Chris Reed
Dec 18, 2013

Beyonce and AC/DC use social media to rock the charts

Finally the music industry has woken up to the power of social media. Beyonce’s surprise new album has blown away all iTunes records with no traditional marketing, and AC/DC will have their biggest hit in 40 glorious years, both thanks to the power of social media.

Beyonce and AC/DC use social media to rock the charts

Social media is all about ECRM and targeting, and both of these examples demonstrate that basic principle of direct marketing perfectly. Some people think it went away, but it just got reclassified as social or digital or content but it’s still direct.

AC/DC are celebrating 40 years in existence, and to mark the event fans have used social media in the UK to attempt to get their classic “Highway to Hell” to become an unforgettable Xmas No.1. In the UK the Xmas No.1 is a big deal that bands covet, and the Xmas week is easily the biggest selling week for singles sales.

It is usually dominated by the winner of the X-Factor, but a social-media campaign a couple of years ago succeeded in preventing the X-Factor winner from becoming No.1 by placing Rage Against the Machine’s expletive-ridden single “Killing in the Name” at No.1  AC/DC fans are trying to replicate this success.

For those who have complained that “Highway to Hell” is not very Christmassy, you are clearly missing the point and the irony. Personally I would have gone for “Back in Black”. Much more appropriate.

Fans are being urged to download the 1979 single this week in a bid to secure the coveted Christmas number one slot. A message posted on the campaign's Facebook.com page reads, "Christmas No.1 2013. It's your choice. AC/DC are coming. Remember though we are all here primarily to celebrate 40 years of AC/DC. Wouldn't it be sweet to grab Mr Cowell by the big balls at the same time we salute the greatest band on the planet?". They now have over 750,000 fans on Facebook willing to drive this hit to be No.1. Let there be rock.

Beyonce has followed in the footsteps of Daft Punk and husband Jay-Z who used social media and in the latter case a deal with Samsung to sell and distribute their content. Beyonce has gone a step further though. Not only has she surprised everyone with the release of a brand new “visual album” but she has sold almost a million copies of her entire album on iTunes by focusing on her existing fan base through social media.

Beyonce does have more than 54 million “likes” on Facebook. That's more than Coca Cola, which famously said that it could not measure the monetisation and sales of these “likes”. Beyonce appears to have proven that you can monetise them. Even then she really is just scraping the surface as less than 1 in 50 actually downloaded the album legally, although the album still set an iTunes record.

Add to this another 13 million fans on Twitter plus 8 million on Instagram, those on Tumblr and other platforms, and there you have a very cost-effective direct-marketing campaign. ECRM perfectly executed—and without any hard media costs.

Beyoncé simply posted a video featuring images of her and the cover of the album on Instagram, with the caption “Surprise!”. After her announcement on the social-media site, the 14-song album appeared for sale on iTunes, as did 17 different videos from it.

The news quickly spread well past Beyoncé’s core audience. According to data from Twitter cited by Billboard, the news generated 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours and became a news story in itself. Other stars like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga promoted it to their millions of followers on social media, magnifying the attention. The album also quickly gained critical acclaim.

iTunes and Beyoncé’s label, Sony, negotiated a deal whereby iTunes not only got the exclusive rights to sell the album until December 21 but also the stipulation that none of the individual tracks are available separately. This meant that people had to buy the entire album, which generated greater revenue for the record label and artist. With little airplay and no costly and wasted mass communications, Beyoncé’s marketing team pulled off a real coup by focusing purely on her existing fans on social media.

SiriusXM Radio’s programme direction Dion Summers said that rather than wait for Beyoncé’slabel to deliver the music (as there was an embargo before the iTunes release and even the CD was not manufactured before the iTunes release to prevent leaks) he bought the album early on iTunes himself and began to play the songs “Drunk in Love” and “Partition” immediately.

This used to be called direct marketing. Now it’s called ECRM or social media marketing but effectively it’s the same thing. It could even be called classic content marketing. It’s actually logical and very cost-effective targeted marketing. Find a Beyoncé fan on social media, tell them about the new album, funnily enough they are more the likely to buy it.

Or you can spend millions of dollars on TV or posters or newspapers where maybe 1 per cent of people are Beyoncé fans. Not only do you have fewer sales but also you spend a lot more money in targeting people who have no potential to buy the album. Call this revolutionary or just call it common sense. Either way music marketers appear to have woken up to the opportunities of social media database segmentation.

Only just recently Justin Timberlake was being hailed as a marketing genius for the way he marketed his latest album. He blitzed late night-television and was in commercials for Target and Bud Light Platinum before releasing “The 20/20 Experience” in March. Beyoncé trumps Justin.

Compare and contrast. This new Beyoncé album sold almost 900,000 copies in only four days through a no-hype, surprise social-media campaign. Beyonce’s previous album, released with all the usual hype/interviews/new singles/TV campaigns and so on, and available in all music stores on and offline only sold 300,000 copies in the first week.

That means a traditional multimillion dollar campaign sold three times less than a minimal cost, surprise social-media campaign. The future of music marketing is here, and it’s social.

 

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