3 Key Components of Every Successful Artist Launch

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As data strategists, we look at data every day. When we provide core utilities for the creative industry we need to know which ones actually work, and which ones are a waste of time and money.

While there is no guaranteed method to achieving success in entertainment there is data that shows which activities had the biggest impact on successful launches (songs, albums, tours, videos).

Although this article is written for music people, we have used the same strategies for filmmakers, comedians, porn stars and politicians. No matter what your specialty, here are the top three components of every successful artist launch, in chronological order.

1st: Content

This should be obvious. Data proves that catchy hooks matter. The one unique thing you provide that other artists can’t buy is your content; your creative output. Your intellectual property.

You can have a huge mailing list collected from your collaborating artists based on past projects and the most badass social team with thousands of followers. But, if the collective new art sucks – your launch will fail. Content matters. All of it. Your music, your logo, your wardrobe, your graphics, your crowdfunding video, your Periscope backdrop. Get this right before you begin building your database, and before you even think of doing any social.

As a musician, you’ve got to have hooks. You may be able to tease the launch, and even generate hype in social media or with paid PR, but the moment people experience your content is the moment your launch succeeds … or fails.

All those songs, all that time practicing and performing and recording come down to the first six seconds a new person hears your music.

For this reason alone, most new artists would do better by focusing on their content first – before establishing their database or adding on social media. The old adage is true; you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And the second impression better be consistent with the first. Society moves too fast to wait on you to get it together.

The esoteric nature of music and its creation demands that artists develop their own consistent sound before a group of like-minded people can recognize it. Recognizable, quality content drives a powerful database. A powerful database grows exponentially with the addition of social media. Social media is NOT a database. Not yours anyway.  

2nd: Database

After content (music/video), the most important component of every successful artist launch is the size and quality of their opt-in email list.

Successful artist databases contain names, email addresses, phone numbers and cities at the very least, and are maintained to avoid bounced emails, spam traps and other garbage. This is the motor that runs your whole operation. It should be maintained like a race car … And you should own it.

Back in the day there used to be a person sitting at a darkened merch table in the club trying to get drunks to write down their names and email addresses … legibly. Today, bands have “Text MUSIC to 12136344589” carried by ring card girls between songs, or on bumper stickers and flyers.

Whatever it takes, you need your fans to prove their allegiance by opting-in to your database. And it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Your fans already give the same info to bureaucracies and corporations who sell out to the highest bidder. If they are true fans, they will opt-in for you as well.

Once fans are opted-in every name is spell-checked and corrected. Email addresses and zip codes are on every profile and many platforms include fans’ social activity, financial transactions and overall influence. This is the data necessary to plan release dates, merch purchases, tour locations and who gets “on the list.” These are the people you pick up the phone and call.

Your database is, without question, the Holy Grail of any successful campaign. In fact, we would be irresponsible if we didn’t ask you to text MUSIC to 12136344589 to opt-in to this blog right now.

3rd: Social Media

Lastly, an authentic, engaged social media community is essential to growing your database. That means comments and shares are what you need. Actions and effort count. Likes alone are worthless. Subscribers are passive. Paid plays, follows and related nonsense are counterproductive.

If you pay for people to listen to your music, are you going to pay people to buy it, too? Don’t be ridiculous. We’re talking about actual fans of your music on social media.

Regrettably, legitimate paid social media advertising is the only way to access the data you need to effectively recruit new fans on platforms like Facebook and Twitter these days. Not paid plays or likes – paid promotions of your posts and tweets.

But remember, your goal on social media is not social media unto itself. It’s to get fans over to your database. That’s your takeaway for the day …

Since social media advertising is more expensive and less effective than database marketing, the primary goal of social media should be getting those fans to opt-in to your own database.

If your social media activity consists of free posts that focus on likes – you’re a hobbyist. This article isn’t for you. This is for business-oriented artists who have a contact list and a budget for some basic utilities.

To get people to your own site you simply have to ask them. Sure, you can establish contests, fan clubs and tchotchkes for the hardcore fans. But, most people just need an easy, clear path to opting-in.

Make the call-to-action clear and obvious.

Explain to people why you want to communicate with them away from social media … and provide a good reason. After they opt-in, send them back to social media to share on your behalf.

Conclusion

You’ll notice that social media alone – especially free social media – is not enough for a successful artist launch of any kind.

In fact, social media without a plan can be counterproductive because it gives the illusion of progress when none exists. As former UCLA coach, John Wooden, said "Never mistake activity for achievement."

Once you begin planning your social media strategy you will quickly see the benefits of paid social campaigns. That should ultimately lead you to a comparison of costs between social and database marketing. Database marketing always wins that comparison.

So, first create extraordinary content. Then, establish your database. And lastly, add your social to the mix. These are the three components of every successful artist launch. Ignore them at your peril.