8 Mar
Case Study

Building a successful artist narrative: HorsegiirL

Building a successful artist narrative: HorsegiirL

Something that we often get asked at unhurd by artists is how to build an impactful presence on social media. Understandably this is one of the most important things for emerging artists to nail as it draws in new fans and keeps your current fanbase engaged. The remarkable campaign behind the breakout hit "My Barn My Rules" by HorsegiirL is a brilliant example of this. We’re going to delve into the strategies that propelled her from 50k Spotify monthly listeners in January 2023 to an impressive 1.05M in August, with Spotify streams reaching 14m. This case study will uncover the moving parts that contributed to her success.

So who is HorsegiirL? 

HorsegiirL, a hardcore/gabber DJ, gained initial recognition through her releases on the experimental Berlin Techno label, Live from Earth. She started to gain broader recognition in December 2022 when her viral Boiler Room set became a talking point. Throughout 2022, she strategically garnered attention through features like this article from Horse and Hound, where her unique persona and pitchfork-toting gig performances were highlighted. Building on this momentum, HorsegiirL continued to play an unreleased version of "My Barn My Rules" in her sets, attracting other club DJs to do the same.

Crafting a unique persona


Prior to the release of ‘My Barn My Rules’ HorsegiirL had built up a strong brand narrative. Her visual (her custom horse mask pictured above) and sonic aesthetic combines trending popular culture elements, including Y2K visuals, whimsical ‘chronically online’ meme culture and the maximalist hyperpop which has been growing in popularity thanks to Charli XCX, SOPHIE and Kim Petras. Leveraging a small budget, she embraced ironic and nostalgic references to the early internet through crude graphics and poor editing. Her content assumes the audience is "in on the joke," a crucial feature in today's TikTok-driven culture.

Crucially, although horsegiirL’s online persona is bizarre, its cohesive and focuses on building out the character of her persona rather than directly marketing her music. 

Standing out in the social media noise

By now it's a pretty trite observation to say that online platforms like TikTok and Instagram are oversaturated with content, with influencers, brands and artists alike competing viciously for just a few seconds of their audience's precious attention. Gone are the days when you can just rock up on YouTube with your guitar and a camera and hope for the best. It’s now key to create content that prompts jaded audiences to stop scrolling and crucially share it with their friends. Audiences are more likely to do this if the content prompts a conversation and above all else is entertaining. 

Not that everyone needs to don animal costumes to ‘make it’ but don’t be afraid to do something different, and don’t worry if not everyone ‘gets it’, you want to appeal to your niche and build a fanbase from there, rather than trying to appeal to everyone. 

Leveraging TikTok and live shows

By the time ‘My Barn My Rules’ was released on the 4th March, HorsegiirL benefited from an existing cult following of dedicated fans who would spread the word about her release. However, maintaining momentum throughout the campaign relied heavily on TikTok promotions and live shows. 

Tiktok has been named as the new MTV for a reason, and any emerging artist needs to be aware of how the platform works and how they can leverage it to promote their new releases. In the case of ‘My Barn My Rules’ new creations under the sound increased proportionally with streams of the track on spotify, showing how discovery of a track on TikTok can meaningfully drive consumption on DSP’s.

Streaming consumption of 'My Barn My Rules' on Spotify

The number of TikTok posts using the song

Live Show = UGC

HorsegiirL's packed summer schedule of live shows not only provided endless content for her but also solidified her reputation as a talented artist within the electronic music scene. It also provided lots of user-generated content from her fans.

Looking at the graph below we can see streams overlaid with live dates, demonstrating how live shows are also crucial in driving new streams. 

Live shows [C] contributing to the continued streaming of HorsegiirL

Key Takeaways for Artists:

  • Establish a strong narrative and differentiate yourself from the competition.
  • Understand how to communicate your narrative visually and sonically on social media platforms.
  • Cultivate a dedicated fan base by focusing on appealing to your niche rather than trying to appeal to everyone.
  • Connect your online presence to the offline world through live shows and performances.

HorsegiirL’s journey showcases the power of a strategic and engaging social media campaign. By leveraging her unique persona, embracing emerging trends, and utilising platforms like TikTok, she successfully built a dedicated fan base and generated significant streams. As an artist, take inspiration from her story, and apply these key takeaways to develop your own impactful social media presence. 

If you’re looking to master the art of social media, contact our team today or join un:hurd music and explore our all-in-one marketing tool!

Written by Imogen Billings