Drake made history with his album “Scorpion,” breaking Apple Music and Spotify streaming records by cumulatively gathering over 1 billion streams. One decade ago, it would have been unfathomed that much of an artist’s success would be attributed to online streaming and digital marketing.
The era of digitization is upon us, propelling physical sales (ex. CDs) and downloaded songs (ex. iTunes) to dangerously low levels. Starting in 2000, the first significant contribution to the U.S. music industry’s revenue decline was the rise in popularity of Napster. This peer-to-peer online file-sharing service focuses on MP3s. According to data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in 1999, which happened to be the year that Napster was founded before its surge in popularity, music sales peaked at $14.6 billion. In fifteen years, the rapid wave of digitization within the music industry plummeted sales to $6.97 billion by 2014.
Since 2014, the introduction of various streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal, and Pandora has been able to jumpstart the music industry from the ground up at an accelerated pace. As a result, more than 30 million people are now paying for subscription streaming services within the U.S. In addition, streaming is directly accountable for 62% of the U.S. music business.
With the rapid growth of the music industry has come the development of other social platforms, such as Instagram. The app itself has become a phenomenon that has seamlessly taken over a massive portion of the content creation market. The Instagram “Influencer” market has surpassed over $1 billion yearly revenue. It, therefore, is an ideal platform for content creators to exhibit their lifestyles, the music they’re listening to, fashion trends, etc.
As I became more interested in the shift in this industry, I decided to interview Devain Doolaramani, who has run digital marketing campaigns for some of the premier acts in the music industry, including Oliver Tree, Gnash, and Sam Smith, and manages over 15 million in influencers across platforms, including Kylee Renee Clark. He gave me three tips to share about building and marketing to an organic fan base in the music industry.
1. Focus on a Diverse Range of Social Media Platforms to Build Communities
The rise of digital service providers has brought forth the saturation of YouTube and the quick and easy ability to build fan bases and communities on the platform. As a result, artists and normal people have begun to construct colossal subscriber fan bases to work with and secure placement deals, creating an organic community around their brand and interacting more closely with that same fan base. However, while one may think that YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music may all seem to be interconnected, each of the platforms’ audiences aren’t.
In the present day, there are people that strictly use YouTube music, and then there are those who use Spotify or Apple Music. The wave of digitalization has made it so that you have to expand your reach to each platform and build a community on each one, which has been a struggle for some artists and curators. Though music curation channels on YouTube actively offer cross-promotion on various platforms where the channel owners have an audience to help artists expand their reach. At the same time, there are playlists on Spotify and Apple music that allow the artists to do the same.
Another platform, commonly mistaken for kids to share “lip-syncs and dances,” TikTok, has undoubtedly become one of the fastest-growing platforms in the last few years. The app, formerly known as Musical.ly, now boasts over 500 million downloads and is one of the hottest “weapons” within the industry.
While TikTok may be perceived as an app for kids, it’s 14- to 20-year-old niche has become a powerhouse for charting songs such as Bazzi’s “Mine” and even “Rolex” by Ayo & Teyo. “I believe that TikTok has undoubtedly become a breeding ground for newly-found ‘celebrities’ such as Jordyn Jones, Kylee Renee Clark, Baby Ariel, and many more,” stated Devain.
Finally, with over 800 million monthly users, Instagram is one of the most highly coveted platforms where influencers and musicians build organic fan bases and interact with their communities. “In the last few months, I’ve made a network of over 15 million followers spread out across my network of pages in the music niche. The most prominent theme that I’ve seen across musicians is their constant interaction to keep their fan bases engaged, whether through Instagram’s live-video feature, Instagram stories, or even posts.
For example, Drake posted an announcement photo of his new album, which amassed over 1.9 million likes, not counting the number of impressions, which could be in the tens of millions. Instagram, as a platform, has allowed musicians to develop into content creators and build relationships with their fans,” stated Devain.
Ken Conklin is the CEO of Gravel to Castle Premium Branding. Ken works with coaches, consultants, and practically any service provider to help them create a repeatable and predictable process to get new clients on demand to bring value to the people they are meant to serve. “You can market to a million people, but no one will want to buy from you if your branding is horrible,” Ken told me. “Building a premium brand allows you to become known as the go-to person for a particular problem to be solved and allows you to charge premium prices because people are approaching you instead of you approaching them.”
2. Creating and Developing the Right Content at the Right Time
The most critical aspect of content creation is the content and timing. The content has to have the ability to showcase the artist’s brand so that it starts to build an artificial relationship with the artist’s new fans to have them stick around and grow with the brand. The most crucial factor in doing this is timing and making sure that the artist is filling a segment of a niche that’s lacking. For example, Post Malone’s timing with “White Iverson” was so precise because there weren’t many crossover artists at the time of his release and creation of the song. In addition to the timing, Post Malone’s branding was unique and approachable enough for him to have one of the most loyal fan bases in the music industry.
Staying on top of new trends in the industry and keeping your brand updated with them will make your fan base feel closer to you and therefore is an excellent strategy for developing an authentic connection with them
3. Finding Your Niche
The essential step in finding your niche is researching the broader genre. For example, an artist like Drake may be classified as a pop artist, but he’s filled a place within the “rap” genre that allows him to be a cross-over artist. Once you have your niche, it’s also imperative to follow the same style and make content that fits your place to curate a fan base that’s dedicated to you and that follows every step you take as a creator. Unfortunately, many brands have missed this step and have tried to cover various types of content simultaneously and have failed to succeed since it’s tough to garner interest in different niches from the same fan base.
For example, it would be unquestionably hard to curate a music brand that covers genres that vary from Dubstep to Melodic House. As a result, you’d develop a fan base with clashing interests in music, which is not something that drives organic engagement from fans. So instead, find your niche, make unique content, and stay loyal.
The vast expanse and growth of the music industry to digitalization in the current generation has proven that it’s crucial to be adaptable and ever-changing. With record labels struggling to keep up, streaming services, digital service providers, independent curators, and marketers are picking up the slack and gaining substantial power in today’s music industry. I’m excited to see where the music industry goes in the coming years.
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