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AOL MUSIC/LAUNCH:
THE NEW GATEKEEPERS
Two Key Online Destinations Have Become Integral Parts of the Marketing Mix
Radio and MTV now have company. The marketing and exposure of records is evolving, as it encompasses more elements of the digital world. Over the past few years, AOL Music and LAUNCH/Yahoo Music have established themselves as key music destinations and an important part of the marketing mix that labels must consider when promoting their products. The names of AOL Music’s Jack Isquith and LAUNCH’s Jay Frank are now being mentioned alongside Tom Calderone, Kevin Weatherly, Rick Krim and Tom Poleman.

“Online is taking its place alongside radio, video and touring as a venue to break new acts,” says LAUNCH Head of Label Relations Frank. “Our #1 music site ranking on Nielsen gives us an audience that often surpasses these traditional outlets, with viewership on Artist of the Month and [email protected] often exceeding MTV audience share for comparable shows.”

He cites Reprise’s My Chemical Romance as an act whose sales doubled during exposure on Who’s Next?, the site’s Emerging Artist Program.

“We’re seeing an intense migration of music consumers to the web,” says AOL Music Executive Director Music Industry Relations Isquith, who claims the site attracts 20 million unique visitors every month. Programs such as [email protected], First Listen/First View, AOL Music Live, AOL Breakers and AOL Radio Network, with a cumulative audience of nearly 8 million, are helping the music industry get exposure on new and established acts alike.

Labels are turning to Yahoo’s LAUNCH and AOL Music to break through the clutter and connect with fans. The interactivity offered by the Web tends to draw a more passionate, active fan base.

“Radio and TV are ‘lean back’ experiences, while AOL Music tends to be ‘lean in,’” says Isquith. “We encourage the audience to talk back to us.”

 “We analyze our audience user ratings with Yahoo! search mechanisms to find the hot new artists first,” says Frank. “This has led to artists like JoJo and Taking Back Sunday to participate in our Emerging Artist program, where they went on to high sales debuts that exceeded industry expectations.”

 “We were able to predict that Green Day’s ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ would attract a much larger audience than just rock fans after half a million people watched the video on First View within 24 hours,” says Isquith.

AOL Music Live, a webcast that takes place week of release, has become a factor in aiding established artists such as Usher and Rod Stewart to #1 album debuts, and in Usher’s case, a record-shattering 1.1 million in first-week sales.

“We treat the release of an album like opening weekend for a movie,” says Isquith, who adds the performances are then shown on 105k screens at 2,500 Wal-Marts nationwide.

“We’re industry-friendly,” insists Frank. “We work with promotion and marketing people to make sure label priorities have the proper visibility. We have to work together if the music business is to survive.”

“We want to lead, not follow,” adds Isquith. “The best thing labels can do is get to us early, with lots of information and nurture a relationship.”

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