BMG Tweaks Music Categories to Appeal to Consumers Over 30

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To connect better with customers 30 and older, BMG Music Service began two new catalogs and listening-preference categories this year with promising initial results.


As a music club direct marketer with an average age of 35 among its 6.2 million active BMG Music Service members, BMG took notice last year when the Recording Industry Association of America reported that 56 percent of all U.S. music sales were attributed to that segment.


When consumers sign up for the BMG Music Service club, they indicate a listening preference that serves as the basis for which BMG catalogs get mailed to them. Categories available before January were Hard Rock, Light & Easy, Top 40, Metal and others.


As it does regularly with all members, BMG started looking at its customers over 30 to see what categories they were in and what they were buying, said Patrick Adams, vice president of customer marketing at BeMusic, which includes BMG Music Service and CDnow. BeMusic is a part of DirectGroup Bertelsmann, New York.


"A high percentage of customers buying outside of a chosen listening preference is an indication of something," he said. "We create and realign genre categories based on what customers are doing rather than what they said they wanted to do a year ago, and that's where this came from. It's just part of what we do as a direct marketing company looking at the data, analyzing the data and acting accordingly."


Based on this analysis, BMG created the Adult Alternative and Classic Rock categories, and many club members automatically were switched to one of the new preferences based on their buying behavior.


The evolution of listening-preference categories grows out of the crossover product that exists within categories.


"If you had classified yourself as a Light & Easy type of customer -- which would be someone buying Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow or Kenny G -- but in fact when we looked at your last six months of purchases you actually bought Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams and Wilco, we went ahead and proactively switched you to Adult Alternative," Adams said.


Adams would not say how many members were switched to either new category but added that they were notified of the change and have not complained. Members can change their listening preferences at any time, and BMG formally invites them to do so two or three times yearly.


Aside from the customers who were automatically switched, many others actively switched their listening preference after learning about the new genres.


To promote awareness of the new categories online, BMG used banners on its Web site. Of course, genre categories matter most for BMG's postal customers, since listening preference makes little difference online because customers have access to everything. BMG has more than 1 million Web-only members.


As for the results of the new initiatives, Adams would not give specifics but said, "The first time they had the opportunity to shop the new catalogs there was a significant increase in buying in the new listening preference."


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