Christine Osazuwa was watching the MTV Music Awards as a 12- or 13-year-old when it hit her: she wanted to work in music.
“The artists got on stage and they would thank a bunch of people – they'd thank their mom, they’d thank God, and they’d started listing out people they wanted to thank. I remember thinking, I'm not really sure what all those other people were doing, but I want to be one of those people they thank. That seems really cool.”
“That’s how I knew I wanted to work in the music industry. I wanted the artist to go on stage and thank me. I helped them enough to do that.”
In the years since Osazuwa has pursued her passion around the globe, branching out from her Baltimore hometown (where she’d occupied roles at companies such as MissionTix and CBS Radio) to work in Sweden (Amplify Sweden, Universal Music Group) and London, where she resides today.
Having worked as the Global Marketing Director of Data & Insights at Warner Music Group and the UK director of she said.so, Osazuwa – who also founded the Measure of Music conference – is now the Chief Strategy Officer at ticketing and event marketing platform Shoobs.
“We are focused specifically on Black music and culture,” she explains. “And so we handle ticketing and event marketing and marketing support across that vertical.”
Here, Osazuwa discusses the best ways to build superfans, what organizers should look for in a ticketing platform, best practices for email marketing, and more…
What does the data you’re seeing on Shoobs tell you about ticket buying behavior at the moment?
One of our largest genres for almost the entirety of the company's existence, which is nine-plus years at this point, has been in the Afrobeat space. So music coming out of West Africa.
But over the last 18 months or so, probably two years now, we saw a large rise in music coming out of South Africa – Amapiano, specifically, is a genre in which we saw an incredible increase in growth over the last two years, which has been really interesting.
Do you tailor your marketing to the Amapiano audience differently to that of other genres?
Part of the reason and the appeal for Shoobs is we're focused on Black music and culture.
Oftentimes, people will equate that to hip-hop and rap exclusively. And that is not the case. We handle jazz, soul, r&b, Afrobeat, hip-hop, rap, grime, drill – a large swath of music.
What we promise as a company more so than a specific type of genre per se, is that you're going to an event and you're not going to be the only person of color in the room. And that's incredibly important to not feel othered at all times.
So we have things on the platform like skate & raves, or anime nights, that might not historically be thought of as Black culture. But it's more saying, hey, there's going to be other people that look like you in the room if you go to this event.
And so the way we target people is more based around their interest and things like that, but they all fall into the space essentially.
How granular do you get with your audience segmenting?
Fairly granular, because we have so many different genres on offer. So we can segment our audience down to very specific groups of people. And whatever type of event you're having, we've had that audience to some extent.
It might be a smaller audience, but if it's a 100 cap room, we don't need to send an email to 20,000 people.
And so as new sounds emerge, we have the unique ability to be able to target, even if it's a small volume of people, because we can target that small volume of people in the right way.
Are you seeing any platforms consistently deliver a better ROI or more ticket conversions?
I think people love to see the events. And so I think any platform that allows that – we're on Twitter, we're on Tik Tok, we're on Instagram, things like that.
But really, we see a lot of great engagement when people can see an event, meaning they can visually see it, see what it will look like, see how it will feel when they're there. I think we see the most engagement, and the highest ROI, in those scenarios.
We’ve had event organizers on our platform that have been with us for a decade almost at this point. And so we literally have the video footage of their past events. So we've built up this amount of potential content to show the audience, which I think is really exciting. We see that work really, really well.
One thing that's really cool and unique about Shoobs is because we do club nights, as well as concerts and festivals, people start using our platform really early.
People start buying tickets from us when they're 18 quite often. If they can't afford to go to a concert that costs 60 Pounds, they can afford to spend six Pounds on a club night. So we start collecting that information about them quite early on and we then try to be where they are.
So if they're on TikTok we try to be on TikTok, if they're on Snapchat, we will try that out, etc. We want to maintain our Gen Z audience – we have a really big Gen Z audience – and so far, so good.
"We see a lot of great engagement when people can see an event, meaning they can visually see it, see what it will look like, see how it will feel when they're there."
Shoobs promises that “hassle-free ticket selling starts here”. How do you make that process hassle-free?
We are a full-service ticketing platform, so we handle all customer service for our event organizers. Last year, I think we had somewhere like 7000 event organizers and 8000 events. If there are issues, refunds, exchanges, things like that, that goes through us so that the organizers don't have to deal with that component of things.
And then similar to other ticketing platforms, we provide the PDF tickets or we have a mobile app, things like that.
And then we do some marketing for our event organizers, and we have supplemental marketing packages that can be purchased by our event organizers. We love to help them promote their events.
So we make it as easy as possible and handle as much as possible.
And then we're also able to guide and help if people have ideas or questions or are like, ‘Hey, I'm thinking about doing this. Have you seen this work in the past?’ Because we have almost a decade of historical information we can say, ‘Oh, yeah, actually, somebody did something like this three years ago and it sold really well’, or, ‘Someone did something like this, and it didn't sell really well.’
When you're advising clients on the most effective ways to sell tickets, what do you say?
There’s not a one size fits all scenario. That's some of the advice that we give people quite often.
And we talk to them a lot about staying power. The reason why we have organizers that have been with us for 10 years is because they treated their customers, the event goers, well.
And in order to have a sustainable career as a promoter and event organizer [you have to] treat your customers well. So most of the conversation is less about, here's explicitly how to sell tickets. The conversations are a lot more like, this is how you build your fan base, your audience, this is how you make sure that they're happy. That's how you make sure they feel safe.
Beyond treating customers well, are there other ways to build superfans?
I think another space that honestly is an underserved area is community building. There's so much opportunity in the event space, and not everyone is really taking advantage of it.
What I mean by that is, one of the events that we have regularly on our platform is an anime night. And it's on our platform, so if you see pictures from this anime night, it's primarily people of color, which is cool, and not really what you expect when people talk about anime – there's usually a preconceived notion of who you're going to see at an anime event.
So when you go to an event on our platform, it's primarily going to be people of color. And one of the things that is really interesting about that is like, everyone gets to meet each other and discovers people that they've wanted to have in their lives – someone that looks like them, that they can talk to about a new manga that’s out, or Comic-Con, or whatever it might be.
And so this idea of niche communities is another way in which superfans are built.
And facilitating ways for people to come together, not just to listen to music, but to talk about it, to eat the food that's from the culture and all these different things – that’s how you build superfans and how you build community.
And community is what makes people want to come back because they want to see the same people. If everyone desperately wants to see each other again, and you help facilitate that, that's a really easy way to get people back to that room.
"The reason people think email is old school is because it is. And that's the beauty of it."
Do you find direct-to-fan communication via email and SMS effective?
Definitely. The reason people think email is old school is because it is. And that's the beauty of it.
I haven't changed my email address since 2015. You know how many times I've changed social media sites?
The world continues to change. Social media continues to change. Web2 in general changes so much, that email is like this beacon of Web1 that is incredibly reliable.
People have arguments and conversations when they talk about attention span, and [some are] like, ‘Oh, well, if you don’t capture someone in two seconds, then it's over. Everyone's attention span is getting shorter.’
And I'm like, everyone binge watched the entire season of Stranger Things in the same day. What's that, eight hours of content?
It's not that people have short attention spans, it’s people want good content. If you give them good content, they're going to consume it.
What for you makes good email content?
It depends on the audience very much. But sometimes our emails are really straight to the point where it's just like, ‘Hey, these tickets are on sale if you want them.’
I think sometimes people try to get really cute with stuff, and I get it. But I just want to know what’s in it. Sometimes when you see a subject for an email you’re like, ‘Just tell me, what is this? What's happening? What's on sale now? Is it a pre-sale? Or is it a pre pre pre-sale? Or is it an AMEX pre pre pre? Is it on sale? Can I buy them?’
So we don’t try to get too cute.
But we do give people context. And that's one thing that I think is really important. Our event organizers are really incredible at this as well. As Amapiano was growing, for example, you would see the descriptions for the events where the organizers were explaining a bit like, ‘South African house music’, and they're explaining to people what it is because people hadn't discovered it for the first time.
So that level of information, I think, is really important as well. And we have our own blog that also gives people context about new music, new trends and things like that. So we're continuously educating our audience.
And I think that's really important for context, because people want to know what's new, what's interesting, what's hot.
When event organizers are looking for a ticketing partner, what are the most important things they should look for?
Even if it's not coming out of your pocket, you should know what fees your audience are paying. Always know so that there's not a surprise at the end, where someone's complaining about your tickets costing too much money, and you're like, ‘Oh, I didn't realize there were all these fees.’
In addition to that, it's being very clear and understanding how support works. So we handle all the customer service, not every platform does, and there are pros and cons to that. Normally, platforms that don't handle customer service have cheaper fees, because they don't have to pay people to be customer service.
But if you aren't paying for that kind of service, you have to make sure you're prepared to handle an influx of issues, especially when it comes to cancelled events.
Also, make sure you choose a platform where you have the ability to get your email list from them. People should be able to opt in to get emails from you and you should have a way to get that. If it's a platform that doesn't it's gonna be really challenging for you to grow your company.
And then if you need marketing support, looking at platforms that do provide that marketing or that discoverability and that support as well. Again, not all platforms do that, especially the ones where they're self-service. So just making sure that you have someone that will support you in that way as well.
And then of course picking a platform that has the audience you're looking for. If the audience isn't there, then it's probably not going to behove you to use the platform.