Inspired, in part by Ryan Holiday's new book "Growth Hacker Marketing" , I recently introduced some ideas about growth hacker marketing for musicians. I then spoke with Holiday about how his ideas apply to musicians including Alex Day with whom he has worked. Growth Hacker Marketing focuses quite a bit on a binary of new and old approaches to marketing. Once you get the idea of growth hacking, you'll realize that it's more a perspective than a technique, one that greatly expands the concept of marketing.
[Updated: Changed "he" to "we" regarding Young & Sick to reflect the ambiguous nature of whoever the heck they are.]
Growth hacking basically uses a variety of techniques from SEO to A/B testing to create a lower-cost alternative to traditional marketing. Growth hackers don't even call themselves marketers but they caught Ryan Holiday's attention when he realized that however innovative his approaches had been, he was still caught up in many elements of a traditional marketing model.
A lot of "Growth Hacker Marketing" is focused on the difference between traditional marketing and growth hacking. Much of my conversation with Holiday also focused on that binary split. Nevertheless he agreed with me that ultimately marketers need to merge different approaches, something we did not discuss in detail, which I feel is implied by the phrase "growth hacker marketing."
Traditional Marketing vs. Growth Hacker Marketing
When I spoke with Holiday, we considered some examples of DIY and emerging musicians using growth hacking as an alternative approach to marketing and how that differs from the old mindset.
Product is created and presented to the marketer after the fact.
Marketer plans a big launch with embargoed press releases and massive ad buys.
Everybody hopes for the best.
Growth hacker marketing:
Marketers are involved with the creation and development of the product.
Marketing is ongoing, featuring a variety of techniques not commonly considered forms of marketing, both as the product is being developed and after it's launched.
No time for hope. Too busy gathering stats and iterating.
Alex Day and BitTorrent
Holiday noted that Day's release featured music he'd been testing on YouTube for an extended period. Day avoided the blockbuster marketing route by ongoing communication with fans so that the larger events, such as the BitTorrent release, built on that relationship rather than simply being big announcements.
"Alex Day’s BitTorrent Bundle was downloaded 2,765,023 times. 163 thousand BitTorrent fans went to Day’s iTunes page. 52 thousand went to Alex’s site."
Holiday says it's worth considering how much it would have cost in advertising to get the same results.
Young & Sick and Tor
Holiday also participated in brainstorming and planning sessions with a music/fashion/art project called Young & Sick. Holiday described this as an unpaid "passion project." A big question was how could they create a media narrative about a project that doesn't fit in one box.
Young & Sick wanted to be known for their artwork, fashion and music. You can get a sense of the range of impressive recent accomplishments from their Wikipedia page.
One effort that got Young & Sick attention for their music was the release of a single on Tor, an online anonymity service known for its use by various shady elements. The choice of releasing it via TOR gave the single and the act lots of exposure and was one aspect of the effort that led to Young & Sick signing to Harvest/Capitol this year.
Beyond Growth Hacker Marketing
Though Holiday contrasts traditional marketing and growth hacker marketing, most of what I'm paying attention to these days are the hybrid combinations of old and new being explored by so many self-marketers and marketing professionals.
Certainly any competent music marketer working with indies these days is combining old and new from working songs to radio to social media marketing. And we also see a mix of efforts from major labels which helped create the old system but are also adopting aspects of the new.
However, as Holiday pointed out, growth hacker marketing is ultimately a perspective rather than a bag of tools or tricks.
The point isn't so much which tool you use as how you use it, understanding that marketing is woven into everything an artist does, even when it's something geeky like growth hacking. It's ultimately more important to understand the process of integrating marketing into one's ongoing work rather than keeping it isolated as a bunch of things people do to attract attention after the fact of creation.
Look for an expanded paperback edition of due next year or buy the Kindle and audio editions of Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising now for just $2.99.
- Growth Hacker Marketing For Musicians
- DIY Pop Star Alex Day's New Album Outcharts Justin Timberlake On iTunes UK
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.