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4 Tips to Make a Global Hit like Mwaki by Zerb (Interview with his manager)

As artists we often undermine a few crucial steps to make a song breakthrough, so today I invited Gabriel Tofoli, who is Zerb’s manager and had a key role on pushing his song Mwaki to over 90 Million plays on Spotify, getting remixes by Tiesto and collabs with The Chainsmokers, which took Zerb to over 14 Million monthly listeners on Spotify. Let’s dive right in…

4 THOUGHTS FROM ME

You need to invest in your release if you want any commercial success with it.

As Gabriel says, “In today’s music industry, nothing is done without investment”.

Mwaki was released on October 27th, 2023, but Gabriel mentioned that they were still investing in Mwaki in April 2024 to expand as much as possible and that without this investment, “the song would definitely not be as big as it is today”. As producers, we often forget that to have ‘commercial success’ in your release, you need to invest in your song as well, which is something we mention in this post, in our marketing checklist.

A lot of us producers, however, don’t know how to do it, so here’s a few tips,

  1. Set aside a budget for every release to promote your song. With 50-100 USD, you’ll already have enough budget to do some marketing efforts, like placing your song in big playlists;
  2. Go to Submithub and other platforms to submit your songs for playlists. You can also try to find their emails and shoot emails to these playlist owners as well, but this is a way to expand your reach and get your song heard;
  3. Send your songs to DJs for support as a play on Above and Beyond’s Group Therapy can give you around 50-60k plays and can return a lot of followers as well. If you want to go deeper into streaming platforms and how to maximize your reach in them, you can read this interview with UOAK, Sekora’s owner

Focus on connecting with your audience through your song.

Even though there was a lot of investment, “Mwaki’s streaming success mainly happened because of the connection between the song and the listeners” Gabriel mentions.

“After your song is released, there are only a few things that can be done to maximize the reach of the song” since most of them should have been done before your release, as you can see in our marketing checklist. Most importantly, “no investment can make listeners engage and connect with your song”, and that connection comes a lot from your song and is a crucial part of making the song go viral.

If you analyze it, Mwaki is not a complex song, but the hook is really catchy and the chords are really good, and somehow that was enough to make fans connect with it, and there are a few lessons you need to take from this:

  1. More often than not, making your song simple can make it more relatable and make fans connect more. Stop stuffing your song for the sake of it, as simplicity can be the key to your music, as mentioned in this video about Lane 8;
  2. “Keep on making and releasing music, and eventually something could click”. Zerb’s first release was in 2016, and his breakthrough came in his 8th year of release, but his constant releases kept him always present within his audience;
  3. Connect with your audience on social media as this can be a natural way to boost your brand and eventually your songs, and that can be done in many forms (Content, tutorials, funny videos, graphics, etc).

Focus on the right label for your music and your plan.

A big label can be the wrong choice for you depending on what you’re looking for, so focusing on the labels that will give you what you’re looking for is really important. Zerb had already released on STMPD RCRDS, Martin Garrix’s label, but they chose Mwaki to be released on Th3rd Brain, which is an independent label. Why?

Gabriel mentioned that “Th3rd Brain” was “easier to work with, put all plans into practice, and gathered investments for the release”, which could have been different if Mwaki was signed to a bigger label as it involves more bureaucracy and that could have slowed down their plans. But, as he mentions, “If you have the resources to hire a team and invest in your song, the label then becomes just the platform”.

This is important as many producers feel that if they sign their songs to a big label, their songs will explode, but that’s not always the case and it can be done in smaller labels as well as long as they/you have the tools for it. That’s why it’s important to

  1. Do your research on labels and understand if they can deliver what you’re looking for before signing your song (check here to understand what to look for);
  2. At the same time, remember that this is just one song and you can always make another, so being too precious about one particular label can also slow you just as much if you start overthinking this process as well.

Don’t look up when looking for managers… look around instead.

As music producers, your manager is essentially the CEO of your brand and his/her job is to be on the phone/email looking for the best opportunities for you to put you in the right place, at the right time.

However, most producers go after managers who are already successful in the music industry, but, as Gabriel says: “the big managers already have the success case they were looking for, and they already have a lot of work to be done for their success case, so you’ll hardly be their priority”.

Instead, look for people who are already around and could maximize your brand and, most importantly, put you as a priority, otherwise, you can end up as the ‘when I have time artist’ for this manager. But, what to look for when looking for a manager? Look for someone who

  1. Is willing to work with you and put you as a priority;
  2. Believes in your music and the goals that you have with it;
  3. Has connections in the music industry or understands how the industry works (consider that a plus).

If you find someone with this combo, they could be a great person to work with you!

1 QUESTION FOR YOU

But, considering everything above, in your current music production state, do you need a manager? Well, you need one if:

  1. You want to become a successful artist but you prefer to focus only on the music;
  2. You don’t have time or simply don’t like to handle your marketing and business tasks;
  3. You already have a backlog of music and feel that you need an extra push in your career.
  4. Lastly, avoid thinking about getting a manager until you get a few releases, as this can be a way to showcase yourself to them in the future

If you want to read more about what a manager looks for in an artist, read these posts by an ex-artist manager:

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Picture of Leo Lauretti

Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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