Take-aways from the NYT piece on Fueled by Ramen

Nice to see the NYT giving Fueled by Ramen some deserved love.

The article discusses some of the marketing strategies used by the label. Interestingly, it starts with this:

On Dec. 11, the Web site for the band Panic at the Disco turned completely white, with no explanation. Before long, curious fans noticed that the source code for the page contained a clue that hinted at the release of the band’s new album, “Pretty. Odd.”

Over the next few weeks, other puzzles appeared that led to samples of songs, a blog entry from the band, and finally — through clues scattered around various Web sites — the cover of the album and the names of the songs on it.

This particular marketing gambit is really a variant of an ARG (Alternate Reality Game). To my mind, the true genius in this field is Billy O’Connell (manager of Kristen Hersh, Throwing Muses, and 50footwave) . He’s been creating and leveraging these strategies to great effect for some time now via his CASH Music site.

Basically, what ARGs do is strive to create a participatory experience where the fan is actively engaged in the artistic process of the artists she loves.

Importantly, Fueled by Ramen seems to be doing something that few labels manage to do very well; that is, leveraging the successful of artists to develop emergent artists. As the NYT says, this is not a new thing:

Fueled by Ramen has its acts promote one another as well as the company itself, as indie labels have done since the 1960s heyday of Motown and Stax. But Mr. Janick has brought such cross-promotion into the Internet era, where fans of one band are just a click away from information on another on the label’s Web site.

The only way this strategy works, of course, is if there is value alignment. What labels, etc. seem to miss is that the bands don’t have to be mirror images of each other for this to work. Again, the NYT article nails it pretty well:

Musically, the bands on Fueled by Ramen do not have much in common. But they share a certain aesthetic…

Other than that, here are a few other lines that jumped out at me as instructive:

“Fueled by Ramen’s marketing strategy: blog often, tour hard and keep expenses down.”

“The main thing for me is making sure kids can go to one place and get everything from the artist,”

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