A few months ago, Drake made history with his album, “Scorpion”, breaking Apple Music and Spotify streaming records by cumulatively gathering over 1 billion streams during the week of its release. 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 and has specifically dawned on the music industry, propelling physical sales (ex. CDs) and downloaded songs (ex. iTunes) to dangerously low levels. Starting in 2000, the first major contribution to the U.S. music industry’s revenue decline was the rise in popularity of Napster, a peer-to-peer online file sharing service which focused 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 a matter of fifteen years, the rapid wave of digitization within the music industry plummeted sales to a mere $6.97 billion by 2014.
Since 2014, the introduction of various streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal, and Pandora have been able to jumpstart the music industry from the ground up at an accelerated pace. More than 30 million people are now paying for subscription streaming services within the U.S. In addition, streaming is now accountable for 62% of the U.S. music business as a whole.
With the rapid growth of the music industry has come the development of other social platforms as well, such as Instagram. The app itself has become a phenomenon that has been seamlessly taking over an immense portion of the content creation market. The Instagram “Influencer” market has already surpassed over $1 billion in yearly revenue and therefore is a quintessential 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 most premiere 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 3 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 build huge subscriber fan bases to work with and secure placement deals, building 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, the fact of the matter is that 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 individual one, which has been a struggle for some artists and curators. There are music curation channels on YouTube, though, that actively offer cross-promotion on various platforms where the channel owners actually have an audience to help artists expand their reach, whilst there are playlists on Spotify and Apple music that help the artists to do the same.
Another platform, commonly mistaken as a platform 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, its 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 personally believe that TikTok has undoubtly 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 in which influencers and musicians could build organic fan bases and interact with their communities. “In the last few months, I’ve been able to build a network of over 15 million followers spread out across my network of pages in the music niche. The biggest theme that I’ve seen across musicians is their constant interaction to keep their fan bases engaged, whether it’s through Instagram’s live-video feature, Instagram stories and 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 it actually gained 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 so that his clients can bring value to the people they are meant to serve. “You can market to a million people, but if your branding is horrible, no one will want to buy from you,” Ken told me. “Building a premium brand allows you to not only become known as the go-to person for a particular problem to be solved, but also 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 important aspect of content creation is the content and timing. The content has to have the ability to showcase the artist’s brand in such a manner that it starts to build an artificial relationship with the artist’s new fans in order to have them stick around and grow with the brand. The most important factor in being able to do 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 now 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 definitely make your fan base feel closer to you and therefore is a great strategy in developing an authentic connection with them
3. Finding Your Niche
The most important step in finding your niche is to research the broader genre. An artist like Drake may be classified as a pop artist, but he’s filled a niche within the “rap” genre that allows him to be a cross-over artist. Once you have your niche, it’s also extremely important to follow the same style and make content that fits your niche in order to curate a fan base that’s dedicated to you and that follows every step you take as a creator. Many brands have missed this step and have tried to cover various type of content at the same time and have failed in succeeding to do so since it’s really difficult 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 end up developing a fan base with clashing interests in music, which is definitely not something that drives organic engagement from fans. Find your niche, make unique content and stay loyal to it.
The vast expanse and growth of the music industry to digitalization in the current generation has proven that it’s immensely important to be adaptable and ever-changing. With record labels struggling to keep up; streaming services, digital service providers, and independent curators and marketers are picking up the slack and are gaining a substantial amount of power in today’s music industry. I’m excited to see where the music industry goes in the coming years.
Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.