Case Study: Band Embraces Grooveshark And Catapults Its Career

from the well,-look-at-that dept

One of the things that we've found odd about the decade and a half history of the legacy entertainment industry seeking (often successfully) to shut down a variety of new platforms, is that if you actually looked at the artists who didn't completely freak out at these new services and who recognized what the new services were (better platforms for distribution and promotion, rather than the end of all civilization and culture as we know it), you quickly find that, if done right, the platforms could be used to those artists' advantage. We saw artists use the original Napster to their advantage, only to see it shut down. Ditto for, Grokster, Kazaa, Limewire, Megaupload and more. Plenty of artists have discussed how incredibly useful The Pirate Bay has been as a platform for distribution and promotion.

Now, admittedly, many of these companies and services were shut down for some form of copyright infringement or inducement to infringement. So, you can argue that they were illegal. But if we went back even further, we saw the same complaints against many other platforms including the radio, cable TV, the VCR, the DVR, the MP3 player and online video services like YouTube. And yet, every one of those has survived, and they have turned out to be very important parts of the market. In fact, you can look and see how each of those helped expand and grow markets, even as they were decried as being tools of infringement when they first came on the scene.

This is why I'm so fascinated by the artists who are the early adopters -- who jump onto these platforms in the early days and show how they can be used to the artist's own advantage. Because it's through those people that we learn how these platforms, be they tools of infringement or not, can quite possibly help artists much more than hurt them -- if those artists learn to use the tools correctly.

All of that is prelude to this case study, concerning a band called Quiet Company that teamed up to take part in Grooveshark's new Artist Development project, in which Grooveshark would see if it could help "break a band" via the internet. Grooveshark, of course, is a company that is currently being sued by a large chunk of the recording industry for its music player. In talking to various artists about it-- even those who often are more willing to experiment with new platforms -- I've seen many artists really dislike Grooveshark. But, clearly, it has built up a giant, loyal and engaged user-base. And, as always, it seems that, if done right, artists could embrace that to a positive effect, which is appears to be what happened with Quiet Company. First up, if you'd like to hear some of their music, you can click the widget below:
I spoke to Quiet Company's manager, who told me that the band was being courted by various record labels, but they quickly realized that they were getting offered deals that weren't the most "artist friendly," and that they had no desire to work with a record label unless they knew that the band was the one with the leverage. So, when Grooveshark approached them, noting that Quiet Company seemed to be doing quite well on Grooveshark, and that they wanted to try to help "break" the band online, the band thought it was a great idea. In terms of what Grooveshark did for the band, it included promoting the band more heavily within Grooveshark and in other places, promoting YouTube videos (more on that below), promoting tours with "tour skins" in locations where the band was heading, highlighting releases, doing promos, contests and the like. They also did some more traditional promotions work, including pushing college radio and festivals, while also finding brand sponsors.

There are a number of interesting tidbits in the case study looking at an entire year or so in which Grooveshark worked to help Quiet Company. One thing that's important to note, of course, is that the band didn't just rely on Grooveshark, but worked to use Grooveshark in combination with other platforms to get attention. Grooveshark seemed to drive steady growth in part by using its own tools to help drive growth elsewhere, such as YouTube. Take a look, for example, at the following timeline:
You can see that there's a massive spike coming when YouTube engagement ads ran. Those ads are something that Grooveshark launched last year, to help promote artists, and it looks like that clearly had a pretty big impact. The "ads" ask Grooveshark users to view a portion of a music video to get to use the rest of the site ad free for a period of time, and that massively increased the YouTube views for the band. The timing did also coincide with last year's SXSW Music, where the band played (and got significant press attention -- Time, NPR Music, Billboard -- which certainly helped), but the band says that Grooveshark was instrumental in getting the necessary exposure.

Furthermore, a closer look at Grooveshark promotions, shows that they also impacted things like visits to the website and Facebook likes.
But, perhaps more importantly, the end result of this experiment was that the band started making more money with a much broader, international fanbase. The band had a popular following, locally in Texas, where it was from, but had much less support as they got further from home. On Facebook and YouTube, the "top cities" were all in Texas. However, that changed drastically, leading to the ability to tour more widely. After the partnership, rather than just cities in Texas, they had big followings (via Facebook) in Bogota, Sao Paulo and Barcelona, among many other places. The top countries for followers if you looked at YouTube and Facebook included not just the US, but the UK, Canada, Germany, Brazil and Spain. The band is getting ready to perform outside the US for the first time.
And, not surprisingly, with a broader fan base, their touring revenue shot up as well.
All in all, it's an interesting case study of a band that had a loyal local following, but hadn't "broken." Then it embraced a platform like Grooveshark and to see if it helped or hurt the band. It certainly seems like the band is in a much better position after working with Grooveshark than before. Even if you make the case that their success had nothing to do with Grooveshark, but was due to other factors, it certainly doesn't look like working with Grooveshark harmed the band, as some would imply.

In talking to the band's manager, he repeatedly pointed out that the exposure from Grooveshark made all the difference in the world, and took the band from having a loyal and devoted local following to a band that really had a big following in many places around the globe. He pointed out that the key, in his mind, was that this was a promotional platform, with the focus being on building up a fanbase who loved the music, and to then tour to make money to support that. When asked if there were any "lessons learned" or regrets, the one thing he noted is that they should have been better prepared to go out on tour as soon as things started to break. He felt that they could have done a bit more if they were ready to tour more widely earlier last year.

Something else really interesting came out of the case study and the discussion: after all of this, Quiet Company actually got a private investment from a group of fans to continue what they're doing. That is, rather than signing with a record label, a huge fan actually approached the band and asked them about investing in them, and set up a deal (with a few other fans) that is better than a record deal in that it's very artist friendly. Quiet Company's manager told me that this fan has been a big supporter of the band for a long time -- often buying a bunch of tickets to their shows and just giving them out to a bunch of her friends, and they were pleasantly surprised when that turned into her investing directly in the band.

Separately, he notes that the band believes strongly that this kind of thing was a result of the band really working hard to connect closely with their fans, and that with this greater exposure, it lets them try to do that on a larger scale.

This isn't, of course, to say that every artist should automatically jump on board with Grooveshark. It's just yet another case study in a growing list that shows that where artists carefully and smartly construct a broad strategy that leverages various tools to help promote and distribute their works, combined with connecting with the fans, they can have really compelling success stories. Even as some decry those platforms for claimed copyright infringement, it seems like these platforms can be helpful in doing the most important thing: building a fanbase. And, from there, the band needs to work to connect with that fanbase, and give them ways to support the band. It would be great if, rather than attacking such platforms over and over again, we spent more time like this, looking at ways that artists can use various platforms to their own advantage to succeed.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2013 @ 4:13pm

    InB4 MAFIAA shill: This is an isolated incident! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. BWARRRRRRRRRR!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Crashoverride (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 4:23pm

    Kind of shows why all the big studios and media companies want all forms of data pipes and means for artists to promote themselves shutdown. Even if it hurts their own artists... Removing as many options as possible locks up the distribution, promotion and control in to the few legacy players.

    After all big business contrary to popular thinking isn't about selling more of anything be it widgets or songs... They are in the stock selling business. Selling the press release saying X artist will sell like gangbusters is more profitable to a CEO than actual sales.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 4:33pm

    Nice Try, Mike

    This will only work for bands that are on the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, Mar 12th, 2013 @ 4:59pm

    So... money into promotion works.

    This is NOT an isolated incident! Just look at Britney Spears: with enough money, you can promote a turnip.

    By the way, after Justin Bieber ran amok in I guess London, there was a note in the article that he was spotted by some sort of scout, WHO then promoted him in whatever mysterious way. So the existing "star" system works. -- It's just that getting noticed by the system is difficult.

    Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
    Where pop-culture anomalies are used to "prove" that "give away and pray" will work for entire industries!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    jameshogg (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 5:41pm

    Paying for services, not goods.

    Even if it wasn't for crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, the free-rider problem for creators of any kind does not seem to be much of a problem in any case. You would think that the invention of the lightning-speed, exponentially viral MP3 format would have genuinely made the free-rider problem so horrible that it would have crushed the music industry. Yet strangely despite the sheer, ridiculous ease of getting music for free, literally as easy as digging up dirt from your back garden, people still continue to pay the musicians. In fact, bizarrely enough the opposite is the case: people are paying more than before the MP3 format and internet inventions.

    Why is this the case?

    Well let us consider the logic that Copyright uses to "solve" the free-rider problem. It says that if you give the keys of the rights to copy solely to the creators, it means each copy obtains added value through an artificial scarcity. This raises a few problems. First, it still allows these copies to be swapped amongst others who have not paid anything and yet can still experience the creativity - literally "stealing" from the artists while following every Copyright law in the book. Copyright advocates will say "yes we are aware of this, but the nature of Copyright is that it allows the artists to raise the prices in order to compensate for the second-hand trading" - hold on? So the original buyers of the content have to cover someone else's pay? How can this be so passively permitted, especially how the original buyer therefore must make a resale in order to recuperate his loss? Never mind the fact that he'd then be without a copy himself while the next person will have the copy, and therefore indefinite viewing of the copy. The ones who can borrow for nothing, or pay for a cheaper second-hand copy, end up benefiting while the others must carry the unfair burden of their debt, whether either party realise it or not.

    Next, following on from that logic, is the catch that I need to stress: this logic proposed by copyright does not actually solve the free-rider problem. I hope you can see right away how free-rider mentality can still occur. If second-hand copies are cheaper, nobody will be first-hand buyers. Or at most, very few people, meaning the only way that "saturation" of copies floating around can occur is if enough people are willing to take up the initial burden of someone else's potentially unpaid debt.

    However, people do still buy the first-hand copies. And it is quite simply because there is not much of a free rider problem to begin with. People realise right away that if they don't pay, artists can't work. It's simple common sense and both buyers and sellers realise it. During the Communist revolution this might not have been as apparent amongst its believers because they put too much trust in the system and its supposedly flawless ability to give everyone a fair share of resources for their work. But we've moved past it. Nowadays we innately realise that artists need consumers to create, and consumers need artists for creations, and therefore money has to be involved. The key word being "innate". And the innate instinct to do it still exists in a world where the internet should have brought a huge "tragedy of the commons" to creative industries ages ago, but hasn't.

    "But what about the corporations who could take other's creations and make money of their own - isn't that a moral issue that Copyright answers?" Not just Copyright. This is why I stress the importance of crowdfunded projects, which have been around even before the internet in the form of ticket-based admission: if Copyright were abolished and creators were financed through crowdfunding, those same corporations are going to start placing large funds for the artists themselves in order to preserve their interests and use the creations. This is really important to understand. The creators can start holding corporations to account by not releasing new creations until they pay up, depending on how popular the creators are. And what of corporations using work already paid for? Well that's just it: the work is already paid for. Also, it means the artist does not have to pay the corporations for advertising fees for their next project. And we all know from the fashion industry that people will buy official versions and not knock-offs, meaning a chance still for the "innate" need to fund creators to flourish even more. There are other issues such as the rights of the final consumers to participate in the markets they want (fanfiction, devinatArt...), and the corporation's rights to their fruits of additional labour as well.

    Intellectual SERVICING trumps intellectual property for these reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 5:46pm

    Re: So... money into promotion works.

    Is there a reason you haven't responded to me on my Pro Boxer post from earlier? In case you might have missed it, I apologized for trolling you two years ago. Are you going to apologize for behaving as you have, or not? I think it's fair for all of Techdirt to know what kind of member of our community you'd like to be....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    apauld (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 7:03pm

    Re: Re: So... money into promotion works.

    I just went back and looked at that old post, now I understand why out_of_the_short_bus sounds like a bitter, crazy half-wit. You did it! You turned him into a bitter, crazy half-wit! Thanks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 12th, 2013 @ 7:19pm

    Re: Nice Try, Mike

    Must be why Prince is having such difficulties.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2013 @ 7:32pm

    Re: So... money into promotion works.

    Sometimes I wonder if you even know how to read.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ninja (profile), Mar 13th, 2013 @ 4:01am

    The MAFIAA couldn't care less about these artists. After all even though they are insanely successful they are not in the MAFIAA having their blood sucked to death. So they are not true successes eh? *wink wink*

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 5:25am

    and what steps have the labels taken now to see this kind of success without them doesn't happen again? which senators have been targeted to bring in new laws that prevent any new artists from being able to make it alone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 5:28am

    Re: Re: So... money into promotion works.

    really we are all just jelly of this person's job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Karl (profile), Mar 13th, 2013 @ 6:21am


    and what steps have the labels taken now to see this kind of success without them doesn't happen again?

    Well, for starters, they've already been suing Grooveshark...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    TechBubbleBath, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 6:57am

    this band PAID for exposure.

    not all bands can afford to be featured and promoted with contests etc on every platform that hosts their music without permission as did this band.

    There's a reason major artists are holding off and don't want their music on spotify, or rdio as well.

    They've already got the exposure and streams hurt their sales.

    The same results don't happen for every artist/band.
    At least the other streaming services are paying the little that they do.

    Grooveshark doesn't give artists a choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    Re: this band PAID for exposure.

    every band pays for exposure. just ask all those bands who haven't recouped their "investment" from big media.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 8:45am

    Re: this band PAID for exposure.

    So they can't afford another solid gold humvee or diamond-studded swimming pool. Foo-hucking-boo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 9:07am

    @anon-coward (your name choice, not mine)

    you're forgetting about successful independent acts who pocket 50% and upward of all revenue generated from their music sales and performances.
    these acts have nothing to recoup because they've been paying for it up front out of pocket (or with a small team).

    they've chosen NOT to do campaigns with companies like grooveshark, spotify, or rdio. because these actually hurt initial sales. (then they release their album months later to streaming services.)

    however, grooveshark takes the choice away from them by ignoring dmca takedown notices or procrastinating in addressing them.

    also, the 'grooveshark is youtube' argument wont work either because youtube has started to pay, even though its a small amount.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jack, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    This band DID NOT pay for exposure.

    Grooveshark found them because their data suggested they were getting an inordinate amount of traction for an indie band.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Karl (profile), Mar 13th, 2013 @ 6:33pm

    Re: this band PAID for exposure.

    There's a reason major artists are holding off and don't want their music on spotify, or rdio as well.

    They've already got the exposure and streams hurt their sales.

    I don't know about Grooveshark, but as far as Rdio and Spotify are concerned, this argument is complete bunk.

    Bands may decide not to work with them, of course. But that doesn't mean their decision is a good one.

    At least the other streaming services are paying the little that they do.

    Grooveshark also pays artists.

    Grooveshark doesn't give artists a choice.

    In what way? If the artists don't want their music on the service, they file a DMCA notice. Grooveshark follows the law, removes the music, and cuts off the upload abilities of repeat infringers (permanently).

    On the other hand, if they want to get paid for the music that users upload, they can work out a license with Grooveshark, and get paid when users listen to the music.

    The setup is very much like YouTube's ContentID service - which has paid artists a lot of money since it was created.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Tommy, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 10:18pm

    seeing bandcamp in the source just gives me the giggles and makes me warm inside

    why? one of the best souces for FLAC music!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Borse Balenciaga, Mar 23rd, 2013 @ 6:14pm

    Re: this band PAID for exposure.

    I agree with you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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