When the 57th Grammy Awards get underway Sunday night, Gogi Gupta and his team of media programmers will huddle in their Boylston Street offices, poised to set in motion a sophisticated online sales campaign the second that each winner is announced.
If Iggy Azalea wins in either of her four nominations, then fans of the Australian rapper will soon be hit with a pop-up on their Facebook or Twitter pages or other social media that says something like “Congratulations! Iggy Azalea won her first Grammy” and be directed to her website and an opportunity to buy “Fancy” and other works.
Same, too, for Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Beck, and pretty much every other major artist up for a Grammy. Gupta Media conducts digital campaigns for most of the best-selling popular musicians and performers. And on Sunday night the team will put into gear carefully orchestrated machinery to capitalize on its clients’ successes with online ads that quickly and precisely target potential buyers and offer convenient tools to act on the impulse.
“Gogi Gupta and his team are the leader in this space, period,” said Kelly Rich, senior vice president of marketing at Big Machine Records, the label for Taylor Swift and other major artists. “They are the first piece of the puzzle digitally, and essentially the most effective.”
Gupta’s machinery can make new artists big and established ones even bigger. The Grammys are a multimedia experience — there were some 15 million tweets about the awards during last year’s broadcast. And unlike TV viewers, the online audience is just one click from buying a song, so getting to that audience at such a moment can double a winning artist’s album sales for the following week.
While Gupta Media does not disclose its revenue, these numbers illustrate its might: In 2014, Gupta’s team was behind the online promotion for the number one album in 49 of the 52 weeks. The team also ran campaigns for every soundtrack or compilation that hit number one that year, such as “Frozen,’’ “Guardians of the Galaxy,’’ or “NOW 49.’’
All this for a little-known entrepreneur who started his business 10 years ago from a rented desk in the Cambridge Innovation Center and who professes to know little about music.
“I don’t understand it,” Gupta said with a laugh.
What he does care about is data, particularly how to use it to finely slice consumer markets to match an artist with a potential audience.
Gupta’s engineering team has built a massive database that knows a lot about a lot of people: age, location, online spending habits, music preferences — down to which YouTube videos they watched.
“When we started promoting Lady Gaga, before she was a star,” Gupta said, “we knew how to find a core audience that is influential and was a good fit for her: gay men in New York who frequent dance clubs.”
On Sunday night viewers who look up a musician on Google during the Grammys probably will see an ad for that musician from Gupta Media at the top of the search listing. The team has already uploaded hundreds of versions of ads, such as those for Iggy Azalea, to search engines and social media sites.
Early on, Gupta brought technology-based marketing to an industry that was slow to adapt to the digital age. “First we went from selling music on CDs to selling downloads, now we are moving to a streaming business,” said John Fleckenstein, executive vice president for international marketing at Sony Music. “At each turning point, Gogi explains to us what we are seeing and what we should try next.”
Labels value this approach because instead of spending large sums for one big blockbuster ad during the Super Bowl, for example, they can spend smaller amounts on multiple targeted campaigns and get exact data on viewer response, from how many people saw the ad, to how many clicked through to the artist, to how many made a purchase.
Gupta’s team also solved a problem that has frustrated labels for years: Big stars have global audiences, but selling their music varies widely from country to country. Adele, for example, is represented by XL Recordings in Britain but by Columbia Records in the United States, which means there are different online venues to buy her music, depending on location.
Gupta created what’s called a smart URL that with one link redirects buyers to sale venues in their country. In the United States, for example, the URL will also recognize what device the buyer is on and send the buyer to the preferred purchasing platform, such as iTunes or Amazon.
The little technology fix helped Beyoncé with the unpublicized release of her album in late 2013 in markets around the world in one swoop. The album sold over 800,000 copies in the first three days, making it the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes store.
“With these kinds of ideas, we can now run ads simultaneously in several countries around the world,” said Sony’s Fleckenstein. “This was a game-changer for us.”