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The Rap Industry Needs SMS Marketing

Sms messagingBy Max Porter at CallFire.

With less than 10 percent of Facebook posts, and possibly less tweets, ever viewed, text messages have an open rate estimated at 98 percent and 90 percent texts are read within 3 minutes of being received. With numbers like that, it’s hard not to wonder what kind of potential SMS campaigns could see in the hip-hop industry.

50 Cent, for example, has nearly 39 million Facebook likes, and nearly 7.5 million Twitter followers. If 40 percent of those Facebook followers opted in to receive SMS messaging updates, 50 Cent could reach upwards of 15 million recipients – instantly! Kanye West’s 11 million Twitter followers translate into more than 4 million text recipients, based on a 40 percent opt-in rate.

Chief Keef, one of the fastest rising artists in the game, is also the youngest and most innovative when it comes to marketing strategy. In 2012, Keef released several mixtapes, with tracks such as “Bang,” “I Don’t Like,” and “3Hunna,” all of which became local hits in his hometown of Chicago. At the time, Keef was under house arrest and forced to find alternative ways of promoting his music outside of concerts and guest appearances.

Business-SMS3From necessity to innovation, he decided to post several videos on YouTube of him and fellow rappers – in his grandmother’s house – rapping along to the lyrics of his most popular tracks. The videos went viral and got the attention of major record labels across the country. Keef is also one of the first rappers to use text messaging to better connect with his fan base. By texting CHIEFKEEF to 88202, fans receive notifications regarding concert dates, album releases, guest appearances, and more. It’s the perfect way to engage his young audience.

But is challenging status quo really a new concept for this genre? Ever since the first wave of file sharing sites began to change the way we think about consuming music in the late nineties, the record industry has reacted at various times with terror, desperation, bravado, and outright head-in-the-sand denial. They’ve raided their vaults and put together expensive box sets with plush presentation and glossy inserts. They’ve sued large piratical mp3 operations and threatened legal action against the smaller players. Where they weren’t able to beat them, they joined them; making music files available online at dramatically reduced prices (compared to their vinyl and CD counterparts).

However, hip-hop was well primed to deal with the turmoil, having long operated one step removed from the rest of the industry, learning to adapt to alternative methods of promotion when mainstream record labels wouldn’t have them. By the time the music industry realized how much revenue could be gained from hip-hop artists, the tide was already turning away from overpriced hard formats and toward file sharing – both illegal and legitimate.

The industry has long embraced the volatility of a changing landscape. Artists like 50 cent, Lil Wayne and T.I. released free mixtapes to build buzz around their street brands before signing to major labels. While rappers don’t profit directly from mixtapes, they increase their fan base significantly with visibility and awareness.This approach to grassroots marketing paved the way for the kinds of direct artist-to-fan communication facilitated by social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook today. In fact, the music industry relies heavily on social media to promote media directly to fans.

What can B2B Marketers take away from the rap industry?

1. Turn your most loyal customers into evangelists. Just as Chief Keef used text messaging to engage his most loyal fans, marketers need to open up a streamlined communications channel with their most loyal customers. This could be monthly newsletters, reward programs, or beta-testing opportunities, all directed towards top users. Not only does this promote word-of-mouth marketing, it also allows top customers to provide feedback to your product.

2. Use free giveaways. Similarly to how rappers use mixtapes to build their brand, marketers need to lower the barrier to entry and let customers determine the value themselves.

3. Identify inherent weaknesses and utilize them. The mainstream media shunned hip-hop at its inception, which allowed hip-hop to disregard the rules which governed the rest of music industry. Learning to be self-sufficient led to a more creative and sustainable art form. Do your competitors have a significantly larger market share? Specialize in what your competitor doesn’t offer. Does your competitor have a larger marketing budget? Focus on building lasting relationships with existing clients, which will build a stronger foundation and decrease volatility in the long run. 

It’s surely only a matter of time before the hip-hop world continues its own tradition of leading the way in innovative brand marketing and starts using SMS messaging to extend its reach even further. And, of course, the major labels and industry players at large are sure to follow suit soon after.

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