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88rising: The Modern Label Formula

In an era where artists question whether being signed to a label helps promote one’s career, 88rising resoundingly demonstrates that labels do have a place in today’s ecosystem. Their model proves the efficacy of a “new-age” label; one that garners the same strength of distribution & presence afforded to labels in the golden years of radio, albeit with new mediums of consumption.

88rising - a quick introduction

In Asia, 88rising’s artists are megastars that attract huge audiences, with a cult following. Slowly but surely, they’re building similar fanfare the world over. So the question is, what have they done that sets them apart from other labels? What strategies have led them to be such a force in the global music scene?

1. Having a Core Identity

88rising built their current army of fans because they started with a concrete vision and took their time. Their vision of bridging the gap between Asian and American music provided a consistent anchor for decision making and helped in building “purpose” that their fanbase could get behind. In a world where the Western market is the benchmark for “making it”, they have managed to continue remaining authentic to their roots and that has led to a virtuous cycle of consistently attracting more fans.

Despite the phenomenal success they’ve seen, 88rising hasn’t veered away from this founding belief, and as a result, they’ve ensured that all their fans walk beside them in their journey forward. Building a label on the back of a vision & cultural movement in music has put 88rising in a position where they can reap the rewards of all their work, and continue pushing boundaries.

2. “We Don’t Have Fans. We Have Family”

Fans of 88rising are a part of a family, and the label does a great job consistently reiterating that message. Time and again, they turn to their fans for opinions on new releases, tour planning and more. 88rising was also really quick to recognize that fans care about the artists beyond their music, and have built up a loyal following by consistently releasing behind-the-scenes footage of their artists to fans. 88rising has made “fan-inclusion” a part of their core strategy by building interactive touchpoints across all of their channels and delivering on frequent engagements. When they’re not releasing new content, they’re interacting with fans on Twitter and encouraging fans to do TikTok covers.

While these are great fan engagement tools, 88rising is also keenly aware of the fact that these are great ways to crowd-source content, and more importantly, recognize that word-of-mouth is the biggest discovery tool that fans count on for new music and content. In a world where we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to music and content, our friends’ opinion holds a premium. By getting fans involved to such an extent, 88rising can count on the network influence of their fans to attract even more listeners/viewers.

3. Beyond the Music

88rising as a label has a personality. When you see the logo or hear the name, or find an artist from this camp, there is an almost tangible and clear brand that comes along with it. They have done an outstanding job of creating this personality and making sure that it is recognizable. 88rising is edgy. They are fashionable, they are dynamic and fluid, they are fun and approachable and have managed to keep the corporate persona at bay, even as they grow. They are accessible and incredibly connected to their fans and their work feels genuine. This isn’t just Joji or Higher Brothers, this is across the collective and all the artists build upon it.

88rising goes beyond the music as a brand and makes sure they are injecting culture into as many channels as possible with things like their “Head in the Clouds" Music Festival and their 88NIGHTMARKET e-commerce platform selling everything from neon dragon emblazoned apparel to chilli sauce. Why? Because today there is more to artists and more to a label than just producing records. 88rising is an entire lifestyle and media brand on top of being a label. We’ve seen this type of collective persona before from labels like Death Row Records, Cash Money Records and more. We’re not saying these labels are the same or up for comparison on any fronts other than the undeniably well-packaged persona that comes along with the music and the artists under its umbrella.

4. Alternate Distribution Channels

Back in the day, if an artist was looking for that big break, their key avenue was through a label because they controlled the main tool for distribution & ultimately recognition - i.e. radio. Today, however, streaming is the name of the game but it doesn’t stop with Spotify and Apple Music. While streaming platforms continue to increase in popularity, mediums like YouTube or TikTok win out as platforms of discovery for many fans. Songs and artists are topping charts off the back of videos going viral - across both TikTok and YouTube.

88rising was early to recognize the opportunities that could come from the democratization of the internet and jumped on leveraging YouTube as their primary distribution channel. To reach the generation of fans living on the internet, they’ve continued to put out an endless stream of music on their YouTube channel with different artists getting their own category. Their investment in YouTube as a way to amplify their artists not only makes them unbelievably accessible but feeds into their strategy of doubling down on their organic communities & networks. Finally, 88rising has appropriately recognized the international reach that YouTube affords them. Instead of using traditional “regionalized” distribution models (this includes DSPs), 88rising artists don’t have to worry about geography getting in the way of global recognition. 88rising meets fans where they are and makes it so easy to be a fan.

5. Modernizing the Old Formula

The primary value proposition of a label was the ability to “break” new artists thanks to their marketing prowess and influence over distribution channels. 88rising has shown that the recipe of success for labels is still essentially the same, just modernized.

88rising has ensured that artists new to their label will benefit from the presence of the larger artists under their umbrella by promoting their music through the same YouTube channel and social media pages. By leading fans back to a centralized platform for consumption, 88rising is creating a space where every win for a major artist on their roster rubs off on the other artists. New artists that come into the label know they will get support from the larger artists under the 88rising roof because they all share the same point of view and similar styles.

While YouTube is a democratic space and everyone can upload their music independently, the subscriber count and the access to an immediate audience are huge boosts in an extremely cluttered content landscape. By ensuring that all their artists are promoted through a singular source, they’ve managed to recreate some of the influence that record labels had over the distribution channels in the past.

By establishing an unshakable foundation built on fan connection, core values, consistent brand personality and a controlled distribution channel that meets fans where they are, 88rising has proven without a doubt that labels are still vital for getting artists their big breaks.

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