After Cardi B released her latest single, “Hot Sh-t” featuring Kanye West and Lil Durk, this summer, one of the label’s first calls was to an increasingly in-demand digital marketing agency called Get Engaged. Media. In the first two weeks after its release, the Atlanta-based company’s social media campaign for the rapper’s song generated more than 100 million impressions.
College friends Cameron “Cam” Fordham and Ben Hiott originally started the business in 2016, away from their day jobs, to monetize celebrities’ Facebook pages by curating their content. Alex Dermer, who had led Waka Flocka Flame, joined six months later, and the three co-founded Get Engaged Media. Six years later, the company ran social media campaigns for artists ranging from DJ Khaled, Wiz Khalifa and Imagine Dragons to Walker Hayes and Ozzy Osborne. This year alone, he led social media campaigns for Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers “First Class” by Jack Harlow, “Heat Wave” by Glass Animals and “About Damn Time” by Lizzo.
The pandemic has benefited the company, prompting employment and volume growth of more than 300% over the past two years, according to Dermer, who describes the company’s mission as providing “fuel to help create conversations and generate content”.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, “there was a massive reallocation of spending across industries,” Dermer says. “With the music, you take away the touring and the billboards and other aspects, and then they had to get aggressive on digital. Money came from streaming for music companies and there is a direct correlation between streaming and social media traction. So that’s where we saw the massive move into the digital space.
This shift happened in Get Engaged’s work with The Weeknd’s after hours and the album’s single “Blinding Lights”, which became the longest hit in Billboard Hot 100 history at 90 weeks.
“This album came out when everyone was locked down and in the middle of the pandemic, and so many people were hurting and scared,” Hiott says. “We were able to create some viral moments, especially with the ‘Blinding Lights’ dance, which was able to bring happiness and joy to many people.”
Get Engaged Media has worked with over 1,000 musicians and
In addition to working with artists from all three major record labels, his client list includes brands such as T-Mobile, Crocs, The Honest Company, Vita Coco, Major League Soccer, NBC Universal, NASCAR and Snapchat.
Earlier this year, Get Engaged Media expanded into Nashville, working with country artists such as Cole Swindell, Parker McCollum and Kane Brown.
“I wanted an amazing team that I can bounce creative ideas off of and who could help us capture critical content because I can’t keep up [Kane] around an iPhone all day,” Brown’s manager Martha Earls said. Billboard. “[Get Engaged is] unique in their approaches with each artist. They generationally understand who people talk to, who their fans are, and having that kind of insight is an incredible strength.
This year, in addition to opening its Nashville branch, Get Engaged execs launched a label called Series A Entertainment, which signed rapper The Letter M in a joint venture with 300 Entertainment. They also branched out into artist management, representing rapper SYMBA.
They are also looking to expand further geographically, potentially opening offices in Miami and London. “There’s a big Web 3.0 presence in Miami now, so I might see some sort of satellite office one day,” Fordham says.
Get Engaged Media has so far operated without the help of venture capitalists or other outside funding, but that hasn’t stopped potential suitors from coming forward.
Several months ago, Jason Zerden, then vice president of business development for Create Music Group, contacted the founders of Get Engaged to buy the company. They weren’t for sale, but Zerden was impressed with how Get Engaged competed against much bigger companies. “I came through CAA, then Stem and then Create Music Group, all very flashy companies,” he says. “These guys are running a 90-person business in this space outside of Georgia.”
Four months later, Get Engaged asked Zerden to become chief strategy officer. Impressed by their casualness, he started this month.
Here, Zerden explains why Get Engaged has become a go-to partner for a growing number of artists and brands and how he sees social media and music campaigns evolving.
What brought you to work with Get Engaged Media?
I was struck by the depth of their direct relationship with [companies like] TGI Fridays, Raising Cane’s, The Honest Company. … They talk to C-level executives, CMOs. They weren’t just talking to the VPs of marketing. These guys without a traditional Hollywood background have managed to infiltrate Hollywood, media and brands in such an impressive way.
How do you describe your role within the company?
I look at the company globally. They are 90 people – 60 in Atlanta, 15 in Nashville, then a few scattered in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, etc. We have many trusted customers. Our business is separated into social, web, music and business content and most of our time is spent on music, web and content. But at the end of the day, it’s social media management and project management.
So many artists are being told to continue producing TikTok videos and other content, in addition to the touring and recording responsibilities they already have. How is Get Engaged positioned to help ease this burden?
I have conversations with the digital heads of the labels, because some artists don’t want to do TikTok. Traditionally, there have been two verticals: music marketing, like TikTok seeding, and then Instagram seeding. Instagram seeding is more about getting culture pages to speak on your behalf, like [Instagram pages] Our Generation Music, DJ Akademiks or RapTV, and we have a huge business with that. But we also have this massive Snapchat network, with around 80 shows owned and operated by Get Engaged Media. Being able to go to labels and say, “Let’s think more creatively here. Why not have a show and he [follows] an artist from [album] from the creation to the release of the album”, and then to be able to buy all the advertising distribution associated with this Snapchat show.
How do you develop this Snapchat strategy?
Right now we are in talks with every major [label] to really understand this. The immediate game that we’ve started is to buy ad distribution, so if Universal comes along and wants to buy all ad distribution around a show, with a title that’s adjacent to that artist, we can. This allows us to differentiate our basic offer. Few people play with Snapchat in terms of land grabbing and we currently own the most land in this space.
What metrics do you use to determine if a campaign is successful?
The objectives are different for each campaign. Every tag says, “Hey, we want this to go viral.” We want this number of likes or comments. A lot of rappers don’t care about the number of impressions, they care about the pages that share their content. Brands like Raising Cane’s are very KPI’s [key performance indicators]very stat-driven, so impressions are important to them.
We have purchasing power. Say an artist calls you Thursday night at 12:01 and says, “Hey, I want to be on these pages in the next five minutes,” we have the ability to do that because we’re buying so much. The labels tell us that we are the only partner capable of achieving something like this. It’s not like it’s unique that we do this, but what’s unique is the time and speed with which we can get things live and that’s a competitive advantage.
What is the general price of a campaign?
There is no fixed price, but most of our campaigns are between $20,000 and $50,000. We sometimes run smaller campaigns, but it depends on the project and the artist, the requirements, and whether we’re in it from the start and can really tell the story.
When there is a song or dance that would work well for TikTok, what is that process?
We have over 5,000 creators in our network, so we can send a song to our creators. If we talk about TikTok, we can say, “Here is the dance, here is the general creation here. We would appreciate your point of view. And it’s always iterative. We broadcast the dances, and if one of the dances goes viral, it kind of transforms the campaign. Based on UGC [user-generated content]this is now the viral clip we should be running with.
Who are the best creators in your network?
DRUSKI, Lele Pons, the D’Amelio family, Noah Beck, Just Maiko and Michael Le are just a few.
How do you determine when to start working with a new designer?
As more and more exciting creators come online and we see things working. That’s the beauty of social media – whoever was hot last week will be different than whoever is hot next week. It’s just about staying tuned and rooting in the culture. Having a very diverse business also helps with that and we can look through the gambit and see a cool new creator in a subculture of the world. There are so many pockets of subcultures taking off and we can’t plan for that.
What subcultures are developing right now?
It’s really location and age, just going to areas where there’s an affinity for certain types of music, like what you see happening with New York drill music and Ice Spice. Pop Smoke got it, then he went to Ice Spice and now she has the torch. It’s just about seeing the culture in real time and being able to move at the speed of the culture. One thing I have seen in the country that is different from most other markets is live coin. People care a little more about live performance than other genres. And the branded piece, because country artists are usually very brand-sure. If you’re a country artist, you can get a brand endorsement deal faster than if you’re in another market.
In the digital marketing space, what’s the biggest misconception you see?
Some people think you just get on a playlist like [Spotify’s] New Music Friday, and you’re good to go. There are 60,000 songs a day coming out on DSPs. There are so many playlists out there, so it’s a holistic campaign. And in a world where people are going to concerts and events again, there’s a real live element to doing that.