A man listens to music on his headphones. Credit: Sascha Kohlmann / Flickr Creative Commons
Do you remember TRL? No, this isn’t a Buzzfeed listicle, but if you’re a millennial, there’s a good chance that you caught a couple episodes of the music video countdown show. Now, for those either too young or too old to remember it, the whole premise of TRL (Total Request Live) was that the audience would vote on which music videos they wanted to see, then Carson Daly (or some other, less memorable, host) would play the top vote-getters. On the surface, it was a complete democracy, one that replaced Marco Rubio and Hilary Clinton with N’Sync and Britney Spears videos. But, according to Gogi Gupta, founder of digital marketing company Gupta Media, it was a bit more complicated than that.
“Back when TRL was about to go off the air, there was legitimate voting for slots 1-5. But I could take my online advertising and drive enough votes to of control spots 6-10...The proof of our online advertising efficiency was that for a couple hundred bucks you could get your video shown to 400,000 thousand teens when they got out of school. That was cool.”
Advertising music in the digital space has changed a lot since then, and Gogi Gupta’s been at the forefront of all of it. From personalized tweets to targeted Google search ads, Gupta is trying to get people to actually pay for the music they love. It’s not a matter of just increasing awareness of his clients; it’s hard, for example, to imagine a star whose fame is harder to shake off than Taylor Swift's. Gupta believes it’s about converting this fandom and fame into sales.
“When Eminem was the biggest social media star and Recovery was the biggest album that year, we worked the math out and found that about 9% of his US fans bought the album. There were about 32 million social media fans there. And what we’re not trying to do is get 33 million fans - what we want is to get that 9% number to 15%.”
The trouble Gupta confronts is the fact that people are less and less likely to actually buy music. In his view, music companies have too many fans and not enough customers. But Gupta is responding to this well-documented problem by meeting listeners where they are: online. If someone Googles ‘Adele,’ Gupta Media will provide them with a way to buy her newest album, wherever in the world the searcher happens to be located.
However, we all might be moving away from this model of buying individual songs or albums. And Gupta thinks that’s probably a good thing.
“We’re in an interesting transition period with the streaming revolution coming. We’re moving from a consumption model where people are buying singles, towards an unlimited jukebox in the sky, where you pay $10 or $20 dollars a month and you get access to almost every song that’s ever been made. If you look at your average revenue per user, that number goes from low single digits to $120 dollars a year. And the music industry is much more healthy when your average revenue goes up like that. “