Turning fans into customers is difficult no matter who you are. What separates artists is their revenue, something that can’t be achieved by simply having streams. Times have changed, and industry stars can lose ground to a dedicated fan base surrounding an up and comer as long as the fans are able and willing. Typically, this gives independent artists a slight advantage before reaching a label. Artists like Tyler, The Creator, spent years curating their brand and building a loyal base of fans independently before signing with major record labels. Before streaming, this differentiation between fans and consumers was very thin; however, with changing times must come adaptive strategies. The question is: How do you create buyers in a primary market that requires zero purchasing?
Labels create consumers out of casual listeners through a variety of markets – TV, movies, video games, advertising and the like. By playing the game and playing politics, artists leverage the power they have in every facet of the business, creating more social media hits/views/interactions. That leads to an increased fan base, as well as sales. In a way, many labels have had to play catch-up to artists like Lil B, Chief Keef, and Soulja Boy — who were the first to utilize social media and the Internet to gain a following, and more importantly, money.
These people never played the game, and would have fallen into oblivion in the past; however, their social media influence has rippled throughout the last decade and into the new one. Labels do not have to use tactics such as following millions of people back on Twitter like Lil B, but they certainly have to change their approach.
Early on in this era, labels did not know what to make of their suddenly large followings on social media. They began focusing their energy and resources on data analytics that drove fans onto their Twitter and Facebook accounts — and subsequently, the artist’s website, where sales occur. This was a way for new artists to keep their barriers low until their fan base grew; from there, they would ask little by little for more once loyalty had been built.
Social Media & Consumers
Nowadays, artists are given a little more freedom on their social media, as they have their own teams to channel their voices to better humanize them. One way artists have used their voice is through the new, direct-to-consumer texting trend by a start-up called ‘Community.’ Among those using their service are musicians, actors, and athletes. Directly reaching out to each individual consumer that signs up for texts creates a more personal feel to the celebrity; that can be used to promote sales. Especially now, without the touring and synching that usually derives sales for both the artist and the label, artists like Post Malone have used the texting service to promote their virtual concerts and merchandise drops.
Tricks of the Trade
Years ago, labels knew that they had to separate from the physical world as well as build upon it. Now, due to COVID-19, the physical world is more or less off-limits, forcing labels to once again adapt. What we have been seeing a lot of recently is artists pushing back their releases until later in the year so that they will be able to tour.
Currently, there is absolutely zero revenue coming from live performances. We expect to see a hesitancy over at least the next year or so if and when venues reopen, affecting the bottom line in that arena alone. Furthermore, a quarter of all advertising within the industry has been paused for the first half of 2020. On top of that, 46% have reduced spending. With every part of the industry is being affected by this pandemic, which is why they need to be as flexible and open-minded as possible in order to push through to brighter days.
One of the ways that they have utilized their resources to generate sales in this difficult time is through TikTok, which has gained over 300 million users in the first quarter of 2020 alone. For example, the immediate success of Drake’s most recent #1 “Toosie Slide.” As it was a simple melody with a dance to match, it was an instant hit across social media and beyond.
Another great use of new innovative marketing strategy was from Travis Scott, who held a live concert inside the popular game Fortnite. There was also a 7-day long drop of a collection of merchandise to promote the eventual #1 single in collaboration with Kid Cudi on “The Scotts.” Many labels are now being forced to go 100% digital in their marketing, pivoting to tools such as Instagram Live, which has given us things that many fans thought was impossible, such as an Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott rap battle.
What is important to note is that the spike in social media mentions and the anticipation for this event subsequently increased their sales. Prior to this, sales had remained stagnant for quite some time. These cross-industry partnerships are going to be crucial for the foreseeable future. Even in dire circumstances, most label executives would never have seen coming, there are always ways in which to adapt and create customers.