In the first edition of this blog series focusing on independent artists I looked at the unique approach to songwriting of Bon Iver. This week, the spotlight is on Croydon raised Michael Omari, or as he’s better known Stormzy, the first British MC to take over the music industry worldwide.
It’s difficult to believe what the grime superstar achieved in such a short space of time; an album debuting at the number one spot in UK charts, topping the streaming likes of Drake and performing live with pops biggest name Ed Sheeran-all WITHOUT being signed to a major label. Stormzy’s success is testament to hardworking upcoming artists who gain recognition without a label backing and it’s something you too could achieve so here’s a closer look at how he did it.
Stormzy coined the phrase ‘ Murky’- a general slang term meaning disgustingly good. This was a great marketing creation as, within one word, Stormzy was able to represent his tongue in cheek braggadocio grime. With this in place, Stormzy had a unique selling point that he could use to brand his music. Murky was used for merchandising, as a hashtag and most importantly, the name for his own team and record label. As an independent artist, it would be worth taking time to think about your artistry and devise an artistic angle.
What’s even more effective is that Murky appears in a lot of Stormzy’s lyrics (‘talk about me you better hashtag ‘murky’ ) which helps build associations with this element of his artistry. As an independent artist trying to gain recognition, I would advise a similar method of brand creation to help give audiences a flavour or your artistic identity and simultaneously creating a working brand that can be used as a marketing tool for your work.
Staying true to his roots, a lot of Stormzy’s early videos were filmed DIY style with friends and family featuring in the videos which often had comedic elements. Most of the videos were filmed around Croydon which gave them an authentic feel. This aesthetic made Stormzy seem like an artist who honoured his background and didn’t take himself too seriously- making him more accessible and relatable to his audience.
For upcoming independent artists, it would be wise to make a video that accurately represents you as an artist; don’t try and pose or be something you’re not because that will only alienate your audience and cause you to lose credibility. Homemade videos are very popular today as fans find it endearing to learn more about the character behind the artists they have just discovered.
It builds a more personal relationship that can make an emerging artist slightly more favourable than superstars who have millions to spend per video shoot. If it’s done tastefully, homemade videos can be just as credible as those with a large budget behind them and they are a very good promotion and exposure tool for independent artists.
Stormzy hasn’t been afraid to collaborate with anyone which is another factor that contributes to his success. From fellow South London MC’s such as Bonkaz, to high profile acts like Linkin Park, Little Mix and of course the man of the decade, Ed Sheeran;
Stormzy never said no and that’s the attitude you have to employ as an artist trying to get attention. If you’re friendly and willing to help others out then you’re only setting yourself up for people to return the favour later on which is invaluable when it comes to exposure.
Stormzy is an avid user of social media across all of today’s main platforms. His Snapchat handle readily available so fans can snap him whatever they want, directly to Stormzys iPhone and he typically replies to all ( although now he’s in high demand, he’s probably a bit pushed to reply to everyone). Stormzy frequently retweets fans who have ‘@’ him and even ran a competition for fans to attend Thorpe Park for his birthday by encouraging them to favourite his tweet.
As with his visual media, Stormzy doesn’t put up a front and shows fans that as well as being serious about music, he’s up for a good laugh. Online communication with fans is a must if you’re an independent artist trying to get a name for yourself.
The limit to fans you can gain by regularly posting online is endless and showing direct communication makes it seem like you genuinely care and appreciate your fans by taking time out of your day to reply to them. You have the capacity to go viral and blow up online so it’s wise you harness this and make yourself available soon as you can.
These are just some of the methods Stormzy utilised as an alternative to searching for major label backing and needless to say, it has paid off for him. It’s important to remember that being independent gives you great freedom with your creative licence and your promotional methods however, stay sensible and don’t go overboard.
Just do what you need to do to accurately represent your artistry and take time before utilising promotional outlets because once you post something online and share it, that sticks and it’s then difficult to rebrand yourself. Always make sure you’re 100% convinced before releasing material.
Speaking of utilising your presence online, our site is a great platform to share and expose your music to industry profesionals and other creatives.
Just like Stormzy, you could land prolific collaborations and with a wealth of members worldwide, your music could potentially take you across the globe. Sign up is free, so if you havent already, create an account and get pitching!