Dazzled by the direct-to-fan possibilities of the internet?
Get over it, because serious campaigns require serious strategies, and often, dedicated teams to get the job done. That was just one of several messages at the You Are In Control symposium in Iceland on Wednesday, a small gathering of mostly European artists and industry professionals.
Against the backdrop of glaciers, geothermic baths, and a chilled Reykjavik, attendees traded tips on touring, marketing, publicity, and jamming through an economic crisis. The discussions predictably included digital and mobile formats, an overwhelming terrain that demands smart strategy and healthy experimentation. “There’s a long way you can go and a lot of outlets,” said Laura Seach, head of Digital for Ninja Tune. “But digital campaigns require focus.”
During a case study presentation for the Roots Manuva album Slime & Reason, Seach described a strategy that starts with research into the digital profile of the fanbase. “I need to know how they consume digitally, where they consume digitally, which sites they’re on, how old they are, if they are streaming or downloading,” Seach offered.
Sounds logical, though even with extra bodies and cash, spreading content across the web requires a fair amount of syndication. In that light, Seach initially started creating channels that could be ported into a large number of social networks and sites. “I know that if I have ten social networks and I set up a channel… then the fans don’t have to sit there waiting for information,” Seach described.
Syndication and channeling means widgeting, though network add-on iLike was also mentioned as an expansion mechanism. Other tools include Kyte, a video-focused channeling tool tapped by a broad range of artists. Those tools are part of a totally interconnected campaign, one that considers a typically-dispersed and floating fan. “Everything in my campaign syncs together,” Seach offered.
In fact, almost everything in the campaign is interlinked, including the homepage (rootsmanuva.co.uk). Instead of waiting for the artist to sporadically update, Seach tapped Kleber to create a site breathing with feeds from Twitter, Flikr, YouTube, various blogs, and other content sources. The site updates content on-the-hour, the perfect antidote to the typically stale artist page.
Other elements were customized, and difficult to mass-populate. That includes sites like eMusic, which received an interview, review, and customized playlist. Retailers like the iTunes Store were also super-served with content like videos, a digital booklet, and a live performance. Those slots were gained through relationships, a critical component of preferential placement and exclusives.
The mobile platform also required some heavy lifting, especially since mobile operators are mostly interested in urban and major label acts. “The networks tend not to support independent content, because we don’t make enough money for them,” Seach said. The workaround came from off-deck, SMS delivery (for example, text ROOTS1 to 82211); Bluetooth-based content delivery at shows; and a collaboration with Blyck, an ad-supported MVNO geared towards the 16-24 demographic.
What else? The most important component, according to Seach, is the mailing list, a point echoed by others at the conference. Additionally, Seach also boosted the album through more traditional radio, television, established press, and live events.
In the end, the blend of outlets offered some nice results. According to Search, Roots doubled the size of his list, achieved a sold-out tour, a top-20 chart position, and a digital sales chunk of 25 percent during the first three weeks of release.
Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in Reykjavik.