What Machine Gun Kelly’s #1 Release Can Teach Us

Machine Gun Kelly’s fifth studio album, Tickets To My Downfall is his most successful release to date, debuting at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 despite (or perhaps because) it represents a significant tonal departure from his previous work.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

Machine Gun Kelly’s fifth studio album is on track to be his most successful record yet. How did he pull that off?

Machine Gun Kelly, known to family and friends as Colson Baker, is doing the impossible. His fifth studio album, Tickets To My Downfall, is quickly becoming his most successful release to date. More impressive still is the fact that all this is happening off an LP that sounds nothing like his previous work.

Such occurrences are incredibly rare, especially in the worlds of rap and rock, but MGK is finding a way to make it happen.

To put Machine Gun Kelly’s accomplishment into perspective, readers must consider that he’s been actively releasing and touring in the public eye for a decade. MGK spent the majority of that time squarely in the world of rap and hip-hop, which found him delivering a string of successful singles that rarely, if ever, gained the attention he felt was earned. He recently went as far as to say he felt ready to leave music altogether, but creating Tickets To My Downfall gave him a fresh perspective on creativity.

The fifteen track, thirty-five-minute release finds Machine Gun Kelly transitioning to the world of pop-punk with reckless abandon. Each song boasts driving guitars, thunderous drums, and themes of living life to the fullest while throwing a middle finger to anyone who claims it’s time for Ohio native to act his age. It’s the kind of album one might expect blink-182 or Green Day to release twenty years ago, and the alternative scene is embracing it with open arms.

In this episode of Music Biz 101, host James Shotwell breaks down five key lessons that artists can learn from MGK’s latest success and what the album’s rollout tells us about the future of music marketing.

Don’t have time for the video? Here are some takeaways:

  • Experimentation is key. MGK is internationally known for his talent as a rapper, which made releasing Tickets To My Downfall a significant risk. By better on himself and creating a quality record, MGK not only brought his fans into a new genre of music but made new fans in the pop-punk world who may otherwise never listened to his music.
  • Please keep it simple. In addition to introducing a new sound, Tickets To My Downfall also gives MGK fans his most straightforward work to date. Most people will need only one listen to understand the record, but they’ll keep coming back because they can easily connect with its messages and themes.
  • Be real. Machine Gun Kelly has always shared true-life stories in his music, but this record removes the hyperbole typical in hip-hop to deliver music that is undeniably real. The songs on the record are not so much the story of MGK, but those of Colson Baker, the young man trying to remain sane in the crazy world of entertainment. Fans may never live the moments found on the album, but it’s depictions are in such vivid detail that it’s not hard for listeners to put themselves in Colson’s shoes.
  • Wring everything you can out of each single. The rollout for Tickets stretches throughout 2020. MGK has mastered the art of making the most out of every press opportunity. Each song has teasers that lead to an official release, followed by lyric videos, official videos, performance videos, stripped performances, and more. Add to this the fact he’s always engaging with the press, and MGK has made himself a staple of the pop culture conversation without burning a lot of the album’s best material.
  • Embrace the ‘Deluxe bump.’ When news broke that MGK may reach number one on the Billboard charts, he quickly dropped a surprise deluxe version of Tickets that contained several additional songs. The new material put the album back in the news, making sure fans continued streaming the record. It’s a bit of a cheap trick, as the song could fit the original release, but it’s a good ploy to keep the press (and listeners) paying attention.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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