MTV does TMI (Targeted Music Integration)

How MTV uses targeted music integration to put artists in front of viewers and the network ahead of its competitors

Echosmith, the band whose song "Cool Kids" was made famous by its placement on MTV's show Awkward. Photo by Nicole Nodland.

This is how a band gets propelled into stardom: Four siblings from Toluca Lake, California form a music group and write and record a song called “Cool Kids.”  The group, Echosmith, uploads its song to a blog. It is discovered by a member of MTV’s music integration group looking for the “next big hit.” The listener thinks the song would sound good on the hit TV show Awkward. Fans of the show love the song and decide to buy it. The track sees a 90 percent increase in single sales after the second episode airs. Echosmith becomes an “artist to watch” and gains mainstream fandom.

It isn’t surprising that getting recognized by MTV can be a musician’s big break. The music brand’s creative approach through music integration connects audiences to musicians through multiple platforms to benefit every aspect of business.

Since MTV’s music integration group’s inception in 2009, the team has increased from two to about 25. The team searches blogs and labels and takes pitches from labels and publishers to find music. It sifts through a vast number of songs to find music that resonates with programming. After that, the team presents the music to the producer of a show in a manner that fits the vision of that title. That results in either a music license or a deal with the artist, manager, label, or publisher. Rochelle Holguin has led creative music integration for MTV brands for almost two years, and she focuses on connecting the music heard on shows to online and social platforms.

Rochelle Holguin, head of creative music integration for MTV brands

Take the band Echosmith as an example. Holguin and her team integrated them by placing several songs from their album Talking Dreams within the TV show Awkward. They took the integration further by having the band mentioned in the episode and creating specific Echosmith signage that highlighted the band and their involvement in the show. “We tried to tie together a whole picture of what an artist can do on our platforms through the multitude of MTV’s music integration and marketing efforts,” says Holguin.

Combine that with embedding the band in the storyline, social media channels to connect potential fans with the artist, and editorial content about the band, and you create a comprehensive marketing strategy that is ahead of its competition.

The formula is actually quite simple. If an MTV artist becomes successful, MTV has established a seamless benefit for the artist, audience, and network. The network benefits by continuing to market itself as a music brand. The artist profits from exposure to millions of new fans. And through music discovery, the audience is introduced to artists it may not have been otherwise.

“There are so many messages out there around music, and it’s difficult for audiences to filter through the amount of music and pop culture they’re consuming,” says Holguin. “MTV builds a place where our audience can come discover music on a daily basis.”

By establishing itself as a music network, MTV creates a cache of artists, like Hozier, to bring to new audiences. The artist’s song “Like Real People Do” was featured in a March episode of MTV’s Teen Wolf and saw a 2,300 percent increase in single sales the week after the placement. By bringing such artists into the MTV catalogue, the company is able to lead audiences into new realms of pop culture and discovery. It increases the volume of content for the consumer while marketing itself as a cutting-edge music brand.

Music integration comes in many forms. It can be a theme song, the musical score of a show, a Spotify playlist, or collaboration with an artist for original content. MTV leads the competition in music integration by leveraging its unique legacy as a music-first network.

“Unlike an any other network, music is always part of our conversation,” Holguin says. “We are always strategic about how we present music to our audience. We understand how our audience engages—and how they want to engage—with music. We use all of our platforms to make sure that happens.”

Because viewers recognize MTV as a music-centered brand, the network has an advantage in cultivating cutting-edge integration that is unique to its brand and targeted demographic. It’s able to use social media—like a Fifth Harmony Instagram takeover—to establish a more intimate connection to its viewers.

“It’s about being aware and understanding how our audience is consuming music on multiple devices,” Holguin says. “Our brand understands the platforms our viewers are using and how to convert that to benefit both MTV and the artist.”