The task of building a strong, recognizable brand involves many tough challenges and difficult choices — for which there are rarely straightforward solutions. Ultimately, it all depends on your product, your target audience, and the industry within which your brand exists.
If you’re building a music streaming brand — whether it’s a major player or a smaller platform aimed at serving a particular community — you’ll probably find yourself struggling with some challenges unique to your sector. Standing out against established competitors, fostering a community, and driving engagement are all essential if you want to thrive in this space. Luckily, your brand can play a huge role in helping you achieve these goals.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the key roadblocks that might stand in the way of your music streaming business as you develop its brand and take a look at some of the considerations you should make when designing the different aspects of its identity and the role it will play with customers and target audiences.
So without further ado.
The Basics That All Brands Need To Get Right
Before we get started, let’s first go over some basic functions that every brand needs to get right, regardless of industry.
Firstly, the most important role of a brand is to act as the recognizable face and emotional core of a business — that gives consumers something memorable to latch onto while positioning your product or service in an exciting and favorable way. Ultimately, you want to set up your brand to foster relationships with consumers that build loyalty.
You’ll already know some of the main considerations needed to start achieving these goals. Your brand needs a logo and accompanying visual identity, a tone of voice for your content across both marketing collateral and other customer-facing material, and a series of values that are consistently represented in everything your business does — both internally and externally.
But, when it comes to the music streaming industry, what are the biggest challenges when building and growing a brand — and what are some tried and tested ways of overcoming them? Furthermore, which brand functions must be prioritized?
Let’s find out.
Why Music Streaming Brands Must Create A Strong Brand Proposition
The music streaming space is dominated by a few big players. Globally, Spotify owns around 31% of the market, with Apple and Amazon hoarding another 30% (approx.) between them. That final 40% remaining is where the category’s other brands are scrapping it out — but even this portion includes big players like YouTube, Tencent Music (which serves the Chinese market), and Deezer.
In short, music streaming is a crowded market, owned by powerful brands that have huge resources to maintain their dominant position.
But it gets worse! Both Spotify and Amazon both offer free, ad-supported tiers to their streaming service, which means new entrants into the market will struggle to create a rival brand proposition based on price alone.
So, in order to compete in this market, brands need a strong raison d'être, a point to them existing at all — and this needs to be communicated to consumers so they can differentiate between their options and choose the one best suited to their needs.
In order to do this, it helps to have a strong, clear brand that is backed up by a distinct brand proposition.
How Music Streaming Brands Can Build A Strong Brand Proposition
In order to see how brands can overcome this issue, let’s take a look at some music streaming services that already differentiate themselves from the competition in a unique way.
Firstly, there’s Tidal — formerly owned by Jay Z — which positions itself as the option for discerning audiophiles who don’t want to compromise on sound quality.
This positioning runs right through the brand, but it wasn't always like this. The service was originally known as WiMP — a name that poorly represented its offering and struggled to convince consumers that it was _the _alternative for those who valued sound quality.
With the help of brand-name agency Lexicon, they mixed things up by opting for a name that helped signal to consumers the “high-fidelity positioning” while capturing “the promise of truly big, truly immersive sound waves washing over you.”. Thus, Tidal was born.
Nowadays, the brand focuses with laser precision on its key USP: “a lossless audio experience and high-fidelity sound quality” that allows consumers to “listen to music the way it’s meant to sound.” This is backed up by a visual identity that features bright colors, crisp and clear against black.
Tidal also boasts a secondary USP that neatly fits into messaging that positions itself as the best option for true music lovers — the brand’s Direct Artist Payout program means that each customer’s most streamed artists can get “up to 10%” of their monthly subscription.
All of this is summed up in an ad campaign that drives home the main selling points of the brand, seen below.
Two other streaming platforms with clear differentiation from the competition are BandCamp and Soundcloud — brands are built around nurturing truly independent artists and fostering a community around emerging musicians.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at these brands as we zoom in on the importance of using your brand to build a community around your service.
Why Music Streaming Brands Should Focus On Community
Music is a deeply social art form that has, at least in the modern era, sat at the core of an untold number of subcultures. From punks and emos to the myriad local variants of rap and hip & hop to heavy metal and techno — music has provided a focal point for many larger cultural communities.
So it makes sense that music streaming services try to harness and leverage this power in order to grow their own brands and connect with consumers. Indeed, for brands sitting in the shadow of the industry’s biggest players, taking a role in fostering and serving music-based communities could be the difference between irrelevance and growth.
So, while it’s clear that community building can be a clear win for music streaming brands, how exactly should it be done? Let’s take a look at two brands that lead with community — Bandcamp and Soundcloud.
How Music Streaming Brands Can Focus On Community
Both Bandcamp and Soundcloud are open to independent musicians who can upload their music free of charge and use these platforms to help grow their following from a grassroots level. Clearly, both brands take community very seriously — they’re not just trying to build their own, but are providing a platform on which artists can build communities around their work.
Ultimately, success here is about empowering creators on the platform to engage with their fans in whichever way suits them, while also giving fans more channels to enjoy the work of their favorite artists.
A good example of an initiative that promotes this thinking is Bandcamp’s recently announced Live feature, which empowers artists by giving them more ways to share their work — whether they want to release a music video, stream a live performance, or just hang out and talk to their followers. This, in return, gives listeners more reasons to stick with the platform, rather than opt for bigger streaming services.
Soundcloud also positions itself as a community hub first, rather than a music streaming platform, and provides numerous tools for artists to release their work and for fans to connect.
The grassroots nature of Soundcloud means that it can nurture artists as they grow out of the communities its supports — which ultimately means it can host hot new artists ahead of their breakout success and presence on competitor’s platforms. This gives them content that can only be found with their service, a fact that is highlighted in their brand messaging.
Why Music Streaming Brands Need to Jolt Users Out of Their Habits
One key challenge that many music streaming brands face when trying to convert consumers from a competitor is overcoming habitual behavior and creating a proposition that can overcome the switching costs associated with changing from one service provider to another.
Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon all have different features that help embed their brand into the lives of their customers, making it harder and more inconvenient for consumers to switch. For example, both Apple Music and Amazon integrate their services with others — for Amazon, their music streaming service is bundled with next-day deliveries and Prime Video, while Apple Music can sync across multiple devices and might even be included when purchasing a new Apple phone.
Switching costs are a real pain but overcoming them isn’t impossible — it just requires a vibrant, memorable brand with a clear and decisive call to action.
What Your Music Streaming Brand Can Do To Break Consumer Habits
The first important step when attempting to win customers from rival brands is to ensure that you are focused on a specific segment of consumers, rather than casting a wide net and hoping for the best.
If you’re going to successfully detach customers from their current music streaming service, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd and speak to individual’s needs directly — and this won’t be possible if you’re opting for broad, untargeted messaging.
Before you start, you need to build a profile for the ideal type of customer that you’re hoping to convert — you might even want to use market research to learn more about consumer behavior and find an audience that is potentially underrepresented by the current offerings on the market.
Once you have a better idea of who you’re targeting, never lose sight of them as you build a strategy designed to shake them loose from their current brand loyalty and convert them to your offering.
Remember to focus on the parts of your brand proposition that make you different and consider working with artists to create unique content that your competitors don’t have access to. For example, Tidal has hosted all manner of exclusive content, such as Ye’s album — The Life of Pablo — which was initially released exclusively on Tidal, despite later being distributed to all streaming platforms.
Obviously, this content doesn’t always need to come from chart-topping megastars — the trick here is to find exclusive content that sums up the best of your brand. That might be unsigned acts, live performances, podcasts, exclusive covers or sessions. Whatever it is, make sure to shout about it and let fans know that it’s out there waiting to be discovered, only on your platform
The music streaming industry is a tricky one, but there’s still room for new brands to emerge with distinct offerings as more and more consumers turn to them to listen to their favorite tunes, discover new artists, catch the latest podcast, or build a playlist.
Success here depends on your brand clearly communicating what sets it apart and building up hype around its offering that is able to pull consumers away from their established habits and get them to try something new.
Just over half a billion people worldwide are members of a music streaming service — but there are billions more that the industry has not yet activated. So don’t be afraid to throw your hat in the ring — after all, the battle for their ears could be one that your brand wins, rather than the current industry champions.