Warner Bros. Records adapts with changing music industry

By Brandon Brown

 (Lindsay Ivins)

Warner Bros. Records aims to utilize a healthy mix of up-and-coming artists and more well-known acts to take its label into the future. (Lindsay Ivins)

One of the most historic and storied record labels has to constantly change how it finds, distributes, and markets music in this ever changing, web-based world.

Warner Brothers Records executives said they understand the importance of changing with the times, especially when working with new artists like Kimbra and Gary Clark Jr., and even as they work with legendary artists like Eric Clapton and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Xavier Ramos, Warner Brothers vice president of marketing, said the label is more about changing pop culture instead of chasing it. He used the success of bluesy-rock band The Black Keys as an example. The band’s “set up and touring style has changed pop culture,” Ramos said.

Ramos said that with record sales dropping and music videos not being played on television anymore in the United States, he and the rest of his team have to find ways to get fans to spend money on their favorite artists.

One way they do this is by signing artists to “360 deals,” which means that Warner Brothers is in charge (and gets a cut) of all the aspects of the band. In the past, a record label would only help out with the recording and distribution of a record. But now Ramos said the label is part of the artists’ concerts, merchandise, and music videos.

Jeff Watson is Warner Brothers’ vice president of interactive marketing. Watson said that interactive marketing used to be called new media. He said deals with mostly anything that the company does on the Internet.

Watson said there are three main goals of the interactive marketing team: Build a fan base, keep the existing fan base alive and interested, and get new fans for the band.

Watson tries to achieve these goals through four different online methods:
• Visual content
• Social media
• Website presence
• Advertising

Watson said the advantage of online marketing strategies is being able to see how each one of these methods is doing in real time. Through web analytics, he can see how well a music video is being received soon after it is published online. He can also tell how many people click on web advertisements.

“We show artists hard data and what works,” Watson said. This way he is able to plan better marketing strategies for a band’s releases and tours.

But even with the web marketing strategies, it can be a challenge. Watson said that when one of Warner Brothers’ most famous artists, Green Day, decided it wanted to release three albums in a matter of months in 2012, the marketing got really complicated.

“It was like a Rubik’s Cube,” Watson said.

He said that his team started putting together the marketing strategy more than a year in advance.

Ramos said that Green Day’s decision was not easy for the label, but it is an example of how Warner Brothers Records supports their artists and they do everything they can to make the artists’ vision a reality.

Making the artists’ vision a reality is actually sometimes easier than finding the actual artists.

Warner Brothers A&R coordinator Nick Haussling said that discovering the next big act has gotten more complicated since he is now a on worldwide search because of the internet.

“Location is not as important as it use to be,” Haussling said. “If you’re talented, the word will probably spread.”

Artists used to flock to Los Angeles and New York to be found, but now anyone can upload their music to the Internet. Haussling said that YouTube has changed the music industry.