Artist Series | Chance The Rapper
21:20, Monday, early night, beginning of a new week. I am sitting on my bed, earphones on, this catchy hip hop chorus playing loud to the heart — music’s all we got. Chance The Rapper’s opening track for his beautiful album Coloring Book.
Indie artists: there is hope. And if you believe this, this article is for you. If you don’t and you’re just curious about what is about to be said, or if you’re not an artist, keep reading too. Maybe you can learn something from this story.
Chance The Rapper, now 24, has not only become an idol for kids all over the world, but also to marketers all over the world. Due to the incredible way he reached mass success some call him a marketing genius and several case studies and articles have been written about him. Above all, in an industry where labels still lead the way (contrary to common thinking!), the young rapper proved that indie musicians can also shine bright like diamonds if only they’re smart and persevere.
1. Social Media: The Line’s Open
Social has become one of Chance’s strongest allies. Continuously but naturally encouraging the big 6 — Tweet, share, post, follow, like, comment — from his fans and potential new fans, he connects with his audience and grows it further. Here are some of the lessons we can learn from Chance:
- Engage with your fans. Be human. Don’t force feed your music to people. They’ll lose interest even before they had a chance to become interested. Make relatable posts, read what your followers are saying and interact with them. Be humble — don’t act like a self-entitled prick.
- Use different types of content. Video is really popular right now and both YouTube and Facebook livestreams are a great way to share your art, feelings and impressions with your followers, getting their reactions in real time. Many artists are doing Q&A sessions on their Facebook pages, giving their fans a chance to ‘talk’ to them. Photos, snippets of your creative process, previews of your music. They all serve one purpose — giving something back to those who support you. Chance used social media several times to show new bits of his music or to simply raise awareness about themes that matter to him.
- Special offers, discounts & promotions. Sounds old school, but it’s a practice common to many brands. Chance The Rapper has used Twitter to announce secret shows (i.e. his Magnificient Coloring World 1 and 2) and hand out free tickets to special events. Once again, the concept of giving back to those who follow you. Just because. And that ‘just because’ works wonders, or how some people call it: free press & PR.
2. Word of Mouth: Pass It On
I’m about to get a little biblical here, but I think this verse summarizes word of mouth quite well:
For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart — Matthews 12:34
Word of mouth can be generated by different things, but the most important one, in my perspective, is loving something so much, knowing or discovering something so good or interesting that you can’t help but share it.
Chance makes sure his music is in itself a reason to be talked about and shared. His conduct, authenticity, his social media dynamics, collaborations with other artists, interaction with fans. All of these aspects help generate word of mouth — fans pass the news on to others that they think could benefit from the experience.
Let’s face it, musicians are well known for their never ending financial struggle. Most of us are either broke or have side jobs to pay the rent. Indie artists are no exception. On the contrary, they live by the rule.
A friend of mine keeps telling me:
SoundCloud is like a business card.
One of the greatest contributors for Chance the Rapper’s success was SoundCloud. And not because the platform has directly invested in him, but because it allows musicians to distribute and promote their music online for free.
Here are a few tips to make the most out of it:
- Keep your profile updated with your latest music.
- Do cross-promotion — promote your other channels on your SoundCloud (for example, YouTube).
- Make sure fans have a way to contact you — keep your Twitter and other social media linked in, and add your booking contact.
- Link to your online merchandise store (if you have one).
4. Analytics: Hone Your Data
Data has become more and more important in the digital age, giving brands a more insightful view of their customers. Talking about the importance of tech in a surprise appearance in a school in Chicago, Chance The Rapper said:
The type of metrics that they [online platforms] were providing to me allowed me to cater specifically to people that I knew were listening and know what time is the best time of day to drop my music. Most people that are signed don’t know where their fans live or how many plays they got on iTunes or the … demographics for how many males or females listen to their music.
Learning how to extract value from data is a must-have skill. It helps you follow in the right direction and communicate in a way your audience understands and relates to.
5. Brand Experience
Bottom line, it’s all about the brand experience. Chance is an artist that found his perfect audience. He moves mountains, but works to get to them. Every single detailed seems to be carefully thought out. From his online to his offline speech. From his music to his clothes. For example, whenever and wherever he appears he carries his ‘3’ cap. Furthermore, Chance makes his fans part of his journey. He constantly shares with them, talks to them, hears them. And even though the conversation started online it keeps going on on the streets, in sold out stadiums, in everyone’s chats and earphones.