Artist Strategy: “Story Time”


What separates Deadmau5 from Dyro, or Rihanna from Rox? Why do we recognize certain names – certain brands – so well and others maybe not so much? It’s safe to say that talent wise, these artists are comparable; their production or vocal chops alone aren’t enough to propel them to the front of the minds of music consumers. So what is it? What makes Joel and Robyn different and what leads listeners to go to them first for a music fix? If it’s not all about the final product, then why do we as independent artists tend to lock ourselves away in dark bedrooms, littered with discarded bags of Doritos, painstakingly self-producing an EP that embodies months or even years of deliberation and practice, only to post it online to a tepid-at-best response from friends and family? What can we do differently?

We can strategize, of course!

Artists are quick to consider independent and major label business practices decidedly incompatible – but there’s a lot to be learned from the success of the stars and it doesn’t mean lip-syncing or dressing up in a space suit [unless you’re into that].


Intro To Consumer Choice 

The kind academic community of marketing scholars offers an analysis of consumer decision-making that we can apply to the music business. It’s a series of educated guesses regarding why buyers buy what they buy. They have identified a “need,” either functional [serving a practical issue] or psychological [satisfying a perceived desire], as the origin of purchase decisions. These needs include anything from hunger to clothing, sleep to self-actualization and the majority of which can be satisfied quite easily and simply. That is hardly ever the case; what’s known as a ‘want’ complicates the equation and it is that ‘want’ position that music competes for. Since, statistically speaking, the reclusive approach to professional artistry doesn’t tend to achieve that position, it takes strategy.


The main problem lies in artists’ product-centric vs. buyer-centric approaches towards strategy. Ever since Henry Ford’s mantra of ‘any color, so long as it’s black’ dissolved into a sea of possibilities and customizable options, consumers have had the final say. Competition between businesses [or in our case, between artists] encouraged the development of ‘different’, of ‘unique’. The pool of options grew and grew and correlated with a growing importance of consumer choice considerations. Consumers are more empowered than ever. As a result, a savvy business [and a savvy artist] looks just as much to what consumers want as to why they want it.

Strategists that understand this are able to do some very interesting and effective things. For now, I’ll discuss a creative approach to pro-consumer strategy that’s been quite successful for those who have pulled it off.

So, relax. It’s story time.

Trent Reznor

In 2007, Trent Reznor began an incredible promotional campaign for the Nine Inch Nails album, Zero. To begin, he circulated a concert t-shirt [seen below] with a hidden URL included in the shirt’s lettering; his clever fans quickly found the website – “”.


The dilapidated looking site, which portrays a world in which the government sedates and controls the population by invading the water supply with a psychoactive drug called “Parepin”, initiated an extensive network of “eerie voice mail, Web sites, Morse code clues hidden in MP3s and messages buried deep within music videos” all leading up to the release of the band’s record. The promotion brought together fans, created an entirely alternative reality, garnered a massive amount of “earned media”, and made Year Zero one of the most memorable experiences a Nine Inch Nails fan could have.



If there’s to take away from Reznor’s creativity, it’s a lesson in creating value through telling a story. As an independent artist, one may not be in a position to stage an extravagant movement, she can work to engage her fans and involve them in what he or she does whether it be consistently live streaming rehearsals or sharing updates on recording projects. There needs to be something to carry the music – a story, a mindset, a video [ahem… Psy/Baauer] – and augmenting the hard work of a self-produced EP with something more tangible can be the difference between two choices. It can be the difference between Deadmau5 and Dyro.

From Songwriting & Artistry to Innovating

New Projects                                                                                                                     Alicia Keys has been one of my favorite singers for a long time. I love and appreciate her knowledge of and passion for music. She sings, plays piano, composes, performs well, acts, and now innovates. She has owned her own business, AK Worldwide for a few years now and together with her staff Bento Box Interactive Holdings LLC, she has recently released her own app. The app is called The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee. It is a children’s storybook with stories that read aloud to you. The different stories are told from different cultures to spread the awareness of other cultures. The app also has games that you can play, a journal you can write in, pictures you can color, a piano you can physically play and music you can listen to, of course composed by Keys.

This being her second app, she is now a pro at entrepreneurship. Her first app released is her Open Mic App, by Sony Music Entertainment, where you can play the instrumental track and sing along to it. You select the song, choose the level of difficulty, and then begin singing. While the tune is playing there is a little bird icon that shows the placement of the pitches by going up and down along with the notes you are to sing and the duration of the note to give you guidance (as shown in the photo below).mzl.gvhsjtxa

AK Worldwide                                                                                                             Keys is definitely broadening her horizons and truly delving into the business world. She has now launcher her own company, AK Worldwide, which assists her in her business affairs including her new apps.

“It [AK Worldwide] really explores the ways I can affect the world in a positive way, even outside of music,” says Keys. They are “in the business of inspiration”. The mission statement is “Be the architect of and invest in businesses that inspire the world”.

She has a website that will be starting up soon. It’s called I Am Super Woman. Here woman can encourage each other and share helpful information to each other. Keys calls it a “fresh new source for positive and inspiring news—a destination that empowers and unleashes the super woman in us all”.

Keys is the new Global Creative Director for BlackBerry. She has also partnered with Reebok Classics and has launched sneakers.

Keys is a philanthropist and is involved in many world-changing causes such as  Keep A Child Alive, where she is their co-founder and Global Ambassador. Keep a Child Alive uses its voice to raise awareness, mobilize people to take action, and rally resources in the global response to HIV.

 The Superwoman is On Fire                                                                                        With 5 albums, 14 Grammys, a viral video and biggest hit “No One” that has over 130 million views, a new album “Girl on Fire”, all of the business opportunities she has stepped into, a marriage and a beautiful baby boy when does she sleep? “This girl is on fire”, lyrics from chart topping single off that album, and she literally is with all that she is accomplishing. She is success in human form.


*NEW* Artist of the Week: BAAUER

The purpose of this blog is to showcase upcoming artists who have either signed with a label or chosen to build their career through a Direct2Fan method.

ALSO KNOWN BY: Captain Harry
BIRTH NAME: Harry Rodrigues

AGE: 22
ORIGIN: Brooklyn, New York, USA

GENRE: Trap and Bass Music
LABEL: LuckyMe Records

TWITTER: 47,706 followers |
YOUTUBE: 1,885,192 video views |
FACEBOOK: 80,983 likes |
SOUNDCLOUD: 62,258 followers |
INSTAGRAM: 11,877 followers |
LAST.FM: 309,197 scrobbles |


Baauer has quickly spread across the US becoming known as the love child of Brooklyn and the Internet. He is an American producer that has cleverly combined the Southern Hip Hop style of bass rhythms with today’s 4/4 dance pop genre.

Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that I fully recognize that Baauer is not someone who would typically be decribed as an “artist.” He’s a producer, right? Well, if we continued with that perspective, this new genre of music that has emerged (Electronic) would technically never have an “artist” to recognize. We associate artist as the face of a creation/work. Therefore, as the producer of these mixes, Baauer is the associated face of these works, and thus deserves this write up on my blog.

I was first introduced to Baauer last Fall at a house party. The DJ played a song that I vaguely recognized, then I realized it was a remix to a song that I already knew. I was so intrigued by the mix that I asked the DJ who it was. Since technically the artist was Wiz Khalifa, I needed to know who produced the remix. The song was “Rollup.” Check it out!

“Rollup” (Baauer Remix):

After discovering Baauer’s remix of “Rollup,” I didn’t really find it necessary to look more into the producer – at that time. However, he resurfaced through a viral video craze of his new single “Harlem Shake.” Somehow, Baauer doesn’t have an official YouTube Channel that hosts his viral hits, but “Harlem Shake” currently has over 13,500,313 views on YouTube hosted by fungmungus in HD. That same song has over 4,480,084 views on hosted by maddecent. The most popular thirty-second video of a group dancing erotically to “Harlem Shake” has over 18,358,978 views on YouTube hosted by hiimrawn. In total, over 40,000 videos have been uploaded by users with over 175 million views. Interestingly, Baauer said in response to the viral craze “It [was] definitely a total shock, but I see it as a very positive thing now. But to me, it came out of nowhere…It came out at like the end of [last] summer, and now it’s like back again, nine months later.” Check them out!

Baauer “Harlem Shake HD”:

Baauer “Harlem Shake” Video Craze:

Baauer is currently managed by Mixed Management Group in Los Angeles, CA, and he recently signed with LuckyMe Records in Glasgow, Scotland. “Harlem Shake” has reached #1 on iTunes chart and the Billboard Hot 100 with over 262,000 sales in the US and 42,373 in the UK. Check out his response to the sudden stardom in this Interview with Music Talks:

I have grown very fond of Baauer’s music. I never imagined supporting a producer in the way I support other artists that sing and/or rap. I look forward to following the growth of his career. He will surely set a new precedence for producers to be featured in the same light as other celebrities in the enterntainment industry. Stay tuned!

Prayre Finley


“Baauer.” Musicfest NW. Web. 21 Feb 2013.

Buyanovsky, Dan. “Baauer and Just Blaze Get High.” Interview Magazine. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.

Caulfield, Keith. “USA.” United World Chart (2013): Billboard Report (Excerpt). Web. 21 Feb 2013.

Jones, Alan. “United Kingdom.” United World Chart(2013): Music Week Report (Excerpt). Web. 21 Feb 2013.

ollieDJZ. “Baauer | Biography.” CBS Interactive, 20 Feb 2013. Web. 21 Feb 2013.

Stern, Marlow. “Meet Baauer, the Man Behind the Harlem Shake.” Daily Beast. 18 Feb 2013: Web. 21 Feb. 2013.

Trust, Gary. “Baauer’s ‘Harlem Shake’ Debuts Atop Revamped Hot 100.” BillboardBiz. 20 Feb 2013: Web. 21 Feb. 2013.

Picture of Yoon Mi Rae from cover of MFBTY new single "Sweet Dream"

*NEW* Artist of the Week: YOON MI RAE

The purpose of this blog is to showcase upcoming artists who have either signed with a label or chosen to build their career through a Direct2Fan method.

ARTIST/GROUP: Yoon Mi Rae (윤미래)
ALSO KNOWN BY: Baby Tasha, Toddler Tasha, t Yoon Mi Rae, T, Baby T, Yoon Mirae BIRTH NAME: Natasha Shanta Reid Yoon
AGE: 31
ORIGIN: South Korea

GENRE: Hip Hop, R&B
LABEL: Jungle Entertainment

TWITTER: 610,841 followers |
YOUTUBE: 3,993 video views |
FACEBOOK: 7,094 likes |


I discovered Yoon Mi Rae at the MIDEM Festival 2013 in Cannes, France. She was interviewed by Emily Gonneau at the Direct2Fan Camp along with her husband Tiger JK (Drunken Tiger) and Kellee Maize earlier that day. I had no idea I was sitting in front of who would become my newest favorite female rapper.

MFBTY was the featured performing group that Sunday evening. Tiger JK lead the first few selections with Bizzy as the MC, but it wasn’t until Yoon Mi Rae took the stage that the audience “turnt up.” The crowd was waving their hands to her flow (myself included), and shouting her call-and-response lyrics. I knew I was really interested when I realized I was enjoying her performance without even being able to understand all of what she was saying. She would switch from rapping in English to Korean at any moment, but she never lost the crowd’s attention. She even had the crowd shouting call-and-response lyrics in Korean!

Check out this video snippet of her I recorded at the Festival:

Yoon Mi Rae definitely has unique characteristics about her rapping. Whether she’s speaking in English or Korean, you appreciate the rhythm of her flow and the mesmerizing tone of her voice. Her father was a DJ, so she was exposed to various genres of music from an early age, especially Hip Hop.

Unfortunately, my research is fairly limited due to my incomprehension of Korean. Most official websites with biographical information about her are only available in Korean because she has not yet expanded to the US (or any other English-speaking countries for that matter) yet.

Yoon Mi Rae is known as the Hip Hop Queen in Korea. Her single “Get It In” ranked #1 on several music sites including Mnet, Olleh Music, Cyworld BGM, Naver Music, Bugs, and Soribada. In 2011, she was the #1 searched personality on major Korean search engines, and I’m certain that only Psy may have overtaken that record since then. Check it out!

Yoon Mi Rae “Get It In”:

Yoon Mi Rae recently collaborated with Tiger JK and Bizzy to form the Hip Hop group MFBTY (My Fans Better Than Yours). They just released their new single “Sweet Dream” in January, and it already has nearly 200,000 views on YouTube. Check it out!

MFBTY “Sweet Dream”:

The group represented South Korea at MIDEM 2013 to bring awareness to other genres of Korean music besides the most popularly known “Gangnam Style.” Here’s their thoughts:

MFBTY Interview at MIDEM 2013 Direct2Fan Camp:

Yoon Mi Rae definitely has me hooked. I look forward to her debut in the US so I can boast to my friends about having discovered her first. If she ever decides to take off in the US, I’m sure she will become the next Nicki Minaj. Stay tuned!

Prayre Finley

Oak, Jessica, and Jeff Benjamin. “MFBTY (Tiger JK, Yoon Mirae and Bizzy) Spread Korean Hip-Hop in France.” BillboardBiz. 05 Feb 2013: Web. 16 Feb 2013.

leesa86. “Yoon Mi Rae (Tasha) swiftly sweeps the charts with ‘Get It In’.” allkpop. 27 Oct 2011: Web. 16 Feb 2013.

The Creator – The Producer, Songwriter, Arranger and Artist

“One-man band” is the new motto, where one man does it all. In today’s music the producers are the engineers, the songwriters, the arrangers and even the artist. Their job description has expanded and continues to. This is happening all over the work industry and it is becoming easier and more of a requirement, in some ways, in the music industry. It allows you to be as creative as you desire, that’s for sure.

Being the Creator

The Producer

The Producer manages the musical creation process. They create the instrumentation or the beat and keep the creativity flowing for all who are involved.

Benjamin “Benny Blanco” Levin has produced for Katy Perry, Rihanna, Kesha, Britney Spears, Trey Songz, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, Bruno Mars and many, many more. He has co-written many songs with Dr. Luke and continues to work closely with him.


The Songwriter

The songwriter writes the music and the lyrics. As a songwriter you are to write a good song with a nice form, chord structure and a great melody. Catchy lyrics stick with the listener and simple is usually better. Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald is a producer and songwriter who has come been around for a while and is still in the spotlight for being a “hit maker”.  He has a background in music as he attended Manhattan School of Music and played in the SNL band for years. He is big fan of co-writing, which can be a helpful tool.

As a lyricist it is very important to make the song relatable. You want those who hear it to be able to say, “I have experienced that” or “Has that songwriter been stalking me?” You also want to show the information, not just tell it and show it in a new way. Punch lines are great and so is creative imagery. You want the listener to follow everything you say and go on the journey with you.

“There are songs I’ve written the lyrics for that have become number one songs, but sometimes I look back and think, “Well, that could’ve been better.” But at the end of the day, when you hear the muzak version of your song, it’s not the lyrics you’re hearing. It’s the melody. And when someone goes to play it on piano, you hear the melody”, says Dr. Luke.


The Arranger

Larry Gold is a renowned arranger who has worked with artists from Kanye West toe Reba McEntire to Patti LaBelle and the list goes on and on. As the arranger you bring a fresh creativity to the song. Development, reharmonzation, transitional additives, time change and adding orchestration are some ways to arrange.

Kanye West, who does it all, is an example of one who has great arrangements. He incorporates beats, samples, live instruments, orchestras and more for his arrangements. Why do people love him? Not only are his rhymes and lyrics great, but he also encompasses and expresses an interest and knowledge of true musicality. He performs with orchestras. Other rappers in the past have used live instruments, but he makes it his own sound. You can tell a Kanye West song by the beat and instrumentation. He does different things for different projects that work.


The Artist                                                                                                                                  As the artist is your job to connect with the music and the lyrics and bring to life your interpretation. You are a creator in your own way to create meaning and portrayal of emotion and feeling through the performance.  Michael Jackon, Ray Charles, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Adele, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga among others are known for their star-quality performances. Not only do they relate to the music and emotionally connect with it, but they make the experience of listening to or watching them a memorable one. They bring in great aspects and creativity to have the audience enjoy their recorded and live performance.  Aspects such as movement, dancing, crowd engagement, live instruments, charisma, passion and more.


Evolving with the Times

One of the most important facts about the music industry is that it is forever changing and evolving. As the creator and the artist you must evolve with it to stay current and successful in growing your audience. Your audience is always looking for what’s new and if you are stuck in what already happened you may not be around for too much longer.


K-Pop artist Park “Psy” Jae-sang (Berklee College of Music Alum) with “Gangnam Style”, released music that was rapidly growing as the current style. This Strategy is used in all industries. Invent or create the trend for the next big thing or observe what is quickly growing into the next big thing and jump on the front wagon of it.

The Hit vs. the Song

There has been a lasting battle between “good” music and “pop” music (not necessarily popular music). Do you support the talented musicians or go for the new Dance song. An example is Justin Bieber vs. Esperanza Spalding at the 2012 Grammy tor Best New Artist. Esperanza took home the Grammy, which shocked the nation because of how “popular” Justin Bieber was. Not always will the “hit” win it and definitely not always will the “song” win it. The key here is to love what you have created and hopefully others will love it as well. In the end do what you love and what you can be proud of.

“If you go in just wanting a hit song, it’s not going to happen that way. You have to first be committed to making music you like.” – Dr. Luke

Recognizing The Value of Community

Artists in today’s music industry are a brand.

It seems we in the industry are hearing that phrase thrown around on a daily basis. It’s clear this knowledge is becoming increasingly widespread as case studies on Lady Gaga’s success are as trending as she herself. But while brands are worth developing, it is important to understand how they can be effective – only as part of a larger initiative. The most impressive examples of commercial entertainers are not successful because they are a good brand, but rather because they are leaders of a lifestyle and most importantly – of a community. Gaga’s success is attributable to her faultless positioning and unwavering commitment to her ideals of originality, expression, and confidence. But only by embodying these qualities and establishing her brand with authenticity has she become the industry’s most effective example of a leader of a community.



Branding is only a part of the picture. 

Ever since its origins on cattle farms, branding has encompassed anything and everything done to clearly and quickly differentiate one thing from another. In the frozen pizza industry, branding efforts allow us consumers to make decisions based on expectation. In the music industry, however, it’s how we convey the most information about an artist in the shortest amount of time through coordinating every aspect of his or her presence in hopes that we’ll get a listen [and hopefully, a second listen.] Effective branding is imperative in our attempts to stand out amongst endless competition – but is only a part of what needs to be done to flourish as an artist. In order to effectively construct our own strategies or those of the artists with which we work, we have to consider our branding in terms of how it can establish community. As we understand, a brand means nothing without a loyal following and the most effective means of creating a following is to adopt a position that resonates with a group of people. When this group of people is able to rise through social ranks, whether through size or passion, the artist grows as well. To lead these supporters, an artist needs to be as much a member as she is a leader. As such, her ideals are understandable, communal, and inherently authentic. In terms of brand partnerships, which are quickly becoming more and more prevalent to combat dwindling record sales, there are only a handful of thinkers getting it right. More often than not, overt brand sponsorship agreements do not promote idealistic resonance with the increasingly discerning marketplace. We, as those responsible for marketing these values, need to pay attention to the potential effects of brand affiliation before accepting such deals.

Communities & Music

Community must not be considered only an artist-centric phenomenon. If the industry was really based entirely on artist branding efforts, there would be little explanation for the rise and fall of genres such as Electronic Dance Music or Indie Rock, which have far too much depth and complexity to be effectively branded. The surging popularity of both genres have coincided with a growing and developing family of fans. Forums for aspiring producers and illustrious electronic festivals have spread throughout the United States, establishing the required network of support for the EDM genre to creep its way into pop music and the country’s aural lexicon. Similarly, were it not for the a growing awareness of and interest in the quirky lives of hipsters, their lo-fi soundtrack of indie music could not have become a genre of choice for our nation’s youth and the speciality of 2013’s best new artist, fun.

Wait - I'm pretty sure we were making fun of those glasses last year. Why do I now own a pair?

Wait – I’m pretty sure we were making fun of those glasses last year. Why do I now own a pair?

Communities are powerful.

While Lady Gaga commands one of the most extensive and passionate families of little monsters, Justin Bieber’s legion of beliebers just may be the most devoted. Despite one of the most vehement slander campaigns from a horde of naysayers a million strong, Bieber’s fan-base has thrived and grown. The adversity has only served to create a tighter, more exclusive community of fans – one that new members are excited and proud to join.

The passion and support of a community is the driving force of success in our modern music industry. From local artists to the superstars, an artist’s family is a source of inspiration, creativity, sanity, happiness, and, of course, the money to continue creating. Thus, it is not the branding we need to focus on, but how the branding relates to and serves our over-arching efforts to lead a population of friends and fans. If we can succeed at that task, we can survive in the volatility of the music business.