Soulja Boy Tell 'Em

At A Glance
Soulja Boy Tell 'Em (or simply "Soulja Boy") is a major rap artist signed to Interscope Records (Universal Music Group) who has achieved considerable success in generating new sources of income by exploring and exploiting how the web generation live, interact and consume online.
Findings
Soulja Boy is through and through a product of the web generation. His success is largely due to clever use of social media and encouraging fans to spread his music by "sharing" content (in turn, these friends potentially share it with their own friends, having a viral spreading effect). In fact, along with highly-viewed SoundClick and MySpace pages, his widely viewed YouTube videos (the "Crank That" single video and accompanying dance-move instructional video) were what initially attracted Interscope Records' attention to the then 16-year-old Soulja Boy.

His pages are constantly being updated. If there is a new app (application) that can help an artist connect with his fans, Soulja Boy is using it. For example, you can play games live with Soulja Boy online at Xbox live or at SODMG Gamers. You can call his mobile for free and leave a message with SayNow with the possibility of him calling you back, and you can see what he is doing right now with Twitter updates and even 'tweet' him (send him a Twitter message). I sent him a tweet telling him about this case study, and within 10 minutes he tweeted back - "pow". Nice. The list of methods he is utilizing to connect with his fans is a long one, and it is growing steadily.

As a music student, I understand that it can be easy for one to dismiss this kind of music as trivial or lacking in authenticity. However, Soulja Boy’s relentless attitude towards trying new means of promoting himself (not only his music, but Soulja Boy as a brand) and using new methods to connect with fans is indisputable. For a musician in the current age – where consumers can be easily overwhelmed by the exponentially increasing amount of music available – this is something crucial: creating, growing and nurturing one’s community of fans, one’s "tribe".

This fundamental philosophy is clearly reflected in Soulja Boy’s main site, which serves as a hub for fan interaction. As one enters the site, an animated character (which also ties into his new animated series) welcomes the viewer to the site (through speech audio). The message changes once every few weeks, but is always humorous and distinctly reinforces the personality (and brand) of Soulja Boy. Currently, part of the message would be something like this:
"Wad up wad up wad up! Welcome to ma wehbsiite (…) Da one most important thing – go ahead and hid up ma blog, leave a comment man', don read it if ya ain' gonna leave a commen' (…) You dig wadum sayinn' (…) Da second most important thing (…)"
What is interesting about this is the fact that he explicitly tells you, the fan, what the most important parts of his site are: 1) "ma blog", 2) "da chat rooms", 3) "da videos man". The fact that he says "don’t read the blog if you don’t comment" illustrates the fundamental aspect of interaction (fans with fans, and fans with artist).

Leaving a comment, joining the live chat rooms, becoming a site member (essentially, to navigate the site without a message asking you to join) requires you to sign up and provide your email, thus becoming part of the Soulja Boy community.

Wherever you go in the Soulja Boy online world (be it Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc), the interactive and social aspects of his main site are present. A "share" or "comment" button is never hard to find, and neither is the option to purchase anything - (iPhone apps, .mp3s, ringtones, merchandise, etc). As a fan who can enjoy himself listening to Soulja Boy's music, watch and share videos, cartoons, see pictures he posts live from the Grammys, and receive a real-time message from him through Twitter, why would I not want to buy something with just one simple click? Soulja Boy uses all social networks… but lures you into his own web of fans.
In Conclusion
There has never been a time when an artist has been able to reach out to his audience in ways like this. Soulja Boy is the perfect example of an artist exploiting these methods, and it seems that his fans are enjoying the experience so much that they don't hesitate to pay for content that is easily available for free. While Soulja Boy's CD sales are only a fraction of a top rap artist from 5 years ago, Soulja Boy is thriving on ingeniously marketing to the new web generation…
What Stands Out
  • Humor (consistent in all his videos, audio clips, welcome messages, tweets etc)
  • "Themes" – when Soulja Boy's "Kiss Me Thru The Phone" was the newest single, various products were tied in with this, such as his iPhone app that was released around Valentine's Day that enabled one to send a "gift" through the phone. One could also join his mobile fan club to receive the “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” ringtone for free.
Links
This case study was written by Matt Rod, an aspiring artist currently working toward a dual major at Berklee College of Music in Music Production & Engineering and Performance (guitar). You can connect with Matt through his blog and/or Twitter.

2 comments:

  1. Great case study, thank you! While not at all a fan of Soulja Boy's music, I am a fan of his hustle. Not too many teenagers can be this enterprising and make this kind of money. His english may be broken but that is hardly a barometer of his intelligence.

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  2. Your soulja boy link's wrong. http://twitter.com/souljaboy

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