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6 Case Studies on Successful Online Music Marketing 

Connecting with fans is imperative in today’s music industry. It’s that connection that can give them a reason to buy and support your music. Utilizing social media and having a strong online presence makes connecting with fans much more achievable. Below are some good case studies of bands that found success through an online campaign. I encourage musicians to review these examples and pay attention to the elements that made them successful. Then think about how to implement those strategies into your own marketing plans.

1) Arcade Fire – Interactive Music Video Using Google Street View

Arcade Fire utilized HTML5 to create an interactive music video for “We Used to Wait.” Users are prompted to enter the address of their childhood home at the start of the video. While watching the video, scenes from your old neighborhood are pulled in using Google street view.  The elements of new technology, interactivity, nostalgia, experimentation, and personalization all aided in making this video a huge hit. Think about those factors for your next campaign.

2) Josh Freese – Topspin and Miniature Golf

The one size fits all product days are gone. Having something for the casual fan to the super fan is a great way to be able to sell more and put additional money in your pocket. One way to utilize this method is through Topspin, an online funding platform for artists, musicians, inventors, filmmakers, etc. Josh Freese decided to try out Topspin to help fund an upcoming album. The thing I like about what he did was the creative “product” offerings that fit his personality, including:

  • Lunch with him at Cheesecake Factory or PF Chang’s
  • A round of miniature golf
  • Josh washes your car or does your laundry
  • He joins your band for a month
  • A private drum lesson
  • Take three items out of his closet
  • Josh writes a song about you

See the full list of packages and items Josh made available, which ranged from $7-$75,000. Check out Topspin to see how you can use it creatively to fund your next project. Just remember to do something that fits your band’s personality. If you make it the right fit and support it correctly, it can work.

3) Amanda Palmer – Turning the Power of Twitter into $11,000 in 2 Hours

Amanda Palmer is widely known for her social media expertise. Advertising Age said, “Palmer is more sophisticated than almost anyone on the internet — musician, brand or otherwise — when it comes to gathering her audience around her and keeping the conversation going.”

On a boring Friday night, Amanda managed to rake in $11,000 in just two hours. It all started with her tweeting about how she was alone, again, on a Friday night sitting in front of her computer. Others started chiming in and began claiming how “we are all losers.” Dialog continued and grew at a rapid pace. A faux organization was started called, “The Losers of Friday Night on their Computers.” Amanda created the hashtag #LOFNOTC and thousands joined the conversation.

A follower suggested the group create a t-shirt. Amanda quickly decided to run with it. She took a sharpie and made a t-shirt design. A website was thrown up that night with the t-shirts available for $25 a piece. 2 hours later… $11,000.

What can you learn for this example?

  • Interact with your followers and don’t just mass broadcast.
  • Be personable and share a variety of things with your fans.
  • Always be on your toes, ready to act quickly when opportunities arise.

4) Matthew Ebel – Subscription Site for the Super Fan

Boston-based singer Matthew Ebel says 26.3% of his income is from 40 hard core fans. You may recognize his name from articles about his ties to the 1,000 True Fan theory/model. One of the ways Matthew caters to his super fans is through a subscription based website.

The packages range from $5/month to $15/month, as well as annual options.  He offers a wide range of perks are including members-only parties, VIP seating at shows, access to new music as soon as he creates it, new live concert recordings every month, broken apart tracks ready for remixing, behind-the-scene sketches, drafts, and ideas, and many more. View the full list of packages and perks here.

5) The Poison Control Center – Tumblr Tour Blog

The Poison Control Center have an awesome tour blog. The band uses Tumblr, a simple and free blogging platform, to regularly update their fans from the road. After each show they share pictures, videos, and posts about their experiences, even down to thanking the sound guy, door person, bartender, and of course the fans. They do it right by updating frequently, providing a wide variety of content, and always remaining authentic.  

6) Gossip Grows on Trees – Building Your Email List with a Fortune Cookie

Email is one of the best ways to directly reach your fans, but sometimes it can be difficult to grow your subscription list.  Gossip Grows on Trees from North Carolina executed a creative way to gain more email addresses at live shows.

They created a download web page that gave visitors a free music download in exchange for their email. At shows they walked around and handed out custom fortune cookies with the URL of the download page and a short message from the band. This gave the band an opportunity to spark conversation and develop relationships with fans. Plus, a lot more people visited the download page and provided their email address because they were approached in a memorable way.

All of these online music marketing case studies have a common theme of musicians connecting with fans. It isn’t enough to put your music out there and hope people will gravitate towards it. You have to be willing to push it out there and utilizing online mediums is a key element.

If you know of a successful online music marketing case study, please share it in the comments.


Jill Haverkamp is the co-owner of music marketing company On Pitch in Des Moines, Iowa. This post originally appeared on the On Pitch blog.

Reader Comments (13)

this is so true...alot of recording artists just dnt know how to market themselves...then wonder y their career goes no where

February 21 | Unregistered CommenterFroggie Fresh Beats

I do agree that personal connection is key to building a sustainable (and monetizable) fan base: I, as a music fan, tend to favour bands and artists, whether new or established, that respond to fans' tweets, mails and so on.
There is just one thing I'm not comfortable with, and it's the example of Josh Freese, and Amanda Palmer on a lower scale: selling your services as car washer (or auctioning your stuff): do you really have to go through this to sell your music? What can it possibly bring you, the artist, or the "purchaser"?
And one last thing; what if by releasing more and more deluxe packages they become casual (and thus lose all purpose)? And what if fans on a budget eventually start resenting always being excluded from the so-called "superfan" group? Does anyone have thoughts on this?

February 21 | Unregistered CommenterLorene

Freese didn't use Kickstarter to sell those packages. He used Topspin. His approach was similar to what Kickstarter artists use, but he didn't go through Kickstarter to do it, which launched shortly after he had set up his sales plan via Topspin.

February 21 | Registered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Hi Lorene, The shift in the music industry is causing artists to become more creative in what they sell and products they offer. I think if they can provide items that make sense for the band and their personality, then it can enhance the entire music/fan experience.

Keeping the higher-end packages fresh and creative is an important aspect. Thanks for bringing that up. If you are selling the same thing as everyone else, it's going to loose it's impact.

Offering different tiers of packages at varying price levels is a good way to combat the problem you mentioned of fans on a budget.

Hi Suzanne, you are correct. Thanks for pointing that out. I've send a message to MTT to make the correction.

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterJill Haverkamp

Thank you for replying: the crucial point here is for bands to provide items that make sense for them, I agree, and is consistent with their already existing relationship with fans. If fans feel they're trying too hard or are insincere in their endeavours, or if it's just not what they expect from the band, I doubt it could work.
That's why I think it's important to stress the idea that bands or artists shouldn't try to imitate what's already been done, but think of what they've already built with their fanbase, of what they want to give and what they believe fans would like to get instead.

I know you've covered that in the second part of your answer, sorry to repeat, but I feel it may too tempting to just copy, say, Arcade Fire's interactive video or Amanda Palmer's auction.

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterLorene

Lorene's point is one that I've thought about for a while. We've gotten ourselves into a "value add" mindset, which obviously is a business model that works quite well. I think where the music industry is losing perspective though, is that it's adopted the "value add" model to the point where essentially the initial product itself is being devalued. And Lorene is right, "by releasing more and more deluxe packages" we're moving that product, the music, further and further down the value chain. I'm not saying don't value add, but I am saying that we should be a little more judicious in what we add and the frequency of which we do it. Seriously, put some value on your music. Despite what we keep getting told, it's not worthless. Think of this way, if you don't see it's value, why should anybody else?

February 22 | Registered CommenterKristian Jackson

Echoing Kristian's point, but rather more forcefully:

Posts like these are incredibly depressing and come over as little more than ad's for nefarious PR services and not particularly effective ones, too.

How about we apply some of this thinking to an Integrated Marketing Service: perhaps for every hopeful tweet to someone at Pitchfork you could offer to sweep their yard; each time you introduce a new band to the world you could sell some of your possessions on ebay; why not have a sponsored bake sale to raise the cash for an ad campaign?

Not interested in diverting your resources to add value to your service? Bound to fail, then, bound to fail.

(walks off into the virtual distance shaking his virtual head...)

February 23 | Registered CommenterTim London

Thanks for the article! I am one of those musicians that sucks at marketing. I work so hard on my music, then feel like I have some planet sized "just ignore me" badge emblazoned on my chest. When people actually see me play, they not only enjoy it, but want to talk about it afterward. So thanks for the Ideas! Maybe I'll try something crazy :)

Aaron Gibson

February 27 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Gibson

A band called Dallas used Foursquare to promote their videoclip and project on Akamusic, a Belgian fanfunding platform.
How we did it? First we created a flashmob (on new years eve) - we released a press communique with the location. Everybody who locked in could participate in the videoclip. The singer performed 24h and everybody who came by could join the clip. It was done via timelapse, so the 24h could fit in the 3 minutes format of the song. We also gave everybody who checked in that day a promocode to invest in the Dallas project on Akamusic. RESULT: around 18.000 visits on youtube, a big buzz in Belgium and the band Dallas raised more than 50.000 €! Check the clip and Dallas on On Akamusic you can invest in new talent. 1 share cost you 5 euro and you get the produced cd, with your name in the liner notes and 40% of the benefits. Have fun(ding)

My friend just made $3,000 on kickstarter to fund an album. 500 individuals became his record label. If you're good, people will give you the money to keep making your art.

March 2 | Unregistered CommenterDco

Respective views. Lovely. All of these online music marketing case studies have a common theme of musicians connecting with fans. It isn’t enough to put your music out there and hope people will gravitate towards it. You have to be willing to push it out there and utilizing online mediums is a key element. Thanks for sharing this post so much.
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July 12 | Unregistered Commentervideo service

I'm a very gifted, energetic, extraordinary songwriter/poetrywriter named Owen Dale.
I've been writing for several years now and I've gained superior skills in songwriting. Many are amazed by my gifts and have fallen in love with my songs.
My compositions range from; Reggea, ragga, r&b, soul, garage, gospel and rock.
My compositions can help promote many who want a career in the music business and be highly beneficial to those who seek contributions to their business and wish to invest in new talent.

August 18 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Dale

it is so legitimate... alot connected with recording designers just dnt discover how to market them selves... then wonder y the career moves no where.

December 15 | Unregistered CommenterBoard Results 2013

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