Asake, BNXN & the widespread adoption of snippets as a marketing tool

An increasingly indelible part of promotion efforts in Nigerian pop

By now, if you’re up to speed with Pop culture, you should be all too familiar with the current de facto music rollout process: previewing snippets on social media just before the record drops. Everyone is on this train, from Travis Scott who previewed a slice of his impending track on the just held BBMA’s, to BNXN who sent seismic ripples through the the country with a snippet of his track with Pheelz, “Finesse”, to Asake who released a snippet of an imminent track last Thursday. Like it or not, the global music industry has embraced snippets as the de facto music promotional tactic. The pertinent question is, “What’s the right way to roll out a song via a snippet?”

Given the widespread prevalence of snippet culture, it’s hard to imagine a time when this was not the standard practice. However, dial back time ten years ago, and this would have been unimaginable in that era. Artists were incredibly guarded against letting the public into their creative process, instead, songs were spun out as fully formed art pieces that were to be consumed only after the set release date. From a marketing standpoint, there were barely any incentives for such a process.

Today, social media and the indelible presence of digital streaming platforms have aided the widespread adoption of this fairly recent marketing strategy. During the stay at home-induced lockdowns of 2020, when artist-listener interactions were strictly limited to peering at phone screens, artists would take to different social media spaces—Instagram Live mostly—to preview unreleased songs and receive immediate reactions. While snippets are nothing new, given that they were a thing before then, the lack of physical engagements heightened its use. Even down south, DJ’s would play mixes featuring some of their unreleased songs, fuelling the rise of leaks and drumming hype before their official drop.

Snippets are a cheap and easily executable strategy, and when done right, it can slice a marketing budget by a significant margin. But snippets come at a significant tradeoff, they take away the experience the listener gets from experiencing a song or a project brand new. This is not necessarily a negative thing, sometimes the cultural impact a snippet can galvanise prior to the release of the actual song, can make it worth it. Pheelz and BNXN’s “Finesse” culminated in one of the most significant moments in Nigerian pop culture this year, making the trade-off worth it by almost all conceivable standards.

The biggest product brands in the world spend millions of dollars in a bid to fabricate the best onboarding experience for their clients. The quality of the experience of interacting with a product for the first time is almost as important as the actual quality of the product itself. Apple spends millions on creating an unboxing experience that evokes a special moment with the client. Balenciaga holds elaborate rarefied fashion events to onboard their new product line to rapt followers of the brand. Surely, music can also be viewed as a product and the experience of presenting a song to fans should be treated with the utmost importance. Snippets are here to stay for a long time, so what then is the best way to pull them off?

The first and most important point is that not every song needs a snippet. Some songs are meant to be consumed fresh by the listener. With that out of the way, the music industry can learn a lot about snippets from their adjacent entertainment sibling: The film industry. For decades, trailers have been the de facto promotional materials for movies. Trailers are essentially a cohesively packaged series of snippets, which function to get the viewer interested in the movie without giving away key parts of the plot. A trailer gives you a sense of what the movie is about and piques your interest, but after watching a trailer you can’t say you’ve seen all parts of the movie, can you?

In the same vein, snippets should serve a similar purpose: offering an introduction to the song without giving too much away. However, when snippets run on for several minutes, can they still be regarded as teasers? The answer lies somewhere between the snippet’s run-time. If a snippet is more than half the length of a track, it defeats its very purpose. The term snippet literally translates as “A little piece.” As such, an ideal snippet should tease a record without letting the entire cat out of the bag.

For purists, the idea of a future where snippets continue to set the pace may not be welcome but when pulled off right, purists and marketing aficionados can come to a common ground that snippets can do a lot of good. The biggest takeaway, however, is how technology constantly forces every facet of human existence to evolve, from the financial industry to the entertainment industry. An absurd strategy a few ago has now become the standard practice. As new technologies, such as NFTs continue to crop up, it’s worth wading through the fad to see what musicians do with them.