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The Guardian has a piece today discussing EMI’s strategy to gain future revenue and stay afloat. Nick Gatfield, who was responsible for discovering Amy Winehouse, is heading up EMI’s labels in the UK and the US. EMI has a new approach to consumer research.

“We have been relatively unsophisticated in understanding the consumer. Our direct relationship with the consumer has been very poor,” Gatfield says. “We have had a good relationship with the gate keepers, the radio stations and media companies. But increasingly, our mission is about understanding music consumers and not the tastes of Radio 1.”

EMI believes understanding consumer behavior will result in signing artists that people will pay for and delivering music in the proper formats. Of course this sounds more scientific and seems more suitable for a pharm company than a music company.

UK Chief executive of Universal David Joseph says, “We think that if you get the right artists, consumers like being told what to buy, as opposed to trying to find out what they want,” he says. Research can only take you so far. “If they say they like Abba, are you going to get on a plane to Sweden?”

“Amy Winehouse and Take That are successful recording artists, we don’t sit around talking about their brand values,” says Joseph. “If you sign quality, the commerce will follow.”

I think we are suffering from an epidemic of over-thinking, especially when it comes to signing artists. You either like it or you don’t. I’m not suggesting you lose your mind, but the minute you start analyzing market conditions, playlists, and consumer behavior – you will bet yourself right out of the game. Plus, most consumers don’t even know what they like. Go ahead and ask a consumer today what type of music they listen to and the response will be ‘EVERYTHING’. How do you quantify ‘EVERYTHING’? You can’t. Therefore, signing artists should be based on great songs, stage presence, and activity.

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