Creative Platform Design; Lead Musician Needs, and Strategies for Satisfaction

Part of a developing series drawn from queries I received regarding online music platforms such as Splice, Noiiz and Blend, where creativity and collaboration are part of the engagement strategy.

  1. What do you think are some of the most important needs of Musicians on collaborative creative platforms, and how do you think a platform operator can address them?

For musicians, the current industry presents an evolved model of customer engagement and content distribution. Therefore, one of the most important needs is understanding how this affects their working process and how technological innovation presents new opportunities and risks. The key to satisfied Musicians on collaborative creative platforms will lie in their content being used by others in a shared, but led, creative process. This is a new tier of customer engagement for musicians, born from the prosumer evolution, and it utilises a focus on more equal and connected relationships between creative partners. This means that to monetise a collaboration, there is a requirement to establish a new hierarchy between actors who have become more equal than the pre-internet producer/consumer relationship. To monetise, the relationship must be unequal to provide a unique experience for the customer that they couldn’t achieve on their own, thereby incentivising and necessitating purchase. As the creative process has become collaborative, the higher status musician in a trade of content can be referred to as a Leader, providing recorded content as an object of creative direction in the collaboration. And for an organisation to support this process for musicians, we can define some needs as:

- Generating audio content
- Being discovered by musicians looking for direction
- Realising transactions and usage of content
- Maintaining relationships for good customer lifetime value

Lead Musicians are of course responsible for generating their own audio, but depending on the platform, this can be on their own digital setup or in a cloud based environment. Either way platform owners can support and encourage this by providing them with incentives and valuable returns for their hard work. Techniques such as demonstrating strong customer demand and high content usage rates offer information to the musician in the (potential) popularity of their content. This can be communicated via live metrics on a personal profile as well as distributed communications such as email updates to maintain incentivisation off-platform. An individual Musician’s metrics can be compared to ‘global’ platform averages so they can gauge their current level of success and identify early, potential issues, or new opportunities for growth.

Such issues might include their content not being listened to or ‘auditioned’, pointing to a need for discovery. Although the level of content will (and should) be changing on a regular basis in dynamic creative environments, situations can arise (especially in the early days) where dominant players flood a market and potentially take disproportionate control of attention. One platform analysis recently showed a company seeking to attract new talent to contribute to their online material, began operations in a situation where individual artist submissions collectively constituted only 6% of the library, with 94% being from the parent organisation. This creates a challenge for discovery of individual musicians which stems their opportunity of discovery and discourages positive feedback than is fundamental to encourage further participants to grow the community. The platform could easily support discovery in this scenario through highlighting the individual artists on a prominent page, or artificially boosting their content in the search results until they gain more traction. If artists remain undiscovered they will not find satisfaction, and in a platform agnostic world where alternatives are always available, maintaining attention and trust from your value generating contributors is imperative. Especially with new participants who are yet to develop their positive engagement experiences.

Once discovered, another need for musicians is to realise a transaction or collaboration through having the right content for a customer’s search and need. This must be something that a customer cannot create themselves, but also fits the gap in their creative project (either an inspiring starting point, or piece of the jigsaw). This can be supported with a content orientated approach, through tag and search mechanisms common to all platforms, by allowing customers to personalise searches intricately and specify key metadata about their interests. This allows customers to personalise their search more specifically to their needs, but creates a problem for Lead Musicians when tagging content, as they will struggle to know how such diverse personalised search terms will manifest. They could be helped to tag their content in line with customer needs though developing a platform vocabulary based on the developing language use of that specific platform community. Also, certain facets that are more universal can be suggested automatically, such as genre, content length, instrument or bpm. One problem to bear in mind with universal factors is that it reduces uniqueness of content which is an important factor for defining value in a crowded creative market.

From this position their is an opportunity to find uniqueness from another orientation — that of the relationship between the Lead Musician and Customer. A more unequal relationship in regards to creative influence, generates an opportunity for Lead Musicians to become a more directive force on the creative project of the customer. In this situation the customer is less reliant on the content fitting their project needs, and more prone to changing direction based on the content offered by a strong Leader. This brings into question the nature of realising influence hierarchies within communities and is based on the value structure within the community itself. A Lead Musician needs here to understand the cultural values that are cherished by participants, and establish a strong sense of representation for these values that the community can trust. This trust can then act as the lever for greater direction in other’s creative projects and an increase in the potential for transactions based on needs they can now in part define.

Therefore finally, and with a similar relationship orientation, musicians can be supported to generate long term engagement with fans of their content. This can be supported simply through providing connections to a musician’s wider online profiles on social platforms, or mechanisms for social interaction can be added to the creation platform itself, with commenting opportunities around content, areas to share and discuss favourite content, or being able to subscribe to a Musician’s own ‘content stream’. Through these channels a musician is able to communicate information about their values then attract and maintain attention from those with similar interests and beliefs. Musical content itself can also be used as a means of symbolism in these exchanges, but the key is in allowing musicians to communicate their values with consistency and authenticity to build the trust required for strong leadership of collaborative activities that still result in a market trade.

In conclusion, the platform operator has a role to deliver a complex set of processes that successfully address the needs of musicians. On a basic level these go from generating audio content, to being discovered by musicians looking for a variable amount of creative direction, to realising transactions and usage of content. But the community relationships have a strong influence on collaborative platforms, and these are ultimately underpinned through maintaining trusting relationships with opportunities for strong and long term creative influence and leadership. And the level of control a platform takes on this process is a critical question that can have profound influence on the experiences of the community as a whole. This is the area of cultural and network strategy and if anyone else has any questions feel free to get in touch.