Record Labels: Don’t Just Adapt to the Music Evolution. Guide It.

The following blog comes from four time Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Rodney Jerkins (pictured), whose career has seen him collaborate with the likes of Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston and Rihanna. In addition to his work in the studio, Jerkins runs two record labels: Evolve Music and Christian/Gospel imprint Lifestyle Music. Both are partners of Universal‘s Capitol Music Group. You can follow Rodney on Twitter and LinkedIn.

I’m assuming you read the headline and thought I would be talking about the most recent changes in the sound of music today, especially since I’m known as Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, the music producer.

Not today. Today I’m going to hang my producer’s hat on the rack and wear my entrepreneurial top hat while I talk to you about the changes in how music is marketed, distributed and consumed, and what we’ve been doing at our record labels to not simply adapt, but to get in front of the pack and change the direction of this race.

In some cases, you will find that we’ve altogether abandoned the pack for a detour that resulted in a short cut!

Technology has always played a role in how music is made if we refer back to the most primitive musical instruments of early civilizations; however, it’s only been about 125 years since we’ve had the ability to actually record and reproduce music via the phonograph.

Fast forward to 1940 when vinyl discs were introduced and that’s when the mass reproduction and distribution of sound recordings became practical enough for mass consumption.

“We could maintain SAARA’s original fan-base, collect a fan-base from vine and attract a new fan-base of app-crazed consumers.”

Fast forward to 2015 and you no longer have to ride a horse to your local brick and mortar and then wind-up your phonograph just to hear your favorite music – now you have a “smart phone” that will essentially read your mind and deliver your music to you immediately.

So how have we navigated this run-away freight train called “technology?”

Well, like any freight train, we couldn’t stop technology from moving in the direction it wants to move, so we instead packed some of that technology in our luggage, left the train and boarded a marketing aircraft piloted by us so that we could avoid the train tracks and arrive at our destination in a straight line.

For example, we have a new artist on our label named SAARA (pictured). Before SAARA was a recording artist, she was a YouTube sensation best known for her captivating imitations of foreign languages.


And although recording talent has originated from YouTube before (think Justin Bieber), it’s not the source of the talent that we’ve done different, but how we’re marketing that talent and financing that marketing.

For SAARA, because she was born from the internet, we thought it was fitting for her to debut with a song that was born from the internet, and so that’s how we arrived at her first single, “Ur Cool,” which is supported by a hook borrowed from the voice of a young viral star who was trending on the Vine app

But we didn’t stop there. SAARA didn’t want to alienate her YouTube fans and so we created an interactive app ( for her new single that incorporates her love for multiple languages.

The app is innovative in that it allows its user to swipe the screen to see SAARA singing her song in a new setting representing a different language and culture without interrupting the play.

In doing this, we are able to maintain her original fan-base, collect the fan-base from the Vine scenario, and attract a new fan-base from the new, app-crazed generation of music consumers.

The development of this SAARA app resulted in seven different linear music videos for this same record, which gave us the opportunity to serve seven different territories and maximize our monetization in each.

“Seeing the success we had in innovating for our secular label, we thought: ‘Why not apply these techniques to our inspirational label?'”

This strategy has pushed SAARA to over 1.5 million streams on Spotify in just a few weeks, rocketed her to #6 on Spotify’s Viral 50 Chart in the UK, and shot her to #1 on Radio Disney’s Top Songs Chart, which we think is an excellent start.

Additionally, we have been forming partnerships with tech companies that have been useful in several ways: On a practical level, these tech companies have helped subsidize some of our marketing costs in exchange for artist endorsement. For example, the label and the artist are supporting a digital wallet called “Oink.”

Digital wallets continue to gain market share over traditional payment methods and there are several that exist today.

We chose Oink 1) because it protects children’s privacy, 2) because it’s the only one of its kind—the only digital wallet that is COPPA compliant, making it the only digital wallet legally sanctioned to reach the young consumer, which represents the large majority of music consumers, and 3) Oink’s peer to peer functionality allows teens to receive allowance funds, gifts and payments for work, putting them in control of managing their own money.

More importantly, though, are the partnerships we’ve formed with other tech companies that will offer artist merchandise, digital content and, essentially, anything artist-related in a way that hasn’t been seen before.

Seeing the success we had in innovating for our secular label, we asked, “Why not apply these techniques to our inspirational label?” And so we did.

To promote the single for an artist on our inspirational label, Lifestyle Music, we created a music video by combining music and technology when we mounted a GoPro camera to our artist (Joy Enriquez) and then recorded a day in the life of a mother/artist for release on Mother’s Day.

This video attracted 2 million views in 5 days, which is unprecedented for a single debut on a new Christian artist.

We’re exploring many other tech-related and sometimes just good, old-fashioned out-of-the-box forms of promotion for our artists in an effort to cut through the clutter and white noise caused by traditional marketing methods of yesterday.

Technology will continue to affect every part of our lives, and we will continue to embrace it.Music Business Worldwide

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