Is Koe Wetzel the New Blueprint or an Anomaly?
I hear a lot of up-and-coming artists reference Koe Wetzel when they’re talking about their marketing game-plan. They allude to the fact that Wetzel didn’t spend any money marketing his music via radio, social media, publicity, etc….so they think it proves there’s not a need for it in this day and age, and therefore they can be successful from just organic word of mouth, touring, non-sponsored social media posts, and so on. So is this the case? Has Koe Wetzel carved out a new blueprint, or is he an anomaly?
The answer: his route is an anomaly….for now. Until, more artists do it, I wouldn’t be throwing my eggs in that basket. Sure you can try (and I know plenty of artists that are), but here’s the bottom line: you have to have people spreading your music. You have to have people talking about you and sharing your music with their friends. You have to have people posting about you on their social media. Not just some, ALOT; and they have to continue to talk, spread, share, and post even when you’re not releasing new music. If you can do that without using radio, sinking money in to social media, or paying a publicist, then more power to you; but the odds of success aren’t likely (don’t be mad at me, I’m just the messenger).
Koe was successful not because of his marketing plan, but in-spite of it. The product was just so good that it compensated for the lack of marketing. But before you go thinking that all you have to do is put something good out and you’ll be able to accomplish something similar, keep in mind that Wetzel didn’t just create a good product, he created something that resonated with people in way that only a handful of artists have been able to do since our scene’s inception. Yes, the consumer-driven marketplace that’s arisen with the revolution of music streaming, certainly provided him with great conditions for an organic, peer-to-peer explosion of growth, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy, or probable, to replicate (at least to the same degree at this point in time).
I’m not going to pretend that the impact of radio, social media ads, and publicity is as powerful as it once was, but what other tools do you have available that can spread your music and help you create a buzz? Yes, music streaming has knocked down some barriers to entry (especially if you make it on to some popular playlists), but a rising tide lifts all boats, not just yours. Don’t mistake this rise in the floor, for something that automatically gets you closer to the ceiling relative to everyone else. The questions still remain. How do you get people to talk about you and your music? How do you rise above the clutter? How do you create a buzz? And how do you keep it going? The answer is still the same: if you can’t do it organically (99% can’t), then you’ll have to spend money doing so.
I’m not saying the landscape isn’t different, or that it isn’t easier for artists to get an organic following, or that you shouldn’t be forward-thinking, I just implore you to really think about your promotional plan. Maybe new tools will come along (Spotify did just open up an ad studio: Spotify Ad Studio: A Marketing Tool Worth Using), but as of right now radio, social media ads, and publicists are still the best ways to legitimize and differentiate yourself from the masses (at least in this scene).
That may change someday, but it hasn’t yet.
Song durability, or how long a song will last before people get tired of it, is so important these days. People binge listen to music, just like they binge watch tv. With an on-demand-media-consumption-culture it’s easy for people to get burned out on a song within a month. A song/EP/album being able to last for several months and beyond, in someone’s regular rotation is the real testament of a song’s quality these days. .
Spotify just released their financial outlook for the rest of 2018, and they’ve told the Wall Street Journal that they expect to be close to 100 million users by the end of the year.
Spotify is still at the early part of it’s growth; it’s not even close to market maturation. Let that sink in…If you think the platform is a force now, just wait….It’s only begun to tip. If you’re not amassing followers on the platform yet, you’re behind.
Get out of Your Head and Your Bubble
If you want fresh perspectives on your music, show, marketing etc… don’t be afraid to ask someone for their opinion. Then ask new/more people. Don’t just rely on your opinion, or the same people over and over. Obviously, you shouldn’t put stock in everyone’s opinion, and some feedback is more credible/valuable than others, but from time to time you need to get out of your head and your bubble.
The Mainstream is Disappearing
When it comes to consuming media, we have access to anything and everything, anywhere, anytime. Producing media has never been easier, and distribution is worldwide at the click of a button. With the a flood of production and consumption, what do you even consider the “mainstream” anymore? There are too many easily accessible options for someone to waste their time on something that they only moderately enjoy. People don’t care if something is’ backed by the “industry” or if it’s popular already.
With each passing day, there are more independent musicians, television shows, news outlets, films, etc…that are just as successful as the mainstream ones. There is too much product to compete with, and too many pockets and specialized areas too keep up with for an oligarchical system to reign supreme.
It’s like that Billboard article (Cody Johnson: The Best Country Singer You Haven’t Heard Yet) – the guy has 700K monthly listeners on Spotify, with a song at nearly 15 million streams. He’s got 3/4ths of a million social media followers, and has a tour schedule that headlines him all across the U.S. He just sold out the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for crying out loud. This is the guy a “mainstream” publication about the “mainstream” music industry is toting around as an artist “you haven’t heard of.” Ha.