Walking in to Sam Ash really brings back memories of when I was 15 years old and I thought the coolest thing to do was go into guitar stars, as well as Tower Records. Anyone else who remembers the Tower Records in the East Village and its neon sign gets a gold star and a beer from me!
But, alas, years later – these brands still hold a place in my heart. So I naturally have wondered, almost every day: what platforms are the top music brands using?
Well, we did a review of the top 22 music brands and here is what we found:
|Guitar Center||Oracle Commerce|
|Sam Ash||HCL Commerce|
And the per-platform totals are…. wait for it….
We’ve done dozens of such analyses and today’s list is surprising, in a few ways. Let’s dive in.
First, in almost every retail or DTC industry we’ve dived into, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is the leading platform, often with around 40% of all the top brands. In a handful, it is in second place and once or twice, third place. But Salesforce Commerce Cloud, in the music space, has 1 out of the 22 brands reviewed – putting it point last with 4 other platforms. This was not just surprising, but downright shocking.
In almost all retail and direct-to-consumer industries, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a natural fit. Built for high-volume, high-end retail cases, including every bell and whistle you can imagine you may need in an ecommerce site, from built-in multivariate testing, staging environments, and everything you may need, to integrated multi-store functionality, and so forth – so it make sense that it dominates these listings.
But what makes the music industry so different?
On the surface, not much: these products tend to be classic and traditional types of products. Buying a Yamaha keyboard isn’t that different than buying any other products online.
Or is it? Here’s what’s interesting about music: it’s fundamentally auditory, in a way that ecommerce isn’t. The web was originally (long ago) just words; then (almost as long ago) words and images; and then, sound and videos were grafted on; and most recently, sound and videos have become core to the experience. And isn’t sound core to the musical experience, almost tautologically?
I’ll say it differently. If I were building an ecommerce store for a music product, how would I make it stand above the pack? Since it’s a music product, by showing off the sound. Audio clips everywhere, as a core part of each product experience. Streaming parts of the site. A video podcast. The ability to hear different parts of the sounds made by the instruments or music at different points and in creative ways.
And with Salesforce Commerce Cloud, sound is more an add-on, not core to the experience. But there is no commerce package where it is core, so do you know what you need to do? Build your own. So it makes sense that in the music space, custom platforms win the day, by far. And Salesforce Commerce Cloud is unusually poorly suited for this one marketspace. I heart you, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, very much, and you just can’t win them all.
And this argument, as strong as it is today, was even stronger 10 years ago, when there were even fewer players in the marketspace, and the audio and video technology was much less sophisticated than it is today. And this explains another interesting fact: why, after the custom build as today’s winner, the second-place winner is Magento. Magento, 10 years ago, was the go-to choice for an ecommerce platform. So, overall, this feels like an industry that has fossilized a bit in this last decade.
And that makes sense: music is the eternal entertainment and indeed, evolutionary theorists have even argued that ancient religions were born of ecstatic, music-fused revelry (a fact I learned in the truly phenomenal “Before the Dawn” by Nicholas Wade, and I don’t use the word “phenomenal” lightly.) But music has moved to all-streaming, all-the-time. I even walk down the street and see kids playing YouTube from their phones (as I shake my head in sadness because I can predict what their cell phone bills will be!) And as music moves to streaming, the old-time stores such as many of the top ecommerce brands feel like they’re a blast from the past. The future of music ecommerce, in other words, isn’t Sam Ash – it’s Spotify.
This context also explains some of the other idiosyncrasies we see on the list. It was also surprising that Shopify, usually the third most popular ecommerce platform used by the top brands, has only 1 of the top brands. The reason is the same: if Salesforce Commerce Cloud isn’t strongest in the music space, Shopify certainly isn’t!
The others on the list are either ecommerce platforms grafted onto old-time open source platforms (like Ubercart on Drupal, or WooCommerce on WordPress), or fronts for large, old time legacy systems (Oracle Commerce for Oracle, or HCL for IBM; note that HCL is the rebranded & sold version of IBM’s classic WebSphere.) These make small and token appearances on the list to round-out the types of approaches that the music brands, pre-streaming, have had for approaching ecommerce online: just a front-end to their complex and expensive back-ends, or just trying out some free system and trying to deal with the fall-out as it grew.) Finding the right middle-ground balance between those extremes has traditionally been hard, in all online retail industries.
Conclusion? Another day, another set of trade-offs to make in your industry for finding the right ecommerce platform. If you want to talk about the music industry – or anything music related, just for fun! – or your brand, and what ecommerce platform may be a good fit for your brand, just drop me a line and let’s Zoom: firstname.lastname@example.org