Last November, Taylor Swift sent a shockwave throughout the music community by announcing that she was pulling her entire catalogue from Spotify, pressing the stop button on their then 50 million strong userbase.
While her justification for doing so was questionable at best, it definitely turned out to be a great move for her. Her fans responded by making her new album, 1989, perform historically well. Nearly 1.3 million albums were sold in the first week alone - something that had not happened since 2002, well before the digital streaming era.
However, Taylor Swift was not the only one to benefit from this. Spotify walked away with even more lucrative results. The streaming service just announced that since November, both their paying and total active user count increased by an unreal 20% to 15 million and 60 million respectively.
Rdio CEO Anthony Bay commented in a December interview with Quartz on the massive publicity created by Taylor Swift. “I think it is going to be good for the industry long-term, because part of the problem with streaming right now is that free on-demand is too good [to be true].”
What initially looked like intense backlash towards streaming services led by one of the biggest superstars in the world may actually turn out to be the catalyst that catapults streaming services to the forefront of music listening. Any publicity is good publicity (most of the time).
The same could be said for musicians. In fact, many famous artists were discovered through a controversial publicity stunt. One great example is 50 Cent, who was largely unknown until How to Rob, a track he wrote in a 30 minute car ride where he comically raps about how he would rob other famous rappers. Some of these rappers responded (albeit negatively), but one, Nas, actually invited him to tour. The rest is history.
A more recent story is Miley Cyrus, whose controversial twerk dance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, as awkward as it was, instantly rebranded her and allowed her to shed her image as child star Hannah Montana. She is now enjoying a sustained career as one of America's premier pop stars. She almost surely would have fallen to irrelevance were it not for the non-stop media coverage of her bold and controversial antics.
Its all part of the plan
When embarking on a music career, you as an artist are not just a professional musician. You are also a public relations coordinator at the same time. The better you understand your fan base, the more effectively you can engage them. Creating a strong publicity stunt is indeed risky, but can pay off if you know how to calculate the risks and stay on course.
What are some interesting ways you have seen musicians gain quick attention in the past? Were they able to hold onto it? Comment in the section below!