Recently, ASCAP’s Daily Brief included an article by David F. Carr entitled, “How Warner Music Turns Social Media Fans Into Customers”. I thought there was one paragraph in there that was extremely insightful that some readers may not have caught. It needed to be expounded upon. If you’ve always wondered how a major label goes about building a fanbase for a new artist - as far as their overarching philosophy on it - there it was!
The statement came from Eric Snowden, VP of Digital Creative and Technology at Atlantic Records (Warner Music). Here’s the paragraph:
The promotional strategy is also different for new artists than for established ones, Snowden said. “At the beginning of an artist’s career, we want to keep the barrier to entry very low,” he said, and that may mean publishing more free content and sharing it more widely. As an artist becomes more popular, “we ask a little bit more from fans and try to drive them to our own wholly owned properties more.”
For some reading this, it’s a “duh” kind-of-thing. But, I thought there are those out there for whom understanding this will help them become more clear in how to market their music. So the major label’s approach is two-fold:
- When you’re unknown, make it easy for people to engage (content is free, content is everywhere).
- When you become more popular, you can ask for more from people (content is paid, content is exclusive).
We usually are only aware of the process that takes place after a new major label artist has hit a critical mass point and is getting ready to be pushed into national recognition. It’s a funny thing. Think about it. When you hear about a “new” or “emerging” artist in the media, they’ve actually already reached critical mass, they just haven’t reached national recognition.
There are artists that reach that critical mass on their own and then sign with a major label. Then, there are artists that major labels bring to that point and then push them onto national recognition. I have a friend who has a development deal w/ a major and I’ve been following his process. And I’m seeing the overarching philosophy mentioned above at work.
When I read the article above, it also made me think about Drake’s (the rapper) early career and how the same overarching philosophy is applied (I’m referring to the method of releasing free mixtapes and having him everywhere to be discovered - even before his sound became fine-tuned - even before the So Far Gone mixtape). It also made me think of drug dealing. First few hits are free. Once you’re hooked, it’s time to pay.
The more I learn about this music business, the more I realize how much common sense comes into play. It’s understanding basic human psychology and working it to your advantage, using whatever means and methods necessary (short of breaking the law, of course). It’s a real hustle. I’m sure many can attest to this. And when you hustle, understanding the philosophy above, you’ll eventually be big - given that you don’t quit and your product is good.
Minh is an artist, producer, and entrepreneur based in the DC metro area. His website is www.reachminh.com.