Lady Antebellum, taking a page somewhat out of Pearl Jam's playbook, last week launched an online scavenger hunt of sorts that while not even halfway over is already generating eyebrow-raising numbers.
According to Cameo Carlson, head of digital business development of Lady A's management group Borman Entertainment, the campaign in the first six days generated a net add of 21,000 new emails to the band's email list, increased Facebook activity by 40% and Twitter traffic around the band by 18%.
"We're getting not just email addresses, but email addresses of fans who are really engaged," Carlson says. "But it's doing it in a more interesting way than just asking them to sign up for a newsletter."
Here's how it works. The Lady A website now has a boardgame-like page, where each square of the board contains a different clue that is revealed an noon eastern each weekday. The clues send fans off to various websites or partner services to find a keyword. One clue was buried in a video on the Tonight Show website, where the band is scheduled to perform. Another clue uses Shazam to ask fans to ID a unique clip of a Lady A song (one that's been played backwards and slowed down), and Shazam will then send the clue back to each user. Everyone who enters the correct keyword each day is eligible to win a prize, anything from an iPad to signed merch and tickets.
According to Carlson, there were several motivations for the effort, which was conceived by Music City Networks--the brains behind the Lady A website who wanted a feature that would get fans to check out different areas of the relaunched site. First was to generate fan engagement around the act in advance of the Sept. 13 street date for its new album, and do so in a way that would last longer than the average two-week promotional cycle. But more so, it was an experiment to see how bands and management can use social media tools to transcend fan engagement beyond the social media platform in question, such as Twitter and Facebook.
"We don't own anybody on Facebook or Twitter, she says. "Everyone has access to all these tools, but it's like we don't know how to use them properly. You can't do anything with them if you don't have a relationship that's deeper than just a Facebook post. I'm always trying to figure out how to own those fans; how to convert that activity into something real."
This idea of "owning" the fan is one growing increasingly louder within both labels and management circles. Whereas looking at a large number of Facebook "likes" or Twitter mentions was once an end to itself, the biz is now no longer content with such statistics alone.
The problem is data, and who owns it. Selling out a stadium concert is not enough, the label wants to know who those fans are buying tickets. Since Ticketmaster doesn't share that data, they can use check-in services like Foursquare or Gowalla to get it. Getting hits on an artists website is all well and good, but if you're not capturing the information of those visitors, what use is it in the long term? Gamification services like Badgeville not only reward users for their site visits and comments, but also collect that needed information for the artist, label and management.
This board game effort from Lady A is a more customized effort of this same goal. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that its utilizing dozens of different digital services and partners to attract a fanbase considered the least digitally capable-country fans.
According to Carlson, the success of the boardgame effort to date shows that even if these services are new to the country fan, the country fan will seek out and familiarize themselves with them as a vehicle to engaging with artists they adore. Country music fans are some of the most fiercely loyal fans in the world, and that can reflect itself just as much on Shazam as it does in buying CDs.
"I think that's actually a misconception and I think we're proving that," Carlson says about the view that country music fans are less digitally inclined. "I don't think that's fair to the fan base. There is a difference in the way that country music has been marketed. I think sometimes they don't believe fans are in some of these places, but they are. We're seeing it."