Whether you’re taking a selfie with a supporter in the streets or giving a shoutout to an audience member from the stage at a show, for fans, nothing feels as good as being acknowledged by the artists they love.
This kind of recognition not only demonstrates artists’ appreciation for fans but it can also deepen their connection with them. But not every meaningful interaction needs to be IRL and in-person to be effective; with social media and some of the tools available to Spotify for Artists users like Canvas — the short looping visuals you can add to each of your tracks on Spotify — artists and their teams can make meaningful connections with fans that both celebrate them and include them in the artist’s story.
Teenage synth pop sensation Alfie Templeman and his team at AWAL UK are well aware of the power of visuals and fan interaction. This spring, Templeman released his single “Everybody’s Gonna Love Somebody” to prime fans for the subsequent release of his mini-album, Forever Isn’t Long Enough.
As part of the promotion of the single, Templeman and his AWAL UK crew encouraged fans to submit illustrations of themselves via social media for inclusion in a series of six “Where’s Waldo”/”Where’s Wally”-style Canvases for the “Everybody’s Gonna Love Somebody” track. When the short looping visuals came to life on Spotify, they featured the fan-submitted self-portraits alongside hidden illustrations of Templeman and his co-stars in the “Everybody’s Gonna Love Somebody” music video — puppet couple, Brian and Suzie. Fans were encouraged to spot themselves among all the drawings in the Canvas, screenshot it tag Templeman and share the image on social media.
Spotify for Artists spoke with Alfie Templeman; Tom Prideaux, Project Manager at AWAL; and Jen Ewbank, AWAL’s Senior Director of International Marketing, to learn more about this clever promotion and engagement strategy.
Spotify for Artists: What inspired this approach to creating a Canvas for "Everybody's Gonna Love Somebody?" Whose idea was this originally?
Tom Prideaux: After the video director, Tommy Davis, delivered the video concept for the song, we fell in love with the puppets immediately. They matched Alfie's fun and energetic personality and we knew we wanted to integrate them into the broader campaign. In the video we see Brian trying to find his love interest, Suzie, and so the Canvas idea was born from trying to continue that narrative. Originally, it was going to be Brian and Suzie hidden within an existing “Where's Wally” (or “Where's Waldo”) image but that threw up too many potential copyright challenges so we needed to create our own environment. To make this more exciting and engaging for fans we decided to ask them to submit their own drawings for a chance to be included within these Canvases alongside Brian, Suzie, and Alfie. It was a team effort between Alfie, Jen Ewbank [Senior Director of International Marketing, AWAL], and myself.
Alfie, what role did you play in coming up with this concept? Talk about how it reflects your music.
Alfie Templeman: Well, I’m always for fan interaction and was thinking of a way we could play a game with them. We’d just made a music video where myself and my puppet friend, Brian went searching for his lost puppet girlfriend Suzie. Then it hit me, let’s make a Canvas where there’s Suzie … and Brian … and Alfie! Oh, and let’s make it so every other person is a fan who gets to submit their own drawings into the Canvas!
TP: I think Alfie's music is incredibly fun and it's brilliant because he's able to be a serious musician without needing a serious attitude. This was a fun idea that allowed his fans to feel closer to him as well as each other.
Were you into "Where's Wally?" when you were a kid? Did you know that it's "Where's Waldo" in the States?
AT: Yes, I grew up with Where’s Wally! I used to read them as a lil munchkin in lower school — or as you guys call it, elementary school.
Talk about the timeline for this campaign. When did the call to fans first go out? How long did it take to compile images? How long did it take to make the Canvas? Who designed it and animated it?
TP: The stage that actually took the most time was realizing that we were approaching this the wrong way by trying to create a like-for-like version of a 'Where's Wally' environment. As soon as we landed on this being a fan-led creative it all came together incredibly quickly. Holly Glanvill at [marketing agency] Blackstar helped build the initial form that fans would need to submit their drawings to within a day, ensuring we had the appropriate rights to include the drawings in the Canvas. We had posted the form on a Monday evening and by Tuesday midday we had over 250 submissions! We closed the form by Wednesday with over 350 submissions. I compiled all of the images and cut out 300 of them within 48 hours. We worked with Matt Pilcher and the F-That [creative agency] team who are both brilliant and speedy to help style and deliver the final animated Canvases within a couple of days.
What does a Canvas like this do for the relationship between artist and fan?
TP: We know that Alfie's fans are heavy Spotify users and we're confident they explore a lot of the features, including Canvas. We took the approach of "if I'm a fan, what would I like [to see]?” and being able to see your own drawing of your own face on a new Alfie Templeman single, that could be quite cool? Whilst we encouraged fans to share screen grabs and tag Alfie once they had found themselves, I think there was a lot of organic sharing too. Fans were excited to be included on one of their favourite artist's songs on Spotify and knowing that over one million unique people are listening to Alfie's music and potentially seeing that Canvas every month is a nice badge of honor.
What has the feedback from fans been like?
AT: The fans love it! They really enjoy not only trying to find the three characters but also themselves. I think they like being a visual part of a song that gets a good bunch of plays every day. Other people can acknowledge the drawings they created.
Jen Ewbank: We tried to be as inclusive as possible when it came to involving all of Alfie’s fans by making the call to action for submitting drawings in multiple languages —eight in total—across his socials. As a result, fans from all over the world felt seen and we saw a broad spread of submissions with nearly 50% from Latin American countries!
How did you go about choosing the images that make the cut? How many images of fans made the final Canvas?
TP: On the submission form we had asked fans to let us know where they were drawing from so that A) we could identify where Alfie's super engaged fans are and B) so we could represent Alfie's global fanbase when deciding what drawings to include. We made sure all parts of the world where we had submissions were represented! We also tried not to discriminate based on the quality of the drawings so that it didn't feel like an exclusive club. Overall, 300 fans made it into the Canvases!
What did you and the team learn from doing this campaign?
TP: A key outcome from running this campaign was discovering how capable so many of Alfie's fans are at creating. We hadn't activated them in this way before but it's certainly opened the doors for more co-creation and collaboration in the future!
JE: It was a great test case for us to see which of Alfie’s fans were the most engaged from a territory perspective. We assumed that many of his U.K. fans would partake, but were taken by surprise at the fantastic response from fans in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries. It also helped us identify the territories where more work is required to engage fans there going forward.
Finally, how are Brian and Suzie doing?
AT: I think [they’re] doing pretty good since I last spoke to them. Ever since pubs opened back up over here, Brian seems to be going a bit crazy on the G and T’s which Suzie isn’t too pleased about ... but the good thing is that they’re safe and sound in their little apartment!