Christopher the Conquered

Christopher the Conquered

Graham Gardner

Two weeks ago, Christopher the Conquered was an independent artist with a small following who was working toward the early 2016 release of his album, I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll. Now, his following on social media, his views on YouTube and his website, and his preorder sales have all seen massive increases thanks to two small signal boosts by two very significant influencers: Ryan Adams and Reddit.

In July, Christopher the Conquered, né Christopher Ford, opened for singer-songwriter Natalie Prass in his home state of Iowa, at which time he gave Prass an advance physical copy of I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll. The album apparently fell into the lap of Ryan Adams, who toured with Prass earlier in the year, and without having ever met Christopher, Adams posted a picture of the album cover on Twitter and Instagram on August 2, tagging Christopher the Conquered’s accounts and calling the record "crazy and incredible."

As is likely to happen when someone with nearly 700,000 followers promotes your work, Christopher the Conquered saw an equally incredible increase in his social and sales metrics following Adams’s shout-out. Ford took to the Reddit community /r/Music to share the quantified data of what he called "the Ryan Adams bump" (an artist who is himself seeing a bump in interest as he shares details of his in-the-works cover of Taylor Swift's 1989) including a 701 percent increase in YouTube views and a 179 percent growth in Facebook likes, as well as a jump from a daily average of 30 pageviews on his website to a peak of 999 on August 2, the day of Adams’s posts about the album. It also boosted his email signups and digital sales from near-zero averages to twelve new email addresses and $86 in sales from independent retailers, a formidable jump for someone with no major-label backing whose name doesn’t appear on the photographed cover artwork, whose album wasn’t yet available for preorder, and who had only two other press features as promotion for the week.

Ford’s data analysis on Reddit caused an even larger bump -- or "hammer," as one Redditor more accurately termed it -- thanks to the 7.7 million subscribers of the /r/Music subreddit, who upvoted the post and sent it to the community’s front page. In the three days following his August 10 post, his Facebook page received 719 additional likes, up 1900 percent in velocity and comprising roughly one-fifth of his total fanbase there since the page’s creation in 2009. Christopher the Conquered also added 1167 followers on Spotify, 438 on Twitter, 263 on Instagram, and 171 email newsletter signups. His website traffic rocketed, accumulating more than 73,000 new views by August 13, 56 percent of them coming directly from Reddit. According to data provider Next Big Sound, Christopher the Conquered performed in the 99th percentile for overall engagement metrics, with more than 60 times the expected activity of similarly-sized pages. In addition, SoundCloud streams for the album’s title track jumped by 54,000 following the Reddit post, and his YouTube uploads received more than 52,000 new views, nearly half of which were direct referrals from links on Reddit. An Indiegogo campaign that Ford had previously started to help fund a music video also received $555 in funding despite no promotion of any kind aside from a link on his website.

Following the sudden attention and numerous requests for it, Christopher the Conquered’s I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll was put up for preorder and has already pulled in $3,095 in sales, a large figure for Ford six months ahead of the album release. Ford told Billboard that the added exposure "has opened up some doors for me and potentially for the release of the album," which initially had a "pretty intensive plan" developed leading up to its planned release date, and that "none of this was in that plan." He has yet to determine how his release campaign will adapt to the added attention, but stressed that he was "extremely grateful" for Ryan Adams’s generosity in listening to and posting about his album.

In his Reddit post, Ford’s original question was how his statistics would have been different had an artist with ten times the pull of Ryan Adams given him the promotion instead, offering Taylor Swift as an example. And while there are many variables that would be difficult to account for in calculating the impact of such an event, it’s certainly safe to say his statistics would have seen an even Swift-er rise. For example, when Swift posted about BØRNS song "Electric Love" on her Twitter and Instagram accounts in January, two months before its release to rock radio as a single, he saw a 1000 percent spike in Twitter followers and a 350 percent increase in the rate of Facebook likes in a single day. Swift also reacted extremely favorably last week to Adams’s own upcoming 1989 covers album, resulting in gains of 1000 percent in Twitter followers and nearly 2000 percent in retweets for Adams over the past week. Should she catch wind of his album as well, perhaps Christopher the Conquered’s biggest bump has yet to come. Nevertheless, Ford is focused on the road ahead: "I’m gonna keep doing what I do, write songs the best I can, play as many shows as I possibly can, and play the hell out of every one."