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Digital Journeys Case Study: Samia Malik

This is the third case study in our Digital Journeys series, where we delve into the success stories of creative and cultural organisations and individuals who have received long-term support from the Digital Culture Network.

In this case study we chat to freelance singer/songwriter Samia Malik, who has worked closely with the Digital Culture Tech Champions over months and years to grow her audience using the power of digital. Here she tells us more about her work and the journey of digital skills development.

You and your work

I’m Samia Malik and I am a singer/songwriter based in Norwich, Norfolk. Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, I have lived in the UK since I was a child. I perform nationally and internationally, and I am also a producer, a visual artist and a teacher.

I write, perform and produce bilingual Urdu and English songs based on traditional Urdu Ghazal (a highly refined union of poetry with music) extending and subverting the form to explore contemporary issues around identity, race and gender. My live shows are often supported by translations and projections of my original paintings and videos.

I have released five albums ‘The Colour of the Heart’ (1998 rereleased 2023) Jaago – Wake Up (2004) Azaadi: Freedom (2017) ‘Samia Malik Live at Norwich Arts Centre’ (2019) ‘Songs to Heal and Empower’ (2023)

I have been lucky enough to collaborate with acclaimed world-class artists including Baluji Shrivastav OBE, Dr Mallika Sarabhai, Giuliano Modarelli, Seemab Gul, Al MacSween, Camilo Tirado, Sukhdeep Dhanjal, Sianed Jones and Cris Cheek.

What did you want to achieve?

In late 2022 I was delighted to have secured an Arts Council Project Grant for my latest work ‘Songs to Heal and Empower’.

‘Songs to Heal and Empower’ was the product of a period of research and development, starting during the pandemic, where I built my own home studio and began learning about recording and new music technology with regular support from London based sound technician and artist Camilo Tirado. I showcased the new material which became ‘Songs to Heal and Empower’ at two shows in Norfolk.

We planned that this new project would allow us to finalise the creation, mixing, mastering and digital distribution on all platforms of the new album ‘Songs to Heal and Empower’. The release would be supported by a national tour of solo workshops with community groups and live performances, either solo or with my wonderful tabla player the internationally esteemed maestro Sukhdeep Dhanjal.

 

What led you to reach out to the Digital Culture Network?

It’s an issue for freelancers: we often are good at what we ACTUALLY do, but not at all the other things needed to get work out there.

I was planning to use new technology to deliver the work but in particular I wanted to pull out and away from my ‘echo chamber’ of supporters, friends and families and reach out to the vast digital audiences that would respond to my work if only they knew I existed! My work is unusual in that it does not easily fit any genre and I am not from a classically trained background. (I started my musical training as an adult). I am using South Asian and western traditional and classical forms to explore my own personal experiences as a woman from a Pakistani, Muslim background, growing up as an immigrant in the UK and I am now in my early sixties. These sorts of experiences are not mainstream and not often heard. When people do hear my work, they respond to it, but one challenge was finding that online audience.

In addition, as a solo independent creative practitioner, I needed support with branding, with designing my website, search engine optimisation (SEO), selling online, understanding analytics and data…quite a few things in fact!

For this project ‘Songs to Heal and Empower’ I reached out to, I suspect, most of the team at Digital Culture Network (DCN)! I had put down that I would access support from the DCN in my project application, but did not appreciate just how useful and knowledgeable the team would be.

Early in 2023, as the project started, I needed to discuss branding and my website. I had some great sessions with Andy where we really sorted through some big issues. There’s still a lot to do, but it really helped to have someone to talk with about the work and have some consistency. I have spoken with James about data and analytics and his astounding knowledge has been super useful in beginning to really understand data. I have also had some sessions on online selling and SEO, but I have a lot more to do in those areas yet!

 

Tell us about your Digital Culture Network support.

Working with the Tech Champions has been so beneficial to the success and reach of this project.

My ongoing regular support has been from Nicola who has been an utter star in helping me shape my overall digital strategy, in particular Facebook and Instagram ads and, right at the end of the project, Google ads on YouTube.

I had budgeted for external marketing support in my project, but only for a few hours, and Nicola really helped build on what I had already learned. She very patiently helped me shape, write and create Facebook ads targeting them to specific audiences, for both engagement and page likes. That one to one support really helped me to understand what to do later by myself. The results, even with small amounts of budget, were amazing. She even helped me install Meta pixels so I could gather analytics.

 

What happened next?

One spectacular outcome was the digital reach of over 2 million from a planned number of under 400,000. In more detail:

We planned for 74,000 to experience a recording of a live event through a digital platform – we achieved 634,114 mainly through sharing videos of the 2 supporting singles on YouTube with carefully targeted ads.

We planned for 300,000 to experience a creative product through digital technology – we achieved 2,155,528. This figure includes the organic and paid reach on Facebook, Instagram , Spotify streams, unique website visitors, Mailchimp direct emails opens etc.

These figures were a direct result of regular posts on social media platforms across the whole project plus carefully targeted ads through Nicola’s regular and direct support.

What have you learned?

I am hoping what I have learned is going to be really pivotal to shape the next few years of my work. In fact, I would say this project has been completely and utterly transformative in great part because of that support. I have learned so much as a creative practitioner, in particular, that this is an extraordinary time to be an independent artist because of the reach and power of new digital media.

My next project will build on what I have learned, and I know now that digital reach will be the primary focus, not the add-on. I am also hoping to tap more into the expertise of the team, in particular of course, Nicola! But I am also keen to continue and improve the work with my website, branding, online selling, SEO and data analytics as there is always room for improvement.

I think what I learnt would be really beneficial to others, in particular to freelance creatives. In fact, I have been singing the DCN’s praises to all my creative colleagues – I think what they offer is exceptional expertise. For a freelance artist it is so vital to have access to this level of professional, accessible, friendly support across so many areas.

I am definitely more confident and innovative. I now have very clear ideas about the targeted digital strategy informed by measurable analytics that will be in place for the next projects, and I am planning to expand more into other digital platforms with creatively engaging, authentic and relevant content.

What advice would you give to organisations considering working with Digital Culture Network?

I would wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend DCN!

Our relationship in numbers

At the time of writing I have had 26 one-to-one support cases with Tech Champions.

 

Here is the video supporting the second single ‘Like A Gift’ from the album.

My website

http://www.samiamalik.com/

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/samiamalikmusic/

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/samiamalikmusic/

Want to discuss your digital ambitions?

Maybe the Digital Culture Network can help! Our digital experts can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural individuals and organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help with a specific issue or would just like to chat about your digital ambitions, please get in touch.

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