FEATURE16 August 2012

Knowledge bass

When bass music label UKF wanted to expand its output, it turned to research to make sure it was on the same wavelength as its biggest fans.

Res_4007811_UKF Bass Culture

UKF is a music company that was originally launched in 2009 to showcase the best bass music on two YouTube channels, UKF Dubstep and UKFDrum&Bass. Together, these two channels recently passed one billion views.

But UKF’s owner AEI Media was not content to rest on its laurels. It recently expanded its YouTube presence with a further three channels – UKF Music, UKF Mixes and UKF Live – and began releasing compilation albums, selling merchandise and hosting gigs.

“We couldn’t have progressed the brand without having the insight to understand who Generation Bass were and what they wanted from us”

Karl Nielson, AEI Media

In the run-up to this expansion the company turned to research to help it learn more about Generation Bass – the community that had powered its growth and would continue to drive its success.

Karl Nielson, director at AEI Media, says: “We wanted to extend our brands and celebrate the early success we were having with social media, but found that Google and Facebook insights were not robust enough to help us understand our audience in any great detail. So we wanted to tap into Generation Bass using an enjoyable research methodology that would get an adequate response level that we could learn from.”

The company looked at various polling options and went with Entertainment Media Research for its ability to engage with a primarily youth-based audience in a way that would resonate with them.

“We knew that our users were unlikely to take part in a boring feedback survey that had no interaction or enjoyment to it. It couldn’t be traditional research or we wouldn’t have garnered the insight that we did,” says Nielson. “Instead, we made it more interactive and learnt about what the fans would actually like us to offer as a music label.”

Entertainment Media Research surveyed a total of 1,736 UKF fans online in late 2011. Samples of listeners were invited to log in to a secure site. The respondents were then streamed randomised edits of the songs UKF selected for testing and asked to complete a number of perceptual questions.

“This mix worked really well with our audience because it wasn’t boring. It mixed the music and videos that they’ve shown they love with information we could use to improve our offerings,” Nielson says.

Bass in your face

The aim of the research was to tap into the UK’s “Bass Culture”, which encompasses dubstep, drum and bass, and other sub-genres of electronic music. The culture has been pioneered by British producers, DJs and artists, such as Chase & Status, Nero, Flux Pavilion, DJ Fresh and Knife Party. Based on what members of Generation Bass told them, UKF wanted to enhance its offerings to be a bigger player in this arena.

Nielson says: “What we wanted to do was to find out who exactly our audience was – what they liked, how they consumed music, their social habits and what we could offer to them to fit in with their passion for our music. This was really about building a relationship with our users and recognising the changing face of the music industry today.”

So what did UKF learn? On average, the UKF audience is 80% male, with 85% under the age of 25. PCs and laptops are by far the most popular means of music consumption, with 89% listening to music in this way several times a day, followed by 60% who use MP3 players and 46% who use mobile devices.

YouTube was the most popular website for music search and music streaming, used respectively by 95% and 89% of Generation Bass. Those respondents who were old enough said they were very active in attending club nights with 58% attending dubstep events and four in ten attending drum and bass nights. Dubstep fans go to an average of 2.3 events each month, while drum and bass fans go to two.

Nielson says: “What’s really useful about this research is it helps us to see where we are going right and what we can tweak to better fit our fans’ musical habits. It shows us that the music industry isn’t really in decline, it’s just moved away from its traditional model and is encompassing an array of new options. That’s what UKF has been doing too.”

Bring the noise

The research helped fuel the introduction of several new products to the UKF stable. There is now a popular podcast series, which has featured the likes of Modestep, The Prototypes, Bare Noize, Fred V & Grafix, Cutline and Flux Pavilion. A series of compilation albums has brought fans access to full, high-quality tracks on disc and via digital download, while sell-out events at venues such as Alexandra Palace, Brixton Academy, Mekka in Miami and Lotto Arena in Antwerp have brought the label closer to some of the biggest artists in the scene. UKF is also offering merchandise and a ticketing platform specifically for bass music events on its UKF Live website.

Nielson says: “We’re taking all the facts that we have garnered from our users and making sure that UKF continues to bring bass music lovers across the globe their fix of the latest tracks, music videos, interviews, events and much more. It’s about having that permanent engagement with your fans and adequately balancing the freemium model so as not to isolate loyal fans, while offering value-added services to those that can afford it.”

Vitally important to the brand’s long-term success is that it shows an understanding that its popularity is directly attributable to the music it helps support. 83% of fans said they believe “UKF is the leading place to find the best dubstep tracks” and 53% access the UKF Dubstep channel at least once a day to catch the latest music offerings while 49% regularly read updates on the UKF Dubstep Facebook page.

In total, UKF’s network of YouTube music channels has a combined subscriber base of 2.5 million users, while UKF’s Facebook pages have a total of 1.9 million Likes. In addition, the first UKF tour in the US sold out across 42 cities and attracted plenty of praise among music critics, while its Dubstep 2010 album appeared in the Billboard top 10 for 47 weeks and UKF Dubstep 2011 was the number one dance album on iTunes in eight countries.

“We couldn’t have progressed the brand without really having the insight to hand to understand who Generation Bass were and what they wanted from us,” says Nielson. “It’s a vital area for us that we continue to engage with our members and ensure that we are acting in the best ways that reflect what they expect from our music and our label.”