This is how Hardwell became the world’s number 1 DJ

Denis Doeland
Sep 28 · 9 min read

Hardwell is not only a fantastic DJ and producer. He has literally hacked his career. He first did this with his instinct and later with an elaboration of the Business Acceleration Framework. The framework is implemented and creatively elaborated by Sebastien Lintz. This former producer is one of Hardwell’s ‘technical people’ and carries the official title Digital director at Sorted Management. He explains how the Dutch superstar DJ gets more from his marketing by making smart use of technological innovations and how he was able to become the world’s number 1.

“Giving away content for free, putting your fans at the centre and daring to experiment with technological innovations. Now all these things are the norm today, but Hardwell really embraced this back then. Five years ago, you could purchase DVDs of your favourite DJ, for example, but he really innovated as a (subconscious) growth hacker by uploading a live show on YouTube. Right from the start Hardwell was busy with websites, digital marketing and innovations. I was able to follow a path which was already designed”, says Lintz.

The fans central

If one thing stands out concerning the choices that Hardwell makes, then it is that he also considers the interests of his fans. It shows that the DJ is grateful that they appreciate his music and can live vicariously through him en zich in hen kan verplaatsen. That leads to different productions, whereby the Dutch top DJ also innovates repeatedly. Not only was a documentary made and put on YouTube, but also a 360-degree video — while this was not common on the video platform.

“It gave the fans a unique experience. This made Hardwell the first artist to do this for his fans. There followed another 360-degree livestream. It is amusing to note that this was not possible on YouTube at the time. We made a separate platform for this. This keeps us that little bit ahead of the rest. Soon after YouTube started offering the same functionality, even launching this at Coachella.”

Chatbot makes direct contact possible

This also goes for the Facebook chatbot, which made it possible for (the marketing team of) Hardwell to have individual contact with each fan. “We wanted to personally speak to every fan, engage them all by offering them a unique experience. We quickly saw that the Facebook chatbot was something revolutionary which could assist us. The bot platform — that is required to communicate with every fan separately– did not exist at that point, so we wrote it (as a Facebook API) together with the English company” What does such a chatbot actually offer fans? “We thought of all types of functionalities for this, something that is really useful for the fans. In this way it is possible to listen to the Top 3 from Hardwell’s radio show on Friday afternoon (Hardwell on air), to vote for these songs for the show or record a message for the radio show. It is not about simply broadcasting niet om zenden, but about interaction with the fans.”

The chatbot works with so-called keyword triggers: the use of a certain word creates a certain reaction with the bot. At the same time the chatbot learns the interaction with the users. “We started with 10,000 keyword triggers and had a response rate of 60%. Thanks to the artificial intelligence (AI) and our software, it rapidly became a response rate of 95 percent. This allowed fans direct access to his lyrics, allowed them to discover what is favourite food was or when a new record is set for release. Previously one would have to mail management for this information. Thanks to the integration with Bynder it is possible for fans to directly request photos from a show in Boston or Amsterdam, for example– Bynder shares the photos immediately. This provides the fans with direct access to the entire photo database of Hardwell, in a transparent way.”

Examples for others

What can other artists, organisations or brands learn from this? “We developed our system from CRM to PRM: it is all about personal contact. You learn that you have to be where your fans are: do not make your own app, but go where the people are. Messages that are spread by our bot have an open rate of over 90%– that is a level that is unprecedented, with e-mails that is only 10%, for example. It is an extremely effective way of marketing; we reach hundreds of thousands of people with the press of a button.”

Lintz suggest that it is not only essential to have a chatbot which makes this personal communication possible. Also the communication on other channels must be adjusted to the characteristics of the user. “Someone from Los Angeles that visits Hardwell’s website will soon receive an announcement for a show in Los Angeles. That personalisation is now quite normal, but this was not the case three or four years ago.”

Framework that helps acceleration

Hardwell’s team is not only busy with exciting innovations like the chatbot, 360-degree videos or personalised videos. There is a strategy behind this, a framework that the company behind the DJ helps to glean more out of the data. The Business Acceleration Framework lays as it were an umbrella over the organisation and its Umfeld of data. That brings certain insights and benefits with it.

It ensures that clear definitions are used. It makes the digital strategy and transformation measurable and the digital assets visible. “We are now adjusting the organisation to the Business Acceleration Framework. Every company faces challenges in this respect — we are for example still busy with lots of silo forming, departments still work independently from each other instead of being integrated. The team is expanded, to promptly keep growing to the last phases of the framework. This allows us to optimise our content strategy and get all innovations to be of even greater value for fans.”

One of the benefits of the smart use of data is that new earning models are possible. In Hardwell’s case, this comes in the form of a scent luchtje, that has the name Hardwell Eqlipse. “By using social media and the contact with your fans in a smarter way it is possible to generate increased turnover. It does not only give us the chance to develop and offer new products– also the marketing for these products can be more competitive. Instead of only announcing the product, it is possible to be smarter with it. Four months after purchasing, your bottle will be almost empty, so it would be great to receive a reduction code for when it is time to purchase a replacement. We are now creating logical connections. This is crucial for the entire organisation: if we sell more perfumes, this will lead to increased profit.”

The benefits of a framework

This is not the only example of a new earning model that existed by using the framework. “Hardwell wears a new shirt during his show. His fans can wear the same new shirt that Hardwell is wearing during that show. We are increasingly noticing that we must announce the shirt on time, but also inform people who purchased the shirt the previous year that this new shirt is now available for purchase. This is how we can monetise the data from the previous year. This is how aspect of Hardwell proceeds: from bookings to the amount of Spotify streams: we make targets again and again, where we work towards, and more often meet those targets, thanks to using data.”

Lintz has tips for organisations that wish to commence their digital transformation. “The most important aspect is that everyone has the same mindset, only then can a change really succeed. It helps if a bestuurder CEO has a direct insight into the progress.

With the Business Acceleration Framework our manager looks at green or red numbers in the dashboard that Fanalists (the agency that is responsible for rolling out the framework, editor) made for us. In this way he can instantly see whether we have achieved our objectives or not. It is also necessary to really show commitment.

Management agencies in the music industry (and further afield) are often still busy in an ad hoc way with marketing and social media. This can be better thought through and should really be done by specialists. The relationship with fans is too important. See it as investing in the growth of your business. Hardwell has more shows thanks to this framework, but a team is required for this that is busy with social media, creation, data and other tasks.”

Coming years

Lintz sees a number of trends becoming relevant in the coming years for those who are active in the world of (digital) marketing:

With each of these developments, you must be a brand or artist, because in this way you can offer unique experiences. Only by offering unique experiences can you ensure that fans will share your content with their friends. This creates a referral. “Previously, screenshots of our chatbot were shared, for example. How cool is it that people are talking about your brand, without you having to pay for it? Although, you are naturally providing them with a unique experience or great content, so you are also giving something back.”


Hardwell’s marketing is an actual elaboration of the Business Acceleration Framework. Lintz is, together with his colleagues, busy identifying fans and the collecting and creative deployment of data. “We organise with a meet and greet framework for every show, for instance, where everyone has a chance. You simply have to register your tickets. This allows us to discover who is buying tickets, and we collect the ticket data ourselves.”

“There is rather a lot when it concerns rolling out the framework. It is essential to take each of required steps as well as possible. Data is considered important by many companies and organisations. Despite this, only a few really do something with this, and even less people believe it to be important.”

Therefore, make data a priority, states Lintz. “If you do not do this, you cannot manage on revenue, you do not have any control over your income and on your own business. Without data you can of course sell merchandise, but you cannot optimise it. You cannot roll out other projects based on your fans or fan data. Also the other earning models (such as merchandise) are no longer under your own management. You become too dependent on other parties.

Facebook is forcing back the reach of company and artist pages, for example. This seems to be annoying, but because we still have hundreds of thousands of email addresses and contacts via our chatbot, we notice it less. We have pulled the reach of our fans towards us. If you do not do this, then you miss chances and revenue. This is a major shame at this level, because it concerns huge amounts of money.”

>>> Go to the next chapter

Digital Assets by Denis Doeland

In order to get started with digital change, it is important to realize that this change consists of three fundamental core elements. Force, Power and Potential. Learn through this publication to make optimal use of of the digital capacity of your organization.

Denis Doeland

Written by

Author, Blogger, Disruptor, Maven, Numerati and Transformer. Check more on:

Digital Assets by Denis Doeland

In order to get started with digital change, it is important to realize that this change consists of three fundamental core elements. Force, Power and Potential. Learn through this publication to make optimal use of of the digital capacity of your organization.

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