and build these brands where it almost made the incumbents and the large people who produce these typical pedals look archaic really quickly ,” he says .
Joel says he ’ s constantly searching for ways businesses can adapt to the changing world and future trends , even outside the music retail industry . Because of this , he wasn ’ t unprepared for the shift to virtual events , learning , buying , and more that came about during the pandemic . He remembers being asked at the start of the pandemic if he could do his work virtually , and says he ’ d already had the resources to do so for years , as he ’ d been using YouTube , making podcasts , and more for a long time , while some of his peers hadn ’ t taken the time to develop skills in those areas . Beforehand , Joel had thought of industries going virtual as something that would happen in the future , but the pandemic sped up that process and made it immediate , leaving many businesses to scramble to learn how to market themselves digitally .
Joel uses Netflix as an example to illustrate his next point . He believes consumers on a large scale have decided paying a monthly fee for access to a library or collection of something is better than buying individual items — in Netflix ’ s case , this obviously applies to movies and TV shows , but streaming services in music and other areas operate the same way .
“ You start looking at things like why Reverb is working ; it ’ s essentially giving people access to a catalog versus one skew , or one line , or one thing ,” he says . “ So , if you ’ re a small retailer , how do you Netflix your business ?”
Joel admits that a problem with more and more companies adopting a subscription model is that this may make it confusing and difficult for customers to keep track of all the various subscription charges on their bank statements , but says this is an issue that could be fixed in the near future , with banks looking at how to centralize these charges so users of multiple subscription services could pay one fee that covers all of them .
“ That ’ s the type of thing that went from , ‘ maybe next quarter we can think about that ,’ to an immediate ‘ we need to be there now ,’” Joel says . “ Because we have had to digitize more . And so , everything just felt more immediate . What was at arm ’ s length was now right in front of your nose . And if you weren ’ t doing it , your competitor was .”
An interesting situation music retailers might find themselves in now is having new customers local to their areas to market to . People who were able to start working remotely during the pandemic no longer having a reason to live wherever they lived at the start and moving away can be seen as potential new customers to the music stores in their new areas .
“ Who is the Steve ’ s [ Music Store ] or Long & McQuade of that city ?” Joel says . “ That becomes a massive opportunity .”
Another example Joel uses is Walmart , saying the company saw a spike in pet ownership during the pandemic and expanded its pet toys and food inventories , but also got into pet insurance . For music retailers to capitalize on the music-related hobbies people picked up out of boredom or stopped putting off during their downtime , with a focus on catering to new residents of their areas is a similarly clever move , he says .
‘ I like this type of marketing business building around new ,’ Joel continues . Let ’ s say 15 % of people moved , that means that if you ’ re in a more rural area , you probably had a likelihood increase of about 10-15 % of new residents . Maybe they have kids , maybe they want to play guitar , or learn piano , or the ukulele ? If you only created initiative against that , how great would that be ? If I could increase your business 10 % because all you did was create a welcome package for new residents , think about that .”
Joel brings up an interesting point in regards to advertising digitally to a target audience , saying that Facebook ’ s ad revenue has been impacted by Apple playing around with iOS privacy settings .
“ I would take it at a macro level , because I sit on two sides of the fence ,” he explains . “ Side one is , your data should be yours , your data should be very accessible . And it should truly be the consumer ’ s choice where that data is being used , shared , and exchanged . And I think just clicking on a ‘ terms and conditions ’ box because you want to have TikTok doesn ’ t necessarily
mean that there ’ s a level of literacy on the side of the consumer about what ’ s really happening with their data and information . So that ’ s side one — I ’ m a big proponent of transparency and visibility into how my data is being used . Two is , I have to know that I am the product — if I ’ m on Facebook or TikTok , I am the product .”
At the heart of a retailer ’ s job , Joel says , is the need to understand and respect its customers , while knowing what needs to happen to gain and keep customers .
“ My message is not to the platforms that are doing things with data , but think about it as , ‘ these are my customers and if I ’ m engaging with them on Facebook , I ’ m exposing them here . So , am I giving them so much value that it ’ s worth that exchange ?’ If the retailer ’ s content creators , brands , the businesses think like that , I think we ’ d have a better place to play ,” says Joel . “ The problem is , if you look historically at marketers , advertising doesn ’ t suck — bad advertising sucks . And the problem is , most of it is really bad advertising .”
Joel says the solution starts with the people who are buying the media and creating the content , which in these cases , is the retailer or the manufacturer .
“ They have to be able to say , ‘ what do I really need to get somebody to buy this pedal , this keyboard , this ukulele ?’ and ‘ I ’ m going to be very respectful of not just the people who buy from me , but the people who just walk onto my property because they ’ re checking out a video or they moved in , or whatever it might be ,’” he says . “ That ’ s the way I see it .”
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor of Canadian Music Trade .
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