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Three Questions with Jenna Barrott

Freehand Circle is both a consultancy and a think tank.

As part of our think tank’s content efforts we are gathering perspectives from innovative trailblazers across all spaces. Freehand Circle asks industry leaders three key questions about the past, present and future. The questions are kept standard regardless of one's position or area of expertise.

Born in Adelaide, Australia, Jenna is internationally experienced in the music industry and various corners of the corporate world as a publicist and marketer. After graduating at the University of Adelaide in Media (Marketing Major), Jenna worked in PR and marketing, including in a coveted role at the leading Australian music outlet Rip It Up Magazine and the agency Mihell & Lycos. She then managed several brands for marketing and PR agencies in New York City before working hand-in-hand with Adrian Grenier at his indie label, Wreckroom Records, and becoming lead artist management for The Skins.

Today, Jenna uses her diverse skillset to help artists succeed in music and forge sustainable lifelong careers. Her key areas of expertise include artist management, PR, and digital marketing.

Question 1: What is the most important trend happening in marketing right now?

Jenna Barrott:

In recent years, marketing across most industries has seen a shift from the traditional ways of simply selling to a demographic to focusing on customer relationships. Music marketing is no different. While we might not use the word “customer” per se, our focus is the relationship between artist and fan, and social media is at the forefront of this trend. Thanks to social media, the barriers between artist and fan are narrower than ever before, and this has opened a plethora of opportunities for artists to connect on a deeper level and, in turn, take control of their image and narrative.

Not only are the barriers lowered, but there’s a huge awareness in the industry of just how powerful social media can be, particularly for emerging artists. As we’ve seen countless times over the past decade, some of today’s biggest stars launched their career solely from the momentum of fans via social media. (One of the best recent examples is Lil Nax X, whose TikTok viral hit “Old Town Road”, became the longest charting song in history.) With the power dynamic changed, fans are now given unprecedented access to their favorite artists' lives — from live Q&As and exclusive BTS content to being able to directly ask them questions in the comments and direct messages. We’re now able to learn what fans want from their favorite artists in real time, and respond accordingly. This trend isn’t just limited to social media either. We’re seeing new apps created in response, such as Community — a text-based messaging app between celebrities and their fans that removes superfluous filters so as to forge a direct and transparent line of communication.

Question 2: What will be the most vital development that happens in marketing over the next decade?

Jenna Barrott:

Building a sustainable, long term career for an artist usually requires cultivating multiple revenue streams over time, which all comes as a result of building a fan base. Therefore, marketing strategies often have to address a number of business goals for an artist, whether that be brand awareness, promoting upcoming events, or selling music.

To adapt to an ever-changing digital marketing landscape whilst serving a number of business objectives, marketing strategies will continue to become more holistic. To put that in perspective, in the past, music marketers relied on traditional marketing, press, and radio to promote a song. In today’s landscape, we’re also looking at social media ads, influencer and content marketing, and even viral marketing. There’s greater opportunities to get creative when it comes to marketing, but it’s also now harder to take a single approach and reach a wide audience simply because they’re now spread across so many different platforms. We live in an age of choice, and marketers will need to keep up with consumer preferences to stay top-of-mind.

Question 3: Finally, what should be the most vital development that happens over the next decade?

Jenna Barrott:

I think continued innovations with direct-to-artist marketing will pave the way for a more empowering music industry for artists and fans alike. With the collapse of traditional retail marketing models for CD sales some years ago, this was a trend that was already growing in importance for independent musicians to be able to generate a revenue stream from their music. Even with the growth in music streaming platforms like Spotify, artists still aren’t making a lot of money directly from their music. (It’s about $0.006-$0.0084 per play across the biggest streaming platforms.)

Direct-to-fan marketing is an experience artists can offer their fans without a middle-man, meaning artists can make more money. In the past, we’ve seen a shift towards fan-funding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Fan-funding not only helps cover the costs of actually making music, but it also brings fans into the process and helps to foster connection. One of the major drawbacks of direct-to-fan marketing or sales is that the process hasn’t become as seamless as the alternative, which is to simply stream music online. In an age where everything now needs to be quick and automated, the process of actually buying music directly from an artist is often far more cumbersome than simply giving your favorite song a spin on Spotify. It’s incredibly important that we develop innovative direct-to-fan marketing tactics that make purchasing easier, richer, and more enjoyable for fans.

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