The Miami band’s use of Spotify for Artists marketing tools made listeners four times more likely to stream pre-release singles and helped triple the band’s audience in Radio and Autoplay before the album dropped.
Miami’s Magic City Hippies have brought their breezy alt-funk to the party since they formed in 2015, but when the pandemic changed the game, the indie trio got innovative with how they recorded their sophomore album, Water Your Garden, and how they made sure it reached more listeners than the band ever had before.
Written and recorded in 2021 with band members Robby Hunter, Pat Howard, and John Coughlin all hunkered down in different parts of the country, the album’s title explains the 11 songs’ overarching theme of “taking care of yourself and taking care of your loved ones,” says manager Brad Desmond. “It’s something that the guys felt was missing from their lives before the pandemic.”
When Magic City Hippies began planning Water Your Garden’s release, the band had nearly 650,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and it had been two years since their debut, Modern Animal. So when it came to developing Garden’s release strategy, it was all about working to reconnect with existing listeners and reaching new ones. To accomplish this, they planned to release singles over the course of the nine months in advance of the full album — building awareness so that the fanbase was ready to jump in eagerly when the album came out.
"You only get so many opportunities to release an album,” says Desmond. “I don't want to miss a single potential listener: it's a potential ticket buyer, a potential person who's going to tell 10 of their friends."
To meet their goal of “making it as easy as possible for [listeners] to get to” the new music, Desmond says, they utilized several Spotify for Artists tools, including Marquee, Canvas, and Discovery Mode in a multi-faceted long-lead approach that activated their audience pre-release, made noise when the release dropped, and kept the momentum going post-release.
“Our audience is [on Spotify]. It’s how people discover us,” says Desmond. “It’s our main way of communicating with fans.... So it’s always our priority to play in the sandbox there, to use whatever marketing tools are available to us to provide the best experience possible.”
With Marquee and Canvas, they primed their listeners for the album with a series of singles beginning months ahead of the January 2022 album release. With Discovery Mode, they worked to expand their audience further, right before and after the album dropped — and just ahead of their tour.
Read on to learn exactly how they used each tool to exceed their goals.
Marquee Engaged Listeners Pre-Album
People who saw the Marquees were four times more likely to stream the singles.
Water Your Garden’s first pre-release single, “Diamond,” arrived nine months before the album, in April of 2021. Since it had been two years since their last album, the Magic City Hippies team decided to try a Marquee targeting their lapsed listeners because, “It fit the release strategy by helping reach our goal of reengaging with fans,” says Iona Casta, paid media and digital marketing lead at Create Music Group, the band’s distributor. The Marquee drove 25% of their lapsed listeners to actively stream the band for the first time in more than six months. “Once we saw those results, we decided to use the tool for every release.”
Throughout the rest of the year, they served up five more singles — “Water Your Garden,” “Queen,” “High Beams,” “Ghost on the Mend,” and “Champagne on the Rider” — and they used Marquee to promote all of them. They even had a cheeky inside joke about it. “Brad and I called it ‘foreplay’ for the album,” says Create Music Group project manager Anna Antoniadis. On average, 24% of people who streamed the pre-album singles after seeing the Marquee saved them to their personal libraries for future streaming.
“It’s the most effective strategy to actually increase streaming numbers because it’s in-app,” Casta continues. “It gives fans direct access to actually listen to the music, save it, and come back to it later. Even if I optimize other ads for conversions, it takes several steps for people to stream and save it.”
Using Marquee to target Magic City Hippies’ recently interested, casual, and lapsed listeners resulted in listener familiarity with over half of Water Your Garden before it even dropped.
“Our biggest challenge,” says Desmond, “is making sure that all of our fanbase is aware of what we’re doing… and Marquee is a home run for doing that.”
Canvas Extended the Aesthetic
Magic City Hippies’ comprehensive use of Canvas — the Spotify for Artists tool for short, looping visuals — ensured that listeners who clicked the Marquee also got a taste of their creative world. The band invested in videos for every Water Your Garden single, and they made a Canvas for each. “Canvas allowed us to bring that visual into the Spotify platform, and to really give a deeper, more immersive listening experience to our fans,” Desmond explains. “The other thing I love about Canvas is, when it’s shared to Instagram Stories, which is something that we really look out for and encourage our fans to do… It just makes it that much more engaging for them.”
“In some instances, we used a little bit of B-roll to provide a little Easter egg for fans who maybe are obsessed with the music video and are coming to Spotify to listen to the song,” Desmond continues. “On the non-single tracks, we used more B-roll from the other videos. One video, we had the director do a lot of slow-motion shots of flowers, and that was on-brand for the album title.” B-roll from another video was turned into “kind of like a psychedelic visualizer” Canvas for another song.
Discovery Mode Helped Expand Their Reach
The trio more than tripled their audience in Radio and Autoplay across more than 100 markets, with 31% of those listeners never having streamed the band before.
In December, the month before the album arrived and the tour began, the team looked to reach new listeners by turning on Discovery Mode, a marketing tool that helps artists expand the reach of their music when audiences are most open to discovery. Discovery Mode allows distributors to select music they want to prioritize in select personalized sessions. This increases the likelihood a track reaches listeners in those contexts.
“It was kind of a no-brainer in that period, to say, ‘Let’s give a shot at reaching as many people as possible’,” says Desmond. “Especially in a month like December, which is traditionally considered a down month,” seeing the band’s audience triple within Radio and Autoplay, with 31% of those listeners never having streamed the band before, was “beyond what we expected.”
The team was surprised at first to see particular uplift for two of the songs they selected, with Radio and Autoplay streams of “Ghost on the Mend” and “Diamond” doubling when they turned on Discovery Mode for those tracks compared to the month prior. “Once we looked at a lot of the data, it ended up making sense,” explains Antoniadis.
“I thought ‘Queen’ would've done better because it's shorter and hookier,” says Desmond. “‘Diamond’ and ‘Ghost on the Mend’ are really dynamic, and it was a surprise, but I think it was really cool. On our end, it was cool to see the impact. It's always cool to see the backend data, but specifically with Discovery Mode… it gave us some really interesting insight.”
Overall, the band found Discovery Mode a powerful way to understand what people connect with, “because it’s coming up in algorithmic playlists,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I heard this super-randomly on a radio, and I added it to my playlist, and I listen to it all the time now.’ That was an interesting, different way to see how things connect.”
For Desmond, “as an independent artist, to be able to have that kind of audience insight, it’s really incredible.”
Making Noise On Release Day and Beyond
Having expanded their audience through Discovery Mode, the band was ready to promote the album, Water Your Garden, with Marquee once more. To build on the momentum, they booked a Marquee campaign targeting recently interested listeners — listeners who actively streamed their music in the last 28 days.
It drove an average of 13.5 streams of the new release per listener, over three times more streams per listener than their album at large.
That, “shows how reliably it converts, and, at the end of the day, it’s conversion, conversion, conversion,” says Antoniadis. “No matter how many clicks you get on Instagram or Facebook, it doesn’t necessarily mean the user’s gonna go stream the song… As data people, I love being able to see the actual conversion into streams.”
With Marquee, the album also reached their highest intent rate yet: 30% of Marquee listeners saved a track from the album to their library or added it to a personal playlist. Plus, 20% of their Marquee listeners also streamed from their older releases like 2019’s Modern Animal.
Because “fans are still connecting with it,” months after the album’s release day, Desmond says the team will return to Discovery Mode for Garden tracks that weren’t previously turned on.
“One of my goals in general—and especially with an album rollout—is extending the release period the day after the release,” adds Antoniadis. “It doesn’t end there for anyone, and you can continue pushing it in different ways. Discovery Mode [is] an amazing tool for just that.”
“It was a bigger, more professional release this time around,” Desmond says. “We always try to leave no stone unturned, and with these [three] tools, we were able to do a better job of that.”
The band is excited to continue building on the success of this release as their 2022 tour kicks into high gear, including a stop at Firefly Music Festival in September. “They worked really hard for a couple years to take that sound that’s very unique to them, that they create in the studio, and… bring it on the stage and still perform it live,” Desmond says.