The Chainsmokers Use Social Media to Dominate the Post-Digital Music Age

The Chainsmokers' Alex Pall and Drew Taggart Use Social Media to Dominate the Post-Digital Music Age

We all know that the music industry has been forever changed by the free, real-time exchange of content online. As a result, smart artists – like The Chainsmokers – and music management pivoted to figure out how to use that to their advantage. They also have learned how to leverage streams to end up at the top of the charts.

For The Chainsmokers, social media is both a business strategy and a creative outlet, as well as a way to ingrain themselves in their fans’ lives and social media feeds.

The Chainsmokers Stay Relevant

The Chainsmokers’ manager, Adam Alpert, summed up the necessity to stay relevant in today’s fast-moving media.

Everybody knows music is consumed song-by-song now due to streaming. We’ve also realized that people want instant gratification. So, we decided to deliver a song every four weeks to our core fan base. The strategy works very well for streaming services, because they are getting regular content, and playlist editors can help you narrate that story month to month. And they know how this artist is performing, where they’d best be placed and how to market them through their other channels. Apple Music and Spotify have been very supportive of that strategy. We’ve found that the monthly releases are causing the artist to go more viral, too. If we didn’t do that, people would forget about us during that time because there’s so much noise. I tell all my artists: If they’re not listening to you, they’re listening to somebody else. Adam Alpert, Billboard.

So that’s the approach The Chainsmokers take: release content regularly, including singles, forget the focus on albums, and always have something going on that you can post about. This serious hustle landed Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart a Grammy, six Billboard Award nominations, a headlining spot at Ultra Miami 2018, and songs that continue to dominate the charts.

Alex and Drew have talked about the DJ mindset which could influence how they still see music and their releases. DJs are always trying to get their hands on brand-new releases, many of them leaked. This way they can drop them on unsuspecting crowds and feel the reaction in real-time. This is how social media makes the whole world a venue.

Using Humor to Keep the Spotlight on Themselves

The Chainsmokers spend a lot of time creating content, and not all of it is music. They understand that humor is an important way to endear themselves to the public. They can also repurpose this content, sharing YouTube videos on Twitter to reach a wider audience.

Hop over to The Chainsmokers’ YouTube page and scroll back a little. You’ll find a lot of funny videos, including their Cloud Comments series where they make fun of themselves and the haters just a little. Can’t we all relate to ‘hate’ from the peanut gallery on the internet? You can’t help but feel for Alex and Drew while you laugh along with them.

Their humor doesn’t feel like a gimmick, either. Alex Pall in particular is always sharing funny photos and videos on The Chainsmokers’ feeds and his personal Instagram. This gives the feeling that he’s sharing his personality with you rather than pandering for your clicks and likes.

A great example is a post called Ponderings with Alex Pall. This appeared on The Chainsmokers’ Instagram page and was really a promotion for an upcoming single.

While Alex plays a lovely piano refrain, the camera zooms in waiting for his thoughts. Those thoughts aren’t serious at all, it turns out, and the juxtaposition of it all is good for a giggle.

I’m weird and we also have a new song coming out tomorrow |

A post shared by A L E X (@alexpall) on

Another timely example of humor as a way to connect comes in the form of a clap back.

Probably posted by Alex Pall, this gem is the perfect dose of self-effacing humor that makes The Chainsmokers feel so relatable. Why get mad when you can shrug your shoulders and laugh? Aren’t those the types of people we like being around?

Create Brand Loyalty

By all accounts, Alex Pall is usually behind at least The Chainsmokers’ Twitter and Instagram pages. He uses these to stay in touch with fans in a way that feels personal.

In the world of marketing, one of the main goals is to identify your ideal audience and tailor your message to them. By doing this you strengthen the tie between these ideal customers or fans and your brand. The fans can be very loyal if you stay creative and interesting online. They will consume your content, share your content with their friends and help you reach other ideal fans.

This strategy is easy to see in areas like the cosmetics industry, which constantly reposts their customers looking good while using their products. It’s pretty obvious that The Chainsmokers are working this strategy while achieving results that feel genuine and real.

That’s the true marketing magic: how authentic are you? The Chainsmokers establish authenticity in their fan interactions which tightens the connection they share with them.

The Chainsmokers are Generous

For starters, The Chainsmokers are extremely giving when it comes to their fans. They are constantly retweeting and re-gramming things their fans say about them. Got a cool Chainsmokers tattoo? They’ll find your post and give you some clout.

This is why checking out The Chainsmokers’ Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts looks more like a friend’s social media than you might expect. It’s literally peppered with content from fans.

Not only does this give the lovers of The Chainsmokers a jolt of ‘what if’ excitement every time they post about their favorite band, it also creates a real community online. It’s obviously great for the band’s hype. After all, you can sing your own praises or let others sing them. Which feels more authentic?

Sharing Covers

One of the pieces of content that The Chainsmokers like to post about the most is covers of their songs. At this point, the band is well-known for it, so covering a Chainsmokers song is like entering a lottery where you have a chance to get huge exposure and might even get an invite to join the band.

Famously, the duo welcomed two relative unknowns on stage with them this way. After sharing Chainsmokers covers, Tony Ann and Matt McGuire joined The Chainsmokers on the Memories…Do Not Open tour.

It is unheard of for a Grammy-winning act to call up any one fan up from relative obscurity, not to mention two of them.

Tony Ann

Performer Tony Ann is a Canadian pianist and composer who is studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He often records and shares interpretive piano covers of pop songs. On February 6, 2017, he attracted some serious attention from Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart for his cover of “Paris.”

The Chainsmokers shared Tony’s cover and revealed in the caption that they were impressed by Ann’s take on their songs and had invited him to tour with them. Ann also shares a writing credit for “Sick Boy.”

Before being discovered by The Chainsmokers, Ann had a modest 8,000 YouTube subscribers and only 2,000 followers on Instagram. This seems to prove that content shares from The Chainsmokers aren’t meant to be tactical partnerships or be based on the size of the fan’s network. It’s all about sharing the limelight they have with talented fans.

The Chainsmokers appear proud of their capability to function as a hand up for talented musicians. Taggart and Pall frequently comment about the situation on the band’s social networking accounts.

Their January 23, 2018, post sums this up well. The Chainsmokers say, “We watch every cover of our music out there and it inspires us so much! we discovered Tony Ann through a cover, then we invited him on tour with us then helped us write Sick Boy. Never ever give up on your dreams!”

Matt McGuire

McGuire is another fellow musician who came to Alex and Drew’s attention over social media. The Australian session musician frequently covers hit songs to show off his wild, aggressive drumming technique. He is a really flashy player which does well online.

Just like the announcement about Tony Ann, Drew Taggart and Alex Pall introduced the brand-new member of theirs on social media referencing his cover of “Paris.”

“Best cover ever,” the Facebook page exclaimed. “Matt McGuire is joining us on our #MDNOTour! Welcome to the Chainsmokers Matt! He was found by us online from the covers of his! Thus, it’s perfect we announce this with his amazing Paris cover.”

Nicole Starr Joins The Chainsmokers on Stage

Social media and The Chainsmokers’ fan network was also responsible for making a 16-year-old singer’s dream come true. Here’s how that Cinderella story went down.

In the hours leading up to their show at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, The Chainsmokers received approximately 200 DMs from people encouraging them to invite the 16-year-old Nicole Starr up on stage to sing with them. While it looked like an insane idea in the beginning, The Chainsmokers were there to go along with it.

Halfway through their set, they made the decision to surprise Nicole by calling her name out and asking her to come up and join them. The Chainsmokers said “luckily she was sitting close” to the front side of the stage.

Along with being an admirer of The Chainsmokers, Nicole Starr is a YouTube personality trying to break through in the industry. Amazingly, without a hint of stage fright, Nicole crushed the opportunity to perform in front of 10,000 people nearly out of the blue.

Watch Nicole sing “Paris,” The Chainsmokers song that makes everyone’s dreams come true.

Ask yourself, doesn’t this hand-up mentality give you the feels? It’s easy to root for people who keep looking back and sharing their success. By doing this, The Chainsmokers foster a deep connection with fans who feel personally connected to their favorite EDM duo.

Beyond Paris

This kind of fan love doesn’t only happen with “Paris.” The Chainsmokers are at it again just this week, sharing a new cover of “Somebody.” This time, the artist’s name is Linn and her cover is hauntingly beautiful. Alex and Drew shared a clip from her video on their Instagram and Twitter as a way to say thanks.

Evidence That Social Media Helps The Chainsmokers Stay on Top

If the streaming stats and downloads don’t convince you that this tactic works, take a look at how invested some fans can be in The Chainsmokers.

They spend hours creating fan art to show their investment, and The Chainsmokers are quick to share fan creations with their huge social media network.

Fans also send meaningful messages about what The Chainsmokers’’ songs mean to them and why they can’t get enough. By sharing posts like this, The Chainsmokers not only thank these fans for their support, they also show other followers that they’re not alone in their Chainsmokers’ obsession. This is brilliant community building that any brand or business would be proud of.

Furthermore, every time a new song drops, which is frequent (more on that release strategy in a minute), fans exclaim incredible excitement. They stay up late to catch the debut. They sign up for lists and follow The Chainsmokers on Spotify. They download and stream until each single rises up the charts.

Still, more evidence comes from the incredible YouTube stats The Chainsmokers hold to their credit.

The Chainsmokers joined the two Billion Views Club recently, with the lyric video for ‘Closer’ which pulled in over two billion plays. This release continues to hold its momentum in spite of being released so long ago.

“Sick Boy,” hit #65 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after its January release and has over 169 million views currently. “You Owe Me” already has over 42 million YouTube views. Continuing this heavy view trend, “Everybody Hates Me” racked up more than 19 million views since March and the most recent release, “Somebody” hit over 10 million views in less than a month.

Directing the Trajectory with Social Media

Alex and Drew fielded a question from Zach Sang about how they use social media to direct their releases.

I think we just look at their reactions and not change the song, but it like gets you excited about the release. I mean it’s more just a gauge. I mean we played a song at a show before it comes out and just hear how it sounds in a big room and see how people respond to it and even though people might not be singing the song cause they don’t know the lyrics yet or like where the song is going, you can kind of see if there’s a vibe and people are like feeling it and then you just kind of go from there. But I don’t think we’re ever like changing drops or melodies. Alex Pall, Zach Sang Show.

Now, on to that single release strategy.

Creating Constant Content

In an effort to have genuine content for social media, The Chainsmokers and their management implemented a unique strategy for new music releases. Although there was a seven month or so lag between the last Memories single and “Sick Boy,” now when there is new Chainsmokers music, the duo releases it as singles in a ‘waterfall’ strategy.

After The Chainsmokers pitched their 2018 release strategy to their record label last fall, the program was so complex that Columbia Records VP of sales Joe Gallo had to purchase a brand new dry erase board, according to Billboard Magazine. Columbia’s team spent three weeks plotting out the concept which trickles releases out one at a time to Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music. Eventually, they plan to release a new EP containing each previous single. Forget the regular album model. The Chainsmokers aren’t afraid of that in the slightest.

They have remarked in interviews that this approach keeps things fresh and relevant. It avoids the pitfalls of the old paradigm, where artists worked for years on music that felt old by the time it was released.

“We wrote out a road map,” Gallo explained to Billboard. “We wanted to create what we’re calling a ‘waterfall.’ As we go with the second and third tracks, the waterfall keeps getting larger and larger.”

In January, The Chainsmokers released the first drop in the waterfall. “Sick Boy” kicked off the monthly releases with “You Owe Me” to follow in February. They released it as a two-song bundle on streaming services with “Sick Boy.”  March rang in with “Everybody Hates Me,” followed by the latest single, “Somebody” in April.

This plan will continue to repeat until a 12-song album drops in December. Adam Alpert, CEO of the band’s longtime label, Columbia partner Disruptor Records, came up with what he calls the building the album strategy. This way, every song triggers a new boost of consumption by fans.

The Chainsmokers are Disrupters

The Chainsmokers’ plan is a real-time case study on how best to rethink the standard single-single-album release playbook of the dead-and-gone CD era. This waterfall strategy features social media as a cost-effective digital billboard to keep churning out interest in fans with short attention spans.

We just don’t consume music in the same way we used to. We chase singles and load up our playlist without necessarily looking into other tracks on the album. This trend is predicted to continue as the listening audience gets younger and younger. Bundling singles together helps fans find those they may have missed.

According to Zach Fuller, a media analyst for MIDiA Research in London, The Chainsmokers’ strategy will continue to boost traffic on various other services as well as Spotify by constantly refreshing their pages with brand new content. “If you do discover it [from a playlist], you’re innately a lot more apt to head to the [artist] page, and Spotify has the newest releases at the top,” Fuller says.

That’s really been the key to our success is the fact that we can release music that feels relevant to what’s happening now and new instead of like, we made this two years ago, it still feels really good to us, and music is somewhere completely different. Alex Pall, Zach Sang Show.

The Double-Edged Social Media Blade

While there is no doubt that The Chainsmokers use social media to their advantage, their new music suggests it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Lyrics for songs like “Everybody Hates Me,” “Sick Boy,” and “Somebody” all reference the hustle for likes and the isolation that comes from social media attention and fame. Drew sings, “I post a picture of myself ’cause I’m lonely. Everyone knows what I look like, not even one of them knows me.”

So, The Chainsmokers harness the power of social media to help drive their brand to deep fan loyalty and overall success, they acknowledge it’s all a little weird. And that’s relatable too, isn’t it? We’re all a little weird, after all.


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