Canadian Music Trade - August-September 22 - Page 28

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Mitch Joel on Online & Digital Marketing for the Music Retail Sector Part One of Two


The music products industry can be seen as being a bit behind the curve when it comes to digital marketing , especially compared to some of the world ’ s largest corporations . But according to Mitch Joel , an entrepreneur , author , former president of digital marketing agency Twist Image , and frequent NAMM U speaker , it isn ’ t fair to compare the music retail sector to a digital company like Google .

“ It ’ s a massive spectrum ,” Joel tells Canadian Music Trade . “ You have traditional very small retailers that aren ’ t even on Shopify yet and have very little e-commerce , but then you have somebody like Norman ’ s Rare Guitars out in Tarzana , California , where they have half a million followers and a quarter of a billion views on their YouTube channel .”
The landscape of music retail is constantly changing , and the pandemic has had major effects on the industry , Joel goes on to explain . Before the pandemic , stringed instruments were a struggling sector , which Joel says was at least in part due to guitars taking a backseat to electronic beats in terms of what ’ s considered cool — but during the COVID lockdowns , when people had much more time on their hands , we started to see instruments bounce back as people sought out lockdown hobbies .
“ People now are going back to learning these instruments and these skills and that pendulum is always swinging in the music industry ,” explains Joel , who is also a lifelong bass player and host of the No Treble podcast . “ So , it was surprising to not see Gibson and Fender , for example , at NAMM , but at the same time , their position is ‘ we ’ re sold out and backordered .’ There ’ s been a sudden surge in demand of that , if you think about how they do their signature series at some of these larger manufacturers , and you see the assets that they ’ re building — the mini documentaries on YouTube , engaging with the artists to really connect with their community ; it ’ s pretty profound and amazing .”
One music retailer with an online empire is Reverb , and Joel believes companies like Sweetwater and Guitar Center having to compete in this digital world is healthy , as it forces the retailers and even manufacturers and musicians , to come up with innovative marketing techniques .
“ If you think about things like pedals , and what ’ s happening with effects , I mean , these are really sophisticated ,” he adds .
“ They almost look like Nike shoe drops in how they ’ re being done and developed . The marketing is really smart , the positioning of it is really smart , how it ’ s built communities is really , really smart .”
Where musicians are concerned , Joel says he ’ s seen artists figuring out digital platforms like Patreon , Bandcamp , and even Kickstarter that can serve as marketing tools , as well as sources of income .
“ I think that that does tie back into retailers , because music retailers are just part of the greater ecosystem ,” says Joel . “ And when you have musicians who are so passionate about their gear , that ’ s one aspect of it .”
The other big breakthrough , as Joel calls it , is that a big part of the music retail market is middle-aged folks with disposable income who are in a position to splurge on a vintage guitar or a more expensive piece of gear .