Music Marketing

#Musicians: The algorithm doesn’t OWE you, but it definitely OWNS you

In this open letter to late adopters and their teams, Sam Saideman, the CEO and Co-Founder of artist management firm Innovo writes about the quest for a cheat code that doesn’t exist and offers a path forward to success.

by Sam Saideman. CEO and Co-Founder of Innovo Management

High horses were meant to show a person’s power, not to take unsubstantiated stances to avoid doing the work. Let’s climb down off that high horse and get real. Every marketer, musician, record label, and general industry person is trying to “crack the code.” Seeing people’s growth on TikTok is leaving folks thinking that others are “winners” of the algorithm’s “golden ticket,” when in reality, all that needs to be done is to stop investigating how to cut corners and instead, start investing time and energy into creation. 

In this world, there is no substitute for hard work. Read that again. If you got this far and you’re angry at me, then this article definitely applies to you! I hope you will read it with an open mind as you’re currently leaving a massive FREE opportunity to grow on the table for yourself and your clients.

The great thing about each social media platform is its unique communication and engagement styles. On Twitter, people are dosing their audience with micro-thoughts. Those tweets are reaching a percentage of the audience that follows them and can quickly reach many more through active engagement. Instagram is similar in that regard; shares of content allow you to reach new audiences; however, their difference is obvious with one being message-based and the other being more visually (photos/videos/graphics) driven. These platforms are GREAT for engaging an already core audience that is interested in your thoughts, opinions, and daily dog pictures, but short of praying to Mark Zuckerberg for people to see it and want to share it, how do you reach new people? In steps TikTok.

“TikTok has democratized social media”

TikTok has democratized social media. It has allowed independent artists to suddenly be on an even playing field with major label artists (outside of budgets for advertising and influencer activations) with reaching new untapped audiences. The app exploded onto the scene with its short-form video style that custom curates a feed (For You Page) to each consumer. Non-TikTok users, think of this like your Discover Weekly on Spotify. What does this mean for your clients/yourself? Post unique and exciting content, reach new potential customers! For musicians, the impact has been felt globally. Tons of independent artists without any infrastructure are being approached overnight by team members (management, labels, publishers, etc) to have a real run at a career. The best part?! It’s free to use!

A&R strategy has all but fully transitioned to monitoring TikTok movement. While that may be upsetting to us Managers who are reading this, it’s just the reality of 2022. You either adapt or die.

“utilizing consistency and creativity to vacuum potential new fans over”

One way to attack this is by utilizing consistency and creativity to vacuum potential new fans over. It’s important to distinguish if the goal is to immediately convert to music consumers or instead, build an audience that loves the creator and then over time drive that audience wherever it makes sense. A great example of this is my client, danny G. Danny and I have been working together since the launch of his brand in 2019. We had strong successes throughout, but it wasn’t until TikTok that things really began moving for dG. Danny utilized his athletic background (X-D1 athlete) to start creating a large amount of content in the sports/skit-based lane. With immediate proof of concept, we transitioned 2022 into an initiative we created called #10Kin22. Danny is posting 10,000 pieces of content this year (roughly 27 pieces a day) across his social platforms. We’re halfway through the year and Danny has taken an Instagram account with 11K followers to over 25K, and two TikTok accounts (segmented by niche) from 200K to over 850K. This following has allowed him to do music/content creation full time as well as go on his first co-headline tour this summer with Michael Wavves. Danny utilized his strengths and leveraged a platform to find people who now love him. If tomorrow, Danny decides to roll out a sports clothing line or start a podcast, the audience will follow.

“find a hyper-specific niche and carve out a lane within it”

Another way to attack this is by finding a hyper-specific niche and carving out a lane within it. A great example of this is classical pianist and composer, Kelsey Woods. Kelsey fell in love with the book series A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR.) She started creating scores for different scenes within the book as a fun and low-expectation side project. As a composer who scores films, the idea to score a book series came organically to her. After starting to post them on TikTok, the ACOTAR community loved how she created an entirely new medium for their world. She didn’t find a niche and leach onto it; she read the books, loved them, and used that affinity as a pair with her skill sets. That organic interest makes content creation feel like less of a chore and more of a passion project. The success of this unique and very specific project has allowed Kelsey to release these songs as singles on DSPs. The growth in just 8 months of doing this has resulted in 44,000+ TikTok followers that are all dedicated fans of the ACOTAR community. Kelsey has now started releasing these scores as singles (with book adjacent art) and this has resulted in 7,700 new Spotify followers, 500,000+ Spotify streams on a single, and there’s now Reddit threads talking about her in the ACOTAR world.

“Not utilizing this FREE opportunity to find new fans would be the equivalent of putting original music out exclusively on Soundcloud.”

If you help your clients find their world, content creation won’t feel robotic or forced. Take that and pair it with creativity and consistency and they will succeed. We all know several stubborn artists or teams who refuse to adopt TikTok into their daily workflow. I get it. It’s exhausting, the content doesn’t feel brand-aligned, and it feels disingenuous or corny to you or your client. Snuff that belief system out, there’s a niche for everyone if you work hard enough to find it. I always combat that thought process with this. Not utilizing this FREE opportunity to find new fans would be the equivalent of putting original music out exclusively on Soundcloud. I love Soundcloud (just like I love Instagram or Twitter,) however if your client truly wants this to be their career, why would you not utilize everything at your disposal?

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