If your origin story involves a backpacking trip, a totaled Fiat, a baptism-by-fire introduction to the music business, and a basement in Seattle, you’re winning. And that’s basically what indie record label and distribution company Light in the Attic has been doing since 2001.
“We represent about 150 like-minded indie labels, distributing them to stores around the world,” Ryan Wilson, General Manager at LITA, tells ToneDen. “Most people remember us from the movie Searching for Sugar Man.”
Founded by high school buddies Matt Sullivan and Josh Wright, LITA started out by putting on shows in Seattle — think Interpol — before the record label began. Fueled by a “commitment to quality” and “disdain for convention,” LITA has released more than 200 albums, launched three additional labels, added offices in Los Angeles, and strengthened their bond to Seattle with a brick-and-mortar record store. And LITA’s expansion goes beyond operations. “We found niche lanes with the labels we distribute,” says Wilson. “Mondo, iam8bit, Tidal Waves, Be With, Music from Memory.”
With access to all those data streams, your marketing should tap into that wealth of information. “I looked at all these labels, all this data coming in, all these different types of artists and music that we represent, all these transactions,” says Wilson. “We needed to find a way to own this, to use this data to our advantage because we’re one of the few places that has all these other amazing labels under our umbrella that we’re honored to be working with.”
That’s why they use ToneDen.
“Nothing Under Double-Digit Returns”
A long-time record collector, Wilson and LITA founder Matt Sullivan struck up a friendship like all the best friendships: around music. When he heard LITA was hiring, Wilson made the move.
Now, two years later, Wilson oversees advertising for LITA’s own label, plus their distributed labels. After a short-lived relationship with an outside agency, Wilson decided to take control of LITA’s marketing. “I run all of the campaigns through ToneDen.”
Today, Wilson is still in awe of the consistency of his campaigns’ performance. “I feel like I’m playing with house money,” he admits. “It’s kind of amazing how much success we’ve been able to have with every campaign. There’s nothing under double-digit returns.”
“It’s kind of amazing how much success we’ve been able to have with every campaign."
Keeping Track and Getting Granular
Success is a product of knowing your audience, which is why Wilson is a big believer in ToneDen’s FanLinks. “We use those for everything. We put them in every press release, we embed them anytime we share a link on Instagram. It’s really our way of keeping track of what’s going on with those artists and products.”
Those FanLinks, of course, complement the Facebook and Instagram ads LITA— what Wilson calls “our bread and butter.” Building those ads in ToneDen allows him to “get so granular. I want to target fans of Japanese records or Japanese music on Facebook. I want to target somebody who listened to Hiroshi Sato on Spotify. And then I also want to send and reach all the people in our Japanese email list segment. Why would I ever rely on anybody else to run these ads?”
A recent vinyl release campaign illustrates just how useful ToneDen’s audience targeting is. V/A Pacific Breeze collects Japanese boogie and pop from 1976–1986, some of which has never been released outside of the country. Putting just under $300 into a three-day Facebook and Instagram campaign netted LITA incredible returns. With more than ten distinct audiences targeted, the campaign brought in $11,458 — a 39.7x return on ad spend.
“I don’t think anybody here really had any understanding of just how popular that would be,” Wilson says. “We knew it was a great record, but when we started running the ads immediately you could see this amazing lift.”
“Reachable by a Click”
In Wilson’s perspective, ToneDen — with their tools and their supportive team — educates and emboldens marketers. “Working with an agency, I would have to audit their decision making and then I would see what the fee that they were taking, the percentage of the spend regardless of whether or not the ads performed well.” Working with ToneDen lets LITA capitalize on their expertise. Says Wilson: “If you know your crowd and you know your people, then you’re going to get to the right folks.”
Understanding who and how you’re targeting puts marketers in control. “Nobody knows our audience better than we do,” Wilson says.
And that’s why he’d recommend ToneDen. It’s more than a tool. “Anytime you have a problem, they’re reachable by a click,” he says. “Anybody that’s on the ground as a manager, a small label, venue; anybody that’s doing things on the grassroots level that wants control, that wants to reach their people directly, that knows their audience will be empowered by using ToneDen.”