How Jaycee’s #OneSongOneDream came true

Success story written by Julie Knibbe and Marie Cebrian

Jaycee is a very prolific DIY Australian musician. He recently finished his world record-breaking project #OneSongOneDream where from July 1st 2019 to January 1st 2020 he released a new song and music video every week for six months straight. Such commitment and growth got him under the TuneCore radar, which now actively supports his career. His work and authenticity paid off as he became a rising TikTok star (now close to 750K followers). He quickly reached more than 1M views on his latest hit “Who Are You“: “I need a beat where people can dance to it {…} And now I need your help to make it viral”

In this piece, we’ll dig more deeply into factors that contributed to his success story.

Consistency

The below graph from Soundcharts shows consistent growth across networks over the past year, demonstrating how his brand is getting established as his reputation grows:

His content is authentic, Jaycee makes his story very accessible. You can check out his “Lie to You” storytelling video. His community is growing as fast as he delivers content. He released 26 tracks, along with a video clip for each one of them in less than a year. He makes a case for a “test and learn approach”: rather than spending months refining the same track, he just releases the state of his work for a given week and see what resonates best with his audience, increasing his odds of success.

Authenticity

Focusing on Spotify, his fan base is growing consistently, with a few bumps following his songs being featured in editorial playlists (Local Hype and New Music Friday AU & NZ).

On TikTok, he shares his daily inspirations, successes, failures, pranks, challenges with his community with a lot of humour, and he is now reaching 760K followers. He recently shared how he had the idea of his latest single “Dehydrated” in the bathroom, and now pranks his friends by throwing water at them, challenging his community to do the same using his challenge hashtag #dehydratedprank.

Influencer support

Check out Jaycee’ Tiktok charts position in Australia:

Noticing his work, just as perceived momentum has its own multiplier effects, TikTok showcased him as one of their Australian success story. He becampe part of a recent Tiktok campaign called “It starts on TikTok”.

His TikTok success got him noticed and he now has several songs plugged on Nova radio (Australia). 

Those 3 factors, consistency, authenticity and promotional support put Jaycee on the spotlight. This first wave of community and then platform support is sparking even more interest, creating a virtuous circle for him. No doubt he’ll manage to catch even more attention later on during his career.

Don’t get lost in translation: How to interpret artists’ engagement rates

A guide by Marie Cebrian & Julie Knibbe

Whenever you share content on a platform, whether it’s music on a streaming service or a video in an Instagram story, your success will depend on how engaging your content is. The way people react towards what you present impacts your content strategy. So-called “Engagement metrics” are instrumental in measuring how well you are doing. In the music business, gathering an engaged community is critical, as content consumption directly impacts revenues on a national and global scale. 

It’s important to define what engagement metrics are about – it’s easy to get confused on the way! An engagement metric will always be defined as a percentage. Contrary to absolute follower numbers, they provide more insights regarding how your audience behaves. For example, among all listeners of a radio you get played on, how many of them shazamed your song? Was it 0.1%, 1%, 10%? The ratio tells you how much people want to learn more about your song.

For most digital marketing activities (social media, SEO, advertising, etc.), engagement means that users will go where you want them to go: listen to your new release, read an article, watch a live stream, buy a concert ticket, etc. While looking at your engagement metrics, how can you know if the number/percentage you see is good, “can-be-better”, or just bad?

Here are a few examples of engagement metrics you must be familiar with:

  • radio impressions / shazam
  • notable followers / total followers
  • likes and comments / post
  • listeners / followers 
  • playlist additions / new listeners

Building and growing an audience is a continuous life cycle. We represented it as a snail – as an artist, you start with a very engaged small community and develop your project step by step by reaching out to new outlets.  

But, no matter how many playlists or radio spins you get, you should look at the ratio between your exposure and the number of actual new streams or fans you get. If you don’t, you will likely spend time and advertising efforts on operations that don’t pay off as much as they should.
Every step of the way, you must care that your audience is engaged and that your engagement metrics are good. From the beginning, your very first followers/supporters should be reliable and support your project whatever it takes, and you should have a good understanding as to what your brand is to them. These people will make your project real and help you grow from a healthy standpoint.

Streams, Followers and Listeners

Let’s talk about the relationship between your number of streams, your total number of followers, and your number of listeners. These metrics can be volatile and they are interdependent – one variation affects the two others.

To illustrate the specific relationship between these three, we will take the example of the Spotify Fan Retention ratio:

Spotify Fan Retention = Spotify Followers / Spotify Monthly Listeners

In plain English, from all the people who listen to your music on Spotify, how many follow you?

We took Spotify as an example because you can easily find any artist’s Monthly Listeners in an open/non-private way. You can calculate your own by finding these two metrics in the section ‘About’ of your artist profile. 

This ratio is one of the most relevant metrics in terms of ROI. Did your digital promotion and editorial playlists work to get more fans and followers? From something ephemeral like getting a placement on a big editorial playlist, did you manage to convert listeners into followers who are interested in following your career?

The ratio can be under 100% or over 100%. There is no bad or good ratio; it depends on where your career currently stands. 

Case studies

Case 1 – the ratio is under 100% 

→ The number of listeners is over the number of followers. 

  • Established artist – Jorja Smith (19,53%)

Jorja Smith has about 2M followers and 10M listeners, which makes her current fan retention ratio around 20%. Her songs are featured in many large playlists, whose cumulative followers reach 50M.  Given her current activity, several releases and campaigns over the past few months, we can consider that 20% is a good and healthy ratio.

  • Emerging artist – Jaycee (63,45%)

Jaycee is a very prolific DIY Australian musician. He recently finished his world record-breaking project #OneSongOneDream where from July 1st 2019 to January 1st 2020 he released a new song and music video every week for six months straight. Such commitment and growth got him under the TuneCore radar, which now actively supports his career. Looking at the above graph, it’s interesting to observe whether increased exposure (more Spotify monthly listeners) translated into follower base growth, which is the case here. Over the past year, his ratio fluctuated between 25% during peak exposure times in April 2020 (which tends to make the ratio lower) and 100%. Compared to Jorja’s, it all makes sense.

Case 2 – the ratio is over 100%

→ The number of followers is over the number of listeners.

  • Superstar artist – Ed Sheeran (131,56%)

That is a particular case. Ed Sheeran broke many records and grew a very large community across all platforms. His follower base (76M followers on Spotify, 22% of the 345M total Spotify Monthly Active Users in Q4 2020) is now such that even with a lot of exposure, his followers would usually outnumber the number of monthly listeners. His ratio is likely to remain very high and frequently above 100%.

  • Emerging artist – Anissa Altmayer (150,47%)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Anissa Altmayer is starting her career. She doesn’t have a lot of songs yet in her catalog (2 EPs over the past 3 years), which doesn’t help the monthly listeners KPI, but her fans are actively supporting her no matter how many songs she posts. In her case, followers outnumber her monthly listeners, which should be interpreted as a good engagement sign from her community. When she’ll grow and get more active and more exposure, her ratio will decrease and reflect that new reality. 

These four examples illustrate that an artist’s audience size is not necessarily correlated to the final ratio – it can be over or under 100%. 

In summary, here are a few factors to take into consideration when analyzing your engagement ratio:

  • your career stage: undiscovered, emerging, or established 
  • your status: active (tour, release, marketing campaigns…) or inactive (no current project or activity)
  • your catalog size: large (several albums, more than 100 songs) or limited (one EP, a few singles)

As you can guess from the above examples, your fan retention ratio will usually be under 100%, and be considered healthy anywhere between 10% and more, depending on your current exposure. 

To justify this statement, we’ve built a data set composed of various French artists. Here are the panel characteristics: 120 artists analyzed, among which 70 emerging artists and 50 established artists. Career status has been determined with Billboard’s standard classification: 

  • Established artist: has at least one chart position in Top 200, Top 100, Viral 50
  • Emerging artist: no chart position ever 

Artists were selected from two major playlists:

  • Hits du Moment by Spotify France – 50 songs – 1,716,617 followers 
  • Découvertes by Gil from Deezer – 70 songs – 85,407 followers

Results:

  • 97% of the panel is under 100% (only three artists are above: Anissa Altmayer, David Guetta, Uele Lamore)
  • 81,8% of the panel is under 50% 
  • Emerging artists have a median ratio of 7,99% whereas established artists have a median ratio of 18,86% 

Takeaways: 

  • It is crucial to know how active the artist is and how much exposure they get (release, tour, playlist addition…) – the lower median ratio for emerging artists can be explained by the “status” factor. They usually are releasing songs/albums to launch their careers. It simply means that they are completing the first part of the Audience Snail represented above. More content, more campaigns, more exposure.
  • Fan retention tends to be higher when established. There is a direct correlation between a high ratio for established artists and the size of their catalog (the more the better). 
  • Compare artists from the same market (here, in France) and at the same career stage.

What does it mean when your ratio is very low?

Some artists may have a very low ratio, sometimes under 1%. It means that their songs are streamed much more than they are followed, suggesting a lack of artist brand identification. That happens when an artist is pushed at an early stage of their career into big editorial playlists with thousands of followers. Most times, the songs are being heavily streamed before the artist has time to grow his community and so get an engaged community. This is the syndrome “I know this song but I don’t know who sings it”. 

Some notable examples, we’ve spotted recently: Olivia Rodrigo, Masked Wolf, or Issam Alnajjar.

This phenomenon is even more relevant with the User Generated Content era and the renowned ‘Challenges’ on Tiktok (pick a 15’ audio and dance on it), or with artists featured on specific moods playlists.

Issam Alnajjar is a young Jordanian singer who’s getting millions of streams thanks to his unique song ‘Hadal Ahbek’ – used in more than 3.3M videos on Tiktok. 

His song was added to Spotify’s biggest playlists: Pop Rising (2M followers), Global Viral 50 (1.7M followers), Viral Hits (1.5M)… However, he only has 156k followers on his Instagram account. 
In that case, you need to work on building a relationship with your fans. In Amber Horsburgh’s words, from her guide about practical ways to build a band’s brand, “you’re building a thing that’s bigger than you and can be remembered beyond a Spotify playlist add”.

Engagement metrics are meant to be compared

You should explore the market in which your artist is developing. Thanks to music data analytics platforms, you can easily access analytics from other artists. In this piece, data is coming from Soundcharts and Chartmetric

Benchmarks can be also very useful to put the ratio you are studying into perspective. Several solutions were built to back your benchmark when comparing artist growth with similar audiences. Here are two relevant tools:

  • Next Big Sound Audience Engagement gauge

Next Big Sound is generating weekly analysis gathering the artist audience on Twitter and Pandora. The gauge is gathering comparable audiences and pinpoints the artist’s position depending on comparable artists’ activity.

  • Soundcharts Compare Artists tool

In a nutshell

Understanding your audience is critical when building a sustainable development strategy for your artist. Engagement metrics depend on many factors that can nuance your interpretation. It’s not all about streams or followers (at least, not only!). Career stage, status, the market, all these factors influence ratios that have to be interpreted in a specific context. 

However, a few things always remain the same: Healthy career development stems from working on your brand and building a strong core community. 

More reading around the topic:

3 Music Data Resolutions for the New Year

Happy new year everyone! Let’s start 2021 by sharing what we would like to see this year in the music & data world. Here are our goals:

  1. Develop data literacy
  2. Tell more data stories about emerging artists
  3. As an industry, be more mindful about how we use technology.

Wish #1 – Develop data literacy and critical thinking skills

In Cherie Hu’s words, “as much of the music industry remains online, data literacy has become more important than ever across all sectors”. Managers and marketers have plenty of information to analyze, and it’s sometimes difficult to extract the right insights from the abundance of available data. Now that I’m almost done writing our series about how music professionals use data – check it out on Cherie Hu’s Water & Music publication – I’d like to help professionals develop their critical thinking skills.

Here’s an example: Correlation doesn’t mean causality.

While the left example is fairly obvious: we all intuitively know that ice cream sales don’t increase murder rates (- hopefully). We wouldn’t jump to that conclusion even if someone was showing us data backing up that story. We would keep looking for another factor. Sometimes, it’s not that obvious: while Instagram growth is often paired with listeners growth on streaming platforms, it may not be the full story.

Wish #2 – Tell more data stories about emerging artists

There are a lot of success stories written in traditional media about artists hitting the billionaires club on Youtube or breaking charts records. These metrics are impressive and artists and their teams should indeed be praised for such achievements.

However, becoming a TikTok star or getting high volumes of views or streams matters, but it is not the only end-game. I discussed that topic in previous pieces focused on A&R and talent scouting, definitions of success vary widely from one case to another. Among the 25M music creators, about 43,000 artists account for the top 90% of streams in the world on Spotify (therefore belonging to the top-revenue generating artists on the platform). Not all of them are Youtube billionaires, and I’d like to see more coverage about non-billionaires and their strategies to achieve success. 

It’s not just the hits industry versus the long tail, there is a whole world in between.

Wish #3 – Be mindful about how we consume technology 

My last wish is for us to be more mindful about how we use technology, both as consumers and as music industry professionals.

Discussions about the environmental footprint of the music industry should focus as much on waste produced during music festivals and concerts, as on the digital carbon footprint. Technologies are great but they’re not neutral, even when they’re labelled renewable or green. 

On the consumer side, the dematerialization of music consumption has resulted in significantly higher carbon emissions than at any previous point in the history of music. Audio and video streaming are the biggest drivers of data consumption growth, and they are expected to account for more than 80% of Internet data traffic in 2021, according to Cisco. Streaming music videos from Youtube without watching them is an example of digital waste we could easily avoid by streaming audio only. 

On the business side, we can be mindful about when carbon-intensive technologies like HD-video streaming, VR or AI are relevant or not to solve our business problems. There are many discussions about whether tech efficiency gains can offset the carbon impact of online services’ rising demand. The answer is “it depends”, but it’s not very likely that efficiency gains will be enough to keep up with an exponentially rising demand. Here are the 2 best reads I could find about the topic: 

Data Cheat Sheet: A summary of data ownership in the live events industry

Guide by Julie Knibbe & Marie Cebrian

Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP

A study from PwC forecast that the live music industry would be worth $31 billion worldwide by 2022 if it weren’t for the pandemic. In the U.S., the live sector alone accounted for 48% of total music-industry revenues in 2019, outpacing the recorded-music sector. Long story short, the live sector is an industry within the music industry. 

I recently wrote a piece for Cherie Hu’s Water & Music publication, How the touring industry will use data in 2021 — even in a pandemic, providing guidance about how professionals use data in the live sector. During the research phase, I realized how data flows in this sector were even more complex than I thought. Ticketing platforms, promoters, venues, festivals, agents, bookers, and artist managers all collect and use data. On top of that, hybrid virtual events, live streaming and privacy regulations are now reshaping relationships between them: who owns what? Who needs access to what data? I even got lost at some point 🙂 That’s why I summed it all up in a Data Cheat Sheet to help you navigate this live universe within the music industry. 

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, Marie and I designed an illustrated version as well to describe data relationships between players of the live sector. As lines get blurrier between them and the recording industry, it’s a good time to review our basics to understand this ever-changing landscape.

How to read this chart

Ticket sales sit at the very center of this chart. It’s a goal and KPI shared by any player involved in the sector. All parties must define:

  • their own strategies to achieve ticket sales (outlined colored circles) 
  • data they own (colored circles)
  • external KPIs they need to get their job done effectively (outer circles)

Thanks to all the ground work done in the industry, data is now accessible and made actionable by several data tools that I will mention below. For more details regarding how to use these KPIs and tools, read the full guide on Water & Music.

Ticket sales

Incumbent ticketing platforms provide not only primary KPIs about sales, such as:

  • Tickets sold, 
  • Capacity percentage, 
  • Seating chart, 
  • Gross revenue,
  • Time of purchase,
  • Buyers personal information,
  • sometimes ticket transfers. 

but also secondary KPIs regarding the event marketing (see below) 

Tools: Eventbrite, Ticketmaster, Seated,…

Event marketing

Ticketing platforms like Eventbrite and Ticketmaster enable promoters to add pixels to track where sales come from, so that marketers can optimize their digital advertising investments according to which channel shows the best conversion rates. 

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the event promotion structure. It gave more power to artists and labels, who often act as the promoter as well, through live streaming events. Data collected from virtual events can provide significant leverage when physical shows will happen again (email, D2F stores, advertising…).

KPIs include: 

  • Pre-sale registrations,
  • Ad campaigns performance,
  • Sales channels, 
  • Sales channels conversion rates.

Tools: Audience Republic, Audiencetools, Arenametrix, ….

Touring history

Cherie Hu wrote about this in how booking agents use (and don’t use) data (highly recommended reading). In her words an artist’s touring history is “by far the most crucial kind of data that agents reference in their day-to-day decision-making. 

However, depending on the granularity you require, you may find out that complete touring history (ticket sales, time of sales, sales channels, attendance, fan contacts, artist contracts, fan behavior during the event, …)  is dispatched between at least three players.

For example, while managers and agents “know about tours months in advance of them ever going on sale …  promoters are often the last ones in that chain owing, in the most part, to the bidding processes, despite being the folks with the biggest job to do” said Sammy Andrews, Digital Marketer, in Music Week

Tools: Pollstar, Bandsintown, Songkick, …

Fan behavior during the event

Data collection during live events primarily serves several purposes:

  • Making sure that logistics and operations are running smoothly, and that the event is profitable,
  • Learning more about fan behavior during the show to optimize future shows and to develop targeted marketing campaigns after the show,
  • Complying with sanitary regulations with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

KPIs include: 

  • Attendance
  • Time of entry
  • With whom the fan attended
  • Contact tracing (COVID)
  • Seating plan
  • Purchases
  • Merch purchases
  • Time of purchases

Tools: TicketMaster SmartEvent, Aloompa, Appmiral, atVenu, …

Artist fandom and local footprint

Gauging and anticipating demand for shows remains a challenge. Understanding where fans are and what makes them willing to see a show can go a long way to anticipate and build demand.

KPIs include:

  • Facebook, Instagram fans per city
  • DSP Streams & listeners per city
  • Local airplay

but also secondary KPIs such as:

  • Bandsintown trackers
  • Local charts
  • Local playlists

A side note about live streaming: the meaning of ‘local’ marketing takes a different shape online: In Diana Gremore’s words, Business Intelligence Analyst at Paradigm Talent Agency, “instead of events being geographically local, they are local to online communities.”

Tools: Social networks analytics, Soundcharts, Chartmetric, Google Trends, ..

About data sharing and ownerships

In the chart, arrows represent data that is potentially shared. Data that is actually being shared depends on the promoter’s relationship and contract with the ticketing company, and on the artist management / agent relationship and contract with the promoter.

It is imperative that data collection be organized carefully, as exchanging data between third parties is under GDPR/CIAA regulations to protect privacy. Artists and their teams need to make sure that they have the right to use the data collected in the contracts they form with their partners, at least for their own marketing purposes. Partners also need to make sure they comply with data protection laws, so that the artist can be legally granted access that they need.

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) published a Fan Data Guide, which is a great support to understand where fan data flows from ticket sales to event attendance. They also built a data checklist to highlight items you should be aware of when dealing with promoters as an artist or a manager.

“A&R has always been about data”: a deep dive into the role of data in A&R with Chaz Jenkins, CCO at Chartmetric

Chaz Jenkins Chartmetric

I recently published a piece about how A&Rs use data to scout and evaluate artists on Cherie Hu’s Water & Music publication, and I wanted to share a bit of the background research I conducted to write this piece. Here’s an exclusive interview I did with Chaz Jenkins, Chief Commercial Officer at Chartmetric, where we discussed the role of data in A&R and how it evolved over the years with the advance of analytics tools. Before joining Chartmetric, Chaz had previously founded Grammy Award-winning labels, an artist management company and was VP International Marketing at Universal Music Group. 

Julie Knibbe: Given your experience at Chartmetric and previously as an A&R person, how is data transforming A&R departments?

Chaz Jenkins: First thing I’ll say is something really controversial. I’m actually allowed to do that because I used to be an A&R person. A&R has always been about data. Data has always been a really key component of any A&R person’s job, but we never really think of the data we used to use as “data”. It was just insights, information and acquired knowledge from the marketplace. A&R people have always been able to absorb a lot of information. The more information that they could absorb, the better decision making they could make. If you don’t understand the marketplace, then, yeah, you can still hear some music and think, wow, that’s amazing. But how can you make a good business decision about whether you should sign up artists, or whether you should put that artist together with that producer for example? You can’t do any of this unless you actually know a huge amount about the marketplace. And there’s always been data available. I mean, we think of tools like Chartmetric as revolutionary tools, but they’re just evolutionary because in the past there wasn’t much data. There was always market data. There were always the charts. There was always ticket sales. And our people knew tons of shit, basically, meaning they knew what was going on. We call it “gut instinct”, but the dire of the gut is data.

JK: Given these large amounts of data to process for A&Rs, how does Chartmetric help with the artist discovery process? And with the decision-making involved in evaluating whether or not an artist is a good fit? 

CJ: The challenge today is it’s just too much data. Twenty years ago, I, the average consumer, created two data points because I bought two products: a C.D. and a concert ticket. That was all the data which was generated. Today, the average consumer is creating 20,000 data points per year. To make it even more complex, there’s a lot more consumers than ever before because the music industry is monetizing far many more people than it ever did in the past; and it’s doing it on a global level. The music industry basically only operated in 40 countries in the world years ago. Today, it operates in 200, because we have consumers everywhere and they’re all interlinked. Today, A&R people just can’t absorb it all. They need additional tools to be able to make sense of all that sits in this information, so they can gain really simple insights. 

There’s a huge amount of artists out there to discover. On chartmetric, we track about 3M artists at the moment. Therefore, the majority of those artists have never been discovered by anybody. There’s not really a problem finding good artists to discover; the difficulty, if you’re an A&R person is finding artists who could fit. You can then invest if you have the skills to add to what the artist is doing in order to lift something which is small. Ever since the emergence of digital, it’s not entirely coincidental that there’s been a trend in the music industry to discover or sign artists later and later. Record labels have been progressively signing artists who are more and more successful. There’s been a focus on just signing tracks as well: not taking the risk of signing artists, just taking a track which is successful and trying to provide investment to make it even more successful. If you’re investing in something, you want to generate a return. Therefore, generally, you want to find something very small and make it absolutely colossal. That’s high risk but will generate a significant return. 

A lot of A&Rs over the past 20 years, have just become more and more conservative looking for things which were already successful and just tried to make them a little bit more successful. I think there’s been a gradual realization in the industry over the past five years that that’s not sustainable because there’s less and less of an incentive for an artist or a songwriter to actually sign once they’ve already become successful on their own. Why would you want to give away so much of your revenue? Is this organization genuinely going to provide additional support in order to make me even more successful? 

There is a need to really look early, but also learn what characteristics there are among emerging artists, emerging songwriters, which provide the seed for an artist to become successful in the long term. We’ve become, as an industry, too reliant on looking for things which are already successful or quite successful. Looking for things which are quite successful is not necessarily the best way to find things which are going to be very successful in the future. 

For the people who use Chartmetric, the key thing is not looking for artists who have achieved successes like getting a lot of streams or a lot of followers. Those things are too easy to fake and too easy to manipulate. A single outside influence like getting into a big playlist can have too profound an effect. Just because an artist gets into a playlist, does that mean they’re going to get into a big playlist in the future? Does that mean, if you sign the artist, that you’re going to be able to make them successful? Or it is because of chance that they achieve success this far? We’re advising to look for key triggers. That all predominantly comes down to evaluating the ability not only to acquire an audience but to retain an audience. Audience retention is the big challenge for the music industry going forward. The industry is great at audience acquisition, in the old days, it consisted of motivating fans to go to a record store, to hand over 15 $ and walk out with a CD. That was it, all you had to do, the job was done. Today, acquisition is just one part of a story, you need to retain the attention of the listener. Record labels can enable an artist to acquire more audiences, but they’re not so good at retaining them. Looking for artists who have that ability to retain the attention of audiences is a much more valuable use of A&R resources these days.

JK: Do you see that happening? Do you see in A&R departments focus shifting from raw follower numbers to audience retention ? 

CJ: Yeah, very much so, particularly over the past few years. I think there’s been a big shift in terms of not just looking at performance on DSPs, not just looking at a higher number of monthly listeners or number of followers, but looking at much more complex data, looking at multiple datasets to try to identify why. If an artist is having success, why? Where is that success emanating from? Another trend, of course, is globalization. We published a piece of research last year called Trigger Cities. 20/30 years ago when I grew up as a kid, emerging artists did not release music. They played gigs week after week, month after month, year after year, in the vain hope that one day an A&R person would come along to their gig, see them, and think they were amazing, listen to that demo and then give them a chance to go into a studio and record something properly. Even then, when they released that, they would be releasing it in one country. Then maybe if it was successful, they got a chance to record another single. If that was successful, maybe an album. Generally, artists didn’t have the chance to see their music being sold internationally until they’d had two successful albums. These days, kids in their bedroom, instead of recording a demo, record properly and release their music globally within 24 hours. We’ve gone from a very, very localized marketplace to a completely globalized marketplace. Your addressable audience is much bigger. It turns out that, unsurprisingly, the way people engage with artists, share their love for artists is very different around the world. The behavior in the West is very different from many other countries. 

JK: The music industry is structured by territory/countries. So how do managers and labels reconcile that global launch with their local investments? 

CJ: Today, it’s very simple to get global data. All the data in Chartmetric is borderless, because consumers are borderless. On the other end, the music industry is still structured along very localized lines. Companies are local companies. Even a major record company operates as separate entities in every single country. That makes anything international very slow, very painstaking, even quite political in many instances; but data is available everywhere. I think although certain parts of the industry are struggling to adapt to this borderless marketplace, in general there is a quite rapid transition to looking at the music industry as one big global marketplace. 

Ultimately, people find out about artists from friends, your biggest influences. I was influenced by my friends. My taste in music depended on my friends. But I only had four friends because I grew up a long time ago before the Internet, and my four friends lived on the same street. 

Kids today have friends all over the world, so they usually don’t struggle too much with discovery. 

JK: As you mentioned, A&Rs have tools plus their own network to help them with discovery, and that’s a lot of information to process. Some of them have a short list of 20/30 artists they’re going to look at during a day, to evaluate whether or not they could be a good fit. How do you think analytics tools are going to evolve moving forward? Because A&Rs are usually pretty overwhelmed and afraid to miss a gem.

CJ: It’s where data science really comes in, in order to evaluate metrics for huge numbers of artists across multiple different channels. Ultimately, there will always be a need for a human being involved in the process, because there are many critical metrics to A&R, which cannot convert into data. At the moment we are a long way from converging data. Computers are not good at listening to music nor hearing characteristics about music. In terms of really listening to music and discovering the emotional content of music, that’s actually still quite difficult. Computers can’t assess personal relationships very well. They can’t tell whether the manager is very good, whether the artist has an agent who genuinely believes in the artist, whether the artist is willing to do promo or wants to sort of like living a quiet life. These are difficult things to convert into algorithms at the moment. There is a critical need for human beings being involved in the process. There is so much data already available across streaming services. Comparison across individual artists, who will develop in unique and different ways, requires some real serious designs. That’s a huge part of what we do. Chartmetric is continuously analyzing trends across millions of artists in order to learn what happens and what has happened over the past five years. 

JK: Data science is usually good at solving large scale problems.. Do you think tools like Chartmetric can actually tackle the artist scouting problem at a large scale? To be more specific, each A&R person has his.her own set of criterias to make their decisions depending on their market. To what extent do A&Rs need personalization on these tools? 

CJ: When you are having to analyze data points across a dozen different services, building and reading the impact of radio, factoring in the impact of other media exposure, that then becomes very challenging for a human being to do when they’re looking at 30 artists a day. There is a need to use analytics to actually help the process in terms of personalization. Ultimately, we’ll head to the point where you can put every single channel and personalize it. Building tools now is about enabling every A&R to personalize their own search according to their own priorities. 

One artist can be a perfect fit for one company, but a terrible fit for other companies. Every company has a very unique skill set. Very often in the past, artists have signed to the wrong record company. That’s always happened. That’s a mistake for the artists and it’s a mistake for the record company. Nobody wants to sign the wrong artists; but one record company overlooking an artist doesn’t mean that another record company will not see that same artist fitful. 

JK: What’s your take on predictive tools? Is there such an algorithm that can predict success?

CJ: We’ve been building predictive tools for a couple of years now. You can always be predictive, but it depends on what people are looking for. Predictive tools can take a lot of the workload out and help identify new things which are not on your radar. But, if you’re a record company and you’re making a colossal investment in an artist, you’ve got to have a lot of trust in predictive tools. We want people to have trust in them, but you have to be able to provide a complete suite of supporting data as well for people who will make the decision. An A&R person won’t sign many artists in their career. 

To be more specific about predictive tools, you also have a matter of time frame because the shorter time you’re trying to anticipate, the easier it gets. But if you’re looking at longer term predictions, you have to factor in a lot of things that are not right now in the tools or in the data set. 

Every single person has their unique objective. It’s easy to develop a predictive predictive tool which will predict, but will it predict what people want to see? Everybody has slightly different objectives. Prediction is an obvious goal for all of this. What’s the next level of prediction? It’s a gradual, inevitable, but never ending process. 

JK: In data science, there is something called the “cold start” problem. If you know nothing about an artist, you can’t predict what’s going to happen. So A&Rs would have to, like you said, bet on something that’s already there. There has to be some success already happening to be able to predict more. 

CJ: Once you get your prediction to that level, that’s when the human element is threatened, but I think we are very far from that point. You have to factor in the team, the level of how are they willing to invest and expose themselves all the time? Do they want to tour? Do they want to lifestream? What is their take on their career? This information is not available in datasets.

JK: What about artists who fake their numbers?

CJ: There are always going to be numbers that are easy to fake, but it’s so easy to spot the numbers. A lot of A&R have several steps : discovery, initial analysis and testing – why do we see these numbers? Is there something on? Very often, you can see at an early stage that a number is not organic. Sometimes it can benign: something exploding on TikTok, getting into a big playlist, .. because we combine data, you can now see these things. If nothing explains, you can see that this person is buying followers. These aren’t new trends, in the old days people bought tickets for their own gigs. People sort of rented their crowds.

JK: How is Chartmetric trying to ease the A&R job? 

CJ: Essentially, we want people not to walk away from Chartmetric with a ton of data in their head because they won’t be able to hold that much data. We want to weigh with just a single insight which enables making a really smart decision. 

There’s one number in Chartmetric which people are increasingly measuring and that’s CPP, cross platform performance. We’re combining multiple metrics from multiple platforms because of course, when faced with a lot of data, people will often focus on the one number which suits their argument. With CPP, which is a cross platform index, bringing in data points from multiple different platforms eliminates that. You may still see a number which you really like, but then when you look at CPP, you say, hang on a minute, that number is not influential. 

JK: You introduced this new KPI, CPP (Cross Platform Performance), in the music industry. How was your experience introducing that KPI and driving its adoption? 

CJ: We haven’t really blasted it out there with a massive launch. We went for a gradual adoption of the metric. Eventually, we felt it was particularly used by marketing people as a way to gauge genuine performance across multiple platforms. We’re horribly siloed in our marketing approach in the music industry. We think success on one channel equates to success everywhere. And it doesn’t. Of course, you have to have success in multiple different places. 

The great advantage of using CPP is because it’s looking continuously at three million artists across multiple different platforms and providing this in a single index, which is adaptive over time. It enables far easier comparison. Then you can actually dive in and look in more depth to really understand why an artist is developing. 

JK: What advice would you give an artist to pass the “A&R” test? 

CJ: Perseverance. There’s no such thing as overnight success. It’s about hard work. It’s about not giving up. These days, in particular, we always talk about 365 marketing. Marketing campaigns in the old days in the music industry were very short term. The music industry, compared to most other business sector, releases a huge amount of new products. It has fallen into this age-old strategy of marketing things for two weeks and moving on to the next thing. In an age where audience acquisition and retention are the critical factors, you’ve got to retain an audience. You have to be working 365 days a year on audience retention. If the artist isn’t doing that, then nobody else can do that. 

Really successful artists have always worked 365 days a year. It’s critical for everybody involved in the process, not just the artist management or the label. It’s tougher if you approach things from an old mindset. If you approach things with a fresh mindset, if you look at the marketplace for how it exists today and don’t try and equate it to the old marketplace, then I think it’s a lot easier. 

Keeping attention is challenging but cheap. There’s almost a sense of freedom to the marketplace. You know, in the old days, it didn’t matter how hard you worked unless you were able to cover the final mile and get your product in a store in front of consumers. However, if you didn’t have that covered, then it didn’t matter how hard you worked. You had to get to the front and center in record stores to get attention. It didn’t matter what else you did unless you were there. Once you were there, it was very difficult to keep that success because of so many other priorities coming from record labels which were going to displace you. These days it’s completely different. When I started in the record industry, they always used to be this adage which, if you went to a sales conference at a major label, one of the label heads would back in their fist on the table and say, it’s all about making it big. Your new release had to be as high in the charts as possible. You had to have the highest charts placing, because if you didn’t do that, then it would be impossible to get exposure. That may sound daunting, but the marketplace today provides a lot more freedom, a lot more flexibility, a lot more creativity in terms of marketing.