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How “Thinking Like Fans” Ups Your Marketing Game


When you’re a music aficionado — whether as an artist or a fan — it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the multitude of bands and releases. After all, there’s a ton of music out there with new songs and albums released every single day. In an effort to spare listeners from major FOMO when their favorite artists come out with new material, Kobalt’s VP of Digital Marketing Strategy David Emery decided to brainstorm a new way to make sure fans never miss new music: streaming pre-saves.

Much like the good ol’ album presale in days of yore, pre-saves allow fans to save singles, albums, EPs, etc. in advance of their release and get notified when they’re officially available. Kobalt debuted the feature for a Laura Marling album, which resulted in thousands of pre-saves according to Emery.

The key is “trying to think how your fans think,” says Emery. Even though you’re likely in full-on musician mode most of the time, when it comes to music promotion and outward-facing marketing campaigns, put yourself in your fans’ shoes. Because there is so much new music, how will yours avoid getting lost in the shuffle?

Thinking like your audience, and knowing exactly where and how to reach them, is more important than ever to cut through the noise. Tap into that, and enable them to have the best possible experience with what you’re creating. Pre-saves might just be a logical first step, but the “think like a fan” mentality expands way beyond the music itself — it should become part of your strategy as an artist.


{Editor’s Note: Below is a version of a post originally showcased on MusicAlly, a premier provider of digital music journalism and consultancy. For the full article, please click here.}


David Emery, VP of global marketing strategy at Kobalt Music Recordings discussed Kobalt’s pre-save campaign for Laura Marling, focusing on three more generally-applicable lessons: taking time to give yourself the space for ideas; try to think how your audience thinks; and then repeat and improve rather than just doing one-offs.

A pre-save is a way of taking the traditional pre-order mechanic and making it work for streaming services: fans ‘pre-save’ an album and any pre-release singles into their playlists and collection.

“It came from me missing a release by an artist I really liked,” said Emery. “They released an EP last year and I totally missed that it came out.” But Emery was also reading Spotify’s API to figure out what a label can do on top of it.

“I went for a walk, and I just had all these things whirling around my head. What is it that we can do here? And it literally just came to me: we can use this API, make a thing that’s like pre-ordering, but or Spotify. That would work really well, and would be really quite sraightforward! The functionality had been there for years in the API,” he said.

That walk was important. “Take time to give yourself the space for ideas. No one has ever come up with a great idea sitting at their desk, doing email, on their computer. Ideas come from being out in the world, giving yourself space to breathe… Give yourself space, go to an art gallery. Get away from your computer!”

Once the feature was developed, Kobalt made sure that fans got an email when a track or album was released, with a direct link to their collection on Spotify. “That tactic of really thinking about how someone might interact with what you’re doing is really crucial,” he said.

Try to think how your audience thinks. You shouldn’t really be taking the thought process of ‘how am I going to push this out to a fanbase?’. It’s if you’re a fan of this artist, how would you like to receive it?”

Did it work? “It by far and away exceeded our expectations of what it was going to do. The biggest pre-order experience for the Laura Marling album… it’s useful to see that as a bit of a benchmark. We’re talking thousands of people doing this as opposed to hundreds.”

Kobalt has gone on to use the technology a lot more, having built the feature to be reusable for other artists, including established artists and new acts.

Version 2.0 launched earlier this summer. New artists often don’t have a new album: they’re releasing a succession of tracks instead. “Albums are coming a lot later in how people are working,” said Emery. The new version is called ‘artist subscriptions’ applying the same concept to an artist rather than a release.

“Every time an artist releases something, it gets added to your library and you get a notification as well,” said Emery, who stressed this idea of building on previous campaigns.

“Don’t just do a one-off. We’ve all as digital marketing people gone ‘we can do this thing and it’ll be great and it’ll work for this campaign’ then the next campaign comes along and you don’t do it, because you’ve already done it… But this is a product, it isn’t a digital marketing gimmick.”


Apply the “thinking like your audience” mindset to every part of your marketing strategy, whether it leads to planning meet-and-greets after shows, creating a line of exclusive merch, or simply shaking up your social-media strategy. By thinking like one of your fans, you’re in the best position to not only reach your fans but also achieve your marketing goals.

Get started by discovering more about your audience than you ever thought possible. Tools like the AWAL App delve deep into details like demographics, which means you can better target your efforts and maximize the reach and effectiveness of everything you do. It’s a way to get to know your fans better than ever, anticipate their wants and needs, and, yes, begin to think like they do.


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