The marketing behind street music

There is a street band in down town Madrid that plays classical music and always gets a big audience listening to them, because they are actually really good and it feels nice to stop for a minute and enjoy the familiar classical pieces they play. That is, at least, what normal people do and what I used to do, until I walked by them with @AlphonseHa and @Laurencedg while showing Alphonse around the city.

Músicos callejeros
The street musicians I'm talking about

The problem is you cannot just put together three lovers of marketing and communication and expect them not to pay attention to the little details: a few minutes after we stopped to listen to the music we found ourselves discussing if there was any kind of marketing strategy behind the musicians, and in that case who was the beneficiary and who planned it. And all of it just because of the place where they happened to be playing their music… is it coincidence that they always play right beside the entrance to one of the biggest stores in Spain?

Of course not. In my opinion, the marketing strategy is quite simple: if I were a street artist I would put myself where more people are going to walk by. So I believe the musicians hit the jackpot with their location: in Carmen street, one of the most commercial streets in Madrid (this ensures a lot of passers-by), close to the Metro station (people coming/leaving by Metro will walk by them) and right in front of the entrances to El Corte Inglés (ECI) and Fnac, two of the biggest department stores in Spain.

It is just the place that will get more people exposed to their music, proportionally increasing their options to get more money. The fact that they are on ECI’s side rather than Fnac’s is just because the wall creates this perfect spot where they are protected from wind and rain, and have a safe place to leave their stuff. In my opinion, the musicians made a perfect choice marketing wise.

But both Alphonse and Laurence have a totally different idea. Maybe because they come from Canada and they are used to big marketing campaigns where everything is under control, and maybe because El Corte Inglés for them doesn’t have the same meaning that for us Spaniards, their point of view is totally different.

Their idea is that, knowing the quality of their music, it is actually El Corte Inglés who is interested in having these musicians playing beside their door. The musicians are helping to attract people to the store by getting them to stop right in front of the entrance, which increases the possibility that some will then enter the store and become clients.

In addition, and I think this is the best part of this theory, thanks to these musicians ECI is making a nice marketing campaign: like in my picture, El Corte Inglés’ logo appears in every video and photo taken by tourists and people stopping by to listen to the music. This increases the brand knowledge worldwide with a minimum investment and without the risk of being too aggressive: the logo is just there, subtle but perfectly visible and accompanied with a list of all the things you can buy inside the store.

Finally, there is something that supports this second theory: El Corte Inglés has more than enough power to make the musicians move to a different spot. The fact that ECI allows them to play beside the entrance makes it obvious that they believe it is at least somewhat beneficial for them. And as Laurence pointed out, these guys look nice, play classical music and are really good… is it really just a coincidence that there never are any other musicians in that area?

So what came first, the egg or the hen? We couldn’t decide which theory was right, since both make sense and benefit both parts equally. Although I believe there is one last thing to consider: if El Corte Inglés has any role here they could never admit it.


We didn’t realize before, but behind the musicians, on the left, there is an electronic device to show multimedia ads. El Corte inglés doesn’t have anything similar in any of their other hundreds of entrances. I believe this proves there is something going on here.

4 thoughts on “The marketing behind street music”

  1. Thanks for the mention! 😉

    I disagree that if they have anything to do with it, they can never mention it. There is a man playing the spoon in front of Ogilvy, a jewelry store on St-Catherine street, in Montreal.

    At first, the store tried and got rid of him and that created some tension and they ended up rectifying the issue and appropriate the idea and they even sponsor the guy now. I guess we can argue that it was because they had bad press that they had to come forth but I’m not so sure.

    Also, another detail to support my theory. Does the band actually sell albums on the street? If they do, I think your theory makes sense, but if they don’t sell albums, it doesn’t make sense for a band that large, with so many people to play for peanuts. Especially when they are that good.

  2. Thanks for the feedback 😉

    I think they do sell CD’s, but I’m not sure. Next time I walk by I’ll check and let you know.

    ECI cannot say they do have something to do if they are not letting the other musicians stay around. Is not about supporting the good ones (which here would already be something people would talk about) but about the control over the whole street.

    I didn’t do anything to the picture, that’s just how it came out 😉

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