Lessons from MAVIN's successful campaign for Ayra Starr's 'Bloody Samaritan' [Pulse Editor's Opinion]

Can the song now sustain itself? We will have to wait and see.

Fast-rising star Ayra Starr

A few months ago, MAVIN Records activated Ayra Starr from MAVIN’s successful academy, where intense bouts of artist development takes place. Immediately, she released her self-titled debut EP, which produced R&B records like ‘Away’ and the spectacular ‘DTR.’

Despite immediate comparisons to Tems, she stood out for reasons that this writer expressed in the video below;

In those early days, it became obvious that her strength belonged in R&B. The Nigerian music landscape might be currently fragmented into silos propelled by streaming, where anything relatable can become a hit, but Afro-pop or pop music that can set dancefloors on fire are still the surest way into the minds of the Nigerian mainstream - our most desirable demography/market.

A few days before Ayra Starr released her debut album, 19 & Dangerous, she released ‘Bloody Samaritan,’ an Afro-House record, filled with “vibes on vibes,” while the songwriting flipped a biblical totem, into a pop culture reference. At first and even till now, the record still proves that Ayra Starr’s greatest strength still remains in R&B.

More so, ‘Bloody Samaritan’ makes far greater sense as part of ‘19 and Dangerous’ than as a single. Although she is fast-developing, Starr is still young and very much in formation. Thus, it's forgivable that her pop reps her still in formation. And it’s not a bad thing that her greater strength still lies in R&B.

In the earliest days of its release, ‘Bloody Samaritan’ felt like a good song, more than it felt like a single. But over the past few weeks - especially since the release of Starr’s debut album, the song has become something of a digital sensation… A certified digital hit that has also reached No. 1 on Apple Music’s chart.

While the Apple Music chart is only an evidence of partial acceptance, due to the minimal use of premium music streaming platforms in Nigeria, a report from TurnTable Charts suggests that ‘Bloody Samaritan’ might dethrone Kizz Daniel’s ‘Lie’ as the No. 1 song on Turntable Top 50 next week.

The song might lack the cultural impact to make it the first choice at a club or birthday party in Agege or Akure or Kaduna, but it's shattered every perception. It’s now become a heartthrob of the cool kids and it’s inspired fear of missing out [FOMO] with a simple, easily recreatable challenge across video-enabled social media platforms.

Coupled with Don Jazzy’s status as Nigeria’s biggest influencer and his subtle aggressive marketing on ‘Bloody Samaritan,’ the record has broken new grounds.

How did we get here?

In September 2020, this writer penned an article about the new reality of the global music industry. He noted that it’s not just about good music anymore, it’s about a catchy hook, a hot beat and creative marketing, which can tie into our new digital reality.

This has been coming for a long time. In 2010, Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’ had a slow start in Nigeria. But after a few weeks of release, MTVBase slammed the record six times between 6 am and 1 pm. Those were the early days, when promotional channels were pretty straightforward.

These days, you have to think about radio, TV, DSP pitching, content marketing, social media marketing, influencer-marketing and sustainability marketing. Every step of the way, MAVIN has creatively unfurled its promotion and marketing strategy.

First, it was Ayra Starr-focused, with videos on her social media. Then an easily recreatable routine became the crux of #BloodySamaritanChallenge, then the challenge became influencer-led while Don Jazzy was posting every meaningful video, then Starr released a performance video, then a music video, some VBank-sponsored influencer work by Don Jazzy, and now, a performance by a band, Official Loud for sustainability.

Radio stations are playing the song in rotation for ratings and DSPs are playlisting it because it has buzz.

What happens next?

We have to wait and see. It would be interesting to see what MAVIN has in store next and what happens when the marketing channels are exhausted.

Will the song sustain itself? We will have to wait and see.

Despite the success of ‘Bloody Samaritan,’ MAVIN and Ayra Starr’s team still needs to work on her pop side. Yes, it will come naturally, but the lamba isn’t forthcoming yet. The moment she unlocks the lamba, it’s all over. At this time, the difference in quality between her R&B side and her pop side is too telling. It needs to be abridged.

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