Digital Music

How Billy Van Went From 2,000 To 100,000 Fans [CASE STUDY]

Screen shot 2012-08-05 at 10.46.43 AMThis case study was prepared by Michael Fiebach, CEO of Fame House, who helped grow a relatively unknown Billy Van to a worldwide fan base utilizing BitTorrent, Grooveshark, Topspin and MusicMetric. 

In December of last year, Fame House launched a new idea in music. Collaborating with electronic musician Pretty Lights and BitTorrent, we released an innovative, free BitTorrent Bundle: a multimedia experience designed to bring fans closer to the artist. We encouraged the sharing of free music. The effort resulted in over 6 million downloads, a 700% increase in traffic to the artist’s site, mentions in Lefsetz and Forbes, and over a hundred thousand new and dedicated Pretty Lights fans. Where do we go from there?

Breaking Through the Noise: Launching a Career in the Attention Economy 

The Fame House team put our heads together to conceptualize something interesting to do with the BitTorrent team and their technology, as a next step. Our initial conversations revolved around some next-level ideas for ways to utilize the BitTorrent software for a new Pretty Lights release. Those ideas will be put into action, but they are still being worked on and built while the new Pretty Lights album is being prepped.

Then we discussed ways we could utilize BitTorrent for the legendary DJ Shadow. Waves were certainly made with that campaign – making Shadow the first ever artist to directly monetize from file sharing. Now that Counting Crows and others have jumped on board with BitTorrent since our inital Pretty Lights launch, we needed to figure out how to prove the value of file sharing in a new and different wayThe next logical progression was to show how file sharing could launch an artist’s career. 

In steps Billy Van, a 21-year old from Indiana who produces high-quality music and video content. Billy had a nice buzz going on YouTube when we discovered him (one of his videos had reached 150K views), but he had just around 2,000 Facebook Likes and had only just started to see some real growth online. We thought this was perfect. People love this guy’s music, but not enough people had heard it yet.

A taste of his original work:

And his mash-up work:

From 2,000 Fans To Nearly 100,000

Billy’s sound is contemporary electronic music, but it has a nice twist to it. He does everything from original production to remixes, mash-ups, and as shown above, some highly creative fusions of remix/mash-ups and live covers. This is incredibly creative content that is different than other music and video content out there—perfect for moving the needle with file sharers.

We decided to bundle some of Billy’s instrumental tracks as a BitTorrent featured media bundle. As with Pretty Lights (and Counting Crows thereafter), BitTorrent and uTorrent featured the bundle on their homepages and featured content pages, but more importantly, they bundled the music into an opt-in offering in their install path so that anyone who downloaded or updated the BitTorrent software within the window of this promotion received an opt-in to download the Billy Van music for free. They also included a new add-on: featuring a link to Like Billy on Facebook, that auto-populated the landing page after the download of the torrent began.

Billy's Featured Torrent page:


The effects of this promotion?

Almost 5 million downloads in one month:


The campaign lasted an additional two weeks and ended up totaling 7 million downloads. There was a prominent link to Billy’s website and other sites on the BitTorrent landing page, and this ushered in a great deal of traffic to Billy’s assets. We used Topspin to give away additional free downloads from Billy’s website in exchange for email addresses. This, in combination with the email collection on the featured torrent, took Billy’s email list from a few hundred people to over 60,000.


It is well known that users of BitTorrent are serious music fans. This is shown through Topspin’s “Influencer Score”, which ranks the strength of a user’s social network. Billy has a healthy amount of fans with a high influencer score.

Topspin Sharealytics for the email-for-media widget used on Billy’s site during the promotion:


Not Just Visitors… Listeners 

Effect on website traffic in general was astronomical:


People were browsing Billy’s site more than ever, and staying for extended periods of time to listen:

Listen Web

From Indiana to the World

Some of the web analytics:

Sour Bt Vist

Nearly all were new visitors: 


Google Searches for Billy skyrocketed:

Google Google2

How did this affect his social media following?

Likes went from just above 2,000 to over 10,000 in two months. He now has almost 12,000 Facebook fans. These are new fans from all over the world:


Billy's "reach" on Facebook:


Marketers and managers are now concerned about how many people are “Talking About This…”


The ratio at one point was almost 2:1 (5,000 Likes, and 2,500 “Talking About This”), which is exceptionally high. This has returned to more “normal” rates, but don’t think we don’t have tricks up our sleeves for getting the “Talking About This” metrics up there again…

Better Connected, More Engaged Fans

Some of the data figures from MusicMetric:

Added Engage

File share

Facebook comments were above and beyond:

Screen shot 2012-08-05 at 11.49.25 AM Screen shot 2012-08-05 at 11.50.07 AM

… and it goes on from there.

Billy reached #1 on Pirate Bay's Top 100 Audio:

(click image to enlarge)


A promotion with Grooveshark greatly contributed to the spikes, perhaps most notably on YouTube. We partnered Billy with Grooveshark to feature his music on their homepage, and within their radio station, targeting the promotion to fans of specific electronic and pop acts that we thought would like Billy.  


Highlights of the Grooveshark campaign:

  • Over 140,000 YouTube views
  • Over 10,000 clicks (1 click for every 23 impressions served)
  • Over 8,000 clicks through to
  • Over 40,000 streams that lasted over 30 seconds
  • Billy's songs were added to over 2,000 user playlists
  • Over 250 listener feedback comments

YouTube spikes:

YtAgain, traffic from all over the world:


Subscribers spiked as well:

SubComments were overwhelmingly positive:


Useful insights from Grooveshark’s interesting new open analytics tool, Beluga:


We achieved extraordinary reach, against a hard-to-reach target:


What Did This All Do? 

Well, Billy now has a career as an artist, much quicker than he would have had this promotion not occurred. 

And how did this translate into the real world? 

Billy is now getting more frequent well-paid remixing and production work, and he is working on his debut full-length release. See his recently commissioned work with LegitMix.

There has also already been some label interest. He just went on a small four-show east coast tour, playing some great venues, and he has just been confirmed for a prominent opening slot on a 19-show west coast tour in the Fall (more details coming ASAP at ). 

To re-quote Bob Lefsetz, we are living in an attention economy.  Artists, managers, marketers, brands, and labels need to break through the noise to achieve monetization in the current state of the industry.  The music business is wide open for disruption. Creative marketing for exceptional content is king. The money will come when the attention is there. 

Go and disrupt.

Michael Fiebach, CEO & Founder of Fame House


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Disclaimer: Hypebot writer Hisham Dahud is also a member of the Fame House team. 

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  1. Very cool. But it leads me to wonder if this is truly applicable to other genres. Sounds like DJs do well. How did the Counting Crows fare?

  2. A few things to ponder:
    1. I’m sure the Topspin signups appreciate you sharing a screenshot of their email addresses.
    2. Can’t help but notice that 2 of the leading 3 countries are India and Russia. This screams of gaming the system.
    3. TOS (time on site) for US is 33 seconds. Is that good??
    4. You’re only getting 7% of your visitors to return to your site. Why?
    5. You have 7mm downloads and only 12k Facebook fans & 4,500 Twitter followers. Why are they not converting?
    6. What did you spend on the Grooveshark campaign?

  3. Good points.:
    1. I’m sure the Topspin signups appreciate you sharing a screenshot of their email addresses.
    We own the data. But good point, maybe we will blur it out.
    2. Can’t help but notice that 2 of the leading 3 countries are India and Russia. This screams of gaming the system.
    Nope. They are legit people that like Billy’s music. Open rates on the first email blast to the full list was pretty good too. I can get back on #s. Bittorrent has a big use base in India and Russia. Legit people are legit people. Gaming the system would be if these were fake accounts which they are not.
    3. TOS (time on site) for US is 33 seconds. Is that good??
    Not great, but all that was up during this time was widget to download some fee music, so there wasn’t much for people to do. The more importantmetric is the traffic’s correlation to streams and downloads, which was significant.
    4. You’re only getting 7% of your visitors to return to your site. Why?
    That # is up drastically now, this was a short time frame.
    5. You have 7mm downloads and only 12k Facebook fans & 4,500 Twitter followers. Why are they not converting?
    The focus was downloads and site traffic. I would say a legitimate 10,000 new FB fans is converting REALLY well. IT is all organic on FB and Twitter. NO ADS (at least not yet).
    6. What did you spend on the Grooveshark campaign?
    $0. We have a relationship with them to do collaborations such as these.

  4. EXCELLENT case study. Thank you for being so open and thorough. My questions: can an artist replicate this (even on a smaller scale) without a huge partnership like a BitTorrent/uTorrent feature? And what about artists that don’t appeal as much to the BitTorrent user base (like more adult-oriented artists along the lines of Feist/Adele/etc)?

  5. As you note, “Billy now has a career as an artist, much quicker than he would have had this promotion not occurred.” I’m not certain this is doing anything different than any Major would with their marketing/partnerships. This entire study was possible because of your position/relationships. Affording the BitTorrent and Grooveshark promotion would likely be unobtainable to [most if not all] independent artists. Personally, I think it’s a well crafted study and I certainly appreciate the data, but not many indie artists/labels will have the sophistication, bankroll, and ability to handle this. New Hypebot series: Marketing for the Big Little Majors 101?

  6. @willinsky part of the point is- to pull something like this off- you don’t need a major, you just need a smart manager/marketing team with some pull. That said, I think you can do A LOT on your own. A LOT. Also, a good digital campaign can be done without any outside marketing budget, as long as you have some skills with basic HTML and utilizing free tools like Cash Music, Facebook, and Twitter.

  7. @Cris is Bliss: You’re missing the point. Every campaign does not have to be about making money. Sometimes getting exposure and fan data is the goal. Then you leverage this attention and information down the road, when you have a product to sell.

  8. Thanks Spitz.. That said- He has actually made some nice $ pursuant to this campaign. But that is a + right now. The focus was awareness and growth.

  9. Really appreciate the post – thanks! Also appreciated your response to @willinsky…but I don’t think you really addressed the main thrust of his comment.
    As you note, the tools and the action steps are available to anyone willing to learn a little bit about HTML/CSS/PHP and social media. However, it’s clear that your relationships with BitTorrent and Grooveshark are really what opened the door and created a context where all the DIY-style elbow grease you put into this could have an effect.
    I’m sure there’s a portion of Hypebot’s audience – pr pros, management, etc. – for whom this case study is directly applicable as-is. However, what would really be illuminating for all the independent musicians reading this is more detail on how you established those relationships with BitTorrent and Grooveshark in the first place, and how indie musicians operating on a smaller scale might make contacts that could potentially have a similar impact. Any info on that?

  10. We still live in a world that even if you’re hard working, talented, smart, and forward thinking it won’t matter unless you meet the right person at the right time….

  11. @mfiebach – Great case study. Thanks kindly. I manage a new artist with a small but growing fan base and debut release coming up.
    Part of the my digital strategy is below and would like to know your thoughts.
    Goal is to increase fan base and drive people to sign up to the mailing list.
    1 – We have filmed and tracked a live acoustic version of the single.
    2 – We dont have any relationships quiet like Grooveshark 😉 but there have been a few local (Australian) blogs who have been supportive of the band. So I plan to offer the clip to one of these blogs exclusively, embedding topspin player, linking with email for mp3 download of the acoustic version, exclusively available when joining the mailing list.
    Do you think we’re on the right track?
    Any suggestions on how to improve on this?
    Thanks for your time and for sharing the case study

  12. Dispatch. They credit their career to Napster, timing, and p2p file sharing. Anybody remember their Boston farewell show in 2004 100,000 people showed up?
    No label, no radio, No Facebook, No Twitter, Only Myspace (ironically enough).
    barely any social networking to speak of. No analytics.
    Sold out 3 Madison Sq. Garden shows 3 years later, all the money went to charity.
    They are the real deal.
    After a decade of being away they are back stronger than ever.
    They make good music, are good people, good to their fans and to the world. That’s the way you do business if you ask me.

  13. “Creative marketing for exceptional content is king. The money will come when the attention is there.”
    That is sort of an amusing statement. This has been the case for artists for the last 70 years. The only thing that has changed is how you get the attention.
    One of the advantages of new media marketing is that you can measure success fairly easily and accurately.
    Some efforts are very long tail (earning money) and some are the process of finding your audience and having them assist in spreading the word about your music.

  14. Nick, I’d suggest you have the blog embed the Topspin email-for-media widget instead of (or in addition to) the streaming player. You’ll get a LOT more sign-ups if the email widget is in the blog post, than if you make people click over to your site to sign up.

  15. “21-year old from Indiana who produces high-quality music”… you have got to be kidding. this music is extremely bad, nothing new, cheesy, forgettable, just a pathetic trend. it’s a money making machine, but don’t say it’s quality music.

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