Classic Rockers Heart Get Crafty, Build Social Buzz for New Album

heart-etsyIt’s been years since sibling songstresses Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart had a big hit like their ’80s comeback power ballad “What About Love” or ’70s tunes “Barracuda” and “Magic Man.” Now Heart is back with a new album, and it’s trying to reach current and new fans online.

The band’s digital agency had the luxury of being able to offer free song streams, and conjured up unique ways of getting those tunes in the ears of new and long-time listeners. Its strategy includes a one-of-a-kind integration with crafty community marketplace Etsy.

“Heart fans exist online outside of specific music websites,” said Josh Scheiner, president of Apex Exposure, the agency working with Sony Music Entertainment to promote Heart’s new release, “Red Velvet Car.”

Etsy just so happens to be located in the same Brooklyn building as Apex, which may have influenced the boutique agency to pursue a tie-in with the site. Etsy provides a platform for people to buy and sell handmade and vintage items – think felted cupcake pincushions, made-to-order garments, and antique furniture. Looking to bring Heart to a younger crowd, Apex saw potential kinship between Etsy’s younger, female-centric audience of do-it-yourselfers and the Wilson sisters, who represent spirited female independence to many fans.

“It was a way to really highlight the fan that Etsy members often are,” said Christina Batch-Lee, marketing manager, partnership and special project lead at Etsy.

According to Apex CEO Ben Luntz, the agency had to determine “how [to] approach them with the content that we have…and do so in a relevant manner so we’re providing them with something valuable to their audience.”

They did that by working with Etsy to develop a contest designed to promote Heart’s latest album, and give members the tools to offer Heart-inspired collections of goodies on the site, called treasuries. “Check out their album art to get a sense of their style,” suggested Etsy, which also asked members to add the “iheartheart” tag to their treasuries.

“Ann and Nancy Wilson (pictured above — aren’t they fabulous?!), will be browsing your picks looking for cool items to use and wear as they promote the new album, so you never know where your style selections may end up,” added the contest description. Treasury winners, chosen randomly, included items in their lists like heart-shaped “red velvet cake” soaps, and a “Crazy on You” necklace made with jasper stones.

Etsy also chose 20 of their top jewelry designers to create jewelry specifically for the band, who then chose items to wear and promote while touring; the effort was promoted on the Etsy homepage. This way, explained Batch-Lee, Etsy members could “recommend great handmade jewelry designs to the band to actually wear for their promotional interviews or on tour.”

Bulking up Heart’s social media following was a goal of the effort, so entry into the treasury contest required contestants to tweet links to their treasuries to @Etsy, using the emoticon-inspired hashtag “#I<3Heart.”

Growing followings on Facebook and Twitter has become a key mission for musicians and bands, and according to Apex, Heart’s fan base on Facebook increased by 40,000 during the three month campaign, rocketing by 30 percent in the final three weeks. The campaign launched three months before the album was released, and culminated three weeks afterwards, according to Apex. Heart’s official page has over 169,000 likes on Facebook, and the official Twitter account has around 4,200 followers.

“They were really looking to increase their Twitter numbers and general trending; we were part of that larger puzzle for them,” said Nizzi Renaud, Etsy’s director of marketing. Etsy has over 1.2 million Twitter followers, and even alters its Twitter backgrounds regularly with designs from various artists.

Etsy does not sell advertising on the site, nor does it sell partnerships like the one Sony and Apex developed for Heart. For the handmade goods marketplace, the value comes from exposure to new audiences. In Heart’s case, that meant potentially reaching female fans who skew older – between 35 and 55 – than the typical Etsy member. “We definitely got a different kind of awareness” from the Heart contest, said Renaud.

The contest also allowed Etsy to test its treasury feature, in part to determine whether it could “really engage people with a call to action,” said Renaud. Around 200 treasuries were submitted for the contest, and winners received Heart concert tickets, CDs, and other prizes.

In addition to the Etsy initiative, Apex developed a scavenger hunt, sprinkling clues on various websites including SheKnows, on-demand music site, and Ultimate-Guitar, a site for guitarists. The hints pointed fans to a different track to stream from the new album each day, leading up to its August release. The Wilson sisters also wrote a blog post for SheKnows about what it means to be “a rock and roll parent!”

Heart’s single from Red Velvet Car, “Hey You,” debuted on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary radio chart at number 30, marking the band’s first appearance on that list in more than 16 years.

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