A Musical For Tweens Captures Its Audience - New York Times
Ben Sisario, February 8, 2006
Ben Sisario examines the marketing strategy that went into Disney’s High School Musical and how it was able to engage its target audience with not-yet-standard techniques. The movie premiered on the Disney Channel on January 20th, and by February 8th it was already making news for its popularity. The soundtrack released with the movie reached top 10 of the Billboard charts, made 45 percent of its sales online through iTunes and had no radio airtime outside of Radio Disney’s station, and that was only in the first two weeks.
Sisario quotes Gary Marsh, president of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide, as explaining the value of the story in its themes such as “express yourself, believe in yourself, celebrate your family, follow your dreams,” but it wasn’t just the optimism that made this movie and all of the other media associated with it into such a success. Because Disney’s presence exists across multiple forms of entertainment, it was able to use cross-platform advertising to build excitement about the movie before it was first aired. The show’s characters appeared on a New Years Eve show, the Disney channel played music videos from the movie’s songs “in heavy rotation,” and Disney even offered a free download of the song “Breaking Free” around the time of the premiere. After the movie aired for the first time, Disney directed viewers to a sing-along version online where they could download the lyrics. According to Sisario, the lyrics were downloaded 500,000 times in the first 24 hours. That’s successful cross-marketing.
Disney capitalized on its integration of web content into the TV market, something that they’ve gotten very good at of late. They also benefited from the fact that the movie and soundtrack were released in the winter, specifically because of the holiday sales of iPods and iTunes gift certificates.
Sisario sees this movie as the beginning of “a new musical phase,” referring to the previous cultivation of pop stars Brittney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the members of ’N Sync. They are creating a new generation of pop icons following the success of Hillary Duff, which began with her TV show “Lizzy McGuire.” The most interesting element of the movie and album’s success is the fact that it did not rely on traditional radio or MTV for its publicity. They know that their audience, because of their age, is very comfortable with the internet and digital music, so they were able to make use of their own website and their relationship with Apple’s iTunes to set the movie up for success.
This article, although brief, is interesting because it shows how Apple responded to a threat to its control of an industry. This article was written very soon after RealNetworks announced that it had created a version of Harmony that allowed iPod compatibility. It shows how the immediate response to a threat like this is the DMCA. Apple immediately turns to the laws not because of copyright, but because they want to maintain control of their iPod empire. This shows how the DMCA is used to protect monopolies and prevent widespread compatibility and interoperability. The nature of copyright law changes with the DMCA, which is exploited by technology companies and used as a means of market control and monopolization.
Microsoft’s “Play for Sure” claims that Windows Media Player’s DRM allows you to choose your music and devices. However, there are still severe restrictions because of DRM. There are very few players that are compatible to play with the WMA DRM format. If you want to use a player that does not support WMA content, you have to repurchase your library of music. Even though Microsoft markets their DRM as user friendly and non-restrictive, it is more to make DRM a norm than the truth of the matter.
RealNetworks markets their services as compatible with any MP3 playing device. This in fact is not true, because music purchased through RealNetworks only plays on devices that support their DRM or the WMA format, thus limiting the players that the songs can be played on and restricting use of their music. RealNetworks, like iTunes, limits the number of times you can burn a song as well as the number of backup copies that can be made. They reserve the right to modify their DRM and what it controls. RealNetworks also does not allow reselling or remixing songs purchased through them.
Napster 2.0 advertises itself as a service that allows you to have all the music you want in anyway that you want it. It offers three services and all charge more for uses that were once free. Napster Unlimited allows you access to all the music you want until you stop paying the monthly fee. You also have to pay if you want to put it on a device, which can only be one that supports WMA. It also costs money to burn it. The DRM restrictions can change, you can only backup a limited amount of times and burning is restricted.
I will use this article as an example of how companies use DRM to exploit the music market place. Each service limits the music they sell so that it can only be used with products that they license. They also limit what a person can do with the music, even things that are traditionally acceptable under copyright law such as making back up copies and the first sale doctrine. This article shows how the DMCA changes traditional copyright laws and allows companies to exploit their customers.
September 20, 2005 Steve Jobs makes a statement opposing the record labels' demands for variable pricing at the Apple Expo, accusing them of being greedy.
A slightly longer and much more biased article can be found at http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20050920-5328.html
August 29th, 2005 New York Times article discussing the RIAA's push for a variable price structure. The article includes basic statistics about iPod and iTunes sales as well as an overview of the RIAA's proposal.