Make your own kind of music
Sony Music’s new survey splits the region’s music fans into tightly defined categories. Austyn Allison sounds out the subsets
Sony Music’s Audience Segmentation survey splits Middle East listeners into tightly defined categories.
New research from Sony Music has divided the local populations of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon according to their music tastes and habits, as the record company brings its Audience Segmentation survey to the region.
Ten years ago, Sony launched its research in the UK. Originally it was used to help devise strategies to move artists from one consumer group to another. Mike Fairburn, general manager of Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, gives an example: “Calvin Harris started in the UK as a live music artist. He had a brand, he produced rocky electro vocal music. He decided he wanted to become a producer and DJ and wanted to sit in that spot, so we needed to move him into a big DJ electro space.” The survey helped Sony orchestrate this shift.
The research had been introduced at the tail end of the music industry’s most volatile period, says Fairburn. 1999 had been the most lucrative year in the history of recorded music, in terms of record sales. But then came the digital revolution, iTunes, Napster and piracy. 2005 was the least lucrative. Soon it became apparent that the research was useful to more than just the A&R teams.
“The record business had to find new ways of generating revenue,” says Fairburn. And one of the big things that Sony Music jumped on, and that was very successful early on, was working with brands and working with agencies, and working on new ways for artists to make money.”
Now Sony has launched its research in the region. “In the Middle East there was no accurate and insightful music data,” says Fairburn. “So unless a brand commissions a huge survey they can’t really test if what they are doing in music is effective.”
There’s a number of ways that brand might want to do this with the survey.
“What segmentation allows them to do, and allows us to do for a brand, is to help filter against something,” he says. “If a brand has an existing music strategy that they have been running for years and years, this helps them do a
If a brand has an existing music strategy that they have been running for years and years, this helps them do a little bit of a stop-and-check.
little bit of a stop-and-check. They can scratch the head, look at the data, think, ‘Am I doing the right things?’ Because the segmentation we have is broken into so many different age sectors, so many sub-categories, really it’s relevant to any sort of activity a brand is doing.”
The survey has been conducted among almost 25,000 nationals of Lebanon, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Sony has split respondents into four broad groups, as it does all over the world – Fanatics, Enthusiasts, Casuals and Indifferents, depending on their passion for music – and then those categories were subdivided into about 25 categories per country. For example, Saudi Arabia’s fanatics include the ‘KSA Coolhunters,’ the ‘Smooth Sheikhers’, and ‘Rock the Kingdom of Saudi’.
The survey aligns lifestyle and demographics with artists and genres. It is built on a database of about 2,500 artists – both local and international – and about the same number of brands. In Egypt alone, Sony Music’s researchers fed in 800 local brands and 200 internationals. The survey will be updated again in two years.
Apart from their catchy monikers, the sub-groups are fairly tightly defined by age, gender, employment and household status. And their music tastes, of course.
Some of the discoveries are a little unexpected, and Fairburn gives an example of the ‘Pink Abayas’, a sub-category of Saudi Enthusiasts, as a group that fascinates him.
“We’ve done this segmentation because we want to understand the market better,” he says. “We want to see just what trends are happening. We want to see what the Pink Abayas of Saudi Arabia – these 25- to 34-year-old females – are like, who make up 4 per cent of the population.”
He adds: “I’d love to meet one and talk about music, because they are into shaabi. Shaabi is Egyptian angry street music. But they also love Khaleeji and they love dance. And they’ve got some interesting perspectives on it. They say they know a lot about music; 45 per cent of them say they know a lot about music, and 82 per cent will give music a chance before they judge it. But also they don’t take music too seriously; 80 per cent say music is important, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. And that’s kind of cool.”
Sony Music will use the survey itself for positioning artists and other industry-specific tasks. But it is also on a “March Madness” push to get brands to buy in. Fairburn says there is plenty they can gain from the survey.
“Think about everything from a song in an ad through to an artist endorsement through to creating music-based YouTube content pieces to looking at maybe affiliations with talent shows to really touring and creating bespoke music events,” he says. “What gains do these have? What insights do brands have to say that the consumer they market their product to is going to like the music activities that they are planning? What is the test base that they have got, to filter what they are doing and make sure it’s relevant and it’s going to be appealing?”
Sony Music believes it has the answers.