Hi, I’m Casey Dayan, the singer and guitarist of Under The Rug, an indie rock band that sold 10,000 CDs— $100,000 revenue—in a month from a campaign built on the idea that people are missing human connection in their lives. Ask me anything.
My little indie band, Under The Rug, has been making music for 12 years. We’ve tried everything under the sun to try to get our music out there, from press to playlisting to playing live to guerrilla campaigns to busking on the street.
Over the years, we’ve been given awful advice about what it means to be an artist, how to grow a fanbase, how to write good songs, etc. It took me 10 years to untangle.
edit: I’m adding a little context here because I want this to be understood in the most helpful (to other indies) way possible.
Part of this “untangling,” at least for me, was understanding that marketing is part of the art. There are terms in this post that sound cold—“market positioning,” “branding,” “mission statement,”—and while I was initially very averse to thinking of our art this way, I eventually realized that these “tools” aren’t good or bad, inherently, and that we make them what they are by how we use them and the intentions behind what we’re doing.
On that note, I realized that, by learning about marketing, we could define and carry a message to our audience. I want to break that down for you here in two parts. Campaign specifics and actionables in the comments.
after the Pandemic, we were all feeling very alone and isolated. Most of our friendships became long-distance ones. We couldn’t afford the overhead on a recording studio we we were running, so we moved to Austin where the rent was cheaper. Everything felt lonely and crummy, so we thought we would try to write some songs to connect with other humans across the internet, and, as if we were writing to ourselves, wrote songs that insisted most people are cut from the same cloth, so to speak, and nobody is really alone. This led us to the campaign I am about to describe.
After a recent re-approaching of our “market positioning,” and, more simply, our reasons for making music, we did a brand overhaul and test campaign with the goal of testing a simple idea: people will more likely support an artist with a clear message with good intentions behind it than an artist without one. Our goal would be to offer a free CD, a vulnerable, handwritten letter, and invite them into a Facebook community where we encouraged them to make friends with each other and send handwritten letters to one another as pen pals.
We had made music in the past for all sorts of reasons, but never thought about how we would frame our music, and, instead, just released it based on common practices suggested by peers and industry influencers.
We decided to position our “mission” as creating music (and an auxiliary experience) that would help people feel a little less alone.
We interwove this idea into our songwriting, and a campaign, which can be seen here: https://undertherugmusic.com/op/free-adeline-cd/
From a design perspective, we decided to make something that looked and felt ~human.~ I learned to doodle little animated gifs with the help of my bandmates, and hand-wrote all the text in the form of images. We hoped that this would feel authentic.
It was authentic, for us.
We truly wanted people to know that we were making music for them, and so our way of selling the record was consistent with that: we would give away our CDs for free, if they only paid for shipping.
We then gave them the option to purchase our other CDs at a discounted rate and donate if they felt compelled to.
Likewise, we designed a sequence of emails onboarding these new fans into our community, with the same handwritten, gif-animated aesthetic we used on our sales page.
The campaign exploded.
Our social followers went from a few thousand to almost 20k on each platform.
Our email list went from 3k to 10k.
Our next album launch, for Homesick For Another World is teed up to release to an enormous audience (for us).
In the orders, I also included the attached letter. I wrote it with the intention of being so vulnerable, it made me uncomfortable. My hope was that, like the branding, design, and music, it would, in good faith, share (a potentially ugly) part of myself to them.
We received thousands of messages and emails per day of people sharing their own lives, stories, similarities, and thankfulness to connect with us, and the rapidly growing fan base in our Facebook group. People sent us pictures of Under The Rug tattoos. Some fans, who we now know well, have traveled across country borders to meet and be friends.
Many things went wrong, and, in the end, the campaign turned out to be just below profitable, which I’m happy to talk more at length about in the comments, but we’ve made some tweaks and are refreshing the campaign now. It seems to be running at a similar ROAS.
Anyways, my hope in posting this was to help any other indies out there untangle the myths perpetuated by the music industry that are harming their success as artists, and inhibiting them from looking at art as what it, in my opinion, should be: a way to connect with other human beings.
Excited to see if anyone finds this interesting, or if I can help in any way.
Here are some links to hear our music and see what’s going on with us these days.
Our site: www.undertherugmusic.com
8/14, 1:53AM - probably gonna hit the hay, but will be on tomorrow morning to answer any other questions! Feel free to ask anything tonight, and I’ll be back to answer post-coffee (: 8/14, 11:00AM - back and sleepy!