As I’ve mentioned before, I think there’s a lot that comedians can learn about marketing themselves from the way successful musicians have approached the Internet. One of the most recent musical groups to really use the Internet to catapult their career is a duo named Karmin Music and today I wanted to tell you a little bit about how they’ve succeeded and what you can learn from it.
If you’ve never heard of them, Karmin Music consists of two people who released their first album in May 2010. They describe their style as a “collision of Nick’s classic rock upbringing and jazz education (a trained trombonist) and Amy’s R&B influence and Pop background). You can read more about their background here.
Since launching their first YouTube channel in January 2010, they’ve gone on to get nearly 30 million views of their videos and to attract almost 250,000 subscribers on YouTube. Pretty impressive stuff, and here’s some of the lessons of their success in my opinion.
1. People Don’t Want You To Be A Star, They Want You To Be Real
One of the biggest shifts I’ve seen in recent years within the entertainment industry is that audiences no longer expect you to be “better” than them. They’re not looking for you to be larger than life and to be a “star.” The audience has become way more savvy and they now realize that in most cases that star attitude is fake and essentially a marketing gimmick. They don’t want to be told you’re awesome, they want to discover you for themselves.
The upside of this is that audiences want to rally around people that they think are “real.” They like the idea of seeing somebody like them succeed, and the more real you are the more likely they are to connect to you, root for you, and help you grow your career. In the case of Karmin Music, they are extremely “real” in how they present themselves and their most recent video is a perfect example of this.
They were recently invited to come on stage and perform with The Roots at one of their shows. They shot a video of the experience which you can watch here:
Now here’s what’s interesting about this video: the traditional artist’s instincts would be to show off just the performance video and present themselves to their fans in a way that sends the message of, “Look how cool we are, we hang with the Roots because we’re awesome just like they are. We’re big stars.”
But that’s not what Karmin Music does here.
Instead, they show their fans exactly what they experienced – starting with nervousness and excitement behind the stage, showing their excitement at the opportunity to share the stage with the Roots, showing that Questlove didn’t even know their individual names (as opposed to trying to pretend they’re old friends), and then showing the aftermath when they return to being fans themselves and making the comment “That just happened.” Even they can’t believe how lucky they are, and that makes them really easy to root for and very relatable.
Even if you’re not a musician, and you’re not performing with somebody famous, think about how you’re presenting yourself in what you do. Are you trying to seem more established than you are? Or are you just being yourself and letting people relate to your real feelings and experiences? I’d recommend the latter.
2. You Have To Constantly Create Content
You can’t grow a fanbase without regularly creating fresh content to keep your fans excited and help you attract new fans. Karmin Music actually has two YouTube channels – one for its original songs and one for its cover songs. Combined, the band has released 59 videos in the 17 months since they joined YouTube. They wouldn’t be anywhere close to as successful as they have been if they only had a handful of videos out there.
3.Broaden Your Definition Of Content
Karmin Music is a band and the instinct would be for them to only put out musical content because that’s what they do and that’s the career they’re trying to build. But then how do you explain these videos?
Even though they’re primarily musicians, Karmin Music produces content that includes everything from sketches to hair advice. Doing this brings people into their world and allows fans to connect to them as people – it’s not just about their music.
This is something that you can really learn a lot from as a comedian because not everything you do has to be a joke or be funny. Don’t be afraid to create content about things that you’re interested in, even if it’s not necessarily comedy. Your goal is to get people to connect to you by being interesting, so don’t put artificial limits on what you can create.
4. Tap Into Existing Fanbases
Here’s an interesting thing to note: Karmin Music has five times more subscribers to their cover songs channel as they do to their original music channel. Why is that? It’s because the cover songs they’ve created have allowed them to market to much bigger existing fanbases who are going to be predisposed to like those songs because they like the original artists who performed them.
Sure, many of those people may not ultimately enjoy Karmin’s original creations, but some of them will and that’s really all you need. Creating content that you know will appeal to specific audiences is a great way to bring people into your world and introduce them to other things you create. And it doesn’t have to just be existing comedian fanbases – you can go after any kind of existing audience. For example, if you’re a big Redskins fan why not create content that will appeal to other Redskins fans? If you enjoy working on cars, why not create content for car enthusiasts? There’s limitless fanbases out there just looking for good content.
5. Clearly Message The Actions You Want Fans To Take
If you look at either of Karmin Music’s YouTube channels or its own website, you’ll see they make it very clear how fans can connect with them and the actions they want them to take.
On their website, they prominently ask people to join their mailing list (something I recommend as well), and their YouTube channel header offers links to their other social media sites and a link to get a free download of one of their songs. Plus, the sidebar of their YouTube channel even encourages fans to tell five of their friends about the group.
Once you’re creating content and getting people to see it, you want to make it clear and simple how people who like what you do can connect to you and spread the word about you. Karmin Music does a good job of this, and it’s likely one of the reasons they’ve had so much success.
5 thoughts on “Karmin Music: 5 Things You Can Learn From A Band That’s Gone Viral”
Great article !, being real, honest, and having the willingness to disclose who you really are, is the key to connecting with audiences. It is very simple, but not easy, this article has me back at the drawing board, creating more content, so I can get it out there!
Very inspiring article, Josh!! You RAWK!! 😉
Just a tip on the cover song thing. I work in both comedy and music and have been looking into the elements of doing covers on YouTube. There is no easy way to legally do it. You’re supposed to contact the publisher directly and get the license from them. On the flipside, there’s plenty of artists racking up big numbers and becoming partners with YT based on their covers.
That would be part of why Karmin has two different channels for covers and originals. If they’re covers channel gets shut down it’s not a total loss.
As a tie-in to comedy… If you were going to do, say, an animated cartoon based on a Ralphie May bit and use the audio from his CD, you’d have to get the same kind of permission for that. Limelight unfortunately doesn’t do those as you need a sync rather than mechanical license.
So, in tapping into other audiences (which is still a great idea), just be aware that it’s a legal gray area.
1. Be a hot chick.
2. Be talented enough to not be immediately dismissed.
3. Be a hot chick.
4. Be consistent.
5. Be a hot chick.
Joking. Slightly. (I have 2 Karmin songs on my iPod…)
This is great because I’ve been hesitant to talk about a day job or going through unemployment onstage for fear that it makes me appear “less professional”. The truth is, audiences know I’m not a well known comic making lots of $$$ at this point when they see me get out of my 1978 Vega before the show.