This week’s Billboard magazine details how a group of students at ACM@UCO helped them get on Wind-up’s radar.
When Chuck Berry sang “Up in the mornin’ and out to school/The teacher is teachin’ the golden rule,” rock’n’roll was reserved for after-school activities. Wind-up Records and its recent signing Aranda have learned that when class is in session, an “A” on a project can also produce chart positions.
In February, Trey Rick, coordinator of academic operations at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, discarded the usual curriculum in his “Music Marketing and Retail 2” course in favor of a unique idea: Let the 12 students get a hands-on experience marketing a real-life band. Aranda had approached him to have the students figure out how to market the group’s album rather than the standard case study, and both teacher and band got much more in return.
The students began by studying Aranda’s music, then scoured the Internet to find where the group had traction and interviewed siblings to gauge the band’s buzz. Marketing proposals were created; the six best were presented to the group, a quartet led by brothers Dameon (vocals/guitar) and Gabe (vocals/keyboards) Aranda.
Part of the challenge was that the band had released its album “Stop the World” six months prior. “That was a major hurdle, and the class was unanimous in thinking they should rerelease it,” Rick says. “I liked how out of order everything was. It broke the barriers of anything you could find in the textbook that said ‘do this six weeks in advance, do this nine weeks in advance.’ We treated it like it was just released.”
Social activities on Twitter, Topspin and Facebook became the students’ domain. They also created and managed Aranda’s website and branded store, and organized street teams. The students created a lyric video for the single “Satisfied” in late April, a tactic unfamiliar to the band.
“It was hands-on, real-time work,” Gabe Aranda says. “Our only distribution was digital, and what we wanted was input on how the band was perceived. They had a think tank of students who looked at our branding and social media. They assessed what we looked like to the outside world, something we have a hard time doing.”
Much of the information was a significant FYI to the band, which had little knowledge about the analytics of social media or the impact of fan photos and videos. “The original thing they came for morphed from promoting the record to positioning the band,” Rick says. “The idea was to make the band self-sufficient [online], make sure [fans] didn’t have to work hard to find them and have a consistent presence.”
Much as Aranda sounds like a local band in need of help, it already had something of a national presence. Since the album’s release, the act has toured with Saving Abel and Theory of a Deadman, and Johnny K (Disturbed, Staind) produced the album after Lzzy Hale of Halestorm told him Aranda was her favorite group.
The brothers started performing together in 2001 and released their first album in 2008. Two songs landed on Billboard’s Active Rock airplay chart: “Still in the Dark” (at No. 31) and “Whyyawannabringmedown” (No. 25). If that second title seems familiar, it’s because Kelly Clarkson recorded it for her fourth album in 2009, the Billboard 200 chart-topper “All I Ever Wanted”. (The brothers also wrote the set’s title track.)
The legwork that Aranda and its manager had put in at radio through the years helped get some airplay for the new album’s first single, “Undone,” which reached No. 23 on Active Rock. Once the students’ work was in place, “Satisfied” started rising on the chart. In May, it began selling more than 1,000 downloads per week — it’s up to 35,000 sold — and peaked on Active Rock at No. 14 on Oct. 13.
The growing activity around the band attracted the attention of Wind-up, which signed Aranda to a deal this summer and will rerelease “Stop the World” on Oct. 16. It’ll continue working “Satisfied” before picking a new single for release in January.
“We’re constantly trying to find anybody making inroads, and they did that at radio and online,” Wind-up GM Alan Galbraith says. “Only after the fact did we learn about the school, but it’s such a cool story it piqued our interest further. They did it in a unique way. It’s a real example of a band putting themselves on our radar rather than waiting for us to find them.”