The Social Music Experience
Derrick Idleburg, Jr.

Have you heard Justin Timberlake’s latest album? If you haven’t, where have you been? Seriously. About a week before releasing his album for sales, he made it available for streaming across multiple platforms including iTunes and Spotify.

1. I believe Justin knew that his album might get mixed reviews. 

I love music. Everyone does. I believe this album was very experimental for Timberlake and there may have been a sense of uncertainty. Since his last album release in 2006, his musical style has drastically changed. No more of the poppy N’Sync days. This album, in my opinion, took some heavy influence from Robin Thicke’s style. It’s part of the reason I didn’t like the album at first. In my first run through, Justin Timberlake reminded me a lot of Robin Thicke. I can’t explain it, but he sounded too similar. Remember, this was the first listen. I’m a huge fan of the album.

I believe the reason he released the album to stream for free was to really show people the kind of quality work he can produce and to give them an honest chance to decide whether they would buy it.

2. Justin knows his audience.

Remember everything I discussed in The Consultant’s Dilemma? Well, Justin did a lot of these things and more. The most important thing (considering he is a celebrity and has a base), is that he knows his consumer. My guess is that a majority of his listeners are millennials or late Generation X. On social media channels. JT’s camp posted a social onslaught in the months, weeks and days before the album’s release.

As Yahoo notes, “The suit-and-tie look works for Justin Timberlake. His album The 20/20 Experience sold 980,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen (NLSN) SoundScan. That’s 63 percent more copies than RCA (SNE), Timberlake’s record label, expected—and a figure most artists haven’t touched in years. Even Adele’s 21, the top-selling album of the past two years, enjoyed a mere third of Timberlake’s sales during its debut week. And what’s remarkable is how much of The 20/20 Experience’s sales can be credited to one of the recording industry’s biggest bêtes noires: the free online streaming service.”

When I say social onslaught (I include streaming services like Spotify, Netflix, etc.), I mean that they all have social components. Continuing on, look at the numbers. For a first week, 980K in copies sold is superb.

It’s as simple as this: if you don’t know your audience, you can’t get them to do anything, let along buy what you are selling.

3. This was really an experiment. 

Justin is planning something. I’m not sure what, but I’m almost positive there is some sort of tie-in to MySpace with this. He didn’t really have to release an album anytime soon. He’s been playing in films, hosting SNL, and investing in businesses for the most part. Something tells me that even though this album will make him some money, that wasn’t the end goal. Data is imperative. He needs the data that he more than likely will get from streaming. I suspect that of those 980K first week sales, at least 80% of these folks streamed the album first.

I really think that Justin wanted the data to track the trends of his audience. I believe that Justin had a lot of input in this strategy. But let’s face it, all the credit goes to the marketing manager.

Selling music and selling on an online storefront like Ebay are very similar. Here’s why:

People like incentives to buy.
This is true in any situation where you are selling something. Give them something they want, and something they know they do not need. I use this every time I sell something on Ebay. I offer whatever the item is, and include something that applies to what is being sold. A great description always helps as well.

You must be upfront.
This just ties into my discussion about transparency. Tell them exactly what they are getting. Timberlake did just that. He offered an experience for the listeners that they may have been reluctant to buy. He set it to stream, and hooked them after that.

You have to deliver.
This should not need an explanation. Deliver. If you don’t, well, your customers will let you know quickly if you don’t deliver.


Derrick Idleburg what happened when he failed at dentistry and realized that he was really a ‘trep. With strong interests in entrepreneurship and marketing, Derrick uses his skills to help others market their businesses or themselves. He consults, is an editor, and co-founded a health focused business. He loves St. Louis Cardinals baseball, marketing, sports, health, gaming, watches, and tech. His goal is to run multiple businesses and he eventually wants to own/run a baseball team one day. Follow his endeavors on his blog, Far From Idle, or on Twitter. Come. Find out why.