On November 24, 2020, Maryland rapper Cordae released his “The Parables” single and music video. Cordae’s rollout strategy incorporates several best practices that all artists should consider when planning their next release.
The rollout consists of five key events:
- Beats Collaboration
- Text activation
- YouTube music video premiere
- DSP release and advertising spend
- GIF folder
On November 19th, Beats released a new ad for their new Beats Flex starring Cordae. In the commercial, Cordae raps a verse of “The Parables” while walking around with the earbuds in.
While this level of collaboration is out of reach for most artists, the concept can be easily replicated at a smaller scale. Beats by Dre has an audience with interests that overlap with Cordae’s total addressable market and vice versa. Beats provides a platform for Cordae to premiere his new song to existing fans and reach potential new fans. By using an unreleased song, Cordae drives more of his fans to the ad and gets them excited for the release.
A small regional artist could do this with an independently owned local store, restaurant, or event venue. Online creators can collaborate with ecommerce businesses and digital-first brands for a value exchange similar to what Cordae and Beats did. Beats undoubtedly paid Cordae for his participation, but for smaller artists (and smaller businesses with less money) a trade like this can work as long as their values are aligned. This type of collaboration only makes sense if that artist and the shop have similar audiences.
On November 22nd, two days before release, Cordate invited fans on Twitter to text him. Likely using a service such as Community, Cordae replied to fans via text and published proof on Twitter that it was him (and not some label marketing staffer) that was receiving and responding to texts.
Not only was this great for engagement and exciting fans, this campaign enabled Cordae and his team to collect fan phone numbers to text them later when the release was out. So they took an unscalable act (Cordae texting his fans one-on-one for a limited time) to build a scalable marketing channel (mass SMS marketing).
This is a great blueprint for all artists. If text is not the right platform for your audience, email, Discord, Whatsapp, or even Facebook groups could be used in a similar way. Find the platform that makes the most sense for your audience.
YOUTUBE MUSIC VIDEO PREMIER
On the night of November 23rd, Cordae premiered the “The Parables” music video on YouTube. It’s important to note that this was a premier and not a scheduled release. By premiering the video, it plays through “live” for everyone watching and there is a live chat feature. During the release, Cordae was in the live chat talking with fans (although there were so many people chatting, it’s not clear how much he was able to participate).
This helps make the release feel like more an event. Incorporating live chat and one-time release premier, fans can say they were there first and chatted with Cordae on release. Any artist can use the premier function when uploading to YouTube. After the premier, the video lives as a normal YouTube video.
DSP RELEASE AND ADS
Starting on release day, Cordae’s team began running two music video clips as advertising creative. You can watch the clips below. Each clip has two versions: a square (1:1) video and a Instagram story (9:16) video. The Instagram story videos are cut to 15 seconds in length (maximum length for Instagram story ads), whereas the square videos are 15 seconds and 22 seconds long.
Additionally, these ads are only running on Instagram. This is a conscious choice as the ad platform will default to running ads on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network. Cordae’s team knows where his audience lives and wants to focus the ad spend there.
All of these ads are sending traffic directly to the YouTube video, which shows where the label’s marketing priorities are. They likely know that Cordae’s following is passionate enough to find the song on their streaming platform of choice and the song will be featured on editorial playlists regardless, so sending people to the music video is a no brainer.
They have also pinned Cordae’s comment directing people to the Linkfire pivot page to stream the song.
BONUS: GIF FOLDER
As a bonus gesture and nod to meme culture, Cordae released a Giphy folder with gifs from the music video. This gives additional life to the music video. Even after the song has lost its novelty, people will still be sharing gifs of Cordae stumbling into his bedroom.
Giphy Folder: https://giphy.com/cordae/the-parables
This is another feature that any artist can use by making an account on Giphy and uploading their own clips.
Nothing that Cordae did is out of reach for any artist. Yes, he was able to work with big brands like Beats by Dre and has thousands of fans that want to text with him, but the underlying concepts work at any level. To recap:
- Find brands or other companies that have value alignment with you and find a way to collaborate. Many brands need music or even just a creative injection into their campaigns. While artists can’t get “paid in awareness”, if the brand’s audience is predisposed to care about your music and the brand does a good job of highlighting your art and providing a shout out, the long term effects can be meaningful.
- Do the unscalable. Text, email, and DM with fans. This one-on-one interaction is incredibly meaningful to fans and they will tell all of their friends about how their favorite artist texted them, increasing the word of mouth about the artist. This isn’t something to do all of the time, obviously. But doing this during big releases helps make the release feel like an event.
- Incorporate real time moments into your campaign. In a world of on-demand entertainment, the novelty of experiencing something the same time as other people can be impactful. YouTube premiers are an easy way to accomplish this.
- Increase your reach with social media ads. Organic posts are not going to hit all of your fans. An ad campaign will cover more ground and expose your music to people who are not yet fans. Not sure where to get started? Check out our Advertising for Creatives series.
- Give fans something to play with. Cordae’s gifs, The 1975’s virtual spa, The Night Game’s music stems...providing creative ways to engage with the release beyond listening to the music and watching video increases the amount of active participation from fans and increases the release’s “shelf life”. Have fun with your release.