I had a rare look into the record industry during a VOIP install project which included two major recording labels. Without divulging too much as to who the labels were, this article sums up some of the thoughts about what I saw from an outsider’s view.
Prior to the rollout, I was curious about what kind of portable media players I would find in employees’ workstations. Instead, I saw nothing but CD-based listening systems, almost like it was taboo to have any music in digital format.
There were several in-house copy rooms where CDs were pressed with warnings about how the CD could not be played in a computer; however, I did not find one portable media player or charger hooked up in anyone’s cubicle. And unless it was an office, most employees appeared to use portable CD players at their desks.
As to the floors in the buildings, no doubt, top floors are for top dogs. Elevators are all based on security clearance. You cannot go up unless you have access. The bottom levels contained some record executives, but most were promotion and creative types. The mid-floors seem to house more record execs, but the furniture and sizes of the offices were much nicer and bigger. The layouts mainly had a receptionist outside of each office, and this same pattern went around the entire floor.
Many of the executive offices had the world time zone clocks in their offices, wall-mounted plasma TV with a killer sound system, and signed memorabilia and gold records on the walls. Some even had their own stocked refrigerators.
Above that floor were legal and large corner offices. During these installs, we were strictly monitored and let into each office individually by a security guard. The top floor was completely off-limits and we were told it was going to be completed by the in-house IT employees.
As to marketing, the record business definitely has a lot of creative ideas, that was not lacking, bad or good. One promotional idea I kept seeing on multiple desks were for mobile advertisements. If you have not seen them, they are like billboards on wheels. They cruise around specific areas as a form of advertising. I noticed several quotes for these mobile advertisements for several artists’ promotional packages. I also noticed a unique mockup in another marketing office which was a door-hanger CD. This idea may seem antiquated, but these days with geo-strategic data available, this might work in targeted areas. I would almost call it urban geo-strategic advertising.
Finally, a common theme I found among desks were contest agreements related to radio stations giving away free concert tickets. These agreements stated that the record companies would provide the concert tickets, whereas if needed, the radio stations provided the transportation and/or hotel stay for contest winners.
Overall, it was an install I will never forget. It was definitely surreal to see gold records mounted on office walls, fan mail laying on executives’ tables, and speed dial numbers of artists and stars. The record industry marketing machine may be in full swing, but at the same time, there was this stale feeling that they are way behind the curve when it comes to technology and digital music.