midemblog: How has Believe’s role evolved in recent years, notably with regards to social media and artist engagement?
Lee Morrison: As well as our central role of providing widespread digital distribution and trade marketing services to labels, Believe Digital has now extended into other areas, like that of social media. Moving with the times, we have fully integrated social media into the company; both in terms of how we operate as Believe, and what we can offer to our clients, that being social media and YouTube partnership services. Our social media department is dedicated to helping our artists and labels effectively engage with their fan base and promote their releases online, which is vital in the modern digital industry.
> What direct-to-fan tactics does Believe use? What proportion of your team is dedicated to such activities?
We implement a variety of D2F tactics on behalf of our clients. We find the most effective techniques include: pushing pre-release orders with exclusive bonus items, limited edition physical products, and merchandise bundles; effective artist-to-fan email management as well as incentivising email sign ups by offering a free track; and using integrated music players across various social networks.
Besides these specific techniques, perhaps the best direct-to-fan tactic is to watch, listen and respond to what’s going on between artists and their fan. And of course, spreading the word via streaming, social networks, and blogging is always a sturdy bet.
We have a fairly large dedicated department that focuses on these key strategies; and label managers are also trained to recommend their labels about various direct to fan tactics.
> Who needs labels, now artists have all the tools they need to do everything themselves?
In today’s music business it is possible for artists to find success with or without a label. Both options work, but I would strongly argue that artists often need the guidance of a label to stay on track and to progress in their careers. They are also invaluable for contacts, investments, and to give a release some much-needed hype – if the label has a certain edgy appeal and cultural status that is.
Many artists are now setting up their own labels to release music themselves, and with services like Believe’s sister venture, Zimbalam, it is becoming increasingly easy for artists to get there music out there.
> Can you share an example of one of your artist’s social media success translating into commercial success?
We ran a social campaign for Bastille’s EP last year focusing on the importance of building and using mailing lists. We concentrated on engaging the existing fanbase, and converting them into paying customers. We prioritised the building of the mailing list with a newsletter schedule timed to push the key campaign events, and incentivised signups with a free track and made sure signups were the first to hear about new content. After each newsletter we saw a noticeable spike in YouTube views, pre-order signups and sales. We used Facebook, YouTube, and sales analytics to see which countries had a fan base and sent out targeted, country-specific Facebook messages to further compliment the campaign and to encourage non-UK sales. You can see a full overview of the campaign here.
> How important is midem for discovering new ways your artists can engage with their fans?
Hugely important, all the main players attend each year. It gives artists access to the people behind new platforms, brands, promoters and up and coming technologies.
All of our “Who needs labels?” interviews are here.