Hip Hop Marketing Strategies

The numbers are in: hip hop is the biggest genre in the world, and its venue is streaming.

With nearly a quarter of total music sales in 2018 alone, there’s no question that hip hop is dominating the music market.

Hip hop has also proven itself to be the most DIY, chaotic, democratic genre on the music market today.

While that means there’s no end of opportunity for aspiring artists, it can also be a bit tricky to make yourself heard above the noise.

Stick with me, and see what the latest numbers in hip hop music marketing are, what they look like in real life, and what the future can look like, too.

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You may not have realized it, but there was a turning point in hip hop marketing a few years ago.

From June 2016 to January 2017, Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, and Migos released albums exclusively through streaming services, and there was no turning back.

 
Hip hop streaming on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal is running the game. Tidal is even co-owned by one of hip-hop’s greats: Jay-Z.

Hip hop streaming on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal is running the game. Tidal is even co-owned by one of hip-hop’s greats: Jay-Z.

 

Every year since, streaming has accounted for more distribution than any other medium in hip hop. Here are a few of the 2018 charts from BuzzAngle’s report on U.S. music consumption.

 
 

So how did this happen? 

The Hip Hop Industry Rewards The Best Marketers

Hip hop has always rewarded the best marketers without exception, and a lot of this marketing has been home-grown and exceptionally clever.

Run-DMC’s “My Adidas” and Rick Ross’ love affair with Maybach cars associated them with well-established brands. (And in the story of Run-DMC, “My Adidas” presented their music to an entirely new market of listeners and hit a new high mark for rap music sponsorship thanks to a $1m endorsement from Adidas.)

Kanye West’s simple idea of being colorful (and controversial) has turned heads worldwide.

And we can’t forget the merchandising genius of artists like Diddy and Jay-Z - all terrific examples of asymmetrical thinking that gained attention and boosted sales without billboards or TV spots.

Success in hip hop combines marketing wizardry with a hustler’s mentality to create moments like this:

 
 

Nowadays, artists of ALL levels have a creative outlet thanks to services like SoundCloud and Spotify for Artists.

It’s easier to make catchy music with less equipment and investment than ever before, but this situation also means the market is flooded with more artists than anyone can keep track of.

The result: a hyper-competitive atmosphere in which only the most original promoters get noticed.

Hip Hop Is dominating the Streaming & Digital Age

Remember that turning point I mentioned? There’s real data to back this revolution up.

Between 2011 and 2012, when Rick Ross' mixtape Rich Forever was released and a debut by Odd Future was dropped, hip hop album sales dropped 11.4%.

Fast forward to 2018, when BuzzAngle’s Music Report shared that “92% of Hip-Hop/Rap’s total consumption is from on-demand streams while only 3.7% is from album sales.”

And that’s still considering that hip hop accounted for the largest number of album sales at 21.7%.

Think about that for a second.

Even though hip hop is leading in album sales, not even 4% of its sales come from albums! 

It doesn’t stop there, either.

Hip hop is nothing if not a genre which builds on background and homage.

The transition to a streaming-based model may have been a relatively recent one, but huge rap artists didn’t just drop out of the sky three years ago.

There’s a 30+ year catalogue of hip hop from every sub-genre and era with dozens of classic names who have a ready-made fanbase just waiting to listen in on streaming services.

The only thing needed to connect them with today’s streaming listeners is a better creative digital strategy.

BuzzAngle’s report indicates that 62.2% of the songs consumed in 2018 were more than 6.5 years old. In fact, 49.8% of ALL songs consumed in 2018 were more than 13 years old.

 
 

Our team is obsessed with creating new ways to re-release hip hop’s iconic tracks with interactive media.

There’s a huge opportunity to activate deep catalog hip hop in new & powerful ways.

Today this post is focused on modern releases, but this information is certainly viable for catalog music as well.

Artist Example: IGOR by Tyler, The Creator

Let’s look at Tyler, the Creator as an example, because his latest project IGOR is just too damn good.

 
 

IGOR, which was released only ten days after its announcement on 6 May 2019, became the artist’s first number 1 album.

From the Pitchfork article linked above:

“The record earned 165,000 equivalent album units—selling 74,000 albums and gaining 122.9 million song streams—according to Nielsen.”

How did this happen if there was no months-long campaign, no public junkets or press releases, and no promotional lead-ins?

Well, Tyler, the Creator gets a couple of things right.

For one, he understands that most of his market is made up of millennials (he is one, himself) and younger listeners.

Second, he gets that this demographic doesn’t have any patience for old-fashioned music marketing:

“Just shut the fuck up and put it out when it's ready. People talk too much." - Tyler

Tyler understood that he had enough of a social media presence that he could easily announce its release on Twitter, tease for ten days, and reap the rewards.

Additionally, he released this project with a stand-out creative campaign on social media that was both curious & aggressively attention grabbing.

(Praise is certainly due in part to his label team at Columbia for their work on this one - it was stellar.)

If you saw his ads on social media, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Additionally, they used a very simplistic microsite to convert ad viewers into merch/vinyl package buyers. See the content / microsite here via my screen recording:

 
 

label Example: Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III

Let's look at a label that understands exactly the same principles that Tyler does: Dreamville Records.

For many listeners, Dreamville is a shining beacon of a hip hop brand that is giving fans something they desperately want - deeper connections with the artists.

Their secret sauce is ACCESS.

When the recording sessions for Revenge of the Dreamers III set the hip hop world ablaze in early 2019, fans and artists alike clamored to get involved and see what was happening behind the scenes.

An excerpt from the DJ Booth link above:

“The Revenge of the Dreamers III sessions became just as important as the album itself.” - Yoh Phillips

Dreamville's unorthodox strategy of publicly announcing and delivering private invites to the studio sessions via Instagram was the keystone of a slow-burn marketing campaign that has now seen ROTD3 debut at #1 on the hip hop charts, garnering gold record plaques for a variety of hip hop’s established elites as well as up-and-coming hitters.

By adopting a totally unprecedented marketing strategy for their project before it was even released, Dreamville set the stage for success down the line.

They even produced a mini-documentary about the sessions that has already gotten multiple million views.

 
 

Amplifying dreamville’s secret sauce: Intimate access

They could even have amplified that success with interactive media in their marketing campaign.

Here’s an unsolicited fan piece I created during the sessions that featured the work of Dreamville photographer @ChaseFade. (Yeah, I’m a bit of Dreamville stan.)

[Click and drag, swipe your thumb, or move your phone to explore this Dreamville ROTD3 concept.]

This is a unique way to connect fans with the artist’s experience that works with in-app browser in Instagram and is a totally fresh way to tell a story.

This piece had a 30.5% CTR inside the experience. The image below shows how this process works.

 
Instagram-Case-Study-360-Content-Funnel.jpg
 

As another example, they could (read: should) have filmed studio sessions with a 360° camera, giving fans who weren’t there an exclusive experience of what it was like to be behind the scenes in those sessions.

They could have then monetized that content with the release as a superfan VIP release package.

Here’s an example of similar content produced for Super Duper Kyle by Rock 180. We are launching our own series this year (Rap 180) featuring process moments & behind-the-scenes content with hip hop artists

 
 

This is something we want to bring to the table for record-of-the-month clubs like Vinyl Me, Please - giving fans superior access into an artistic experience using immersive & interactive media.

This Dreamville release on Spotify includes BTS footage of the artists in the studio as video accompaniment to the streaming releases.

Adding an immersive option to the mix would only have added to the experience of fans who have come to expect outstanding behind-the-scenes content and music videos from their favorite hip hop artists.

Hip Hop Budgets, Streaming, and content

Hip hop is the genre perhaps most closely associated with music videos, and that’s reflected in its top position for video streaming, too, with 26.9% of the video market.

Music marketing consultant Amber Horsburgh cooks up a great example of a marketing budget for Yung Lean, in which she allocates $24,000 for video and behind-the-scenes content.

Add in album art & promo material and these visual elements account for 26% of her proposed release budget.

That’s a large part of your budget going towards visual storytelling that (historically speaking) is comprised of passive media formats like flat video, photo, and graphical content.

Amber also suggests that 21% of your hip hop marketing budget go towards advertising (which includes digital and traditional options, presumably based on where the fan base spends time).

All told, content & advertising account for 47% of this hypothetical budget…

That’s 47% of budget going directly into the exact same media & ad formats that EVERY other artist is producing.

So obviously we have to figure out how to maximize impact, engagement, and enthusiasm by being smart about managing the bank while also showcasing artists with original videos & content.

What we are suggesting is that hip hop marketers should invest part of their budgets into creating stand-out content that breaks patterns & elevates the expectations of fans.

Musicians can be disruptors too, just like unicorn startups - and interactive marketing is how they can do it.

Making budgets work smarter and harder

So how can you make your budget work smarter and harder without losing your shirt?

Well, apart from the marketing strategies we already saw at the beginning of this post, there are some outstanding options in interactive marketing which retain attention and recall, up click-through rates, and make the sale by making the audience a part of the experience.

Think about it - nobody likes to be talked at, right? But just about everybody likes to be a part of the conversation, to feel as though they’re important too.

That’s exactly what interactive marketing does for hip hop.

Rather than blow your budget on a single video, that money might be better spent on content that:

  • Works with interactivity & experiential elements to create high levels of viewer engagement

  • Integrates easily with established platforms like social media and streaming services

  • Avoids the massive production costs of major label projects while getting the same (or better!) exposure for the artist

How we do hip hop marketing strategies at Beaumonde

There are a few ways Beaumonde can help brands and music in the realms of hip hop stand out online. Let’s look at some examples.

  • Interactive 360° content:

    • 360° microsites - These engaging websites provide a platform for interactive content like Beaumonde’s work for Reptaliens, which has an overall engagement rate of 14%.

    • Interactive virtual reality (VR) album art like our project for Trill Sammy, which resulted in an overall engagement rate of 17.7%.

    • 360° YouTube and site-specific videos which boost audience involvement. (PS: You can serve 360 videos as ads through YouTube TrueView!)

  • Augmented Reality (AR) social media filters:

    • Let fans interact personally with your story using filters that modify & gamify their face, body, or immediate environment.

    • Here’s one example from outside of hip hop - Poppy’s Scary Mask release included an Instagram AR filter by Asad Malik that let fans try on the scary mask from Poppy’s video.

  • Social media ad campaigns that use interactive content

    • Catch eyes and gives users a reason to stop scrolling through their feed.

    • These types of ads use the in-app browser that’s built into your favorite social platforms to offer exclusive content and vivid experiences. The linked example hit a 30.5% click-through rate.

Speaking to the listeners of the future

Beaumonde’s work is especially effective with Millenials and Gen Z, both of which are digital natives and who expect more intense and experiential interaction with the brands they love.

With Beaumonde’s interactive marketing solutions, artists and fans alike can expect to have a digital conversation which grows brands, increases satisfaction and engagement, and helps hip hop stay right where it’s always been - on the sizzling, cutting edge of marketing.

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2017/09/28/554220367/how-streaming-revolutionized-raps-album-rollouts-on-the-road-to-no-1

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/hip-hop-continued-to-dominate-the-music-business-in-2018-774422/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/03/15/understanding-how-millennials-respond-to-your-marketing-efforts/#6d626c0a70cd

https://medium.com/@manreetbains/hip-hop-marketing-or-is-it-just-marketing-3f7353653b8e

https://borensteingroup.com/rappers-delight-five-digital-marketing-lessons/