Newsletter #97 April: #NewMediaVsTradMedia

09 Apr 2013

Credits: @flickrarbyreed

Whether it’s the industry-baiting ArtistsVsArtists campaign, spearheaded by US “tropical grit hop” duo Ghost Beach or the primetime-driven success of Ant and Dec, aka PJ & Duncan, ‘rhumbling’ to number one on the back of their Saturday Night Takeaway performance, debates around the potency of ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ media marketing techniques have found a renewed vigour over recent weeks.

Ant and Dec have, on the face of it, proved to be far more successful, selling thousands of downloads of a track originally released in 1994, whilst Ghost Beach’s gains would appear to be meagre.  That said, their polarising TBWA\Chiat\Day-backed online initiative managed to score coverage in the New York Times and, in addition to $50,000 worth of billboard space in New York’s Times Square.

As manager of electronica artist Bobby Tank (no relation), I take a keen interest in both approaches.  Permit me to share a recent experience of ours, which will hopefully serve as an interesting case study…

Bobby started, and in some ways remains ‘underground’; many underground artists will never touch (despite trying or through choice) the traditional channels (for example ITV1, Radio 1 or Rolling Stone).

He built up his profile using the predominant social media channels of Soundcloud, Twitter and Facebook, garnering support from blogs along the way.  These platforms are more a foundation than a means to an end, and on top of these new media, traditional media is proving to be the catalyst for broadening our chances of success.  We were fortunate enough, through partnering with the right people and the strength of the music, to win tastemaker support from the likes of Eddie Temple-Morris and get played on Radio 1 by Zane Lowe.  This more than anything was our promotional adrenalin shot, leading to better gigs, remixes and interviews as well as, in cyclical fashion, more social media followers and blog interest.

Interestingly, Bobby and his peers use social media as much for business development as they do for D2C promotion.  This was even pointed out by Zane, who commented on the fact that Bobby had thanked the Radio 1 team on Twitter every time they played his record.  We regularly get approached by other artists, by promoters and tastemakers via social media, and it has been as important for building his career as email or face to face meetings.

We’re proud of our social media stats but I guess they could be higher.  I believe our fans/followers were earned rather than bought or turned up in droves for a reason other than the music.

We certainly don’t see a point pouring resources into ideas in an effort to try to recreate the Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake viral phenomena, especially if it detracts from the amount of time and focus Bobby spends on making music.  I am a big fan of OK Go’s incredibly innovative music videos but can’t remember if I liked the songs or not: we could never hope to replicate their success in that regard.  If you service social media with good content, I’d like to think that you have at least bought a lottery ticket in terms of winning extraordinary viral success.  I’d have to think long and hard about what to do if someone gave us an opportunity like Ghost Beach’s.

Similar to how they built their audience, we try to regularly reward our fans with free stuff. Bobby recently put up a free track on his Soundcloud page (his original and personally most successful social media channel).  The response has been terrific, given the limited ambition of this mini-project.  Funnily enough, the next night it got played on Radio 1, thanks to the team behind the Phil Taggart and Alice Levine show, who have been incredibly supportive of us both on air and online (we did an interview with them a few weeks ago, before the free track was posted). On this occasion we didn’t send it to them or a radio plugger, meaning they must have picked it up via Soundcloud.

I’m stating the obvious when I say that social media is important to us for various reasons, including B2B and B2C promotion.  It’s important for maximising the effectiveness of traditional media coverage but, except in lottery-winning circumstances, it can’t match the power and immediacy of certain traditional channels, like TV and national radio.  I think artists should tend to their social media channels with a reasonable amount of time and effort to build their chances for success, but not let it overshadow the importance of exploring more traditional means of promotion.

In this sense, for all the criticism they have stoked, Ghost Beach get it.  They understand the importance and power of both traditional media and new media and that the most effective promotion comes from intertwining the two.

Editorial by Tom Quillfeldt

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