Hey! There’s a new Trapital Podcast episode out today. I interviewed Mike Weissman, President of SoundCloud.
Quick question for you all – do you enjoy the podcast transcripts? I haven’t done one since my interview with Forbes’ Zack O’Malley Greenburg. If there’s value, I’ll bring back. Reply to this update and let me know.
This Trapital Member Update covers why Instagram’s upcoming change to “likes” is blown out of proportion, why more artists may try text message marketing as an alternative, and how Tyler The Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw and Travis Scott’s Astroworld can succeed on competing weekends because of identified niches.
The Instagram “likes” issue is blown out of proportion
Instagram plans to remove the public visibility of “likes,” which has caused quite the commotion, especially among hip-hop’s stars.
Here’s Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri via WIRED:
“Right now we’re testing making like counts private, so you’ll be able to see how many people liked a given photo or video of yours but no one else will. And in seven countries including Brazil, Japan, and Canada. We’re actually announcing that we’ll start testing in the U.S. next week… It’s about young people. The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them, but it’s really focused on young people. We have to see how it affects how people feel on the platform, how it affects how they use the platform, how it affects the creator ecosystem, I’ve spent a lot of time on this personally.”
As you’ve likely seen, people aren’t having it. In response, Nicki Minaj posted an Instagram live video to share her take:
“Instagram is about to take away everyone’s likes simply because they don’t want you to go off on the side forming all sorts of businesses saying you get this amount of likes, and charging brands. They want you to have to pay them, see. If you pay them, that’s why we have all these sponsored Instagram posts… So you guys that build your businesses by saying ‘hey this is the amount of likes I get,’ now those companies will have to go and pay Instagram, so they can have a post that says ‘Sponsored’…”
Cardi B said this via Instagram:
“Where I think that Instagram got a little nasty, and it just took a weird turn, was when people started to like the comments, when they were allowed to like comments or reply back to somebody’s comments. If anything is affecting Instagram right now, it’s the way the comments have been done or have been changing these past few years. I feel people been sayin’ the most weirdest shit, been starting the craziest arguments, been starting to race bait because they want to get to the top…”
Now, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Instagram’s (and Facebook’s) motives considering how these services have been managed over the years. But the response to this particular decision has been blown well out of proportion. Mosseri said likes will STILL be visible to private accounts, they just won’t be public. The popular media headline is that likes will be “gone.” That’s incorrect, and it’s irresponsible that most media sites ran with that story.
Influencers will still be able to use their private like numbers as a data point to make business deals, no different than a company using its Mailchimp open rate data and email list size to secure ad revenue. None of those stats are public for any company unless the company chooses to share.
The difference though, which is one of Nicki’s underlying point, is that MailChimp (or ConvertKit which I use for Trapital) charges its users whereas Instagram doesn’t. Instagram makes money primarily through ads and sponsored posts. But it’s not an open platform, so that could change at any moment.
Instagram would love to find a better way to charge influencers. Any time a business creates an opportunity for other businesses to capture value without an arranged partnership—whether its Instagram and influencers, or Live Nation and ticket scalpers—the originating business will want to capture that value in some way. The issues Nicki raised may come to fruition soon enough, but the platform isn’t there (yet).
Cardi’s issues with the problematic comments section are legitimate as well. But considering Instagram and Facebook’s longstanding issues moderating hate speech and other troublesome behavior, it may take some time for that to be addressed.
‘Community’ and text messaging fans
As stars become frustrated with Instagram and other platforms, text message communication has been on the rise.
Community is the latest program to capture the celebrity zeitgeist of fan engagement. From Billboard:
“OneRepublic is one of about 300 movie star acts — from Paul McCartney and Marshmello to Diddy and Jennifer Lopez — who’ve given out their digits in latest months, asking followers to textual content them at seemingly private numbers that always bear the realm codes of their hometowns. Behind their outreach is a startup referred to as Community, backed by Madonna’s longtime supervisor Guy Oseary, co-founder and principal of Live Nation’s Maverick administration group. He’s betting that texting will permit artists to wrest details about the identities, whereabouts and preferences of their most engaged followers away from Twitter, Facebook’s Instagram, Alphabet, Apple and Spotify, which guard such knowledge carefully.”
Text message marketing, and more broadly, mobile marketing, is nothing new in hip-hop. In 2005, Mike Jones proudly picked up 281-330-8004 and made sure his fans knew he would pick up:
When SwishaHouse was at its peak, Jones got 40,000 calls a day. But he only picked up the phone when he was available, which was limited hours of the day. Soulja Boy tried something similar with 2009’s “Kiss Me Thru The Phone,” which had the memorable line “678 triple 9, 8212.” The concept was there, but the technology wasn’t there to sustain the inbound demand. There was no CMS, clearly!
Ryan Leslie was also ahead of the curve with SuperPhone, which launched in 2016 to manages calls and text messaging. The company has been slowly expanding the product, but it’s still in beta mode and access is very limited.
Community positions itself as a preferred alternative to both social media marketing and email marketing with some impressive, yet questionable, stats.
From the company’s website:
“Text messages have ridiculously high open rates (like 90%-of-them-read-within-three-seconds high). Our phone numbers are precious and personal. Giving out your number feels like an intimate exchange. We care about the texts we get because we care about who they’re from.”
90% within three SECONDS? Really? While I expect text marketing to yield higher engagement than social or email, that stat seemed generous. I did more research and have seen this stat more often reported as 90% within three minutes, which is more believable. Still impressive, but details matter.
The challenge though, is that text marketing stats are heavily skewed toward personal texts, not marketing texts. While the “average company” may have email open rates in the 20-30% range, that rate is much higher for 1-to-1 communication. In the 1990s, email rates were sky-high before companies started using it.
Anecdotally speaking, text message stats are likely far less impressive for 1-to-many outreach (e.g. political campaigns), but the data isn’t there yet. Apps like Community are opt-in, unlike political ads, so the engagement should be relatively higher. All these nuanced data points, such as one-to-many stats, opt-in vs not, links, “click rates” if there’s a link in the text message—will become more valid over time.
The playbooks for text message marketing do exist, but they’re less developed than email and social media. Smart artists (and the companies who partner with them) will know how to use it best. Here are some examples:
- Send links to content (articles, link to a new song, interviews)
- Run giveaways (e.g. remember when Kanye West did a prize giveaway from whoever guessed what TLOP stood for before he announced The Life of Pablo album? He did it on Twitter, which is difficult to manage. Text is a better platform for this)
- Get feedback from fans on merchandise (e.g. choose A, B, or C, the top choice gets posted on the website tomorrow)
- Advance notice on concert tickets
If an artist goes overboard and treats Community like tweets or Instagram stories, that artist will likely get unsubscribed faster than an unsolicited email.
This is a space I’ll continue to monitor as more and more artists use tools like Community, Fan Connect, SuperPhone. It’s still early, but the product will develop over time.
Camp Flog Gnaw and Astroworld Festivals
We’ve approached the point where artist-run hip-hop festivals are now on the same weekend! While there may be a theoretical competition for talent, it didn’t seem to affect the lineups this past weekend for Tyler, The Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival or Travis Scott’s Astroworld Music Festival.
Astroworld had 15 performers on its billing, including a surprise appearance by Kanye West. Camp Flog Gnaw was bigger. It’s a two-day event with 40 acts including a suprise appearance by Drake, who got booed by fans (more on this at the end).
The ability for these festivals to be on the same weekend speaks to the article I wrote last year Why Rappers Started Running Their Own Music Festivals:
“Travis Scott has yet to announce the Astroworld Festival lineup, but he can separate from the pack by tapping into Houston’s deep rap scene. Throughout his top-selling album Astroworld, Young La Flame paid homage to Swishahouse rappers Slim Thug, Mike Jones, and Paul Wall. Travis should get these local legends to join him on stage.
This would help Astroworld stand out from Houston’s other music festival, In Bloom. This year, In Bloom’s lineup included Beck, Lil Uzi Vert, Incubus, 21 Savage, and T-Pain. It’s a star-studded lineup, but could easily be the lineup for Outside Lands or Lollapalooza as well.”
While Travis Scott had fellow Houston native Meg Thee Stallion, Tyler had Bompton’s YG. There’s more than enough talent to go around if the artists plan it right.
The “niche” aspect of Tyler’s brand speaks to why Drake got booed. Camp Flog Gnaw is under the Odd Future umbrella, which has long been treated as an outcast in hip-hop. Those fans feel a righteous connection with their star who spoke on his “stepchild” placement this past week after receiving a Music Innovator Award from the Wall Street Journal. Anything that takes away from that brand is a threat. Drake’s rise in hip-hop is the ultimate antithesis of this. He’s the biggest rapper in the world, who’s backed by the biggest labels in the world. Tyler acknowledged afterword that the decision to add Drake might have been a little tone def knowing the specific crowd, but this is the blessing and curse that comes with building fanbases—especially when they come together for live events.