Succeeding in today’s “Attention Economy”

Dorothy Hui, Sony Music Entertainment UK’s vice president of Digital, has been cited in an interview on today’s attention economy, which definitely affects the music industries as well:

“The focus is on building audiences and engaging them. When you look at the potential of the [streaming] market, there’s the factor of how many people are subscribing, but each person still only has 24 hours in the day,”

“It’s an attention economy now. How are we competing for those hours in the day? I read a stat that in the UK there are eight hours and 44 minutes of multi-task attention [per person per day] between audio, visual and social media.” (Resource: )

As a lecturer for music industry topics, especially on artist development, I regularly put the focus on the changed situation for artist development. The variety of media channels, and therefore for of attention-grabbing channels, has become way larger than in the days before the digitalisation. Back in the days, there have been a limited number of (terrestric) radio stations, TV channels, CDs in your collections, games on your computer or console, and no smart phone. The opportunities for entertainment were limited in their absolute numbers and in their programm. Nowadays, you have the free choice of what and when you want to listen, to watch and to play on your devices. Due to the democratisation of production, distribution and promotion, the number of media products and channel of consumption (music, tv/video, games, etc.) is larger. And last but not least, you have the possibility to get access to the contents (free or with subscription fees) without buying single products.

So, how can you succeed in such competitive media environment?

Actually, it is not only a competition for the attention of the consumers, which is without any doubt the first step towards music exploitation. However, the most valuable consumers are those with a high identification for an artist. And this does not only require the consumer’s single attention, but additionally continuous attention and preference.

I remember, back in my studies for my Ph.D. and for my book “Organisches Artist Development” (engl. “Organic Artist Development”, Amazon: , I intensively worked with the German book “Popstars als Marke” (engl. “popstars as a brand”; Amazon:, by Marcel Engh. The author developed a “consumer-fan-pyramid”, which displayed the steps from awareness/attention to being a fan.

Why is it important to have more than only the attention/awareness?

Having passionate fans, who do not only stream your songs on Spotify once or a few times (which is the result of getting attention/awareness), but discover and start loving your full discography, buy your records on CD or vinyl, come to your concerts, purchase your merchandise articles and tell their friends about how amazing your music and you as an artist is… that’s why the artists love what they are doing and how they can make a living from their art!  So, make sure that you do not only attract attention, but also take care for those who are involved more than that!

Many artists are unhappy about the small licence income from music streaming – for good reason. However, the major income for the music industries and artists always came from the highly involved artists, the so-called heavy users, who were highly emotional about their favorite artists that they did way more than only listening to the songs on occasion. So, artists should not lose their focus on such proper fans with high identification and loyalty.

Again: make sure that you do not only attract attention, but also take care for those who are involved more than that!




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