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What US hiphop could learn from the German rap game

UFO361 App VVS Hunter OMR

For Berlin rapper UFO361, album promotion literally is a game

German hip-hop. Not something your standard Yank, Brit or Aussi generally takes note of. But when it comes to promotion, there are some lessons to be learned stateside from German MCs. The latest example: Berlin Rapper Ufo361 drops a game to promote his latest album VVS. It’s a side-scrolling masterclass in promotion, brand building, shoutouts and cross-platform integration.

You really don’t

“You know what got me crazy bro?”
“What’s that?”
“You know at the end of most of they songs how they add all that promotional stuff, they sales? How often do you see that here?” “I mean, you really don’t.”

“You really don’t.”

That quote stems from the following video by Azzy! & Bill, two young YouTubers from the USA. The pair has carved out a niche for themselves with reaction videos on international hip-hop videos. Their videos have been viewed over 12 million times. Not only are they in touch with the US hip-hop scene, but they are keenly aware of what’s hot and new on the international rap scene, as they solicit their subscribers to suggest new tracks for them to react to and freestyle over. Chances are, if they see something as unique and innovative, it is.

“Man UFO, be coming in smooth. He killed that.”

Case in point: To promote his new album released on August 17, Ufo361 came out with “VVS Hunter,” a classic, stripped-down, side-scroller mobile game. The game’s soundtrack features the instrumental to the album’s first single, VVS. The game itself couldn’t be easier: the hero, Ufo361, runs through an imaginary city collecting diamonds and avoiding bombs. Touch the screen once, hero jumps; double tap, hover move.

That’s it.

For fans, the game is an urban playground full of references, Easter eggs and shout outs. In the game, Ufo361 dons his classic gear: alternate colored Nikes, a hoodie from his “Stay High” label, a Rolex on his right wrist and a joint in his left hand. The 8-bit buildings boast a host of graffiti referencing homies from Hamburg’s 187 Strassbande crew, while palm trees and a blond-haired girl reference older tracks.

The game’s purple tone is an homage to his go-to “purple drank,” aka “lean.” (Note to readers over 30: purple drank is a mix of Sprite and Robitussin, and is the drink of choice for many on the scene.) Not coincidentally, Sprite bottles with purple liquid are collectible number three and the game’s one real power-up, doubling the on-screen diamonds and slowing down the game speed for a short time.

A boost in plays is a boost in sales

The free app, whose production costs could not have broken the bank given estimates, figures to have been released exclusively for album promotional purposes. With the game’s soundtrack simply the instrumental to the album’s first single and the inclusion of a Spotify button redirecting to his playlist on the music-streaming platform (“Stay high ist das Label“), the game is a tightly constructed piece of promo. The aforementioned Spotify list “Stay high ist das label” leads with the tracks from the latest album. Pretty clever when you consider how Spotify factors song plays into total album plays, which itself is a decisive metric on Spotify that determines royalties and chart placement.

The game’s title, “VVS hunter,” wasn’t just plucked from the sky either. The name not only references the album title, VVS, but also a grade on the diamond purity scale, “very, very slightly inclusion.” The diamond is also one of Ufo361’s most-used Instagram motifs, ranging from poses to prints to tats. With all the references, symbolism and imagery, the game is peak self-promotion and hyper-engagement for fans.

Master of ceremony and master of Social

But how did he manage to take the top spot in Apple Store (and second place in Google Play Store) within a matter of days? That would be Ufuk Bayraktar, Ufo361’s real name. As that man, like every successful rapper on the scene nowadays, knows how to work social.

On Instagram he’s got 1.1 million followers. Already back in 2017, his channel was the fastest-growing Instagram channels in Germany with 545 percent growth, on Youtube the 30-year old has roughly 785,000 subscribers and over 200 million plays since July 2015; his most successful video, Nice Girl 2.0, logged nearly 30 million.

And the accounts aren’t just a one-way street of new songs, show announcements or new videos either. He’s a heavy interactor. Just recently he had his fans vote on the name of his new alter ego (Crash and Kaiser), prior to which he proclaimed the death of Ufo361: “After VVS, I’m out. Thanks to all the fans.” His account now dons the name Crash. The move is purely a marketing stunt, and he’ll probably remain active under a different name (or the same). Just over a week ago, he posted a pic of himself flaunted a wad of bills to invite fans to come and shop with him at a Berlin sneaker shop.

Cross-promotion on friends’ networks

To promote the game, Ufo361 leveraged his reach on social media. He first teased the game in late July posting a mini clip on Insta, which was seen 570,000 times. The day before the game was released, he released another teaser clip of the finished game: 300K views on IG and 100K on YouTube.

Also instrumental to the game’s success was the amount of shoutouts it received from others from the German hip-hop scene. Producer duo, “The Cratez,” with 7 number 1s in Germany to their names, played the game in an Instagram Story, as did RAF Camora, who has over 1 million subscribers on IG.

Thousands of downloads and reviews for “VVS Hunter”

The cross-channel promotion pushed “VVS Hunter” to the top spot in the games category on the German Apple App Store—1,320 reviews and an average of 4.7 stars, and held the top spot in the Apple Store for 5 days, according to ory/?vtype=day&countries=DE&device=iphone&view=rank&legends=2222&date=2018-08-22~2018-08-28″>App Annie. In the Google Play Store it climbed all the way to second for games—with 3500 reviews and an average rating of 4.8 stars. In total the game registered over 350,000 downloads as of August 28th.

After Ufo361’s debut album reached number 1, VVS opened at number 2 in the German charts.

 

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