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Singing a Local Song

Recently, a wise musical observationist said that one of the greatest gifts of music is that when different people hear the same song, they equate it to their own individual lives.

Music is many things – it’s personal, it’s emotional, it’s visceral, it’s global. But it’s also very local.You might not hear a great deal of blues on the pop stations in Memphis, Chicago, or St. Louis anymore. Yet some sounds are so ingrained in their

respective locales, that it’s about as big of a faux pas for a marketer to try to pass off Memphis Blues in Chicago as it would be to serve Brooklyn pizza instead of deep-dish.

Just try to hear Dixieland Jazz and not think of New Orleans. You can’t do it, can you?

Granted, not everywhere has a “local sound”, but there sure are enough of them to consider what music does for those communities that do have a well-defined musical history. Music helps to identify not only the where of a place, but also the what – and the who. For example, what’s the music of Texas? Is it Country? Blues? Swing? Rockabilly? Tejano? Conjunto? Yes — each one of them and more. But you’d better know the where of each to really connect with the local consumers. If you don’t connect the correct where with the right what, you’ll surely miss out on the target who.

Using music to connect with consumers is nothing new. Typically it’s a top down approach, as marketers leverage celebrity partnerships and recognizable songs to tie a brand to a cultural touchstone. Yet even for marketers who don’t have deep pockets or international brands, using music as a subtle punctuation with consumers can make a big difference.

As a recent TVNewscheck article called out, artists who produce original music that can be used at the local level are aware of these differences. And it’s not just for brands – local stations use music for a variety of reasons, such as for promos, newscasts and station IDs.

Innovative producers will take music that’s been made for national use and customize it for multiple cities. Current technology allows them to rather easily adjust the mix, instrumentation, and arrangement for different local markets across the country so it is at once standard, yet very local.

Today’s fragmented media landscape has an overwhelming number of distractions and content choices which are all competing for consumers’ attention. While the industry busies itself with the most technology-forward ways to connect with viewers using things like Mobile DTV, DVRs and VOD, sometimes it’s important to remember those things that reach people beneath the innovations.

Although it might just seem like a minor detail, music can stimulate familiar emotions within someone’s unconscious mind. So introducing the appropriate local music that speaks to a community is a simple element that can prove to be the difference between connecting with them and being overlooked.

And that’s not just whistling Dixie.

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