26.12.14

ARE MARKETING PLANS NECESSARY ?

This is a subject that I've seen float around on Twitter a lot since J. Cole went gold in two weeks with a very minimal (almost non-existant) marketing plan and other artists did less with way more.

The way I see it, the answer is as simple as to each his own
To elaborate, I decided to go through my three recent favourite album roll out strategies and what makes them strategies even though it does not obviously look like it.



J. Cole is an artist that is NOT out there, you have artists posting Instagram posts and tweets everyday but J. Cole is not one of them. Therefore when he is active on these social networks you pay attention because it's rare and when it does happen, there is a purpose behind it. Cole studied communication so I believe that he know what I know and one of my favourite takeaway from my 3 years of studying communication: the medium is the message.

J. Cole got so big and is able to be a (B-List) celebrity thanks to his fan base, and thanks to the time of the internet and instant communication, he only needs them to make a big BANG. So for his marketing plan, he decided to use his fan base as the medium. He went directly to the fans, had real & genuine interactions with them ($ a dream concerts, visiting fans, etc.). 
To announce the launch of his new album, only thing he did was tweet the trailer of said album on November 16th and then he let his fans spread the word. After that, he went to several radios around the US to give them a listen of the album. While in one of these cities he went to visit a fan at her house to give her her very own listening session of 2014FHD with J. Cole.  In the middle of his radio tour, he announced that he would be back to 2014, Forest Hills Drive to host a listening party for some fans who would get to hear it before everyone else. How genius is that?? I'm not saying that it wasn't genuine but it is still a genius marketing move. By inviting fans to his home and giving them the opportunity to listen to the album before everyone else, he made them feel special and part of something bigger than them; they knew what the world was going to hear before and the artist gave them access to it and was with them when they listened to it. He also played perfectly around the subject of the album which is finding your way back home when you get a bit lost in the world and brought his fans to "the only place like home he's ever known". A day after the listening sessions, the album leaks online. Two days after the leak, he releases the video for the first song off of the album, says nothing about the leak. He just tweets an iTunes link on the day of the release of the album and that's it. Meanwhile, his partner at Dreamville and very good friend Ib tweets and he asks people to show him how much albums they got. A retweet by Ib means a chance that J. Cole sees it and decides to pop up at your place so people buy tons of albums (up to 20) and tweet their pictures to Ib, more sales. Then the FMSL Tour, Fuck Money Spread Love, J. Cole decides to just go on the road and stop whenever, tell his fans where he is and meet them with their album so he can sign them. Now, if you're a fan & you haven't bought a physical copy of the album yet, you're going to go buy it in case J. Cole comes to your city and is somewhere where he can sign it for you, more sales
Like he said in Let Nas Down, he is "just a man of the people, not above but equal" and he's trying to find way to incorporate that idea in his marketing strategy and he did it brilliantly. I'm not saying that his approach was anything short of amazing and real, it just clearly had as an end goal to sell albums, because this is his job, & it succeeded. 



Now if we go back, out of nowhere Beyoncé drops an album with no promo, no announcement, no leak, no rumour. The album is just here, on iTunes and it sold, a lot. Beyoncé won. A few months before this new album, Beyoncé started the Mrs Carter World Tour where she visited countries around the world and performed old songs. This was Beyoncé's marketing plan. By reminding people around the world who she is, how amazing of a performer she is and how good her already existing songs are; she made them crave for more so when the album landed on iTunes one night, people instantly downloaded it. It was a risk on Beyoncé's end, but when you can sell out a world tour with no new songs I don't think releasing an album out of nowhere is scary to you..
Once again, very different but still a marketing plan called the Mrs. Carter World Tour.
Here is a little excerpt from an article that I had saved and that applies to Beyoncé's and J. Cole's approach: "By releasing Beyoncé as a surprise and forcing the world to hear it all at once as the full album experience it was designed to be, she seizes control of the narrative around the record. It's not about singles, it's not about sales, it's about her making a statement, and the insistence that the world should come to her, and not the other way around. This is the very best kind of hubris, and it spins her creative and commercial risk into a strength. Beyoncé is telling us that she's bigger than hits, and she's got far more important things on her mind. And she's right."




Another brilliant marketing strategy for an album was Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail. Jay Z and Samsung teamed up to offer the album to the first one million people to download it through a Samsung application 3 days before the release date of the album. Three days before its release, MCHG would already be platinum. After announcing this partnership, Jay & Samsung teamed up and released mini movies featuring Jay Z and some of the biggest producers in the hip hop world working on Magna Carta Holy Grail. It gets people excited. Another tease, was the tracklist + lyrics of the songs with some words scratched out appearing randomly on Internet. More excitement being build up around the release of the album. Fast-forward to three days before the launch of the album, the day a million Samsung users get the album for free. The app crashes, the album leaks, everyone downloads it. But Jay Z still sold a million copy to Samsung so he is already platinum, the app crashed. That's not his problem. He #BreaksTheInternet and goes about his life.
This was probably one of the greatest marketing roll out for an album. In Jay Z's words: new rules.

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Artists are getting more and more creative with their rollout strategy and really tailor them around their persona and need to make sure it's something that would excite their fan base and get them to tweet, talk, share and make this new album into the next big thing. A traditional rollout strategy - like the one Nicki Minaj did for The Pink Print, a really good album btw - is not enough anymore. Fans are still going to look at it and pay attention but they still need something exciting that is going to make them want to talk about it, share it. 

So, to answer to that question I've seen on twitter and couldn't elaborate well in 140 characters, yes. Artists do need a marketing strategy to launch an album, they just need one that's exciting and that will get people to talk about it and really anticipate it.


xoxx

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