SMS Is Music To Their EarsAt Digital Music Forum West in Hollywood, California last week, audience members were encouraged to ask panelists questions via SMS. A giant screen touted the short code to which a questioner should send a text message, and displayed the resultant queries for all to see. The moment I saw what was happening, I knew that mobile marketing and targeted messaging would be at the forefront of promotions-based discussions at DMF. And that was exciting to me – as both a music fan who blogs in her spare time and as someone who works in the digital marketing industry, two reasons why I was at the conference.

Sure, a very few folks sent sarcastic text messages, like accusations of monopolistic activity aimed at Ticketmaster while an executive of that company was sitting on a panel. But speakers were unfazed, likely because they realized that two-way communication with attendees was worth enduring a few cheap shots. I know I eagerly looked to see if my question was posted on the screen as soon as I\’d pushed \”send\” on my phone – and imagined that fellow conference-goers were similarly excited to be active, rather than passive, conference participants.

Besides experiencing the technology firsthand, attendees listened to DMF speakers talk about various successful digital marketing campaigns, conducted by musicians, labels, and promoters. Below are several examples.

Knitting Factory. Jared Hoffman, president of Knitting Factory Entertainment, said the chain of music halls just recently introduced \”ticketing by text\” wherein fans text the name of a show they want to see to a short code. \”It\’s really been a phenomenally exciting thing\”¦ In a few quick keystrokes they can buy 1, 2, 3, 4, or however many tickets they want.\”

Live Earth. Aaron Grosky, president of Control Room (the company that produces huge music events) told how the company used last summer\’s Live Earth simultaneous concerts to increase environmental activism. \”We used mobile to drive pledges,\” he said, explaining that watchers were encouraged to promise, via text-message, to do one of seven things to reduce their impact on the environment. \”It drove the base for [viewers] to sign up and register,\” especially since people could see their names added to a worldwide list after they\’d texted in their promises.

Wilco. Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group and a conference panel moderator, noted that Wilco encouraged fans visiting its website to vote on what songs to include on the band\’s set list for the \”y\’alternative\” darling\’s current tour.

Musicians monetize SMS. Dave Ulmer, senior director of entertainment products for Motorola Media Solutions, outlined how smaller-scale artists effectively use SMS polls to engage with their fans – and sell them more product. \”We have independent artists who are text-messaging fans asking, ‘What song do you want me to have as a ringtone next?\’ And then they respond within five minutes of the fan\’s answer\” with the desired ringtone.

Sony BMG in the United Kingdom. Adam Sexton, CMO of Groove Mobile (a content-distribution company) said his company helps major label Sony BMG engage in successful SMS campaigns in the U.K. \”You\’ll see these posters advertising a \”singer of the week.\” You text [the artist\’s name] to a short code and it takes you directly to that [advertised] song.\” Meanwhile, he said, the brand offers discount movie tickets to the consumer, and will record the time/date/movie the consumer went to see. \”You actually start to download data on people,\” he said.

Mr. Sexton\’s point about gathering data on consumers is one we at mobileStorm have long touted. Ultimately, that\’s why digital campaigns – mobile marketing, permission-based messaging, etc. – are ideal for musicians great and small. They let them connect with fans, gather information on them – and, ideally, generate revenue based on what fans want to buy anyway.

Eydie Cubarrubia,
Marketing Communications Manager