This summer, 4th Floor Creative was busy settling into Sony Music U.K.’s recently relocated London headquarters in King’s Cross. Preparing and completing any home or office move creates a moment for reflection, as one leaves familiar spaces and routines behind to discover new ones. Office space planning and design also offer insights into business focuses and priorities.
Looking back, 4th Floor Creative was introduced in 2019 with the aim of bringing together creative and strategic functions under one umbrella. Since then, the way we market artists and help their music reach new people has continued to evolve rapidly to require a multidisciplinary, collaborative and agile approach.
The process of getting acquainted with our new workplace in one of London’s major tech hubs also serves as inspiration to look ahead and imagine the future capabilities of music companies, as the media ecosystem continues to create new ways for artists to express creative vision and speak to fans.
The revitalized King’s Cross area is designed with community in mind and is rising as a preeminent creative and tech hub. And while “community” may be a buzzword du jour, it is a worthwhile exercise to break down the defining characteristics of community and look at how these translate to practices in the music industry.
One area of increased consideration is the evolution of artist fan base-building to focus on community. Historically, record labels have built their services to support artists in getting records to market, building marketing efforts around a one-to-many model such as broadcast or the follower-based models of social media. In real terms, this has meant looking at how to integrate the cultivation of a community of fans who can connect with one another across a range of shared interests alongside audience-building.
Artists or music may be at the center of community, brought together on platforms like Discord, Reddit or Facebook Groups, or music may be an adjacent topic to other core interests built around media, games, NFT projects and the like. Sony Music U.K. is turning our attention to this more and more, as artists such as Nothing But Thieves have begun to build communities on Discord. This then prompts us to look at the skill sets required for management of fan communities and how to build a strong marketing tool kit on-platform.
Furthermore, we are experimenting with creating moments built around artists among existing communities, such as on Roblox. Most recently, we collaborared with Columbia Records U.K. to facilitate a metaverse concert performance by U.K. singer-songwriter George Ezra on Roblox, set within an immersive experience inspired by the lyrical world of his latest U.K. No. 1 album, Gold Rush Kid.
Looking at the office design, we can see the impact of tech and trends on how space is utilized and also get an insight into how we’re evolving to further support artists. For example, as part of our Voice Lab initiative, the team is in the process of creating dedicated space in King’s Cross to test artist releases and voice search.
The new capabilities opened up by the on-site voice testing facilities are key to the team’s wider drive to develop best practice for voice-first search, which is becoming a standard part of artist and music marketing as voice navigation continues to mature as a tool for music discovery. Our efforts include the development of social videos that show fans how to request their favorite artists on voice devices as well as the optimization of track metadata based on search patterns.
Additionally, 4th Floor Creative will be setting up a gaming room with the intent of creating a casual space for artists and staff to test and play new game titles as part of exploring ways artists and music can be further integrated within the gaming ecosystem. This will allow us to build on gaming projects like Ezra collaboration, plus others like Music for Nations’ collaboration with Blizzard Entertainment, integrating their artists’ music into mobile game Diablo Immortal.
Office planning and design plays an important role not only in supporting staff needs but also in creating purpose-led spaces to facilitate learning and incubation of new company capabilities. The increased concentration on developing community inside an office through integration and use of social space helps create new moments for internal relationship building and collaboration.
An office move is a good prompt to reevaluate what’s needed—and what’s not—to navigate the future.