It is both an interesting and an intimidating time to be a musician. Unlike in years past, today’s independent artists have the ability to jump-start their fame and popularity through the power of the internet.
However, the pressure now goes beyond just producing great music; musicians have to be able to maintain interaction with fans and creatively acquire new ones.
Let’s look at 3 artists who have implemented innovative marketing and content strategies to build their fan bases.
1. Lil Dicky
Lil Dicky, aka David Burd, has soared in popularity in the last few years with his combination of humor and dynamic rapping ability.
Apart from his musical chops and his ability to combat the status quo of the rap game, he dominates web-based marketing better than most marketing professionals.
This might be because he actually was a marketing professional before deciding to pursue his rapping career.
Burd started his career at a marketing firm, Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, after obtaining a business degree from the University of Richmond.
After realizing that the professional world wasn’t for him, he turned to his true passion, music.
His first song, “Ex-Boyfriend,” was released with a music video on YouTube. The video was a tremendous success, accumulating 1 million views in less than 24 hours. Over the following 5 months, he released a new song with a music video every week.
After the release of a mixtape and the accumulation of millions of views on YouTube, Burd was ready to take things the next level.
He started a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $100,000, leading to the funding of his debut album, Professional Rapper.
The album led to significant commercial success, with the release of singles “Lemme Freak,” “Professional Rapper” and “Save That Money.”
“Save That Money” makes fun of the standard rapper mindset of spending money frivolously. The song promotes careful spending and advises listeners to save money whenever possible.
The hilarious video that accompanies the song shows Burd knocking on the doors of random mansions in the Hollywood hills to get footage for the video, along with asking Lamborghini dealerships and yacht owners to borrow their cars and boats for the shoot in exchange for ad space at the end of the video. Yes, he really takes saving money seriously.
The video currently has over 53 million views and recently went platinum. We have all heard the phrase “content is king.” Lil Dicky lives up to the statement better than anyone else in the music industry.
2. Jon Bellion
You may not have heard of Jon Bellion, but you have most likely heard “Monsters” by Rihanna and Eminem and “Trumpets” by Jason Derulo, two songs he helped produce.
Following the success of these two projects, Bellion has taken a unique approach to continuing his upward trajectory.
Unlike many other musicians, Bellion released his first four projects for free, allowing him to reach a larger number of listeners.
One clever marketing strategy Bellion has implemented is his Making Of videos. In this series, he records the entire creative process of producing his music, giving fans a behind-the scenes-view of how he creates specific songs.
This approach has brought Bellion newfound respect from his fans, and the videos have accumulated millions of views.
The combination of his Making Of videos and releasing earlier projects for free has helped Bellion take his monthly listeners on Spotify from 100,000 a month less than two years ago to nearly 2 million upon the release of his debut album, The Human Condition, in the summer of 2016.
3. Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper, a Chicago-based rapper, has seen a significant rise in popularity over the last few years after the success of his critically acclaimed mixtape, Acid Rap.
The past 18 months have been tremendously successful for Chance, starting with the release of a collaborative project, Surf, followed by the release of his latest project, Coloring Book.
Surf was released as a surprise album in 2015. It was made available as an exclusive free download on iTunes, which caused the music community on Twitter to lose their collective minds upon the release.
The album accumulated over 600,000 album downloads and over 10 million individual song downloads. Sure, this may not have led to direct dollar signs, but the bold surprise release helped Chance gain a significant number of fans.
His latest project, Coloring Book, was released initially as an Apple Music exclusive until demand by fans led it to be released on other streaming services such as Soundcloud and Spotify.
Coloring Book has received substantial commercial success and, with the help of his unique album-release strategies, Chance has solidified himself as a leading name in the rap industry.
In addition, Chance recently launched RapperRadio.com, a crowd-sourced movement to help independent artists get on the radio.
Rapper Radio allows fans from different cities to submit song suggestions on the site, which are then shared with local radio stations.
Chance has used this new platform to help get his music on the radio, and has recently started a campaign stating he will “host something special” in whatever city gets his music on the airwaves the most.
Although he is currently using RapperRadio.com as a way to promote his music, he has bigger hopes for the site, anticipating it will give independent artists a better pathway to achieving mainstream popularity.
Not bad for a guy without a label or physical album release.