans and make a profit. Figure 3 (See Appendix) is from the magazine “Arena” published by company EMAP. The magazine is promoted as a more male adult read than “Lad Mags” such as FHM and Maxim and may focus on more of a B, C1, C2 audience category.
It runs a variety of articles on food, films, technology, sex, fitness, music etc and this cover is taken from the March 2005 issue. This front cover features two members of Girls Aloud; Sarah Harding and Cheryl Tweedy. Many connotations are immediately apparent from this cover, connotations which demonstrate the ideas behind their image focussed promotional strategy. The stance of the two girls and their clothing immediately gives suggestion of sexual innuendo, the girls are selling the magazine on this image as it is likely to be the first thing someone will see when they pick it up.
The colour of their outfits, black again fits in with the idea of sexual connotations and the fact that Sarah seems to be holding on and in control of Cheryl acts as another sexual suggestion. The image has been taken at a low angle and is lit quite dimly, the lower angle may seek to show their features as well as portraying them as quite domineering and women of sexual prowess, the dim lighting adds enigma to the scene which fits with the subheading “Warning: contains scenes of an adult nature! and encourages the reader to buy the magazine to see what’s inside. Although not typical of all Girls Aloud promotional tactics in written media, this front cover focuses on one segment of their target audience effectively. A more recently developed promotional technique for many celebrities are so called “Fly on the Wall” documentaries, popularised by programmes like “The Osbournes” and “Newly Weds”. Girls Aloud were quick to follow in the footsteps of these programmes when in April 2006 they launched the six-part series “Girls Aloud: Off the Record” on E4.
This promotional tactic was a little different to conventional tactics used by bands for many years, such as posing for magazine covers. It aimed to show the realities of life within the band and in contrast to their image based promotion, it showed the regular ups and downs of the band. This insight into the band could have varying affects on audience members, the idea that they are “plucked from obscurity to become Britain’s most successful girl group ever” could induce personal identity with the band members.
There is a realisation here that they were just ordinary people before they formed the group, therefore the audience may better understand their hectic lives and can relate to that as members themselves of our fast paced modern society. The idea behind this promotional tactic would have been to increase awareness of the band and to also encourage people to re-form personal relationships with the band members as they may have done during Popstars: The Rivals.
Again, showing the realities of life in the band, like Viral marketing, may have a negative impact on the audience, but it still generates publicity. The opening sequence of Episode One “Girls Aloud: Off The Record” demonstrates and connotes some of the ideas and values at the base of the bands formation. The opening shot shows the girls being introduced on a stage type setting, with curtains slowly drawing back to reveal them all dancing, this is then quickly followed by some fast edited shots of some of their promotion e. g. press taking pictures, performing, photo shoots etc.
The colour and clothing codes used here are very glamorous and colourful and are likely to appeal to the younger trendy female audience that are often seen as one of the bands targeted fan bases. The image of glamour and of the girls having a good time is then balanced out by some more negative portrayals which show Girls Aloud in a contrasting light e. g. showing them swearing, some of the tabloid headlines are shown about them, arguments etc. This juxta-pose of two images acts as a teaser as to what is to come in the programme and even for those unfamiliar with the band, they may still be drawn in to watching the show.
Syd Fields theory, although more generally applied to film, can still be applied here and demonstrates the importance of the first 5 minutes of a programme being essential for captivating an audience. In order for marketers to successfully gain fans of the band, the captive audience must be able to gain both surveillance and personal relationships to keep them interested. In this case, the use of voiceovers, talking head shots and the non diagetic sound of one of there popular singles in the background seeks to intensify the audiences curiosity.
The interviews and shots seem a very random selection of clips and are enigmatic enough to encourage viewers to keep watching. Although the band is shown in two different lights here, it is clear the glamour could still potentially appeal to audience members and encourage them to relate and therefore like the band. In the past, other bands have also generated publicity through television appearances, on shows such as Top of the Pops, Later With Jools Holland and Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.
These are seen as more covert promotional tactics used by PR not to necessarily directly advertise the band to the audience, but to target those who do not necessarily normally take an interest in celebrities and the music industry and who can be reintroduced into that idea through general television viewing. Some of the less conventional techniques used by bands have succeeded in generating the most publicity. One such example is the well renowned incident of punk rock band The Sex Pistols appearing on the early evening broadcast of the “Today” programme on the 1st of December 1976.
Having taken full advantage of facilities backstage and following copious amounts of alcohol, the band caused outrage amongst viewers by openly swearing and being offensive to the equally drunk host Bill Grundy, whose career ended abruptly as a consequence. This “Filth and Fury” prompted increased public interest in the UK punk scene that was developing at the time and although it led to hostile press and local authorities cancelling gigs, it generated much publicity and for the band and reinforced the rebellious punk image.
The bands continued antics built them a reputation which increased their popularity amongst teenage audiences, who were eager to rebel against societies codes and conventions of that time. This proves that even risqui?? promotional tactics such as that of the Sex Pistols can prove hugely successful and they are still a world renowned band to this day. Music promotional techniques have expanded in recent years with the development of new technology and trends and continue to be highly innovative.
The “Digital revolution” has played a major part in this with new areas for advertising such as the Internet and more Television channels aimed at different market segments. The strategies have developed from some earlier successful music promotion tactics to effectively portray musician image and to also target more specific, niche audiences. The internet is likely to remain core to this developing range of promotion and with increasing numbers of people downloading songs online, and it may well dominate all future marketing techniques.