When I say Tech, Tech, you say Nine, Nine: Tech! Tech! … (You can respond by quietly whispering “Nine! Nine!” to yourself, or scream it out loud if you would like.)

Tech N9ne, whose real name is Aaron Yates, is a hip-hop musician from Kansas City, MO, who co-founded Strange Music with business partner Travis O’Guin. Strange Music was believed by many to have their feet permanently stuck in the mud of the underground scene until their marketing campaign began to shake the mainstream music industry. They pulled themselves out of the sinking ground, and the music industry finally opened the door for Tech – or did he break that door down?

… Yeah, He Broke the Door Down!

You just cannot ignore Tech N9ne. He’s loud, he’s energetic, and his protégés are breaking in to the top 5 in iTunes with Stevie Stone’s debut album Rollin’ Stone. Plus, they have a stage show that will blow you away, and dare you to keep up.

Tech N9ne’s most recent solo album, All 6’s & 7’s, trailed behind Adele’s 21, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, peaking at #4 on the Billboard’s Top 200 Albums during its first week, June 25, 2011. It topped the Billboard charts that week in three categories: Rap Albums, Hip-Hop Albums, and Independent Albums.

­His latest EP (extended play, which is a short album) surpassed Rap Albums in iTunes, beating out the beloved Kanye & Jay-Z Watch the Throne Album.

Tech sells-out shows; includes upcoming freshman hip-hop musicians, mixed with renowned established artists from other genres in his solo and collaborative records; and pays extra attention to staying consistent and advertising through social media, which has played a major role in Strange Music’s success. Tech (and his protégés) keep such a close contact and have a great connection with their fans, which is something that Jay-Z and Kanye West can’t match up to. That’s Cray!

Welcome to Strangeland

So here’s some history about Strange Music before I go into their social media approach: Tech N9ne began to break the mold of an independent underground artist by consistently releasing new material more than once every year. He has 13 solo studio releases within the past decade, and just completed a nation-wide tour performing 90 shows in less than 100 days. His business is growing as rapidly as his rap style, and his new music is beginning to sound more and more like hip-hop historical classics, rather than­­ music that is going to sit on the shelf collecting dust.

Strange Music used new artists instead of paying a whole bunch of money to feature the hottest rapper at the time for record sales. Those new artists began growing with Tech and gaining a solid reputation. One of them is Krizz Kaliko, who has been the backup singer for chorus artistry and accent vocals since Tech N9ne’s third official album release, Anghellic, in 2001. Kaliko has a unique choir style that separated Strange Music’s Production from the rest of the genre, and they still carry out that characteristic through their music.

From 1999 to 2006, the independent record label, Strange Music, focused on trying to get Tech N9ne signed by a major company much like Rockafella, Def Jam, Jive, Priority, Cash Money, or Interscope. However, in the process of producing a great quality of music at a high volume, they eventually began competing in merchandise, record sales, and Billboard chart positions with artists from those companies, such as Kanye West, T-Pain, Lil’ Wayne, and Lady Gaga. Now, Strange Music is collaborating with some of these artists.

Tech’s music speaks for itself, if you like the genre, of course. Someone listening to country music with their tailgate popped down, the critters in the creek, and an ice cold one on a dirt road, might not like the sounds of Strange Music’s production. However, I would love to see Tech & Toby Keith, or Jason Aldean, collaborate on a track together.

Social Media Tech-Niques

Strange Music’s marketing expanded with a heavy attention to their customers. They provide giveaway packages with every single merchandise sale online. Every pre-ordered album purchased online is autographed and comes with t-shirts, stickers, posters, and a couple of other offers, and it’s advertised all over every single Facebook & Twitter page for each artist.

Here’s a breakdown of Twitter and Facebook accounts for artists on the Strange Music label:

The other musicians on the roster average around 18,400 likes and around 10,000 followers.

So that means that there are more than 400,000 follows for the artists of Strange Music and well over 2 million likes on Facebook, with over 100,000 people talking about them. That is roughly around 3.5% – 4% of Eminem’s 54.6+ million, but social media doesn’t play as large of a role Eminem’s success as it does in Tech N9ne & Company’s success.

Even with these relatively small numbers compared to Eminem, their progress is growing rapidly. The number of likes and follows isn’t as important as the direct interaction and engagement that Strange Music has with their fans. This is a result of quality versus quantity – in this case, quality is more important and proven to work just as well as the high number.

Here’s an example of how their social media techniques work:

Stevie Stone recognized a fan picture of a military soldier in Afghanistan. Within 5 minutes of being posted, the picture was liked 87 times, had 3 comments, and was shared once. Over the next 5 minutes, there were a total of 144 likes, 8 comments, and one share. Over the next half hour, the number of likes more than doubled. Keep in mind that Stevie Stone has only 1.6% as many Facebook likes as Tech N9ne. This is a direct example about the quality of the post for the smaller amount of likes. Stevie Stone’s engagement with the fans has them responding.

Every person on the Strange Music roster has their own Facebook and Twitter page that is heavily active and jam-packed with videos, interviews, blogs, and fans singing their music. Artists interact with fans, replying to them and encouraging them to post pictures.

Now you may be thinking, “So what? This guy is famous and has a good marketing campaign. So does every other company.” I’d like to refute that by saying social media is one of the major reasons why Tech N9ne’s fans are so loyal and contribute heavily to his success. They are loyal because he stays within an arm’s length of his fans. That type of dedication makes him more respectable, and his fans want the chance to impact his business. His fan base is multiplying at a fast pace and social media has helped with boosting sales and the ability to work with other artists.

Without social media, Tech N9ne may have had to sign to a major record deal to keep his dream alive. He is so dedicated that right before he performed in NJ, the power went out, so he had to rap through a bull horn during his set: “I rapped thru a bull horn in NJ. (Because) a drunk driver hit a pole & killed the power right before my set! WOW!” (via Twitter)

@BiondoArt Twitter Feed

Strange Music’s technique is to keep their fans very close to their heart through social media, mainly with Twitter. What’s cooler than meeting your favorite musician at a concert, taking a picture with them, then having it posted up so people can see it and comment all over it? Or even just mentioning that you’re listening to their music, and have them retweet your message!

Rocking the Stars

There’s even been a great response from celebrities about Tech N9ne via Twitter during his recent ascension to stardom.

Dwayne Johnson tweeted to his followers about Tech N9ne before his workout training in March 2012 for his match against John Cena in the main event of Wrestle Mania XXVIII:

Charlie Sheen was invited to perform stand-up for a show in Illinois during his 2011 occupation scandal where Tech N9ne performed. The former Two and a Half Men star couldn’t contain himself backstage and Tweeted his emotions about Tech:

Another celebrity that has been back and forth in Twitter conversation with Tech N9ne is Chum Lee, whose real name is Austin Russell, from the History Channel’s Pawn Stars reality show:

Livin’ La Vida Social Media!

How many people in the world would love to get some attention from their favorite musician, or even athlete, speaker, politician, writer, actor / actress in one way or another? It’s becoming easier with social media interfaces, such as Facebook and Twitter. Notifications, mentions, and tweets bling and beep all day on our phones and e-mails; it’s so hard to stay away. So, when you have the chance to connect with a celebrity, and they hit you up in a message or thank you by retweeting you, the sense of positivity has to be exhilarating.

The world of social media is changing the dynamics in the music industry. Strange Music’s Twitter and Facebook movements help to boost their success because of their consistency and engagement with their fans. They are building a wider fan base through social media channels.

Personally, I haven’t yet experienced a retweet by Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, or Stevie Stone, but I really never tried to. I have the ammunition, just never took the shot. But I have met all of them in person with a beer, handshake, conversation, and a camera ready! That alone was enough for me! I can almost guarantee that if I posted my pictures on Twitter with a snippet of a lyric for a caption and mentioned their handle, I would get a retweet or a thank you some way!

And because of Strange Music’s social media habits, maybe one day I’ll see a ping-pong game of tweets back and forth between Tech N9ne and Jason Aldean. That would be a collaboration that would generate some serious social media buzz.

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