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This post is by Ethan, one of our great product interns in San Francisco. Ethan decided to take a look at the YouTube phenoms Karmin to see why their video strategy has worked so well and figure out how it can work for others, too.

The phenomenon of the YouTube sensation has been well documented over the past few years. Viral videos have given rise to the careers of chart topping artists including Rebecca Black, Susan Boyle and that Canadian kid with the funny haircut.

The newest addition to the list is Karmin, a pop duo consisting of two recent Berklee College of Music grads that have netted well over 150 million views with their covers of pop songs by artists like Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj. Karmin has since signed a major label deal with Epic Records, recorded their original song “Take It Away” for promos used during the 2011 NBA finals and have a studio album of original songs set for release in April.

Karmin is among a new generation of YouTube stars who have taken a DIY approach to online marketing by engaging fans directly via social networks, especially on their YouTube channels. In this post I’ll take a look at how Karmin’s marketing techniques have been successful and what an artist or brand looking to better utilize YouTube can learn from them.

Maximizing The YouTube Format:

Nearly everyone who first discovers Karmin finds out about them via YouTube. With that in mind, the band takes every advantage of the YouTube format to let fans know how to connect with them as well as where to find their music. Links and page banners encourage viewers of their videos and visitors to their YouTube channel to buy their single on iTunes, visit their online store, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook and even to tell five friends about the band.  A store is also embedded to their YouTube channels that allow fans to purchase their music from iTunes, Amazon as well as the Android Market.

When creating a YouTube channel, it is important to make it clear and easy for fans or consumers to know how to connect with you as well how to find and share your content. Karmin has been successful in doing all three, which has helped contribute to over half a million fans on Facebook and more than 100,000 on Twitter.

Multiple YouTube Channels:

Karmin has two separate YouTube Channels, one dedicated to cover versions of pop songs and one that features their original music. It’s interesting to note that their cover channel has nearly seven times as many subscribers as their original music channel. The benefit of this tactic is that with the cover channel Karmin is able to reach out to a wide audience who is already familiar with the songs and then direct them to the their original music. Some visitors won’t be as interested in their original songs, however a number will become fans and be more likely to purchase them.

Karmin are certainly not the only artist or company with multiple YouTube channels directed to different audiences. Nike, for example, has channels including Nike Basketball, Nike Baseball, Nike Football (American and otherwise) and a channel dedicated solely to LeBron James, amongst others.  With these channels Nike is able to market their wealth of content to varying audiences attracting a larger diversity of fans.

Fan Access and Engagement:

We’ve talked on this blog at length about the importance of fan engagement, and a big part of Karmin’s success has been due to exactly that. Up until they released their first single last December, Karmin were posting videos on a weekly basis, and not just music videos. If you scroll through the band’s uploaded videos you can find them doing Real World-style skits, meeting rapper Busta Rhymes as well as hair styling tutorials from the band’s singer Amy Heidemenn.

The success of these videos is fairly obvious; fans want to get to know the artists they love and have an inside look into what it’s like to be them. This is especially important for a band like Karmin, whose image is tied closely to their YouTube star status.

All access type content can be hugely beneficial for all brands in fostering a tangible relationship between the brand and the consumer. You can read Digital Director for the United Football League Nation Hahn’s post on fan access here for more information about why fans value brand access and connection.  As Karmin has shown, YouTube is great resource for providing behind-the-scenes content because of its ability to quickly share and connect with a wide network of users.

YouTube isn’t just for bands, of course. Follow our channel for tips, tutorials, and everyone’s favorite lo-fi ping pong and music series, Song & Pong

Want more tips for managing your fan base? Download our eBook, 3 Keys to Fan List Success for Musicians.


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