The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and ultimately drive a profitable customer interaction.”
A smart content marketing plan will not only lead to more money, but if done well, it fits seamlessly into what you as an artist are already doing. In fact it gives you more avenues to create and tell your story.
A great example of an artist who uniquely uses content marketing is Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino.
Although he’s now recognized for his stealthy marketing approaches that keep his fans guessing, he has always been a great content marketer.
In the lead-up to his album, Because the Internet in 2013, he started his content marketing run by releasing a short film called Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, which set the stage for his album.
When the album was released, there was an accompanying movie script on a website titled becausetheinter.net. The script took the album's story deeper. While the album already told a full story and gave a sonic landscape, the script added another layer to that, making fans want to engage and sit with the product longer.
Within the script, there were audio clips, so fans would know which songs matched sections of the script, and short scenes.
Real Life or Fan Fiction?
Aspects of the script were brought to life with fictional Twitter accounts. These profiles were mentioned in the script, and translated into real life accounts filled with made-up tweets that fit the personality of the character.
This approach is something Donald has continued with his show Atlanta, where a character was introduced and quickly given a real Instagram account, crossing the barriers between real life and the world created within the art.
Secret Tracks and Enhanced Artwork
Within the script for Because the Internet, Donald left a secret track. However this wasn’t something that would immediate satisfy fans without some work on their end. Instead he left an open loop until his following project.
Donald enhanced the cover art of his album by making .GIF versions, using fan art versions as his avatars, and making sure there was holographic cover art on some physical copies of the album to mimic the .GIF.
Uniquely Engaging Music Videos
The next phase of his marketing campaign were the visuals. While the songs in Because the Internet told an overarching story and had an accompanying movie script, he could have easily made the videos into scenes from the movie.
Instead, to keep fans guessing, he made very unique music videos. His lyric video for 3005 featured a fake cam session with Abella Anderson, who had previously appeared in Clapping for the Wrong Reasons.
Furthermore, his music videos had unique twists that were different from the songs, giving fans a reason to watch, share, discuss, and be on the lookout for the next one.
Donald also approached his PR and interviews with an agenda and purpose during this time.
Instead of simply promoting his album, Donald also decided to share knowledge. He kept randomly advising his fans to “learn how to code” because he felt it was a very valuable skill to have.
But this advice wasn't random. It related to a hidden treasure.
When Donald released a follow-up mixtape, STN MTN/Kauai, a new version of the hit song 3005 from Because the Internet was on the track list of the tape—but it was only a beat.
An industrious fan remembered the secret track from the Because the Internet script and took Donald's coding advice to heart. While diging through the site’s source code, that fan found the completed version of Beach Picnic 3005!
The engagement Donald received from this was incredible. Just imagine his fans poring over his music, digging deep for every shred of meaning, discussing their theories on what he was trying to do and how to figure out his clues.
It was pure genius.
Push New Technology
Donald has continued his integrated content marketing approach with recent projects, both in and out of music.
With his Pharos concert, he developed an app that created a countdown for fans on when they would receive information. This countdown was also used as a hub to buy tickets.
After the concert, he changed the app from a utility app to an entertainment app by releasing the video of his first single off his new album, Awaken, My Love, on the app. He included a virtual reality viewing option through the app, pushing the latest available technology.
Photo Credit: Genius.com
With his television show Atlanta, he uses content marketing by taking things mentioned in the show and creating graphics, memes, and .gifs for them on social media to keep fans engaged.
This is just one example of a an artists paying attention to the details and creating a full blown content marketing experience for his fans entertainment.
There’s obviously multiple ways to go about the content marketing approach, but we suggest letting your creativity fuel it. Don’t see it as extra work, but as a creative outlet to allow you to expand on your vision, ideas, and brand.
This incredible use of content marketing is a snippet from our book, Music Marketing 101: Building A Fanbase, The book is a great resource if you need help developing engaging content and building a plan that'll build a strong, loyal fanbase.