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Why Macklemore Is the Inbound Marketing Master


You can argue about the merits of Macklemore’s music. Plenty of people do. What you can’t argue with is the brilliance of his marketing strategy.

It happens to be the same one we preach here at 9 Clouds. Yes, Macklemore used inbound marketing to rise to the top.

Fame, Fortune, and Inbound Marketing

In the music world, fame is achieved in many ways. Jimi Hendrix was a one-in-a-million talent. Kelly Clarkson was an American Idol. Britney Spears was auto-tuned.

Macklemore is YouTube.

While Macklemore himself would admit he’s no Eminem or Tupac Shakur — he said publicly that he shouldn’t have defeated Kendrick Lamar at the Grammy Awards — the man can rap. But America wouldn’t know that if he hadn’t used his inbound marketing chops.

Search his biggest hit, “Thrift Shop” on YouTube. It has 877 MILLION views and counting. Despite never signing with a major label, Macklemore and his producer, Ryan Lewis, climbed to the very top of the Billboard charts.

How? They gave their music away.

“Good” at Music, “Great” at Branding

Unless you’re the Jimi Hendrix of the marketing world, you need to find a way to make your brand stand out. Inbound marketing is a good way to do that. You give people content so they trust you, with the hope that eventually they’ll pay for your services.

Like any good inbound marketer, Ben Haggerty (his stage name is Macklemore) created content people liked. He built a following by rapping at clubs in Seattle. That part of his story isn’t special. Most musicians who crack the big time started in dive bars and clubs.

But Haggerty would eventually take a less-followed path to success.

When he hooked up with producer Ryan Lewis, the duo used social media to build a massive following. They did everything themselves, from producing their own t-shirts and posters, to promoting their tours. They uploaded “Thrift Shop” to YouTube. It blew up. People enjoyed the song and, best of all, they could listen to it for free.

Choosing YouTube Over a Major Label

This is where the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis journey diverges from the typical rags-to-riches rock and roll journey. When “Thrift Shop” gained momentum, major label offers began pouring in. But the duo turned them down, opting instead to create their own album on their own independent label, using the money they earned from touring.

Haggerty told the Nerdist podcast that he and Lewis turned down big record companies because they saw more potential in YouTube.

Think about that one. Turning down a record contract to use a platform where people fall into vats of grapes and llamas get down to DMX?

Creating a Brand

But Haggerty didn’t want his brand to get lost in the shuffle. He knew his audience.

“It matters that we have YouTube and that has been our greatest resource in terms of connecting, having our identity, creating a brand, showing the world who we are via YouTube. That has been our label.”

Ever listen to a band before it goes mainstream and turn your nose up at the new version of the group that is just a little too polished?

Producers and engineers can turn an “indie” (independent) band or singer into a worldwide sensation, but heavy-handed production can also make music less appealing to some audiences. It’s a delicate balance.


A probable indie musician.

As a business, if you don’t showcase some of your success, you won’t seem credible. However, if you pump too much corporate attitude into your brand, you’ll turn people off.

“Labels will go in and spend a million dollar or hundreds of thousands of dollars and try to ‘brand’ these artists and they have no idea how to do it,” Haggerty said.

“Good” at Music, “Great” at Branding

Haggerty even admitted that he and Lewis are “good” at making music but “great” at branding.

“We’re great at figuring out what our target audience is. How we’re going to reach them and how we’re going to do that in a way that’s real and true to who we are as people,” he said.

“Because that’s where the substance is. That’s where the people actually feel the real connection.”

Sound familiar? That quote sounds like it came from an inbound marketing executive, not a rapper. How many times have you seen the word “target audience” on this blog?

Macklemore gets marketing. His authentic, “damn the man,” approach turned heads. People paid attention. Once they were hooked on the product he gave to them at no charge, he made a fortune.

Attract, Convert, Close, Delight

To bring the point home, we’ll tell you how the duo (unknowingly) used each stage of Hubspot’s inbound marketing formula.

Macklemore attracted listeners. His authentic personality and social media interaction converted them into fans, closed them as CD and ticket-buying customers and delighted them into sharing his music with others.


You can follow the same path. Odds are, you won’t win a Grammy. But you can find your audience and connect it with your personal brand. Give them free eBooks, blog posts and white papers so they trust your brand and your authenticity.

Don’t forget that you’ll need a good product, too. “Thrift Shop” is catchy, musically and visually (watch the video and you’ll see). Otherwise, it wouldn’t have 877 million views. But Macklemore himself admitted that his marketing was better than his product.

If you’re marketing is even half as good as your product, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Market Like Macklemore

Want to master inbound marketing like Macklemore? Social media expertise is a must. Get your feet wet by stepping up your Instagram game and download our free eBook below.