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June 16, 2010 / Julia Hughan

Country music’s unique opportunity to expand community engagement and diversify revenue sources through social media.

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The idea of community is a longstanding theme within the wider country music discourse. Another characteristic unique to the country music genre is that the artists convey the impression of attainability to their fans…in an unattainable type way. It sounds rather trite, but when I think of Madonna, I envision an icon and a brand. However, when I consider Reba McEntire I see a person I could have chat with in a relatable manner. In any event, this unique relationship that country artists share with their fans reflects the old adage of country music being ‘of the people’.

If you contemplate this culture of community and connectivity within country music, it is easy to understand how social media tools (including Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare) could afford unique opportunities to further this relationship while fostering new modes of country fan/artist engagement within digital spaces. These social media tools also advance opportunities for companies to diversify revenue opportunities (whether it be through cross marketing or sponsorship deals) by simply taking advantage of this long established fan/artist relationship.

Corporate sponsors’ cash sings to country music industry

Sponsorship experts say digital media tools and social networks are other big lures that help corporations capitalize on the relationships that performers have with their fans via Facebook, Twitter and other online conversations.

Go to Keith Urban’s Facebook page, with 640,000 followers, or Twitter feed (104,000 followers and counting) and you’ll see regular updates by the artist on everything from his upcoming TV appearances to Urban’s favorite barbecue recipes and contest giveaways.

“Interested in attending a VIP barbecue and concert with Keith? Check out KC Masterpiece for ways to win this once-in-a-lifetime experience! Goodluck!” reads one post.

The social media component is a key piece of a deeper marketing strategy that seeks to capitalize on individuals’ “passion points,” said McGowan, the Clorox sponsorship guru.

“One of the things we’ve found is that music is a passion point,” McGowan said. “For those two hours during a concert, fans forget about all the problems in the outside world. We want to be part of that experience.”

Sales gains are one measure of success, but McGowan also touts what he calls a “return on engagement.”

“A lot of people want to be talked to directly,” said McGowan, in Nashville last week to address music industry insiders at the Billboard Country Music Summit. “They want to hear from friends; they want to experience things themselves.”

A Keith Urban VIP barbecue, for example, will allow 50 lucky fans to hear Urban perform an acoustic song in a private setting before joining him for a barbecue meal prepared by the “official pitmaster” of the tour.

“For the 50 fans, it will be an experience they will never forget. And it’s being brought to them by KC Masterpiece,” McGowan said.

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