Queen and Audience-Building Strategies that Work

I love Queen. I remember the first time I heard Another One Bites the Dust. I was seven-years-old and my life was changed. Then I listened to Bohemian Rhapsody. Wow.

Queen could, arguably, be the greatest Rock band of all time. But how did they do it?

Earlier this week I watched The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story on Netflix. I loved it. I may watch it again.

And I had no idea Adam Lambert could sing like that. Incredible.

But I digress.

In the documentary, Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters talks extensively about what made Queen great. In it (I’m paraphrasing), Hawkins said that while other bands were churning out music like their last album, Queen tried to hit a home run every time. That’s how hits like Bohemian Rhapsody happened. Every album they took it up the proverbial 11 and did something most other bands could never dream of.

Queen only produced 84 songs over their career and yet almost 20 were top-10 UK hits. That means 25% of the time they had a major hit.

I believe the reason is because they worked to create something truly amazing every time.

I wish more companies would do this with the content they create. For some reason, marketers have come to believe that more content is better. This has never been true.

We should spend our time creating life-changing content and just stop producing all the nonsensical and forgettable content.

So, Queen built one of the largest audiences in the world by producing a few, amazing songs consistently over a long period of time.

But how did they keep their audience?

There was a discussion in the documentary about what Queen had to do to keep their audience after Freddie Mercury passed away.

All the consistent, home-run hits built Queen’s audience. Freddie Mercury died in 1991, but here, 30 years later, Queen has kept that audience intact.

Enter diversification.

Let’s detail this a bit.

  • Content Syndication. Queen licensed their songs to multiple movies, including hits like The Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger and Wayne’s World (who could forget that Bohemian Rhapsody scene?).
  • Partnerships. From 1992 on, Queen partnered with amazing musicians from all over the world, including “The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert” benefiting AIDS charities. The Guinness Book of World Records listed it “Largest Rock-Star Benefit Concert” as it was televised to 1.2 billion people.From 2004-2009 Queen toured the world with Paul Rodgers.

    In 2009, Queen performed on American Idol. In an amazing turn of luck, Adam Lambert was one of the finalists.

    In 2011, Adam Lambert started touring with Queen (and still does today).

  • Video Games. In 1998, Queen released Queen: The eYe video game with EA. They’ve also been featured multiple times on Guitar Hero.
  • Musicals. In 2002, Queen co-produced We Will Rock You, the Musical.
  • Films. In 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie, was released on the big screen. It was one of the biggest box-office hits of the year.

These are just a few examples of how Queen diversified from their original audience-building activity (album release + touring). Licensing, partnerships, content integrations, new product launches have all kept Queen at the top of the rock star list.

Notice that great media brands, like the New York Times or Cosmo have been doing this for decades.

Heck, that’s exactly what we did at Content Marketing Institute to go from zero to $10 million in five years. We started with a blog + enewsletter. Once we built a minimum-viable audience, we launched a print magazine, then an in-person event and then a podcast (and a dozen other things).

The formula works. Great content brands know this. Do you?

The following was an excerpt from Joe’s newsletter. Only subscribers receive the full version.

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