Expert Advice: Conducting a Content Soundcheck with Amber Horsburgh (Part II – artist case study)

Expert Advice: Conducting a Content Soundcheck with Amber Horsburgh (Part II – artist case study)

Guest post by music strategist Amber Horsburgh*

Part II: Bankrol Hayden – case study on Instagram strategy

This is part 2/3 of the Content Soundcheck series. In this case study, we’ll run through a Content Soundcheck for Instagram using up-and-coming rapper, Bankrol Hayden as an example. 

If you haven’t already, read Part I detailing the step-by-step process of conducting a Content Soundcheck. 

Read Part 1 → HERE

Note: I have no affiliation with Bankrol Hayden nor is this his actual social media strategy. This is purely an exercise to show how to do a Content Soundcheck.

Emerging Californian rapper, Bankrol Hayden has been releasing music on SoundCloud since 2017. Despite releasing just 5 tracks and a handful of collaborations and remixes he’s quickly amassed an impressive social following.

To put his social strategy on overdrive a Content Soundcheck would look like this. 

Step #1: Identify similar artists

An initial pull of similar artists paints a picture of leaders in the scene. 

Similar artists to Bankrol Hayden included (as identified by SoundCloud, Spotify, Google searches, TikTok and Songkick):

  • 24kGoldn
  • 3Fortiori
  • DC The Don
  • Dee Watkins 
  • Happy Birthday Calvin 
  • Iann Dior
  • J.I The Prince of N.Y
  • JayO Sama 
  • Just Kryptic 
  • Lil Mosey 
  • Lil Tjay 
  • LORENZO 
  • Luh Kei 
  • NLE Choppa 
  • Rayy Dubb 
  • Suigeneris 
  • The Kid Laroi 
  • Xavier Weeks 
  • YNW BSlime 

This list is narrowed down to 5 based on audiences of a similar size, i.e.: artists either 50% larger or smaller than Bankrol Hayden. The Content Soundcheck spreadsheet sums this for you. 

At the time of analysis (April, 2020) Bankrol Hayden’s followings on each social channel were: 

Artists’ whose followings range from 50% higher and lower per platform narrows the list down:

Artists who fall in this range are:

  1. YNW BSlime 
  2. NLE Choppa
  3. J.I. The Prince of N.Y
  4. The Kid Laroi 
  5. Iann Dior

Step #2: Decide what you’ll audit

70% of Bankrol Hayden’s audience is on Instagram, so he’d prioritize smashing that channel out the park. Instagram held 54 – 69% of audiences for other artists proving equally as important for his contemporaries.

Follower numbers for Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook. Shows where audience is distributed across channels. High End = audience size 50% larger, Low End = audience size 50% smaller. 

YouTube was the 2nd largest. Despite huge subscriber numbers, followings are generally “inactive,” meaning, people subscribe to find out if a new video dropped but not regularly check in with artists.

Twitter and Facebook were tiny accounting for less than 7% of audience size.

TikTok would be worth analyzing if the artist felt there’s more to learn about creating content on there. 

Step #3: Dig for patterns

The top 10 posts on Instagram in the past 6 months were pulled into a sample to dig for trends from our artist sample: YNW BSlime, NLE Choppa, J.I The Prince of N.Y, The Kid Laroi, and Iann Dior. 

A few interesting things stood out in the Content Soundcheck that shape an ongoing social strategy. 

A. Posting more often snowballs your engagement

ArtistNumber of Instagram feed posts in 6 months Average posts per month
Bankrol Hayden 16 3
YNW BSlime6411
The Kid Laroi 366
NLE Choppa61 (since Feb 2020)20 
J.I The Prince of N.Y 214
Iann Dior24 (since Dec 2019)6

Post amount from October 1st 2019 – April 14th, 2019

Bankrol Hayden posts less often than the others. A simple way to grow engagement is to post more often – 5-10 times per month, rather than 3. 

Fans are hungry for content and Instagram rewards consistency and regularity of posting. If creating content is a barrier, then scheduling a few shoot days a month to stockpile images would be a good use of Bankrol Hayden’s time. Or encouraging fans to share content he could repost. 

B. New music kills it but the time before is just as crucial

The most popular posts were new music announcements. Second to announcements were posts in the days and hours teasing new music. This shows content leading up to new music should be carefully considered to get max engagement.

If you put as much effort into pre-release hype posts as you do when dropping new music, you’ll rally fans. They’ll share, post and tell their friends, which spreads your music much further when you do drop.

This is true for hyping fans before dropping an album, a single or new video. 

A tactic Bankrol Hayden does well for pre-release hype is inviting people to comment pre-release, things like “25K comments and I’ll drop [Costa Rica remix] for you guys.” These were his most engaged posts.


C. Collaborations. Collaborations. Collaborations

Not only are features core to the genre, they also help on socials. Some of the best performing posts for all artists analyzed included: 

  • Pictures with other artists
  • Working with video directors 
  • Shouting out featured artists on songs
  • Including guests in music videos
  • Interviews with PR outlets like Genius, Pigeons & Planes, Highsnobiety and connecting with writers online to secure collaboration opportunities

A way Bankrol Hayden can do this without having to get in the studio is through creative partners and friends. His recent European tour was ripe for collaborations. He joined a small run of Lil Mosey’s (3.7M Instagram followers) Certified Hitmaker World Tour but there were no pics or videos posted together.

D. Celebrate the wins

People want to back a winner. Old fans love to watch you grow and new fans like to know what they’ve missed. Posts that worked really well in the analysis were when artists shared them smashing goals, celebrating wins and having a laugh while doing it.

For Bankrol Hayden on Instagram, this could be things like: 

  • Revisiting old songs when they hit goals like when his manager sends him a note saying “Costa Rica” racked up 329K streams a day on Spotify
  • Recapping shows from Paris and London
  • Birthday posts
  • Attention from press 

When fans feel they’ve discovered artists early they want to stick around to support their journey. Bringing people into the journey reinforces the thrill of discovering new artists for fans keeping them invested in projects long term.

Step #4: Put it together

Now you’ve conducted a Content Soundcheck and have a feel for what works and what doesn’t, put it all together. A simple Start / Stop / Continue framework is an effective social strategy. 

For Bankrol Hayden this could look like: 

Start: new content ideas to put into practice

  • Posting more often: 6-10 times p/month
  • Doubling down pre-release: hype fans before shows, music videos, remixes
  • Collaborating: calling on artists, directors, videographers, friends to extend reach
  • Beefing up tours: bring videographer on the road and do photo/video shoots to stockpile content during downtimes

Stop: content mistakes to catch before posting

  • Being so humble – celebrate the wins, boast when you smash milestones and bring fans along for the journey

Continue: content that’s already working for fans

  • Rallying fans – inviting comments and contesting with fanbase

You’ve now built a foundation of a compelling content strategy. The key to continued success is keeping your audience front-and-center. To deliver great content you need to intimately know who your audience is – who are they? What do they like? How do they discover music? Then marry great content to their needs.

If you’re unsure of who your audience is then check out Part III next week for an exercise in building audience personas. When you know exactly who your audience is and what content they want, your marketing will be so much more effective.


*Amber Horsburgh is a music strategist based in Brooklyn. 

As former SVP Strategy at Downtown Records she helped artists build brands including Mura Masa, Smino, Tommy Genesis, Chet Faker/Nick Murphy and Cold War Kids. On the flip side, she’s helped brands like YouTube Music, Sonos, Samsung and Google Play connect with audiences.

She runs Deep Cuts – a semi-regular music strategy newsletter for artists & marketers that goes deep into effective artist marketing strategies (subscribe here).