A few months ago (after becoming annoyed with myself for learning about Macklemore just late enough to jump on the bandwagon), I set out to discover new music. I began exploring the Internet and learned that finding talent isn’t so easy.
There’s no single source for finding up-and-coming artists. They’re sprinkled around the Internet, typically on sites such as YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, ReverbNation, and the like. In all honesty, many of the people I found were (in my humble opinion) mediocre at best. Their music videos were more like bad pornography. The rapping was predictable and the auto-tune was overused. Making unidentifiable grunts isn’t artistic, it just doesn’t resonate well from my earbuds. I finally stumbled upon a few acts I liked, one of them being Radical Something.
I sifted through their SoundCloud and found dozens of songs–a dream for anyone who is frustrated by Myspace’s and Spotify’s relentless advertisements. The more I listened, the more I liked it. It combined a beachy vibe with rap that had a positive message and choruses that were sung by a real voice rather than a machine. As much as I love hip-hop/rap music, I grow weary of lyrics that objectify women, glorify violence, and focus on nothing but sex. This is a Jason Mraz feel crossed with Sam Adams circa 2010 mixed with a little bit of The Script and John Mayer. Essentially, they’re unique.
In my experience, one of the shortcomings of the music industry is creating a true community between the artists and the fans. It’s understandable; if Justin Bieber is pushing forty million Twitter followers, he can’t send personal messages to every single one of them. However, Radical Something has about fifteen thousand accounts that have opted-in to their feed on Twitter alone. They’re able to create far more meaningful experiences via the Internet and they’re utilizing it well.
I received a Ticketmaster alert when they concert was booked for Boston, but many people wouldn’t have set up that feature. Fortunately, the band has repeatedly sent social media blasts with their concert dates. This is smart for two reasons: (1) by tweeting the same message multiple times, they’re more likely that a larger portion of the followers will see it and (2) seeing the same message multiple times can persuade an individual to act. Radical Something then put a phone number out so fans could text and receive information about upcoming albums and tour dates. How do I know it’s legit? I received the picture below from the group’s rapper, Alex Lagemann (also known as Loggy), along with album information upon texting the given number. I’ve since texted with questions regarding the concert and received answers within 24 hours.
All this is important because within a community, there needs to be some reciprocity. People who put in the effort to be supportive want something in return; in regards to musicians, it’s usually some form of recognition. Not only does Radical Something respond to their fans via text message (which is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard of), but they also respond regularly to tweets. I’ve posted information numerous times and received favorites and courteous replies. As a listener, I feel like my interest is of importance to them.
They have also coordinated their efforts well regarding their recent album release. Prior work has been available for free legal download from Soundcloud, encouraging people to put the music on iPods. They established a fan base before releasing the latest work, Ride It Out, which was only available for purchase, not legal download. Ride It Out is a thirteen-track compilation that picks up where their previous work, We Are Nothing, left off. It has a similar sound but expands on their capabilities and further develops the group. They put the album up for pre-order on iTunes, but allowed listeners to access it via SoundCloud. In recent weeks, they’ve created music videos for many of the songs. In a visual society, this is particularly valuable. It’s quite easy to share a music video via social media and visual content gets as much as twice the activity as a textual post. Additionally, I like the music videos; it’s a pleasant surprise when it doesn’t ruin my perception of the song (cough cough “We Can’t Stop” cough cough).
They’ve continued creating music even after the album release (it’s like the cherry on top). One of the opening acts for some of their shows–Outasight is featured on a single called “Ghost Town”, along with Kinetics (the author of the hook for B.o.B and Hayley Williams’ “Airplanes”), which was released on September 17th, about two weeks after Ride It Out became available. They’re generating buzz for themselves and their fellow musicians, mixing fan bases and raising awareness for all groups.
The next challenge will be reaching audiences that may be appropriate but are unfamiliar with Radical Something–such as Jason Mraz or Sammy Adams fans. Radical Something is currently using Jamplify to incentivize fan for promoting their concert through social media; those who post are entered in a contest to win VIP tickets. By encouraging existing fans to post this content and broadcast it to their followers, Radical Something is increasing the chances of gaining new listeners. However, that reach may not be broad enough.
This is the challenge with music and its promotions–it largely stays in within the same, self-selected audience. The musicians post on Twitter; perhaps they get a few dozen retweets from followers, but even that extended circle only goes so far. It’s breaking through to new groups of interest that can deliver significant results and increase their number of loyal listeners. Translating online activity into physical sales and personal engagement is the meaningful and financially powerful component.
I’m happy to see the success the group has had so far and I’m interested to see how they will promote their music in the future. I hope they’ll continue to be great listeners to their fans by responding to tweets, text messages, and giving us the information about their creative process. Most of all, I can’t wait to see them perform in Boston on Sunday!