SoundCtrl Series Part 4: Dance Music in the Era of Copyright Controversy

by Angus Thomas Paterson

This is Part 3 of a running series.

For Part 1: “Life After the Digital Disruption,” click here.

For Part 2: “Protecting the Future of Music,” click here.

For Part 3: “The Power of Independents,” click here.

Cultivating Cultural Capital

Maintaining the connection between artists and their fans is of crucial importance to Ajunabeats, and it’s the focus of a number of ongoing marketing activities. The weekly Trance Around the World radio show represents the starting point for much of this; the radio show/podcast can be an effective tactic for many independent artists and labels, allowing them to speak directly with fans and showcase their music, though Trance Around the World would have to be one of the most successful. Currently, the show is syndicated across 237 FM radio stations worldwide, with an estimated listenership of 30 million.

Hosted by rotating members of the Above & Beyond trio every week, it often represents the first time the label’s music is unveiled to fans. Several years ago, Anjunabeats took the step of giving away the show as a free download via the podcast format in iTunes. Currently it’s ranked in the top 5 of the most popular music podcasts across the USA, Australia, and much of Europe.

Though the whole industry hasn’t come around to the idea of giving away music for free as a promotional tactic, though McGrath validates it as a legitimate sales driver. “Whenever your music goes out there, you hope listeners will form a certain connection with it, and come back and buy it at a later date. Fans become part of the Anjuna family, and want to own a part of it.”

The show represents the launching point for an array of other promotional activities and revenue streams. Social networking has been widely recognized as opening up a swathe of new ways that artists can connect with their fans, and unsurprisingly, Anjunabeats makes heavy use of Facebook and Twitter. Anjunabeats has nearly 100,000 likes on its Facebook page, with Above & Beyond close to a million, and they’re maintained as a place of ongoing activity, reflective of the fact that a constant presence is necessary to hold fans’ attention.

The label’s biggest annual campaign sees an extended 8-hour episode of Trance Around The World broadcast live from an international venue, to an audience of tens of millions; the 350th episode at the Hollywood Palladium saw the associated #TATW350 Twitter hashtag become the highest trending topic on the platform, while the 400th episode in Beirut in November last year saturated saw Twitter so heavily that #TATW400 was eventually removed several hours in.

All of this results in increased attention and sales for the label’s weekly single releases, and regular long-player albums, including Above & Beyond’s heavily promoted Group Therapy album from last year, and the annual Anjunabeats and Anjunabeats Worldwide compilations that showcase the label’s music in a mix CD format. In addition, there’s an array of branded merchandise that includes t-shirts, jumpers, posters, sweatbands and more.

However, as a reflection of McGrath’s assertion that live income is vital in the current climate, Above & Beyond and the rest of the label’s roster are often relentlessly touring the globe. Trance Around The World means Anjunabeats’ reach knows no global boundaries; last year Above & Beyond played more 140 shows across 40 different countries, typically with several other artists from the label in tow as support acts, and many of these shows took the form of one of their own branded Group Therapy events in support of the new album.

On top of this, Anjunabeats hosts branded Group Therapy stages at some of the world’s most successful festivals, including Tomorrowland in Belgium, Dance Valley in Holland, and Electric Zoo in New York, which sees them playing to crowds upwards of tens of thousands. Touring opportunities for the label’s other artists have also proved exhaustive, with one of the label’s star producers Mat Zo currently underway on a 30-date tour of the USA, for example.

Though if all of this appears lucrative, McGrath is also careful to emphasize that none of these opportunities comes easy for independent labels. “Gone are the days where you could just sign an artist with a bit of talent, build his name up a bit and put out a piece of vinyl with his name on it while he’s peaking, and then watch the cash roll in.”

Artists need to work harder to promote themselves, and this puts an otherwise talented artist, who might be less than social media savvy, at a distinct disadvantage. “Is it a good thing they’re lost or ignored because they don’t have enough Facebook followers, or they don’t want to tour, even though their music might be the best anyone has ever heard? I’m not entirely sure; but it’s kind of the way things are.”

These are the pros and cons of a restructured industry, and it again emphasizes the important role an independent label can play. “As a label, you need to learn to play that as best you can, and I guess that is one of the reasons why people do come to us.”

Stay tuned to for Part 5: “Listening to the Future”