Tinie Tempah explains digital strategy to Music Week


By Eamonn Forde/ Music Week/ 0531/11

Social networking, offering music for free and opening up the creative process online to fans were key factors in the UK breakthrough of Tinie Tempah and will shape his campaign to break into the US this year.

Speaking to Music Week in New York on the day his Disc-Overy album was released in the US, the rapper explained, “Social networking is a fundamental part of what I do. If it wasn’t for social networking I don’t think I’d have the fanbase I have now. Before I signed my record deal, it was very much me on my blog, promoting myself and promoting other artists.”

For him, social media allows a new type of engagement with fans that can hold their interest and build loyalty. “I like people to see the interim period,” he said of offering fans a glimpse of life in the studio, on the road or on the promotional trail.

“I don’t like people to just see the end result,” he added. “I don’t just want people to see me on David Letterman. I want them to see what happens in the middle of that, during the soundcheck and so on. I want my fans to get a special insight into that.”

EMI label mate Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys is less enthused by sites like Twitter, recently telling The Word magazine that acts should not be compelled to open themselves to fans on such platforms simply because they exist.

Tinie, however, said that it is not an either/or debate. “You can use social networking and not have fans have a certain input or say,” he explained. “It all depends on how much you want them to contribute and how much you want to show them. That’s the power of social networking.”

On the issue of free and online piracy, Tinie said he was not unduly worried by people getting his music for free.

“It all works hand-in-hand,” he argued. “As an independent artist, what got me to where I was and got people talking was that my music was available for free. Even now when I am signed to a major record label and I release albums and singles and urge my fans to go out and legally support that, I still put out free mixtapes.” Such an attitude certainly does not seem to have harmed Tinie’s sales: his Written In The Stars single has now sold more than 1m units in the US, while Disc-Overy is two-times platinum in the UK.

Nevertheless, he said the days were gone when artists made “incredible money” from sales.

“Artists are making the majority of their money elsewhere,” Tinie said. “The more your music is out there and the more your fans can buy into you, you can make money from brands and performances and so on.”

Key to this is the rise of music and brand partnerships, with Tinie recently appearing in a Lucozade advert. However, he said artists should always be careful when doing these brand deals. “As an artist, you are a brand,” he said. “Brands want to associate themselves with other brands so it’s like a partnership rather than me approaching a brand and saying,

‘Listen – I ain’t got no money.’ They approached me to be the face of Lucozade and to use one of my tracks. I jumped at that. I’m very happy to back it.”

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