6 Things An Artist Can Learn From The New Edition Story
Written by Patrice on February 1, 2017
BET had us all glued to our TVs last week when they finally aired the highly-anticipated series, The New Edition Story. A story that many have lived through, heard, and not heard. A story that is relevant today and well-worth telling. I was excited and looking forward to taking that short 6-hour break over the course of 3 days to indulge in some music history. It was also great that it allowed many to take a mental and emotional break from the trying times that many are experiencing, politically.
Being the music business enthusiast that I am, there were many lessons within the series that were valuable and quite obvious. Rather than focusing on those, I’d rather focus on the activities that occurred outside of the series that many may have overlooked. As a Brand & Marketing Strategist, I was highly intrigued by how they prepared and promoted this series. People online have been anticipating this show since last year, maybe longer. Everyone involved made sure that there were key events scheduled and in place to steadily build the buzz leading up to and following the series. As a result, I chose to share 6 things an an artist can learn from The New Edition Story.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The movie has been 10 years in the making. In an interview with The Breakfast Club, Ricky Bell stated that they originally got an offer to do a movie with FOX (Mike Bivins later corrected him and said the deal was with Paramount Studios). The deal was for a 2-hour movie, but Bobby Brown didn’t sign then so they chose to walk away because they wanted all 6 members of New Edition involved. Mike Bivins later spoke on how it was all a blessing in disguise because he wanted a 5-day series, like ROOTS (1977), to avoid condensing their stories. Now here we are, 10 years later, all 6 members heavily involved, with a 3-day series that spanned from 1978 to 2005.
Unfortunately, we live in a microwave society where we all want things to happen immediately or whenever we think they should happen. But quite frankly, things will only happen when it’s time for it to happen. There are a lot of variables to becoming a success. It could be the year you were born (check out Outliers by Malcom Gladwell), societal standards, the state of the economy, lifestyle, family, location, finances, etc. There are times where someone had a brilliant idea that flopped, but someone else decided to implement the same idea years down the road and it’s a success. That doesn’t mean that your idea was bad or that you weren’t a good fit for it. It just wasn’t your time. As a result, it’s important for an artist to pay attention to the market, keep in mind how timing plays a huge role in their success, and proceed strategically.
HAVE A PLAN
As I mentioned earlier, there were key events scheduled and in place that contributed to the buzz surrounding the movie. Part 1 of the series aired January 24th on BET, and New Edition received their Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame a day prior on January 23rd. That was no coincidence. In addition, Bell Biv DeVoe had the above Breakfast Club interview the morning of the 3rd day in the series, and released their new album, Three Stripes that night after the series concluded. They were also extremely active on social media, broadcasting their performances and Facebook corporate visit on Facebook Live. There were many more activities that included other members of the group, but these were the ones that stood out to me the most.
Everything that we’ve seen online leading up to the movie didn’t happen sporadically. They were all planned out and scheduled. New Edition and their team took their time and developed a plan leading up to the series to increase the buzz. Keep in mind, these are established and highly successful recording artists, and even they knew that they needed to take their time and develop a marketing plan surrounding the series. Having a solid and strategic plan is crucial; and even more so if you’re unknown to the masses.
CAST THE RIGHT PEOPLE
While watching the series, I was monitoring the commentary that was happening on Facebook and Twitter. Right out the gate, people were sharing how awesome the cast was (4.4 million viewers to be exact). I remember a few months ago when they started filming and released a picture of the New Edition kids. Many were skeptical and wondered if this group of young men could pull it off. After Part 1, the skeptics were silenced. “Each of them had a bit of the real person in them,” casting director Robi Reed told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. “I believe people are born to play roles, and this holds true for all the young men in the movie.”
How is this important to an artist? Well, casting the right people in the roles you have in your band and/or on your team is crucial. Like these actors, who you place on your team can make or break your brand. Some people are born to be managers, some are born to be dancers, some are born to be musicians…you get the point. This is something I practice personally here at The Bassline Group, as everyone on our creative team live, eat and sleep their craft. The quality of their work shows that they were born to do what they do. So artists, don’t rush a project by hiring whomever you can afford to fulfill a role. Take your time and make sure they are the right person for the job.
GET EVERYONE INVOLVED
One of things that I strongly believe contributed to their buzz was the fact that everyone was highly involved in promotion. All of the actors; from the mothers, to the young and adult NE cast, those who played supporting roles, and the people who were behind-the-scenes…EVERYBODY was highly involved with promoting this film. Most of the actors were known for other roles, but during this time, they were in full “New Edition” mode. It was as if their role in the film took over their identity. You could tell this was a project that they were all extremely proud of, and many of the actors shared this on social media immediately after the finale in a conference room where they all watched together with the fans.
When working on a project that you’re promoting, it is important to get everyone involved. I’m talking about the vocalists, dancers, producers, engineers, photographers, videographers, songwriters, managers, venues…EVERYBODY. This is “How To Build A Fanbase 101”. If you have to get it in writing, so be it. But make sure that all parties involved are promoting the work, AND that you give them credit for their contribution by promoting them too. Now, we all know the actors that played New Edition because the members of New Edition and BET promoted them just as much. This creates a win-win situation for everybody.
MAKE TIMELESS MUSIC
Did you notice how the younger generation who were not even born yet are out here rockin’ to New Edition? Their Spotify streams increased by 637%!!! Their music is timeless. They just needed a way to reintroduce themselves to the new generation, and this series was it. In The Breakfast Club interview above, Ricky Bell spoke out on it and thanked the cast that joined them towards the end for giving them an opportunity to be exposed to their generation. This could only happen if your music is timeless, otherwise no one would be interested.
As an artist, if you want a 30+ career in the business, it is imperative that you make timeless music. Sade, Stevie Wonder, Aaliyah, Missy and other “old school” artists are still making money off of their songs. If you’re in the spotlight or not, the opportunity to build a long-term and sustainable career in the music business is possible. Don’t follow the trends that easily come and go. Focus on creating timeless work that’s authentic.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO REINVENT YOURSELF
Although the series covered the years 1978 through 2005, I thought they did a good job showing how the members were not afraid to reinvent themselves. In a sense, it was bound to happen, considering that they started so young and still had a lot of time to grow and mature. But it was remarkable to see how an inquisitive Mike Bivins, played by Byshere Gray, began to question the names of the companies that were printed on their albums. This was the moment where he begin to learn the business, thus the “Business Man” was born. Mike then started leaving his mark in the business as the founder of other remarkable groups such as Boyz II Men.
Life is filled with many ups and downs, and life experiences that could easily change the course of your life. For example, Ronnie DeVoe now has his own real estate company, which wasn’t shown in the movie. Who knows what happened in his life that prompted him to enter into a different industry, but he certainly wasn’t afraid to reinvent himself, or to diversify his brand. I talk about it a lot, but in the music business, it’s important that you think of yourself as a brand and identify ways that you could generate revenue that isn’t solely based around music. The members of New Edition had many slow periods throughout their music career and had to use their fame to reinvent themselves in order to stay afloat, financially. I always tell my artists, never put all of your eggs in one basket. The minute you do, you’ve failed.
What did you learn from The New Edition Story and their marketing that could help you in your career? Tell me in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!