Atmosphere has been fusing funk, soul, and rap with powerful storytelling for more than two decades. The Minneapolis duo’s narrative is married to Rhymesayers Entertainment, the independent hip-hop label that Atmosphere’s Slug and Ant helped build, and still call home. Legendary in the hip-hop community, Rhymesayers has been operating with an artists-first mentality for more than 25 years.

“It's a pretty remarkable thing that an independent label has lasted that long,” says Danny Litin, Head of Marketing. “It's a testament to their decision-making, their strategy, their ability to slow things down and think things through, doing what they can to best serve the artist. That's what we're always reminded: This is all about the artist. How can we create a living for people who are willing to dedicate their life to their art.”

Rhymesayers Entertainment

One way has been to invest locally. Working with Minnesota designers, muralists, visual artists, and musicians, Rhymesayers Entertainment has been a transformative force in the Twin Cities creative community. Of course, it’s also a haven for artists like Atmosphere and Aesop Rock, who, as Litin puts it, “express their truth and vulnerability, who are willing to challenge themselves to continuously reach for perfection.” 

Artists should focus on making art and connecting with their community—that’s what drives the Rhymesayers marketing team, according to Litin. These days, he counts on ToneDen by Eventbrite to understand that mission. This is a platform, “that cuts out all of the noise and focuses on the things that you need to grow as an artist, as a label.” 

“Here to Build”

A Minnesota-native, Litin grew up listening to Rhymesayers mixtapes. He counts the late Eyedea as one of his enduring influences. Rhymesayers, he says, has always been synonymous with Twin Cities ingenuity—think Prince, Bob Dylan, etc. 

“It always had an aura around it,” says Litin. “The Fifth Element record shop was right on Hennepin Avenue, in Uptown, and Jordon (co-founder Slug’s brother) behind the counter would share his favorite release. (Jordon is now an Artist Manager for Rhymesayers, evidence of the collective growth of the Rhymesayers crew.) 

Founded in 1995 by members of the Headshots collective, Rhymesayers Entertainment has grown under the vision of Brent “Siddiq” Sayers. Prior to integrating ToneDen by Eventbrite, their digital advertising combined in-house management with campaigns led by outside agencies. And while those campaigns were effective, their results weren’t always actionable. 

Using ToneDen by Eventbritre, though, Litin and his team have the power to multiply those results–and build with new tools. Take playbooks, ToneDen by Eventbrite’s collection of ready-made marketing strategies. For Litin, playbooks are catalysts to creativity. “We can open up the playbook, pull it apart, understand why it's used, be inspired by it, and then use the tool in our own way.”

The Multiplier Effect

If you take good data sets built over years of organic outreach and add algorithmic insight, you have super power. This is what happened when Rhymesayers used ToneDen by Eventbrite. Litin thinks of it as “the multiplier effect.” 

“ToneDen cuts out all of the noise and focuses on the things that you need to grow as an artist, as a label.” 

“What I attribute it to is the data sets that we have between our newsletter, multiple pages that we manage, all the things that have been developed over twenty-five years. It's a testament to that—and a testament to playing the algorithm game of being able to get in front of people's eyes.” 

Litin helped Atmosphere take advantage of this multiplier effect with a recent merchandise campaign. Advertising the group’s new album, The Day Before Halloween, Litin ran a campaign to promote Atmosphere’s new vinyl—and all associated merch.   

The results? A 16.3x return on ad spend and at least 55 purchases as reported within a 1-day view, 7-day click attribution window. ToneDen’s budget optimization helped them make $72.88 more by shifting  budgets to higher performing audiences and ads. Achieving marketing success during a pandemic, it turns out, isn’t impossible. 

Part of the secret, in Litin’s view, is the powerful ad creative that Rhymesayers produces. “We don't settle for anything less than high quality: the artist’s vision executed on a merchandise level, on a music video level. We want to empower all of the creatives involved in the process. People feel that in the end result.”

“An Invaluable Tool”

Litin recommends ToneDen by Eventbrite for anyone who’s ready to take creative control of their marketing. He sees it as an opportunity to learn in the process: “Between the playbooks, the knowledge base, the videos, the training sessions: all of that.”

For the independent artist, hustling to promote their music, Litin says, “it's an invaluable tool: a bridge between creation and getting it out there … What ToneDen does is give you direct insight and control. It makes it easy to digest and understand the results that you'll be looking for, with very intuitive reporting.”

But ToneDen by Eventbrite is useful for labels, too. “If there's a team that manages a specific artist at a large label, this would be a great tool, even if it's complementary to the other advertising.” Whether the label is large or small, says Litin, “I don't see any reason not to integrate it into your system.”

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