Do you know of Lindsey Stirling?
Lindsey Stirling is the self-made dubstep violinist who’s absolutely killing it on Youtube with her unique blend of fantasy, dubstep and classical music.
The story is that she tried to get herself signed with a record label back in 2007, but they all refused her. I guess they thought that fantasy dubstep violinists are too small of a niche to be commercially viable? Either that or they just didn’t find her sound and talent appealing enough.
As I’m writing this, her song Crystallize boasts 132,000,000+ views on Youtube and record labels are now desperate to sign her. But she keeps doing her thing — without any support from the copyright industry. And that’s good for her.
But more importantly, Lindsey Stirling’s success is teaching us several valuable PR lessons:
Everything Is A Niche, In A Niche, In A Niche
It would be easy to paint Lindsey Stirling as a rare phenomenon. When you hear about a fantasy dubstep violinist it might sound as something of an acquired taste, but in this case, you would be mistaking. Her music is actually very easy to listen to.
She does bring something fresh to the table1 however, but being clearly niched isn’t necessarily a disadvantage in a social economy2. In fact, Lindsey Stirling isn’t even the only one successfully bringing classical instruments to a more up-to-date setting; 2Cello’s has been an “internet sensation” for quite some time now. Their amazing cover on Thunderstruck with some 50,000,000+ views so far is worth a watch:
Insight: More brands should trust the inherent power of their own niche. Most businesses understand the concepts such as USP (unique selling point) and positioning, but when it comes to online marketing, many companies want to go “wide and viral” and in trying to please everyone every time, they end up pleasing no-one instead.
It’s Okay To Be As Famous As You Should Be
And what’s so fascinating with organic online growth is that Lindsey Stirling is exactly as famous as she deserves. There’s no marketing inflation, no pre-launch hysteria orchestrated by the middle-men and their budgets. It’s just her, her music and her fans. Based on the quality of her creative output and her brand, she grew an organic community of the exact size she’s meant to have at this point in time.
Insight: More brands should focus less on trying to “game the system” and instead focus on their actual output. In fact, having a community that’s bigger than the brand deserves can be a liability in itself. Listen to those loyal true fans and cater to them and you’ll get the following you deserve in terms of quantity and quality.
Your Distribution Should Be Networked And Free
Lindsey Stirling doesn’t own her own distribution system. Her content gets shared across services like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter and these are of course platforms beyond her control. Instead of selling her songs to a label, she gives her songs away for free to these sites. In return, her fans are allowed to freely share her music amongst themselves. It’s a win-win-win situation.
Insight: More brands should share more valuable content to earn themselves a networked distribution system. A brand doesn’t need that many true fans to benefit from the network effect. Because ask yourself this: How many fans do you actually need? Well, Kevin Kelly says that 1,000 true fans will be enough.
Stick It To The Middle-Men Of Traditional Media
“The copyright industry never really feared you putting their music on Youtube. They feared you putting YOUR music on Youtube, without needing their permission for anything at all”
What if journalists and the news media are your “record labels”? Maybe it’s time for you to focus 100% on building your audience directly, building it one person at the time — instead of investing heavily in reaching other people’s audiences?
Insight: Focus first on building your own army of true fans instead of paying to reach other people’s audiences. I like to think that I have 150-250 “spin doctors” out there who respect what I do and learn from what I share and who would support me if I asked them to. My number may seem small, but trust me — without them I’m nothing.
Most of us have heard about Dunbar’s number, but I just love this simple model by Viil Lid, Ph.D. candidate in Communication & Information Sciences at University of Hawaii: