Brand On The Run: how Brand Of Sacrifice went indie for their biggest success to date
Canadian metal band Brand Of Sacrifice, just like all performing artists, were negatively impacted significantly by the cessation of touring in early 2020 due to the global pandemic.
In metal, touring is a critical part of a band’s appeal and one of the main ways a tight fan community is nurtured. But instead of attempting to plug the gap with multiple livestreams, the band took a social- and streaming-heavy approach where every single leading into the release of the Lifeblood album in March 2021 was treated as a standalone event. Each single came with bespoke content, creating a unique aesthetic for these distinct moments leading into the album.
Social media and email marketing were critical in the set-up of the campaign, notably an increased focus on the band’s Facebook community and the creation of The Branded Ones email group to place fans at the center of everything.
The Branded Ones was also the name of a collaborative Spotify playlist where fans could submit tracks, the goal being to make them feel more invested in – and connected with – the band and therefore more open to buying albums and merchandise.
The band were originally signed to independent label Unique Leader Records for the release of their debut album, 2019’s God Hand, but they went fully independent for Lifeblood. The album was released through Blood Blast Distribution, a joint venture between metal label Nuclear Blast Records and digital distributor & artist development company Believe which launched in February 2020, making Brand Of Sacrifice one of its key early signings. Blood Blast Distribution is the first global digital distribution service dedicated to extreme metal, helping its acts reach a truly global audience through over 200 streaming and download services.
“The guys are incredible at driving engagement,” says Bryce Lucien, artist relationship manager (US) at Nuclear Blast and Blood Blast. “The pandemic really opened their eyes to the potential of the digital world in a way that they wouldn’t have seen if touring was still happening. Not having touring allowed us to really focus on a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to if they’d been on the road.”
Single file: each track leading into the album worked as self-contained events
The campaign proper began on 9 December 2020 with the release of the ‘Demon King’ single which came with a follow-to-win initiative centered around their Spotify profile and the Spotify-owned Deathcore playlist. The prizes on offer included pre-order bundles and a Skype call with lead singer Kyle Anderson.
This coincided with the creation of a VR website where the band revealed the album details. It has had almost 6k impressions, half of which have clicked through to the Discover Lifeblood portal which revealed the artwork and videos as well as linking to the band’s new D2C store.
This created a template for the next three singles leading into the album (‘Lifeblood’ on 7 January, ‘Animal’ on 28 January and ‘Altered Eyes’ on 25 February) whereby each new track came with bespoke assets and activations, all just a matter of weeks apart to ensure a steady build in social and streaming engagement.
“Because of the great pre-save rates and increase in followers, that helped increase their Spotify placements from beyond the Deathcore playlist into the New Core, Kickass Metal and New Metal Tracks by the release of their fourth single, ‘Altered Eyes’,” explains Lucien.
“At that point we tripled their monthly listeners, mainly due to the constant focus on growing follower counts.”
The bulk of the campaign messaging was being carried by the fans, who were constantly engaging on social platforms. The net result was a truly organic campaign that did not use paid media at any stage.
“This band understands how the music industry is working today and plan everything on their campaigns to achieve streaming goals and fan engagement first,” says Myriam Silberstein, global creative strategist at Nuclear Blast and Blood Blast. “Every single was carefully prepared which meant every single got specific content around it. That is ideally the best way today to work an album release – working each single as an event.”
Across all the singles, there was a steady increase in their digital streaming platforms playlisting, with cover image placements on key playlists on Spotify (Deathcore) and Tidal (Extreme Metal Music) as well as inclusion in multiple genre playlists on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer and Yandex.
Fan the flames: how fans were nurtured, grown and rewarded
A key way to engage with fans in real time was via a livestream album release party on YouTube on the day of release. It drew over 8k fans while broadcasting live. They also worked with metalcore YouTuber Nik Nocturnal to raise their profile on the platform.
This was all a deliberate move to grow their YouTube audience and engagement, having previously used Twitch for much of their livestreaming activities. “They started to see the massive upside to hosting all their livestreams on their YouTube channel, just because it adds to their subscriber base and helps with monetisation,” says Lucien. “We got them on the YouTube Partner Program and increased their ad revenue that way.”
The campaign saw impressive results across the board. The band’s Spotify followers grew by 47% during the campaign, illustrating the power of the follow-to-win mechanic, while their monthly listeners on Spotify grew a phenomenal 243% overall – all from a starting point of 85k monthly listeners. At their peak, the band had 292k monthly listeners on the streaming service.
Given that YouTube was also a priority platform, it also saw sharp growth. Subscribers were up by 163% during the run of the campaign and they have had over 1 million views of their videos, over 60% of which came from Lifeblood-related content. Their social numbers also sharply increased (Instagram by 23% to 31.4k followers and Twitter by 50% to 4.2k followers).
“Each step until their album release helped them grow their engagement and their fanbase,” notes Silberstein. “There was real commitment from all of the band. They were talking with the fans, commenting on posts and creating content on their site. Around their singles, they found a new way to interact and to reward the fans for what they’re doing, such as follow-to-win contests. The creative experience was designed to reward the fans and their loyalty. There was a real community and family feeling.”
“This band proves that our model works”: Lifeblood’s chart triumph
The Lifeblood album scored high placements in a variety of Billboard charts on release, most significantly going to #1 on the Top New Artist Albums chart, #6 on the Current Hard Music Albums chart, #7 on the Current Independent Albums chart and #10 on the Current Rock Albums chart. They also had a strong showing on various iTunes charts globally, most significantly on Top 200 Rock (#2 in Ireland, #3 in Canada, #4 in the US, #4 in South Africa and #6 in Australia) and the Top 200 All Genres (#7 in the US, #8 in Canada, #9 in Ireland and #15 Australia).
The band sold 2,300 physical albums globally (rising to 3,600 when streaming equivalent album sales were factored in). This marked an increase of 350% over their previous album, God Hand.
“This band proves that our model works,” concludes Lucien. “They truly embrace digital and they really focus on growing their presence on DSPs and social media. It shows they can be successful without a label. It also shows that what we’re doing can be incredibly profitable and worthwhile for a band.”