Dreaming about creating a viral video? Unless you happen to have a winning combination of an awesome Chewbacca mask and a great laugh, odds are you’ll need a little help on your way to online video success. More often than not, behind every online phenomenon, you’ll find a person with an action plan and marketing strategy to make it happen.
Nils Gums is one of those people. He’s a manager who’s responsible for helping Wix Music artists Karmin break out online and garner millions of views with a string of hit Youtube videos. His viral video strategy was so successful in fact that within 6 months of going online, Karmin was invited to perform on Ellen, Saturday Night Live, and signed a record deal with L.A Reid’s Epic Records.
We sat down with Nils to get his secrets for how indie artists can break through the noise and get discovered online.
Find Your Purple Cow
The world is filled with talented people. If you’re looking to stand out online, the fact is that talent alone won’t get you there. When it comes to shareable content, people are looking to discover something different. Famed economist Seth Godin calls this a ‘purple cow’. A purple cow is the element of surprise that catches people off guard and makes them go ‘wow’. In other words, it’s the secret ingredient to give your content a shareable edge.
In many cases, the purple cow is the line between expectation and reality. At first glance, an artist might look as if they’ll do one thing, but then come out of left field with a different edge. If you’re looking for examples to prove this true, you needn’t look any further than the last string of viral-hit sensations:
Tyler the Creator / Odd Future: Anyone who’s seen Tyler’s video where he eats a cockroach, knows that it’s one of those moments that’s hard to forget. Part of Tyler the Creator’s claim to fame can definitely be attributed to being a guy who isn’t afraid to say or do the things people haven’t seen before.
Lana Del Rey: Her hauntingly beautiful yet familiarly retro sound was something mainstream media hadn’t heard in awhile. People were drawn to her Video Game video that married her retro sound with throwback footage of classic nostalgic Americana scenes.
Karmin: A clean-cut girl with a throwback hair-do that spits rap skills as fast as Busta Rhymes or Twista. That was something that made audiences stop and go woah.
Nils is currently working this angle with his latest client Cordelia & the Buffalo. Cordelia’s purple cow is how she pays homage to her South American roots with her tribal-like vocal, ad-libs and Aztec-inspired make-up and clothes while still maintaining a modern sound.
Find the Right Channel to Promote Your Brand
When it comes to your original hook, it’s essential to keep your target media demographic in mind. If like Karmin you’re keen on getting discovered on Youtube, you’ll need to have a flawless video to match your vocals.
Like we mentioned above, great content alone won’t rack up your view count. More than a video streaming platform, Youtube serves as the #2 search engine on the internet. Like any search engine, clever optimization will play a major role in whether or not your content will be found. Most people don’t know this, but part of Karmin’s viral success is largely attributed to some crafty search engine optimization. The band ultimately chose to shoot a cover video for Chris Brown’s ‘Look at Me Now’ video after coming to realize that the song was climbing the charts but didn’t have a music video yet. Thus, people who searched that video on Youtube came to discover none other than our friends, Karmin.
Looking to create your own cover songs to gain exposure on Youtube, but don’t have the means to get your hands on some talented instrumentalists? There are tons of apps available on iTunes with instrumental versions of all the popular songs that you could download and use in your own video. Check out Cover Guru and Instrumental King.
Paris Inc. is another great example of a viral video success story thanks to a stream of successful covers. Paris Inc recently reached almost 5M views and 96K YouTube subscribers with their cover of Rihanna’s “Work” – and they’re not stopping there. The group is going to do a 10 video cover song series before releasing their original music, which has been co-written by Pop-Star Meghan Trainor and her producers, The Eleven.
Keep in mind, just because you’re covering someone else’s song doesn’t mean that you can’t add your own originality to it. Take Pete Muller’s cover of Vance Joy’s hit “Fire and the Flood” for example. Pete added his own twist to the song both with his unique vocal style and in his music video which features modern dancer Kathryn McCormick. In fact, the cover was so well received that upon hearing it, Vance himself said “I really like the way he sings it. It’s a nice interpretation.”
Feedback is Your Friend
Ask anyone what the scariest place on the internet is, and they’ll tell you it’s the comment section. Successful artists know to use comments and feedback (both good and bad) as a guide to better shape what they stand for as a brand. Karmin masterfully utilized this as a strategy to help promote themselves beyond their music. After getting numerous comments about how awesome her hair looks, Amy from Karmin created a video tutorial about how to get her hair do. While this may not seem like it has anything to do with music per say, the video generated another 2 million views for the band which expanded their name recognition and added a bunch of new subscribers to their Youtube channel.
In his own words, Nils says that personality pieces like these allow artists to further showcase who they are as musicians AND human beings. These assets can be very valuable in turning a one-time viewer of your music video into a ‘real’ fan. “Fans these days want to feel connected with the artists they like and want to get a glimpse into their personal lives and what the artist cares about”.
Entertainment is all about evoking a feeling, so even a negative reaction is better than no reaction at all. Often times, the biggest haters could just not be ready for your sound. Give them enough time, and they may go on and brag about how they first discovered you way back when. If that doesn’t work, remember that Justin Beiber’s ‘Baby’ video was once the most ‘disliked’ video on Youtube… but you don’t hear him complaining.
Utilize Fan Love
Of course, online communication is a 2-way street. Use comments, social media and even email to reach out to your biggest fans online. Your earliest fans can become life-long supporters. Spoil that fan club with pre-releases of your new songs, and ask them to like and share that track in advance anyone else. By spreading your music far and wide, those fans will up your view count before you publish your new tracks to the masses, giving you that extra bit of street cred every new artist needs.
Use Your Website and EPK as a Homebase
Once your music takes off, there’s no doubt that people will want to hear more. Make your music easily available on your own music site. Your music website is where people will go to find more of your songs and learn about the people behind the sound. Your website is also the right place to put your EPK up for any labels looking to take things to the next level.
Use Your Budget to Build Relationships
One of the smartest ways to use your marketing budget as a new band is to pair up with playlisters and music pluggers.
Playlisters and music pluggers are people who build charting playlists on music discovery channels like Spotify and popular music blogs. The music industry is filled with companies that are dedicated to building relationships with playlist creators just like these. These companies take a fee for adding your music to playlists with a large and dedicated music following, but the reach of getting your music on one of the popular playlists in your genre may just pay off.
Collaborate with People That Count
Collaboration is key to artists that are just starting out. About a year ago, Karmin teamed up with rapper/lyricist WATSKY to do a remix of a popular rap song at the time called “No Flex Zone”. Both Watsky and Karmin had a strong and growing fanbase on Youtube, so teaming up to do a remix helped both parties reach audiences they normally wouldn’t. Another collaboration that proved to be successful was Karmin & Wild Cultures’ remix of their new single “Sugar”, which reached #1 on HypeMachine, a popular music blog.
Nils Gums is the founder of The Complex Group, Inc. a full-service artist development and management company that also houses a record label and a TV and film production arm. His client repertoire includes launching the careers of: Dawaun Parker (Aftermath/Interscope Records), The Elev3n, Tiwa Savage (Sony/ATV), Cordelia and The Buffalo, Meghan Trainor and of course, Karmin.
If you’re interested in Complex Management’s consulting services, feel free to get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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