Features May 30, 2016

Guest Post: The social smarts of Cody Simpson Inc.

According to TheRichest.com, singer-songwriter Cody Simpson has a net worth of USD $4.5 million, even without having delivered a commercial radio hit single.

The pop star turned social media celebrity has garnered himself an affluent online presence, with 7.4 million on both Twitter and Facebook, regularly positioning the singer atop the TMN Australian Social Medial 50 Chart.
His latest album Free was the first since parting ways with Atlantic Records back in 2014, instead releasing via his independent label, Coast House Records and distributed internationally by The Orchard.
John Mayer provided feedback during the creative process, lending some much-needed street credibility at the same time.

Unfortunately for Simpson, Free has failed to meet industry expectations by a rather long mile.

The music biz heavyweights behind Cody Inc. have struggled to make his music a career centrepiece — and like all artists, it’s this musical credibility and peer recognition the teen sensation is ultimately chasing.

A source close to the heavily guarded sales figures of Free told Inside Social that sales were lacklustre, especially given Simpson’s social media currency.

“The record struggled to sell more than 5,000 copies in Australia during its initial release. The album peaked at number 74 on the ARIA Australian Albums Chart.”

Free also failed to deliver an all-important position on the Billboard 200, even after a high-profile performance of first single Flower on Good Morning America.

So how exactly is Cody Simpson worth the reported seven-figure valuation without so much as a smash hit single? 

Between 2010 and 2015 there were an impressive 19 award nominations. He won almost half of them, including Best Australian Act at the coveted MTV Europe Music Awards and most recently, International Sensation at the GQ Men of the Year Awards.

Simpson has shared the stadium spotlight with some big names; opening for American boy band Big Time Rush in 2012 and Justin Bieber’s sold-out Believe Tour in 2013. The latter being an obvious pairing given both Simpson and Bieber share a manager in Scooter Braun.
Although a breakthrough commercial radio track hasn’t come to fruition just yet, it seems the business of Cody Simpson is rock solid with a northward trajectory. It’s all thanks to social media.

His business is backed-up by an engaged fan base that the young artist nurtures through consistent content across his online channels.

It’s entirely possible Simpson has cracked the artist’s code to survival or at least found one that works for him, during a turbulent time for the record business.

This is a relatively new music industry model too — one usually reserved for TV talent show alumni — that few will be able to replicate; at least not without the right people pulling the right strings at precisely the right moments.

It involves the record label and management over-investing in a single release, not for the sake of airplay or downloads, but to attract saturated tabloid publicity.

It helps that Simpson was rumoured to have dated no less than two celebrities in Kylie Jenner and Gigi Hadid. Gossip columnists churned out clickbait content almost daily with headlines like, “Cody Simpson Explains Why He & Gigi Hadid Really Broke Up” and “Kylie Jenner & Cody Simpson’s Makeout Pics Leak”.

It’s all masterfully designed content marketing to leverage profitable brand partnerships, licensing deals, public appearances and commercial opportunities.

Trading social media currency for cash is a smart play if you can replicate the social media influence that Simpson has earned himself.

On his carefully curated Instagram feed, Simpson is often glued to his acoustic guitar and surfboard; likely a deliberate attempt of market positioning to attract big brands.

It comes as no surprise then, when he breaks his Instagram flow by uploading a fifteen-second video sipping a bottle of ice-cold Coke, generating valuable coverage for the world’s biggest soft drink company.


Cheers to a summers day acoustic gig with my @cocacolaau and @cocacolanz pals in Sydney #cokecomealive

A video posted by CODY SIMPSON (@codysimpson) on

A partnership like this one can deliver more dividends in a single cheque than an artist might see in bona fide record royalties. In the cutthroat business of commercial pop music — where radio still yields power in making or breaking stars — perhaps Simpson doesn’t need them, as much as they might need him to maintain their CHR relevance as millennials turn to the internet for their music and celebrity fix.

Either way, it’s apparent Simpson isn’t intent on being a flash-in-the-pan product. This pop star is morphing into a modern-day rock star, with the help of social media.

Jake Challenor is the CEO at social-first digital shop Jaden Social and writes about social media at InsideSocial.com.au. @soundslikejake

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