While it may not be every artist’s dream to headline major music festivals or perform on late-night television, most aim to make a product that resonates with enough people to sustain a living. Many find themselves trying varying formulas of marketing campaigns, ad buys, and PR strategies to “get themselves out there.”
But what if the best approach to building a mutual relationship between artist and fan came from outside of the music industry? In the startup world, finding the right product-market fit – the process of introducing a product that satisfies the demand of a particular market – is one of the most crucial steps in validating a product’s worthiness and longevity. But how should an artist go about finding a core consumer base, increasing their brand equity in the marketplace, and 10x’ing their streams?
If the concept of treating art as a business holds merit, then BROCKHAMPTON is the ideal case study. Intentional or not, the “internet’s favorite boy band” has abided by a set of principles to ensure their product continuously brings value to today’s music marketplace.
Note: This is a Stem-produced analysis and not an official report.
Locating A Core Demographic
BROCKHAMPTON’s spirit is nestled between the high-fashion ethos of A$AP Mob and progressive preferences of Odd Future. In the early 2010s, both groups had solidified reliable, and sometimes rabid, fan bases. But as time progressed, a new market of Gen-Zers sprouted that had yet to be targeted.
The members of BROCKHAMPTON met via Subreddits, Tumblr pages, and artist fan forums. Because they participated in the same mediums of their target demographic, the band had an advantage when it came to understanding how to cater to the new generation of music consumers. They inherently knew their audience’s preferences and shared a similar belief system, which allowed them to eventually provide a product (their music) that was different from the rest.
For many artists and teams, identifying such specific and detailed nuances of a target market is a difficult task. But you can streamline your understanding of your consumers by honing in on an aspect of product-market fit: minimum viable product (MVP).
In the startup world, an MVP is usually a prototype of a product that allows its creator to test consumer demand and acquire feedback about their product. In music, that same concept can be accomplished with strategies that will provide you with enough data about your target fan base without fully committing the time and budget of a full rollout, like withholding a full-length album from DSPs in favor of a set of singles.
Testing A Hypothesis In The Market
Achieving product-market fit means introducing the product to the right market, at the right time. Though unproven, a simple hypothesis could have been developed for BROCKHAMPTON: If they can successfully create an album that speaks to today’s Gen-Z cultural norms, then they could become a mainstay in music.
2016’s ALL-AMERICAN TRASH was an introduction to the distinct sounds, lyrical content, and creative presence that fans should expect from the internet-born band moving forward. Then, they capitalized on the buzz the album had earned them by unleashing their SATURATION trilogy to the world in 2017.
According to NFX, “The #1 reason startups fail is that they run out of money before achieving product-market fit […] Once you have product-market fit, funding is usually dramatically easier.”
BROCKHAMPTON used their immediate resources to execute the mixtape trilogy. Close your eyes and pick a visual produced within the SATURATION era, and you’ll see similar scenery from the same South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. Nonetheless, BROCKHAMPTON’s consumer demand and leverage eventually earned them a reported $15 million investment from RCA in March 2018.
Finding Consistency & Validating Success With Data
To continue down the path of product-market fit, you have to be willing to unleash your product to the world, receive feedback, then iterate to refine the product. Though fans continued to flock towards BROCKHAMPTON’s SATURATION offerings, they were met with mixed reviews from media outlets, including Pitchfork, who noted:
“They’ve so far struggled to translate their ideology into a working piece of art but on Saturation III, the collective’s objective begins to come into focus. They still paint in broad strokes and their songs sometimes still lack continuity, but they’re truly moving as a unit now, and the star power is all but obvious.”
Still, the band continued to refine its product and presence. While each member curates the type of content and captions his personal feed, a throughline of consistency remains in everyone’s profile pictures and photo filters. All of which stems from the aesthetic of the band’s main @brckhmptn page.
126,000 members of the r/BROCKHAMPTON subreddit community make hundreds of posts daily. A scroll through the channel’s feed presents frequent updates with insider info and a mass of memes and jokes built out of the eccentrics of the group’s personalities and styles. All of this resulted in a comprehensive consumer experience (UX in startup terms).
The group’s first album on RCA, iridescence, moved 101,000 units in its first week and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The 2019 follow-up GINGER reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and led to the single “SUGAR,” garnering over a quarter-billion streams on Spotify after taking over TikTok.
Such metrics lend themselves to the idea that BROCKHAMPTON successfully navigated their way through the music industry’s version of product-market fit.
Download Stem’s tear sheet on Finding Your Product-Market Fit below!