In Rollouts Relived, Stem sits down with the industry’s most ingenious managers to reverse engineer some of their most successful rollouts so you can apply similar approaches to your campaigns.
The piece below reflects the thought processes and philosophies practiced by Eddie Sikazwe, manager of Victor Internet.
I. Before Your Release
Positioning to your target market
Before the Victor’s Debut rollout, Victor and Eddie were very intentional about communicating with their team and the public about how Victor wanted to be positioned as an artist.
“Vic wanted to be in that alternative, indie space. Because he’s Mexican-American, he was kind of automatically placed in the same lane as Cuco and Omar Apollo. Those are some of his friends, so he felt comfortable in that space … We wanted to change the narrative from a bedroom pop artist to a more indie, alternative artist.”
This clarity also dictated conversations with DSP partners, publicists, and booking agents.
Eddie explains that all of their pre-planning is relative to pre-determined roadmaps that start with long-term goals, from six months to five years. Over time, this became a major component of their success because of the daily, monthly, and yearly benchmarks that directly tie to the ultimate goal.
Brand clarity and roadmapping are necessary parts of a formula that every artist team has in place, serving as the foundation for all of your next moves.
II. During Your Rollout
The thought process behind Eddie’s approach to rollouts stems from a respond-and-react ideology. Once you’ve created a generous backlog of content and assets long before the release date, plus made sure everyone involved is aligned on the vision, your team can be light on their feet as you begin to distribute music.
Thinking through your PR strategy
While Eddie has a PR team involved during these processes, it may not be the approach for everyone.
“Your artist has to be ready for press,” he said. “That means that the product and storyline have to be there, and there has to be demand for them. We’ve all seen the mistake where an artist gets a publicist too early and the artist’s music hasn’t garnered much of a response yet. You have to have realistic expectations going in. You can’t go into the first campaign and think, ‘I just want to be on Billboard.’”
Press only makes sense as a budgeted expense when both your product and story can generate interest from both writers and readers. If you don’t have much of a message to broadcast at the moment, it’s best to wait and invest those dollars in visuals, ad buys, or the next project.
Attaching releases to digital moments
“If you want to talk to Vic, you can find him,” Eddie said. “He’s got his Discord servers … The people [signed up for his Community number] are just diehards, and he talks to them frequently. He plays games with them, has meetups, anything he can do to keep the audience engaged.”
Planting flags in this digital landscape as you’re rolling out music creates a feeling of community. This is impactful for the day or week of the release and helps generate momentum into the post-release campaigns.
III. After Your Release
Keeping fans consistently engaged
Whether it’s a single or album, Eddie believes that post-release is when the work begins. Victor’s team’s biggest priority is to use all means to keep people engaged long after the release date. Typically, that ends up looking like a three-pronged approach to the interim between releases or the post-release cycle as a whole:
1. Capture as much content from post-release life as possible
2. Pair a release show with the drop that aligns with the concept of the upcoming tour
3. Constantly come up with, design, and execute strategies for engagement
Going the distance with your community
“The power of fan engagement and grassroots marketing with Victor, that’s one thing he’s done really well,” Eddie said. “We didn’t have money for ad buys when he was on his headlining tour and Vic had a brilliant idea. He said, ‘What if I just put on my tour flyer and put it on my Instagram or Twitter in a Dropbox folder, and I just tell my fans to just go print them and post them around town.’ We turned his fans loose in those streets and they literally, we sold out multiple days of the tour.”
Victor’s deep connection with his community manifested a non-existent tour support budget out of thin air. As an artist, you should want your fan base to do more than stream your music. These are people who will champion you in their city and vouch for your validity at the very mention of your name.
Checking all boxes available
Eddie believes in the value of social media ads, thinking of them as staples to every marketing plan in 2021. The passive but additional reach it creates along with the ability to change each ad’s messaging to various targeted audiences is a value proposition that shouldn’t be ignored by artists at any level.
Another staple in Eddie’s methodology is pitching to playlists beyond Spotify’s editorial. It’s as important as ever to acknowledge smaller playlists and curators who are actively looking to champion smaller artists as well. With niche playlists, you can speak to more specific audiences than Spotify editorial might let you.