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Jul 20, 2004
Case Study

Steve Winwood Doubles US Album Sales with Free File Sharing Plus Joint TV & Web Ads

SUMMARY: Most music industry execs regard peer-to-peer downloads and Internet-based file sharing with fear and loathing. So when we heard famed rocker Steve Winwood was bucking the trend by actively encouraging people to download a song from his latest album, we knew you'd want details and results data. This Case Study is also cool because the marketers mixed multiple media -- including TV ads, Web ads, and PR -- for maximum impact. Here are the lessons they learned from this experimental campaign:

"I've been a big fan of Steve Winwood's since 1967," says Marv Danielski. "I have every single one of his albums."

So he was a little upset to learn in January 2004 that Winwood's new album had been released six full months before in June 2003, but he hadn't known about it.

"How can an artist as good as Steve not be known or heard about? It's due to the fragmentation of media and information. And at my age, 50, I'm not looking for the hottest records like an 18-year old is."

However, unlike most 18-year olds, as VP Marketing & Creative Services for Heart-Argyle Television Danielski had the power to create a campaign to get the word out about his favorite artist. Fired up, he cut a series of deals with key partners including:
- Winwood's label Wincraft Music
- US distributors Megaforce Records
- retail chain For Your Entertainment (FYE)
- Access Hollywood's parent company NBC Universal
- Internet Broadcasting Systems (who power Hearst's TV station Web sites)

The idea was to place promos for the album on Hearst's 25 local TV stations and their sites, plus the Access Hollywood show and site. "It was unprecedented, bringing together all these major entities into this mini-network, but I thought the experiment could work."

Danileski fervently believed that Winwood's music transcends age barriers. So he wanted his campaign to reach far beyond boomers.

He carefully orchestrated the TV spots to reach a variety of demographics. "We made sure we exposed Steve in programs like Oprah, Good Morning America, some sports, Leno and Letterman, and Saturday Night Live. We optimized our schedules to reach most demographics across all dayparts."

By combining TV with Web, "we covered 25-64 from top to bottom." But what about the under-25 crowd?

Danielski needed a breakthrough campaign to reach kids in those critical 18-24-year old album buying years. This demographic is too advertising savvy to pay attention to typical TV spots or standard Web banners... how could he impress them?


"I've got an iPod, but I don't have a lot of time for it," admits Danielski. But he knew more than 200 million consumers swap audio and video files via peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing, adding up to 350 million average downloads per week for Kazaa alone. And a heck of a lot of these users were in that magic 18-24-year bracket.

In fact, file sharing expert Mitchell Riechgut told Danielski, "Peer to peer file sharing is where pop culture is going. It's enormous and it's expanding exponentially in spite of what you read in the press. Ages 15-college is the core, but you're starting to see adults use it now too."

He added, "Most marketers don't understand kids. File sharing is so big and yet people are still building Web sites to reach younger consumers. The Web is not where younger consumers live. They live in the file sharing scene. That's where it's at, and nobody knows it's there yet. Anyone who puts music on the Web is completely missing the market."

Danielski was willing to experiment though. So he and his team put together a file sharing campaign...

Step #1. Get permission

With help from Wincraft Records, Danielski selected a song from the new album and got permission from all related intellectual property authorities (ASCAP, etc) to allow it to be distributed freely for six months.

Important -- he didn't just pick a slice of a song, but asked to use an entire eight-minute song for the campaign.

File sharing users won't virally distribute your song or video clips to anyone if the clips are perceived to be heavy on marketing and light on value. A partial song cut would be obvious advertorial. Only a complete song would make the grade.

Step #2. Offer additional value and content

Danielski wanted the song file to act as both a buzz-building and direct response device. But, he knew a "click here to buy this" would be perceived as far too commercial. Instead, he worked with Winwood's management company to gain access to an exclusive "back stage" video clip of Winwood in concert. Plus, Winwood agreed to give away a personally-designed Fender guitar in a Web-only contest.

Danielski also wrangled a 30-minute video interview with Winwood in person when the artist visited New York this Spring. As the campaign committee leader, Danielski delegated conducting the interview to ... himself of course!

Armed with this extra content, Danielski had his Web team create two video clip files to share with file sharing networks. All three clips (the two videos and the long song), featured a four-second female voiceover at the beginning and end telling listeners to visit a special site to enter to win a Fender.

The campaign microsite was loaded with informational value including:

- The interview and backstage video clips - A bio of Winwood - Articles about Winwood - Shorter clips of more songs from the album - A contest entry form for the Fender - Link to Winwood's fan club - Link to buy the album online at "You could spend a good 10-20 minutes just on the site," Danielski says.

The online ad campaigns running on Access Hollywood and Heart TV station sites also linked to this microsite. However, Danielski asked his Web team to be sure to track the incoming traffic separately.

Step #3. Test your file with a tiny group of influencers

No matter how great you think your file is, if the most influential file sharing users don't like it, they won't tell anyone about it, and you are sunk. File sharing marketing is much like viral marketing in that regard.

Getting a file distributed is all about getting the ear of someone at the top of the file sharing foodchain, and hoping they'll recommend it to others. If you give these highly influential users a dud clip, they will cease to respect you. Once you've lost their trust, it's almost impossible to regain.

So Danielski's file sharing-specialist agency refused to distribute the files to their contacts without running up a trial balloon first. They emailed about 10 contacts they'd been nurturing relationships with over the past two years, and asked for an opinion on the files.

Step #4. Offer the file to IRC, Usenet, and public FTP servers

Once the campaign was vetted by file sharing insiders, the agency carefully put the word out to a few more influencers. Why just a few? As Reichgut explains, "There's a group of 20-30 kids who can make a viral campaign happen. They are very powerful. 99% of all file sharing starts at just 30 computers."

He continues, "It starts at these few highly encrypted top sites, and the gets to the IRC (Internet Relay Chat), UseNet, and public FTP servers. That's the top of the pyramid. Then it spreads through P2P to multiple points including millions of Limewire, Kazaa, E-Donkey, and RazorPop users."

Both the amount and speed of spread are completely dictated by the marketplace. If users adore your file, they'll share it. Otherwise not.

Step #5. Do PR to assure everyone the download is legal

Recent well-publicized legal battles have made some P2P users nervous about spreading music files. So, Danielski's team launched a PR campaign talking about the legality of the free download file the same day as the main campaign launch.

They didn't expect the PR campaign would drive significant traffic by itself, but concerned file sharers surfing major news sites might be reassured enough to download and forward the file to others. (Note: If you send a release by one of the major wires, distribution into Yahoo News, AOL News, and Google News is automatically included.)

Step #6. Set up measurement systems, cross your fingers, and wait

Unlike Web and HTML email campaigns, measuring file sharing usership is a new and relatively inexact science.

Danielski arranged for two measurement systems to report on what they could discover. One tracked file sharing on IRC, Usenet, and FTP activity. The other tracked P2P activity via Kazaa, Limewire, and other major systems.

However, no one could track how many consumers emailed friends links or files, or how many people promoted links from online chat etc. It's a wild west for measurement because so many independent computers are involved in the extremely decentralized world of file sharing.

Timing: Danielski's first committee meeting to start the entire online/offline campaign was on March 2nd. The multi-channel campaigns launched en masse on June 10th. TV spots ran for three weeks to guarantee the reach and frequency Danielski wanted for optimal results. (He did tell us exactly what that was, but swore us to secrecy - sorry.)

The Web campaign will end this Sunday June 25th. The file sharing campaign ends when the rights revert six months after launch.


Wincraft's General Manager Kevin Morris says, "I'm really excited by the results. It shows that TV and peer-to-peer together can really raise sales."

In fact, according to Neilsen Soundscan reports, About Time album sales in the US have doubled since the campaign began. Since the album was already a year old at campaign launch, it's fairly obvious the campaign was the driving force.

More results data:

- TV: In local markets where Hearst-Argyle TV ads ran, sales were much higher than average, with sales leaps ranging from 300% to 800% as spots ran in areas such as Boston and Los Angeles.

- Microsite: 123,587 visitors (non-unique) have gone to the microsite so far, with an average of 1.6 pageviews each. 10% are from static advertorial mentions on Hearst-Argyle and Access Hollywood home pages. 61% are from small floating box ads that appear to roughly 50% of visitors to the same home pages. 29% are from P2P users using the special link.

6.2% of total visitors have clicked from the microsite home page to the contest entry and submitted their entry. This is an exceptionally high number considering the number of content links and offerings on the microsite home page which may have distracted attention from the contest (while serving a valuable purpose of their own.)

- eretail: reports that About Time moved from nowhere to become their #3 online seller during June 10-July 13. It beat out popular albums by Lloyd Banks, Usher, and Velvet Revolver.

- PR: Anecdotal evidence from various chat rooms and consumer posts indicates that the press release and resulting stories on CNET among other sites, were critical to assuage consumers' legal fears. Here are some typical quotes (typos and all:)

"ive been staying away from p2p lately cuz of the riaa.... are u sure its legal?"

"free music! legit dude take a look at this info"

"its free legit etc.. no riaa gonna sue you"

"Read an article in Cnet, giving his shit away free."

- Downloads: So far 1.3 million on IRC, 850,000 on Usenet, 650-750,000 +/- 20% on public FTPs. Plus, at any one time, more than P2P 50,000 users had the file on their drives.

While this is far lower than one might expect for an artist such as Eminem, many younger consumers noted they didn't know exactly who Winwood was ... until they heard his distinctive voice on the file.

65% of the downloads were users in the US and Canada. The remaining 35% were mainly from 26 other countries with Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden leading the pack, and France, Spain, and Israel trailing near the end. Interestingly, downloaders were more likely to be from Eastern Europe than the Far East.

The audio MP3 file is the most popular, with the two videos (which are fairly large files) being less popular although still heavily downloaded. Many users reported listening to the audio file while they waited for the video to download to their slower connections.

Final note -- why was Winwood willing to take a chance on free file downloads when others in the industry shun them?

"I'm not speaking for Steve so I can't say exactly," notes Danielski. "I think he's a smart enough man to be one of the world's greatest musicians. He created his own music company Wincraft because he recognizes the music industry has changed. I think he's trying to take more control of where he is going."

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples: microsite screenshots, banners & an Excel file showing peer-to-peer file proliferation over the first two weeks:

Jun Group - The specialist agency that created and ran Winwood's file sharing campaign:

Big Champagne - The peer-to-peer measurement firm that reported on Kazaa, limewire, and other downloads:

Link to a place where you can download the files to view for yourself (note: you'll need to have LimeWire on your computer to view the files)

LimeWire - free version available here

eDonkey - P2P service helped distribute the files to its users

Hearst Argyle Television


Steve Winwood

Note: We'd also like to thank the folks at Wincraft Music, Megaforce Records, and IBS Systems for their help with this Case Study.

See Also:

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