How Ryan Leslie Shifts the Connection Between Artist and Fans


Want to get in touch with Grammy-nominated artist and producer Ryan Leslie? He’d prefer that you text him. Leslie gives every fan his phone number (it’s 646 887 6978, by the way) and he now has over 40,000 fans in his address book. For Leslie, this is all part of the plan: every text goes into the platform he built, SuperPhone, and it makes it easy for him to connect directly with his fans and sell albums.

Leslie has produced songs for artists like Madonna, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Kanye West. He’s also an serial entrepreneur and technologist with a BA in Governmment from Harvard — which he entered at age 15, with a perfect 1600 on his SAT.

Leslie started SuperPhone in 2013 after realizing that, for many artists and creators, while they may have thousands of social media followers, they don’t really have a personal connection with them or have any sort of data on who their fanbase really is. Not only that, but their audience was owned by social media giants, not artists, which proved troublesome whenever a platform goes south. Leslie, for example, lost over 200,000 followers on Myspace after it fell out of favor. “What I started to find was that social networks were anti-social networks,” Leslie said. “We’re building a way for artists to own their relationship with their fans.”

Artists can use SuperPhone, for example, to let fans know about an album release or sell tickets to an concert, geo-targeting a specific city. It provides a link to buy instantly, turning conversations into customers.

Leslie built the initial version of the product himself, teaching himself how to code with Codeacademy tutorials. He was also its first user, and remains its best case study: when he released his new album, he decided not to list it on iTunes, Spotify, or other major platforms. Instead, he used SuperPhone to run an SMS campaign, connecting directly to his fanbase and making over $2 million in revenue with sales to just 15,000 people.

Leslie used SuperPhone to run an SMS campaign for his new album, connecting directly to his fanbase and making over $2 million in revenue with sales to just 15,000 people.

SuperPhone has since been backed by investors like Ben Horowitz, and now has over 3,000 celebrities in its private beta. There are few industries that have felt the effects of disruption more than the music business, and the creators have been most afflicted. Leslie is one of the few entrepreneurs working to chart a better course forward by putting power back in the hands of artists, enabling them to know their audience and drive sales.

That’s why we’re excited to have Leslie join us for a talk at NewCo Shift Forum, NewCo’s new executive conference covering “Capitalism at a Crossroads.” He’ll be discussing his journey from Salvation Army brat (both his parents worked there) through Harvard to a career as a grammy nominated musician and entrepreneur. Joining 400 of the best minds in business, technology, and government, Leslie will help us explore a new compact between business and society. We’re now accepting applications for delegates, and we’d love for you to learn more and apply.

Join us for the NewCo Shift Forum, where 400 of the best minds in business, technology, and government will come together for two days of focused, action-oriented dialog.

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