How Krewella Leveraged Its Social Strategy Into A Career

Krewella (Photo: Shane McCauley)

The following article on Krewella's social media strategy is from "Social Media's True Value" package featured in the latest Billboard. Here, you also will find Billboard digital correspondent Alex Pham's report on the monetary value of social engagement, the rise of social media gurus by Glenn Peoples and a piece on how social data can predict the future. Pick up this issue here; and your subscription to Billboard in print, online and iPad here.

By now you’ve heard the unique sound of Krewella—the infectious vocal-based electronica that has massive crowds jumping up and down, slamming their heads about and waving their arms in tandem. In the past year, sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousef and Kris “Rainman” Trindl have gone from underground Chicago EDM act to big-ticket commercial item, playing major festivals across the United States and inking a record deal with Sony. Krewella is more than a band: It’s a brand, and its rapid rise can be traced online.

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Krewella first popped on the radar last summer, when its accelerated growth in social numbers landed it on the Next Big Sound chart. In the first two weeks of June it gained more than 133,000 plays on SoundCloud—a 665% increase from what it had earned a fortnight prior and 30% of its then-total number of plays on the site. The act was also seeing a burgeoning amount of activity across other social platforms—7,000 new “likes” on Facebook was threefold the amount it had notched during the last two weeks of May—and Krewella was gaining an average of about 285 new Twitter followers each week.

Fast-forward a year, and the band’s numbers have maintained a similar explosive trajectory. It now averages more than 2,000 new Twitter followers each week and counts close to a half-million Facebook “likes” in total, 10 million-plus spins on SoundCloud and 14 million views on its official YouTube channel.

Social is a big part of keeping fans engaged, uniting them as part of the band’s Krew and inspiring them to spread the word. “It’s about staying in touch with the fans,” Trindl says, “being able to interact with people who are paying attention to your music.” The group’s members handle their own accounts, from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Vine, often just goofing around and responding to posts, but most important, communicating in their own voice

Helping to steer Krewella in the right direction is manager Jake Udell of Th3rd Brain. “Blogs alone are not going to be enough to activate an artist,” he explains. “People want a story marketed to them in some unique way.” That involves such visual content as the Krewlife webisode series, but to get the ball rolling, fans need a taste of what’s on offer. “Free music is the No. 1 way for an artist to break,” Udell says. “If you look at our Facebook growth, it has been absolutely imperative. You can actually see the point at which we just started to take off.” By offering free downloads through its Facebook and SoundCloud accounts, Krewella triggered rapid growth. When it started introducing new music last November, the act’s new “likes” jumped 160% from the month before.

It’s perhaps not surprising that as an EDM act, SoundCloud activity is the most telling of the snowball effect of Krewella’s reach. The group encourages and routinely publishes remixes of its work through the social streaming service. This time last year, its music averaged 5,500 plays per day. In the past seven days, the average has risen to nearly to 75,000.

There’s a domino effect that occurs on social networks that lets bands like Krewella cultivate followings without depending on such traditional outlets as radio to promote their material. For each new fan that discovers the music and shares it with their network, bands see their audience widen. When this happens rapidly and consistently across networks, even in the very early stages, it’s a telling sign that an act is engaging an audience and will make ripples in the industry.  

Liv Bulli is Next Big Sound’s data journalist.