The Marketing Genius of Billie Eilish (Entrepreneur Case Study)

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by Rebekah Pierce

Updated

As one of the biggest stars in the music industry, it’s only natural to wonder how Billie Eilish became famous.

It seemed like an overnight success with her single “Ocean Eyes”, but when it comes to how Billie Eilish blew up, you need to dive deeper into her strategies.

After selling more than 41 million digital singles, her success is attributed to not only talent but  marketing prowess as well – let’s find out how.

Embrace Authenticity

Billie Eilish first gained a taste of fame in 2015, with the release her debut single “Ocean Eyes.”

ocean

Born in Los Angeles, CA to a pair of actors, Eilish was brought up in Highland Park and was primarily homeschooled.

It was her mother who taught her how to write songs, although her brother and mother inspired Eilish to delve deeper into music and explore the artform.

Writing her first song

Eilish’s parents encouraged her to express herself and to embrace authenticity. She wrote her first song at the young age of 11, at which point there was no looking back.

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From a very young age, Eilish knew what she wanted in life and how she wanted to make a name (and brand) for herself. In just four years, she made the Billboard charts, won Grammy awards, and even wrote songs for the new James Bond film.

Eilish’s musical talent and songwriting skills are clearly what helped her to become successful, but there was a great deal of business savvy and marketing skills involved as well.

One of the most important strategies she incorporated was authenticity.

So many celebrities appear the same, wearing gorgeous samples of the latest fashion trends and charming smiles everywhere they go.

Bucking the trends

That’s not the case with Eilish. Though she has an undeniable charm and beauty, she normally wears baggy pants and basic tee shirts.

She rarely smiles, even during photoshoots.

She doesn’t turn to revealing clothing or cheesy grins in order to make the front covers of magazines.

Of her unique fashion sense, Eilish remarked to USA Today,

“I never want the world to know everything about me. I mean, that’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath, you know?”

This is an unusual opinion for a celebrity to have for sure but along with her down-to-earth, grounded personality, it is something that has helped her to make an impact.

Therefore, she’s remembered for the music, and not for revealing clothing.

This is just one way that Eilish stays true to her authentic self – and in so doing, it’s a genius marketing strategy.

Authenticity is vital for many artists, and was a big reason how Post Malone became famous and The Kid Laroi became famous as well.

What better way to stand out to your audience than to do something different than what everyone else?

Release Singles Regularly

As mentioned earlier, Eilish wrote her first song at the age of 11, but it wasn’t until 14 that she began pursuing music more seriously.

In fact, this is when she released her first single.

The song, “Ocean Eyes,” was actually written by her brother.

The big break

“Ocean Eyes” was initially debuted and uploaded to SoundCloud.

music-player

Here, it received several thousand listens in just a couple of weeks.

Shortly after, her brother’s manager contacted him to discuss his sister’s potential. Just a few months later, Apple Music signed her to a subsidiary company.

Since the release of that one pivotal single, Eilish hasn’t stopped making music.

This is a smart marketing technique for several reasons:

  • Never lets the audience get bored
  • Keeps albums fresh with new, previously unreleased content
  • Leads to new advertising and promotional opportunities

Consistency is key when it comes to attracting new listeners and fans – and keeping their attention.

In just over four years, she released two studio albums, one live album, 29 singles, and 25 music videos.

The most prominent, successful singles include:

  • “Ocean Eyes”
  • “Six Feet Under”
  • “Bored”
  • “Bellyache”
  • “Idontwannabeyouanymore”
  • “My Boy”
  • “Bad Guy”
  • “Bury a Friend”
  • “Lovely”
  • “You Should See Me in a Crown”
  • “Come Out and Play”
  • “&Burn”

Eilish doesn’t wait until she has enough music for a full EP or album, either, which is something else that sets her apart from other musicians.

As you can see from the numbers cited above, she has far more singles than albums.

Staying top of mind

There are multiple benefits to doing this from a marketing standpoint. For one, it has allowed her to get music out there much faster.

Releasing singles is also low risk, requiring less time and money to produce than full albums.

records

With singles, artists can learn as they go, taking into account listener feedback and personal thoughts to change and even update future songs.

After every new single, she learns something new that can help make the next one even better.

Plus, full albums aren’t as important these days, as they were in years past. People used to buy albums, but now, most people listen to music on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify.

Releasing singles is a more reliable way to achieve long-term success more quickly in today’s music industry.

When it comes down to it, making new music is something she truly loves.

She once wrote on Twitter, “I don’t know how to function without music. When I’m not making it, I’m listening to it. It gives me courage and takes care of my mind.”

Constant Touring

Like most artists, Billie Eilish has relied heavily on touring to get in front of the masses. This isn’t a unique marketing strategy.

She said, “I just really want to get music out and tour and go places I’ve never been, and just do more videos. I love photography and videography, and so I really want to direct videos when I can.”

tour

Although she defied labels and relied on streaming to rise to the top, touring is a traditional marketing strategy that has also helped Eilish’s career.

Marketing machine

As a musician, touring has helped Eilish grow as an individual and as a professional. She’s gained exposure to larger audiences and engaged in more promotional magazine, television, and radio work.

Like many artists, Eilish’s touring schedule was paused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and into 2021.

However, for 2022, she has an impressive 59 concerts lined up across 9 countries, and she’s still adding shows.

Leverage a Diversity of Channels

Posting strategies is yet another unique feature about how Billie Eilish markets herself.

Unlike some artists, who stick to one or maybe two platforms, Eilish made her music available on just about all online streaming music platforms.

You can find Billie Eilish tracks on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, SoundCloud, and Tidal.

Her songs are available and accessible everywhere – yes, even on the radio!

She’s also made a name for herself by making sure her face is present on social media platforms.

Stays authentic across channels

She doesn’t just post about her songs, tours, or career. Eilish also writes about herself on a more personal level, allowing fans the opportunity to connect.

She interacts regularly with her fans on social media, too, responding to DM’s and commenting on their posts.

In other words, there is consistent engagement with fans, which is yet another marketing strategy that helped catapult her to the top.

As she said in her song “Copycat,” “I don’t belong to anyone, but everybody knows my name.”

Eilish doesn’t tie herself down or hold herself accountable to any one platform. Instead, she stays true to herself and makes sure the music is accessible everywhere.

Collabing with professionals & big brands

She’s also collaborated with countless other professionals too, and not just those in the music industry, including experts in the video games space, movies, and fashion, allowing her to gain exposure in different industries.

For example, she modeled Louis Vuitton clothing along with clothing from Chanel and Gucci.

Billie Eilish songs have also been featured in Ubisoft’s Just Dance video game, and “13 Reasons Why,” her first television show.

Other musical artist collaborations include:

  • Khalid
  • Pablo Diaz-Reixa
  • Rosalia Vila Tobella
  • Aubrey Graham
  • Paul Jefferies
  • Timmy Thomas
  • Justin Bieber

Eilish considered herself a platform-agnostic, partnering with all kinds of platforms instead of choosing just one.

You never know where you might have a Billie Eilish sighting.

Save TV and Radio for Later

Billie Eilish’s marketing strategy thus far has been to release a single, then drop a music video, and hope that initial buzz translates into record sales. So far, it’s worked.

Custom listening experiences

Eilish worked closely with Spotify to allow users exclusive access to new albums supplemented with videos and visuals.

Amazon, on the other hand, curated a video in which Eilish picked out items to buy with each of her songs.

These are unique individual campaigns that rely on streaming services, not traditional television and radio, to market her music.

Radio has helped Eilish gain some notoriety but she did not rely on it as her sole marketing strategy. Therefore, radio did play a role in building her brand, but it came later, and wasn’t at the forefront of her marketing strategy.

She worked to build her fan base long before turning to television, radio, and other traditional forms of media.

Remaining humble

As for her fans, Eilish said,

“I don’t even call them fans. I don’t like that. They’re literally just a part of my life; they’re a part of my family. I don’t think of them as on a lower level than me. I don’t think I’m anything but equal to all of them. So yeah, they’re basically all of my siblings.”

Eilish’s team has deliberately left the goal of getting on the radio out of her approach. Her long-term career is not (and should not) depend on radio hits.

Instead, her singles are focused on the type of platforms her target audience is more likely to frequent, which include Spotify and other streaming services.

Before she released “When We Fall Asleep,” Eilish created a release calendar of singles that would allow her music to be everywhere at once with her songs strategically placed on different Spotify playlists all at the same time.

Eilish has the unique ability to market herself in this way as a singer and a songwriter.

She produces music that sounds dramatically different from song to song which creates maximum flexibility when it comes to playlists she can appear on.

Conclusion

Billie Eilish quickly became a sensation due to incredible music talent – but she wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without her overwhelming and impressive marketing genius.

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About the Author

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Rebekah is a writer who covers all things education, business, agriculture, and finance. She owns a small farm business in upstate New York. Her educational credentials include a bachelor's degree in English from St. Lawrence University and a master's in special education from SUNY Plattsburgh.