A feature on BBC 6 Music about The Great Escape, a music festival and industry convention in Brighton, is not the sort of place I’d expect to hear a load of corporate jargon.
The piece was about how lovely a time everyone was having there and was full of endearing soundbites from the contented organiser, excited artists and enthused festival goers.
But lurking in the midst of these folk were spokespeople from Vevo and Amazon Music – and they stood out like Dads at a Beyoncé gig.
When asked why and what they were doing at The Great Escape Nick Jones from Vevo and Paul Frith from Amazon said things like:
“..we get a huge amount of wonderful content from it..”
“..for our staff to be connected to the artist and then be connected to the fans..”
“..we offer bands a route to engaged audiences..”
“..we have really engaged music shoppers on the site..”
“..enabling those bands to reach their audiences..”
It won’t come as news to anyone that spokespeople need to adapt the tone and wording of their messaging to fit the media – what works for The Sun doesn’t work for FT – but spokespeople also need to adapt for the industry they are in.
Behind closed doors the Amazon and Vevo comms people will talk about ‘engaging music shoppers’ and ‘creating content’ (which is fine), but if boardroom chat seeps into external comms when you’re in the music industry then you sound like a business man who hates music or someone who works in IT.
Their problem was so apparent as it was broadcast alongside agenda-less interviews with artists and other industry people who genuinely love music and came across as such, and it raises an often overlooked point - you might know what you want to say, but do you know who you want to be?
This is a particularly prevalent issue for the music streaming services and apps. These often are IT companies who happen to do music, but successful communication for these brands means acting like a music company, not a tech one.
To come across as relevant to music fans and with a right to be at The Great Escape, Frith and Jones needed to talk about music, not their platforms.
Neither mentioned a single artist they’d seen at the festival. The message that you’re doing more to get content for your users is better told by saying that you “really enjoyed Kate Tempest headlining…you don’t see many female rappers getting that exposure and our fans will love to see her performance on Vevo.”
I’m sure both of them really are music fans underneath the suits. Their CVs probably tell a story of careers built in the music industry rather than in tech companies, but that interesting bit of their personality has somehow been trained out of them.
It’s not that corporate speak is always inappropriate – if you’re talking to investors it might be expected - but if you have licence to talk like a fan by virtue of the industry you are in, then take it. Authenticity is worth a lot.