Tiesto: The Billboard Cover Story
Tiësto has more than 9.6 million Facebook likes, 577,000 Twitter followers and 17.3 million views on his official YouTube channel alone. That considerable platform gets him in the door with big brands, but has also grown as a result of their partnership.
On the Campus Invasion tour, both Axe and PlayStation will have on-site experiences at every date, built to extend beyond the immediate events through social media. The brands are cross-promoting the tour and doing ticket giveaways through their Facebook pages. With PlayStation's 17.1 million likes and Axe's 1.7 million, "it's very beneficial to the artist to be able to tap into those resources as well," Neuman says.
Axe will support Excite, a line of musky deodorant products, with sampling and a green-screen experience where fans can take pictures with their friends and share them on Facebook. "The brand is trying to grow with their original consumers, who were boys," Neuman says. "They want to be part of something that's really relevant with that same consumer as they're getting older."
PlayStation is promoting "Everybody Dance," a new game for PS3 that features "C'Mon," Tiësto's recent collaboration with Diplo and Busta Rhymes. Concert-goers will be able to try out the game at stations in venue concourses and share videos of their performances on Facebook. In addition to giving brands a direct touch point with hard-to-reach targets -- in this case, men ages 18-24-Tiësto can provide them with something else they crave: content, in the form of offers; access; and yes, music.
Video: "C'Mon," Tiësto feat. Diplo and Busta Rhymes
"It's difficult to create continued interest in a brand's digital platform," Neuman says. "But if they come forward with the right strategy and collaborate with people who understand how to create compelling content, they're automatically creating demand and interest and a reason to visit them again, which is tough. When they leverage that with a media campaign for something that's valuable to the artist, like a record release or tour, then it becomes a really interesting relationship."
In other words, brand partners take on the traditional role of a label, providing a broad-scale promotional platform with significant investment. Take "Club Life," Tiësto's first independently released compilation on Musical Freedom. It has sold 38,000 units since its April release, according to SoundScan, thanks in part to aggressive promotion by Armani Exchange and Heineken.
"The relationship between Armani Exchange and Tiësto has transformed into a true partnership," Armani's Doddy says. "When we first started working together, it was a standard brand/artist sponsorship. But as the relationship evolved we've combined our similar brand assets and united our resources to develop several global initiatives." These have included media campaigns (Tiësto was the face of Armani Exchange's wristwatch launch in 2009), VIP and in-store events, exclusive music and memorabilia, and even philanthropic efforts. (In 2008, sales of a limited-edition T-shirt went to support Mercy Corps.)
For "Club Life," Armani got an exclusive "A|X Music" version of the compilation, containing five exclusive remixes and one exclusive track. It was sold only in Armani Exchange stores and online at ArmaniExchange.com. (These sales weren't included in the aforementioned SoundScan figure.)
For Heineken's Club Life program, Tiësto created what Neuman calls a "content package," including a new track, "Green Sky" (inspired by Heineken's signature bottle), available for download exclusively on Heineken's site; ticket giveaways, flyaway sweepstakes and meet-and-greets for Heineken VIPs and Facebook fans; and activations at big events, like Tiësto's 2010 New Year's bash at Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.
Heineken had a stated goal of increasing its Facebook likes, and promoted the offers through that platform and its own media assets like Heineken.com. It started the program in December 2010 with around 750,000 likes; it now has 2.6 million. "They attribute a lot of the growth to this campaign," Neuman says-further evidenced by the fact that Heineken has extended the program to the Canadian market, and is considering a 2012 renewal.
"It was great to find alternative ways to promote ["Club Life"] at a really high level, since we put it out independently," Neuman says. "I'd love to see further dialogue between brands and artists, because brands really have the muscle at this point to break an act, or put enough promotion behind campaigns that they can really change the course of an artist's career, oftentimes more than labels can, with budgets that are far more interesting."
As dance artists fight to become more brand-like themselves, nothing helps their cause as much as dedicated record labels of their own. Genre used to be king in electronic music: You either liked trance, house, techno or some subset of them, with little to no crossover. But these days, those lines are starting to break down, making labels less about specific styles and more about the personalities behind them.
Swedish House Mafia's Steve Angello has Size Records, Deadmau5 has Mau5trap: Both offer releases that might be electro, disco or dubstep, but have the same common thread -- the label boss either made it or liked it. While his own sound has evolved through the years -- from straightforward, wordless bombs like "Elements of Life" and "Traffic" to singalong, pop-inflected collaborations with acts like Tegan & Sara and Nelly Furtado -- Tiësto hopes to use Musical Freedom to further extend the definition of what constitutes "music from Tiësto."
Video: "Who Wants to Be Alone," Tiësto feat. Nelly Furtado
"It's a whole other angle on branding," Musical Freedom's Bader says. "And it's a reciprocal thing. You don't stay at the top as long as Tijs has without being open to how the landscape is changing stylistically and bringing young talent into the fold."
And while that young talent brings freshness to the label, its head honcho brings visibility to them. "Tiësto is the biggest promotional vehicle I have as a label manager," Bader says. "It's just a line of dominos, a chain reaction when he gets behind a track."
The label's fifth release, an electro banger called "Mush Mush" by new Dutch production duo Bassjackers, is a case study of how dance hits happen in the new world.
Before he signed it, Tiësto was playing the track as a white label, at live shows and in his "Club Life" podcast. This March, he premiered it by its proper name at Ultra Music Festival in Miami. "These guys pass music around, of course," Bader says. "So Benny Benassi got behind it, then Diplo. Soon it became one of the biggest tunes of the summer. At Electric Daisy Carnival [in Las Vegas this June], Tiësto played it in his set. As I was walking I heard someone else playing it, and when I got to the stage I was going to, the DJ there was starting it." The track stayed in online electronic music store DSP Beatport's top 10 for more than two months.
Bader and the team are playing with ideas on how to present Tiësto's next body of original work, in line with what Cohen says will be his biggest tour ever, launching in mid-2012.
"I feel like albums have become irrelevant," Cohen says. "We want the music to coincide with the tour. We're just not sure what the delivery will look like."
"The goal before was to build a crowd, build your fan base into a frenzy for a release and have a big bang," Bader says. "But now with things like Spotify, sustainability of consumption is the goal. How do you get hundreds of thousands of listens consistently over a long time, rather than hundreds of thousands of downloads at the beginning?"
The ability to streamline all of these concerns again comes down to the unique structure of his team, which Cohen says wouldn't be possible without Tiësto himself. "He's probably the hardest-working guy that I know," Cohen says. "Apart from the fact that he plays 150-plus gigs a year, he's actively involved in all aspects of his business. A lot of artists aren't interested in doing this: They'd rather have their label, their publishing company, just three or four people to talk to and be done with it. You need an artist who thinks independently to have a structure like this."
But for Tiësto, it all comes back to the fans. "I'm proud to have been able to touch so many people around the world with my music and to have their continued support for what I do," he says. "Without them I would not be here."