How can brands engage dance music fans?
Robbie Murch is a DJ, an expert in online communities and founder of culture agency Bump. Following the release of his agency’s inaugural On the Record report, Murch surveys the brand opportunities in the dance music space.
Dance music fans make up a passionate, vocal community – how can brands approach them right? / Oleg Laptev via Unsplash
Economically, the dance music industry is still finding its feet. Before Covid-19, dance music fans in the UK were supporting a nighttime cultural economy contributing £36bn to GDP. Culturally, dance music continues to permeate pop culture and society. Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind and Beyonce’s Renaissance have tapped into dance music sensibilities this summer, while of all the top 500 festivals in 2021 in the UK, the dominant sound was electronic music.
Dance music has long been a movement for progression and positive societal change, but it still has far to go. The Jaguar Foundation recently found that only 1% of dance music tracks played across UK radio over the last two years were exclusively by a female or non-binary artist. Shout out to UK festivals though for taking representation from 14% to 28% (an 100% increase) over the last four years.
The findings follow ‘On the Record,’ the new annual insights publication from my agency Bump. The report surveyed 1,807 music fans, featured 16 interviews with leading industry professionals, and asked 92 questions to understand generation Z behavior in relation to music and brands in 2023 and beyond. The report reveals five key themes.
1. Progressive idealists
45% of the dance music community strongly agree that they use brands that promote equality and are inclusive v 34% of mainstream music consumers. Jaguar (BBC Radio 1) says: “The dance music community is special. There’s a lot of room for being political and opinionated because of where dance music came from: the underground, the gay scene, people of color and rebelling against norms.”
2.5x more dance music fans have boycotted a brand in the last year compared to mainstream music consumers. Dance music fans are investigating who they’re investing in. If you say something, you’ve got to live and die by it – otherwise, you’re out.
2. Fans, not consumers
Avid dance music fans are 13x more likely to use Bandcamp. They’re 2x more likely to be active explorers rather than passive consumers of music. Fans don’t rely solely on social media feeds and algorithms, but instead use online community recommendations.
They put their money where their mouth is: 88% of dance music fans prefer an event over dining out, highlighting the sanctity of the dance music experience to this group.
3. Grassroots supporters
The dance music community cares about grassroots initiatives. They feel alienated by high-profile influencers paid to read scripted endorsements. 66% agreed that endorsements from actual customers and community members were more important than those from high-profile influencers.
They want the spotlight to be on fresh, rising talent, not those who are already commercially successful. Neel, a 23-year-old London-based DJ and party organizer, said: “I enjoy seeing someone grow from relatively small, to playing more, getting their music heard more. It’s nice to see that kind of growth.”
4. Knowledge seekers
The power in online community lies partly in the ability to share and co-educate one another. Dance fans are 2x more likely to share news, music or events daily and 30% more likely to listen to educational podcasts. 48% would like to attend more interviews, talks or masterclasses given the opportunity (v 26% of the mainstream).
Driven by a hunger to learn, dance fans crave educational content. Electronic DJ Plastician says: “It’s like a telepathic understanding that we’re all here to learn about something, and we would love to learn it from people that know better about it than we do.”
5. Brand critical
Dance music fans are going green in their purchase decisions; purpose-led marketing and investment are most likely to get results. 66% of dance fans (v 14% of mainstream fans) say: “I buy from brands that clearly demonstrate what they are doing for the environment.”
80% of dance music fans agree that brands can help address wider music industry problems such diversity and inclusion, mental health and alcohol or drug abuse. Kristy Harper, a DJ, says: “Clubs and brands are selling alcohol and making money off of making people intoxicated, right? So, they do have a bit of a responsibility.” As an industry built on good times and synonymous with substance consumption, the community feels that brands benefiting from its involvement need to do their part.
In an age of dwindling ticket sales and web3, one of the best things brands can do is give capital to artists and people ingrained in the culture, instead of trying to capitalize on it. Too often, we see lazy attempts that commodify culture, rather than contribute to it. Brands need to be allies, not just sponsors.
‘On The Record’ is a new series of insight reports from Bump. On the Record Vol 1 illustrates the rise of community, the rejection of mass influence and what this means for brands – through the lens of music fans v mass consumers. For full access to the report, sign up here.
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Marketing agency with a unique approach to understanding and communicating to Gen Z through music. From Kanye to Kickers, we help brands, agencies & labels understand where they sit in youth culture, and help translate your brand culture into Gen Z currency.Find out more