The Orchard’s College Marketing Reps (CMRs) ongoing primary goal is to create awareness of The Orchard’s distributed artists and labels by building relationships with their audiences and producing unique creative content. College marketing consists of 15 reps all in different states. The team is designed to integrate strategy and perspective from a college marketing standpoint within the artist team’s overall marketing strategy for new releases. Prior to the pandemic, CMRs relied heavily on promoting artists through live events, physical promo like posters, stickers, t-shirts, and providing their community with discovery tools like playlists, live virtual events, and merch sites. Last year in March, the CMR team had to shift gears and find new ways to connect with their audience due to COVID-19 and social distancing measures. From that moment on, reps have pivoted to successfully promote artists and labels throughout the pandemic. Now the reps promote virtual events, use creative advertising techniques, and focus on their local markets. CMRs have quickly adapted to the virtual lifestyle and have established strategies to help them do so.
Bringing show chatter online
CMR’s audiences have lost a favorite aspect of music: concerts. Music fans of varying genres are looking for ways to celebrate music; this is where the power of the internet has come into play. “Now more than ever, people just want to talk about music. We are all so withdrawn from having these long nerdy conversations with strangers at shows about what bands we like,” said CMR from Portland, Kevin Mellmer. “Keep these conversations flowing, and there will be no shortage of engagement.”
Because COVID-19 has resulted in an increase in online presence, CMRs feel it’s a necessity to keep their content fresh in order to keep their audiences engaged. By paying close attention to what draws viewers in and what artists they are most excited to hear about, CMRs have been able to curate their posts to provide and play on the idea of; if you like that artist, you’ll definitely like this one. CMR Morgan Badurak agrees, “Meeting your audience where they are is important,” said the New Orleans rep. “I think this takes research and consistent monitoring, as well as being ready to shift your focus, even if it is mid-campaign.”
Tapping into local markets
Tapping into local markets is a crucial strategy for CMRs to engage and better connect with their audiences, whether it’s keeping up with local hashtags, Facebook groups, or even virtual events happening at local lifestyle accounts. Driving audiences to local record stores keeps them engaged and allows them to easily find the artists The Orchard promotes. Additionally, music lovers want to support record stores and artists. Sharing photos of local shops and record stores increases engagement among CMRs specific market and creates the idea of community and connection to that community through music. “I began to tap into my local market by launching a performance series called Stoop Sounds Sessions that featured some of the most talented artists in the Philadelphia area,” said CMR, Cameron Rogers.
“This appealed to my audience because it was everyday people that they may or may not know that would be featured in our series.” The capitalization of music and community leads to more opportunities to interact with social account followers. CMR Bri Bacchus feels using a variety of local content from Miami keeps things interesting for her audience, allows growth, and keeps engagement high. “It also gives everyone in my audience something to relate to, which keeps them interested in my profiles and, as a result, keeps more eyes on our artists and their music and benefits our artists’ promotions overall.
Increasing Engagement Online
Interacting with followers can look like many things. Whether it be merch giveaways, messaging followers about virtual events, conducting polls to see which songs audiences favor from given albums, or even asking followers what kind of content they are interested in. Whatever the case, CMR’s audiences are what bring value to their content, making them susceptible to suggestions and trying out new strategies. Minneapolis’ CMR, Greg Dobihal, said, “COVID-19 has driven nearly all of my engagement online. It’s forced me to adapt and find new and engaging ways to organically promote music. With so much traffic online, it can be difficult to rise ‘above the noise,’ and I find that organically promoting music by placing authentic pictures in my feed can drive better engagement.”
Live music: From in-person to online
Although the in-person events have come to a halt, for The Orchard, the live events continue, though in a different format. “As a CMR team, we have helped organize and promote Solo Sessions with various artists,” said CMR from Chicago, Maria Schroeder. “These posts helped connect our pages, but also helped us create unique promotional features for The Orchard artists. CMRs have successfully connected music lovers and promoted artists by driving engagement to these virtual events.“After moving to completely digital promotions, our team had to figure out more innovative ways to highlight artists. One of the ways we did this was through Solo Sessions, a virtual performance organized by the College Marketing team,” said Saylor Nedelman, CMR from San Francisco. Solo Sessions are a great way to give audiences opportunity for live events, Q&A’s, and a listening party feel.
Overall, the CMR team has heavily relied on one another to keep creative content flowing and discover new ideas that will take promotion to the next level. Being a part of the music industry during the pandemic has been very experimental for CMRs. Still, it has reassured artists and audiences that music will always be a means of connection.