In the last five or so years, the #newrules of music marketing, a term Jay-Z may or may not have coined (most likely 'not'), have taken music releases from the good ol' iTunes/Amazon $9.99 for an album, to a set of enigmatic and unique ideas to generate buzz across the internet and the real world. Why is it that the #oldrules (I'm making that a thing) no longer work? Are people bored of being introduced to music the old fashion way? Or is it the music itself that is changing, and thus the respective marketing rules follow?
One thing's for sure, that musical genres and sub-genres are expanding. Truth is, there is SO much music out there that artists need to be diversifying the way they share it to stand out in the slightest. Of course the actual music is what the listener really cares about, but with so much music out there, how does one know what bandcamp/soundcloud links to click on and which to ignore. It seems that the number-1 source of "interest" still stems from "word-of-mouth" marketing. That is, if your friend, whose opinion you trust, tells you about a band or even just casually mentions someone, the artist's name finds its way into the depths of your brain and when you're bored at work and see that name on your Twitter feed, you are much more likely to click on it. Physical music marketing does still exist (believe it or not!) but it should seem clear that such investments do not benefit artists heavily at this day in age, simply because you can't actually listen, on the spot, to the new Savages album when you see one of the 3,000 Bills the band plastered across Williamsburg. Keeping ads online via blogs, banner ads, spotify ads, etc. are much more common since the awareness can generate more than just a "this band has a cool name + I like this picture", and actually generate a "Wow, this song is great!" type of response.
But for most bands that are starting out (and usually not making much of a profit from record sales), awareness is, in fact, the main goal. Many of these bands don't have hefty bank accounts to invest money in online music ads. Thus, I arrive at the conclusion that the best way for bands to market their own music is with the help of brands and sponsors rather than labels. Brands are trying to sell their products, and up-and-coming bands are trying to get their music out there. No feet are being stepped on in this relationship, and everyone gets what they want. On a smaller scale, no, or very little money needs to be involved; it's a win-win. Brands are stepping in where record labels left off by subtly engraving songs into the brains of consumers, while also selling a product. Artists are usually not making much money from such partnerships (unlike everyone else involved, i.e. ad agencies, ad exchanges, illegal sites, etc.), but baby steps are necessary in such a delicate process. Also, having your song in a commercial can always lead to further label interest.
Whether on a huge scale like Jay-Z & Sumsung, or on a tiny one, bands working with brand partnerships are a crucial basis for the #newrules. Sponsorships can be as simple as having one hit song in a brand's commercial, or a long term relationship with a brand, setting up events, ads, and more. Red Bull, for example, who's product I'm not a huge fan of personally, has partnered with an absurd amount of artists, some huge, and others just starting up. I haven't bought too many Red Bull energy drinks in my time, but I know that I've been to/streamed countless Red Bull sponsored events. Not only do I have a ton of respect for the brand, but it should be evident to see how smart they are for creating this following among consumers by making footprints in so many different corners of my life (Red Bull Music Academy, Tons of Sports Sponsorships, RedBullTV, etc.) Small, up-and-coming bands may have great ideas, which help in this #newrules movement, but they lack the exposure and money to actually create any impact, thus enter big-name (and small-name) brands to push groups towards the audience they are trying to reach. Why waste time signing to a huge label that only makes money off one artist and doesn't give a shit about your electro-acoustic-experimental-ambient-trip hop-noise band? Once the artist has a sponsor to work with, then the #newrules can enter and actually have an impact.