Music Marketing Innovations: Your Music and the QR Code

Although they have been around since 1994, they are still a novelty in the US and most parts of Europe: Strange looking printed black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background called QR codes.

QR codes can be great, low (and no) cost marketing tools enabling you to provide unique contents for your fans or customers. So if you are a musician (or any business) you should definitely investigate and apply them. How, will become clear in the following.

QR code for Moontraxx

Initially developed in Japan by the Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. This Quick Response code is designed to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed (like the name implies) with a smart phone. With a suitable app. installed, it will launch the webpage or other contents automatically on your phone. The information encoded can be text, URL, or any other data – like an mp3.

The technology has seen frequent use in Japan, the Netherlands, and South Korea, while the rest of the world has been slower in the adoption of QR codes.

This act of linking the physical world of objects (a band flyer) to the virtual world (i. e.  your band website) is termed hardlinking or object hyperlinking. It provides for musicians alone sheer endless possibilities of adding and distributing content:

  • Tour flyers / band posters
  • your merchandize table
  • the tour vehicle, at the venue
  • CD jackets, booklets, business cards, one sheets, flyers…
  • projections onto walls, lamp posts, other public spaces
  • fabrics like T-shirts, scarves, caps etc.
  • stickers, stamped or stuck outside of any mailed package

Who won’t be tempted to unleash their inner pirate?

Even if many people still don’t understand what these mysterious barcodes really are – sparsely distributed in magazines, on train station walls and in art galleries –, I believe that when one of them is spotted it awakens natural curiosity and competitiveness. We instinctively sense that it must stand for something. So who won’t be tempted to unleash their inner pirate, pull out their “pocket brain” and unlock that “secret” code? It is therefore only a matter of time before these no- and low-budget hyperlinks hit critical mass and become a viable marketing opportunity.

This is why I disagree with those who argue that “if a fan is already online isn’t just clicking a link easier then pulling out a smart phone and taking a picture?” (see an article by David Rose) Because who says, that fan is already on your band’s page in the first place? Also, typing in that link or dialling a number is boring. Especially on a smart phone. It’s much more fun and engaging to take a picture and to hear and feel that delightful buzz when your pocket scanner catches the still unknown info like a fish in a net.

By creating QR codes we have not only got the possibility of crosslinking contents, but cross-linking two worlds. If our two worlds, the physical, tangible world and the digital, cyber world meet, contents are experienced in a more complex way. And in a strange way these technologies are shifting the focus from the internal online world (girl walks down street text messaging on phone) outwards again by re-validating public space.

Because now girl walks down street text messaging, then sees poster with a code. The code grabs her attention because it correlates with her current action but also re-programmes her lost awareness for her environment. She photo-scans it and is introduced to some music she downloads. The boundaries between physical and virtual are getting more and more blurred. It’s about interaction and about enabling users to step deeper into contents than immediately displayed.

Get creative with your own unique contents…

I am actually surprised that QR codes are not more wide-spread since there are so many interesting avenues. Some promoters go as far as believing that for music promotion we should now be giving out QR codes instead of CDs. Without a doubt, there have already been some very effective and creative uses in the music industry. But like any marketing strategy, it’s main function is to grab people’s attention and make them interested in your music in innovative, interesting and interactive ways. So get creative with your own unique contents and start distributing them in the form of a compact and easily displayable code. There are many free sites – just google them – where they can be created in a few steps.

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  1. It’s also a chance to pick up a possibly “lost” opportunity.
    Say, your music plays somewhere and a “new fan” hears it and let’s say the QPR is displayed somewhere – CLICK, they take it home and go online to get your music or right on their phone.
    Love your innovational thoughts and forwardt thinking. Embracing new technology is not always easty.

    I always thought thes QPR codes would be great on “houses for sale”, so you can just walk up, click – no more empty flyer box syndrome.

    Oh the possibilites! Monkey brain is working overtime….


  2. Thanks for the article Frances. Really a great idea . You could apply this to any thing you want others to know about. How many opportunities are lost between the time I first see something and the time I can follow up on it. This way I could investigate on the spot. It won’t be long before this pops up on dating services!!!!
    Susie/ Mexico Culture and Cuisine

    • Frances@Moontraxx

      I appreciate your comment! And yes, it’s also about “lost opportunities” if you look at the time between something initially grabbing your attention and the follow up if you can’t access the information straight away or only in a very complicated manner. I like that thought. And regarding dating – a nice tattoo on one’s forehead would do the trick… 😉

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