Business Interviews Marketing & PR The Great Escape 2014

Q&A: Adam Biddle, theAudience

By | Published on Wednesday 7 May 2014

Adam Biddle

Tomorrow the first of the CMU-presented insight strands at The Great Escape will throw the focus on Building A Fan Business, looking at how the way artists engage fans, structure their marketing and form business partnerships needs to change to capitalise on the potential of the direct-to-fan relationship.

One company that understands the fan relationship, and how to engage fans with great content on a regular basis, is theAudience, an agency set up by Disney’s Oliver Luckett, WME’s Ari Emanuel and Sean Parker of Napster fame. Adam Biddle from the company will be sharing insights as part of the first section of Building A Fan Business, and ahead of that CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke threw a few questions in his direction to find out more about theAudience and its approach.

CC: Give us a bit of background about theAudience, the story so far…
AB: The company was founded in 2011 by CEOs Oliver Luckett (Disney), Ari Emanuel (WME) and Sean Parker (Napster), and we now have a staff of 170 artists, videographers, writers and social media professionals based in LA and London. Through our projects, we’ve created more than 6000 pieces of content that reach an audience of up to one billion people – and which deliver up to ten billion impressions – each and every month.

CC: That ‘content is king’ when building online followings has been a common mantra for a while, but what does that really mean?
AB: I don’t think many people understand what this means, which is why companies like theAudience exist. Basically it’s about creating an experience and evoking emotion.

CC: You work across the brand and entertainment space. How much of your work is music-based, and how does working with music clients compare to, say, actors or other entertainers?
AB: It’s impossible to give a numerical value on how much is music-based due to the fluidity and pace of the company’s growth but it is certainly an extremely important part of what we do. Music is a unique entity. No one is cooler than a rockstar and image in music is just as important as the music itself. Unfortunately, the music industry is convinced that a strong focus on marketing initiatives, with a focus on selling product, serves as engaging social content. Other areas of entertainment are more focussed on building their brand and identity inside social.

CC: What kind of specific services do you provide to your music clients?
AB: It’s the same service for anyone with a fanbase. We create – with the client – a social identity though content that people actually want to see and engage with.

CC: What kind of content works?
AB: We do not publish – or we aggressively advise against publishing – anything that is “off the shelf” content, so flyers, articles, links, packshots. Everything published inside social must be designed with social, and your audience, in mind. We use this as the foundation which allows us to create stories that resonate with an audience, regardless of the message.

CC: The direct-to-fan relationship now available to artists – enabled by social media and other digital channels – offers so many opportunities. Though you sense artists and their business partners need a more joined up approach. Would you agree? Do you primarily work with artists direct or their labels?
AB: Firstly, people need to understand that social networks are not marketing platforms, they are connection platforms relating to what matters in peoples’ lives. We work with artists and managers directly, it is very rare that a label will come to us (they do what we do in house, right?).

CC: If artists do the direct-to-fan thing well, they in essence become media, and need to be connecting with fanbase on a regular basis. What happens if the artist runs out of things to say?
AB:Ha ha, they should call me up, I could run the social presence for a brick wall! In all honesty, think about what culture you fit into and post around that. Think like MTV or Vice – not talking about yourself all the time is a good thing, just like in real life!

CC: For artists starting out, what tips would you have for nurturing that initial fanbase?
AB: Be real, be cool, be you, be emotional, be creative, be cultural and don’t be scared to try mental shit… mental shit goes far.