The Drive In Theatre is already among the most listened-to music of 2014. The Jet Life crew hits the road, announcing an official curated SXSW event.
Curren$y ended 2013 with a list of new projects under his belt, including three EPs, a full-length mixtape, and three feature-length film’s worth of video releases. He started 2014 with a 14-track mixtape: The Drive In Theatre. In less than two weeks, that mixtape Bundle has been downloaded more than 3 million times. This is the no rules, new world of hip hop: the place where underground is mass, and massive.
And it works differently.
Traditional mixtape distribution websites reach hip hop’s core listeners. This, we’re told, is where real rap lives. But it’s only a fraction of the universe. Traditional mixtape downloads of The Drive In Theatre accounted for less than 7% of total downloads. The other 93% came from listeners inside BitTorrent: the casual fans on the edge of hip hop’s mainstream.
Curren$y’s longtime manager and COO of Jet Life Recordings, Mousa Hamdan, is seeing the benefits of the BitTorrent partnership firsthand. “We’re yet to see the full impact of The Drive in Theater, but judging from the first two weeks and the number of downloads we’re seeing everyday, I think this will have a huge impact on our Jet Life movement and the direction of mixtape culture as a whole. I believe our formula has been, and will be, studied and mimicked by artists in the future.”
The Jet Life crew aren’t a group known to let off the gas pedal. Curren$y has announced that he and the entire Jet Life Recordings roster will be curating an official Jet Life event at SXSW 2014. “It makes us proud to follow this mixtape release with the announcement of our official SXSW JetLounge stage. For an independent label like us to be able to create an artist platform at SXSW: it shows the strides we’re making as a movement.” says Hamdan.
We caught up with Austin Briggs, Jet Life’s Digital Marketing Strategist, and talked about mixtape culture’s present and future.
BitTorrent: 3 million downloads is a big number. Does this kind of reach make a difference for you guys?
Austin Briggs: It makes a difference, because we now have a true gauge of how large our potential audience can be worldwide. That means we’re not pigeon-holed by social media numbers or site traffic. And it means we don’t have to wait for fans to find us. This is real grassroots music. If you’re a fan, it will find you.
“Over the course of two campaigns, we’ve reached an audience of over 7 million fans. We’re selling out shows, merch sales are up, and we’ve just announced the first official Curren$y-curated official SXSW Jet Life showcase.“
We’ve been working with BitTorrent since August. Over the course of two campaigns, we’ve reached an audience of over 7 million fans. We’re selling out shows, merch sales are up, and we’ve just announced the first official Curren$y-curated official SXSW Jet Life showcase. Curren$y is one of the few artists that has maintained a steady underground buzz for years. We’ve taken that buzz and turned it to eleven. And we’re seeing the response.
BitTorrent: How do you reach the fans who’ve downloaded your music? What’s the next step?
Austin Briggs: 3 million downloads of The Drive In Theatre bundle gave us more than 50K email addresses in two weeks. Total, we’ve received more than 100K email addresses from our BitTorrent campaigns, and based on the subscribers we’ve already added, we can expect a 25%-30% open rate.
“Rather than using other networks to access our fans via paid advertising or extensive posting, we’ve created our own network. These are the fans who want to connect directly to us. That’s a window into ticket sales. That’s a window into merchandise sales. Email is becoming our one of our most powerful tools to target and reach our fans.”
BitTorrent: Part of your release strategy was to bring everything back to the Jet Life site, as opposed to sending people across the web: to Youtube, to DatPiff, to Bundle. What was the effect?
Being able to embed the Bundle on our website as part of the Jet-Life.com relaunch drove millions of fans to our page. Being able to control the content, the distribution, the analytics: it’s so powerful. It’s the perfect tool for a grassroots audience, and we look forward to using these same strategies on this network to develop the younger artists on our label.
BitTorrent: Bundle aside, we have countless ways to access music online. Does the Internet need another media format?
Austin Briggs: It certainly needs something. Album cycles are shorter, labels aren’t reaching the same audience they used to with an album release, and fans demand more content. I downloaded my first mp3 seventeen years ago. After seventeen years, we’ve only managed to create subscription music streaming services? With the potential that exists, I think we can do more. Subscription services don’t make up for the lost revenue from album sales at all, and provide no opportunity for an artist to interact with their fans more directly, and vice versa. We can use the Bundle to promote and drive our merchandise and ticketing initiatives in addition to releasing new music and other media. To see fans lining up at the merch table, redeeming their coupons for free Jet Life lighters that they downloaded from our Bundle package – it’s amazing.
“Album cycles are shorter, labels can’t reach the same audience they used to with an album, and fans demand more. I downloaded my first mp3 seventeen years ago. After seventeen years, we’ve only managed to create subscription music streaming services? With the potential that exists, I think we can do more.”
Artists use more than music these days to build their following and their brand. Our fans not only pass around the photos, videos, and content that we give them, they create their own and give it to us and each other. We wanted to create a media experience that didn’t just package a few mp3’s and an album cover together.
BitTorrent: If there are no hard-and-fast rules in hip hop, how do you guys make it work?
Austin Briggs: You hustle harder than the person next to you, stay true to yourself, and don’t let others make rules for you. We don’t stop creating content – albums, mixtapes, singles, music videos, documentaries, and lifestyle videos. These are different ways that different types of fans can experience the Jet Life movement.
We want to make something that surrounds you. Something you can interact with while listening to the mixtape. Something that puts you in the lowrider with Spitta on Canal St., or at one of his shows or in the studio with him.
For The Drive In Theatre, we made the release available as a traditional mixtape via DatPiff. For the fans that wanted the full experience, we offered the BitTorrent Bundle. If there are no rules, give people a choice.
BitTorrent: What can we expect from Jet Life’s first curated official SXSW event?
Austin Briggs: Well, we’re certainly going to bring it. It’s going to be SXS-Jets. We’ve got the whole crew and extended family, and everyone will be performing. Curren$y, Cornerboy P, Young Roddy, TY, MaryGold, Le$, Fiend, Deelow, DZA…. You can bet there will be some surprise guests and some great sponsors getting involved, as well.
Just make sure you’re at Red 7 on Saturday night (March 15th). Don’t miss this jet.
About BitTorrent Bundle
BitTorrent Bundle is an Alpha project, made with and for the web’s creative community. Our mission is to help artists connect directly with fans, inside the content they share.
Each BitTorrent Bundle, like this one, created in partnership with Curren$y, allows artists to distribute content directly to the Internet. And each Bundle comes with a key. Fans can unlock artist content with an email address. The idea is to make each song a storefront, and each file more valuable, each time it’s shared. Got ideas for the next BitTorrent Bundle? Hit us up.