Earlier this month, the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that digital streams would count toward album certifications. The announcement simultaneously captured contemporary consumption patterns and redirected 58 years of musical history. This was big news for popular artists like Rihanna, whose newly released Anti album sold only 460 physical copies on its release date, but earned a platinum certification (1,000,000 sales) in just 15 hours, thanks to digital streaming.
You might be wondering what this has to do with your business, but the RIAA’s album certification announcement provides useful insight for any team working to develop metrics that inform your industry and accurately capture audience behavior. Here’s what we learned:
Measure what matters
According to “The Infinite Dial 2015” report from Edison Research and Triton Digital, 143 million Americans stream music monthly. This growing demand for music streaming services has resulted in multiple instances where streams surpass the physical sale of albums. The RIAA’s new certifications directly incorporate audience consumption behaviors into their metrics, stating that “1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale.” Although audience behavior and mulitmedia partnerships complicate the traditional record industry structure, the RIAA’s strategy for capturing data is poised to develop a better grasp on the modern music market.
Marketing metrics takeaway: Listen to your fans and create success measures accordingly.
Inform your stakeholders
In accordance with the updated qualifications, artists like Big Sean, Coldplay, Fifth Harmony, Kendrick Lamar, and The Weeknd were awarded elevated album certifications.These updates directly affect music artists, but they signify a newsworthy event for fans and listeners as well. The RIAA built buzz around their new standards while notifying the general public via artist-specific social media posts and press releases. As your company takes a second glance at success metrics, aim for data that will not only matter within your industry, but can ripple throughout other mainstream channels as well.
Marketing metrics takeaway: Keep your stakeholders informed by being transparent about updated metrics that may affect them.
Account for the competition
Two years ago, Billboard announced that its album charts would reflect digital streams, but their system is slightly different than RIAA’s certifications. While both brands agree that 1,500 music streams are equivalent to one album sale, Billboard does not count free music downloads, hence the Rihanna debacle. (The short story: RIAA recognized the free downloads of her Anti album from a Samsung partnership, but Billboard did not.) The good news is that there is room for multiple thought leaders. Chances are, musicians and fans will continue to look to both brands for industry news and success.
Marketing metrics takeaway: Make data-driven decisions based on your industry insight despite discrepancies.
Don’t run from change
The RIAA has a decades-long legacy of determining a record’s standing within the marketplace, but anyone with a set of earbuds or a mobile device can tell that the music marketplace is ever-evolving. RIAA’s pivotal announcement marks a willingness to not only lead an industry but be an innovative and active member in it. No matter what space your business occupies, never get too far ahead that you don’t know what trends your audience is following or what numbers matter to them.
Marketing metrics takeaway: In order to be effective, you must keep your ear to the ground and be willing to change your mind (and your metrics) when necessary.
Learning from the music industry
Sometimes amplifying your brand begins with fine-tuning your approach. How can your fans, affiliates, and customers sing your praises, if you’re praising the wrong thing? As your company decides what success looks like, don’t forget to listen to your audience.