Decoded

Decoded: Data for independent artists

Making the most of your data as an unsigned artist; the complete guide for 2018

As a fledgling artist in today’s music industry you have a lot on your plate. Booking gigs, building a fanbase, liaising with the press, making sure your drummer turns up to rehearsals, and the small matter of crafting drop-dead-gorgeous tracks that stun the world into awed reverie. You probably think that adding ‘data-management’ to that list is a little unreasonable.

We do sympathise, but if you want to forge a music career today, whether as an independent artist or by signing a record deal with a label, it’s vital to have a good handle on your data.

To help you get to grips with this most un-artistic of topics, we’ve created this detailed guide to the state-of-play in 2018.

It covers everything that’s happening in the music businesses with regards to your data, how it’s being used to influence major decisions, and what you can be doing – right now – to ‘own’ your data and make it work harder for you.

Regardless of where you are now in your career, the more you understand your data and how to use it your advantage, the bigger and better things can become in the months and years ahead.

How your data is being used in 2018

Like it or not, data is now a key part of who you are as an artist. It influences how you are perceived by your peers, can open and close doors and windows of opportunity, and could ultimately hold the key to all your hopes and dreams around your career.

No biggie then!

The mountain of data produced by streaming services, like Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer, combined with social media mentions and YouTube views, has created an avalanche of information.

It’s being used every day to make important business decisions, from which tracks get released and where artists tour, down to simple design and merch ideas like which lyrics get printed on a t-shirt.

2016/17 – a watershed moment for the music industry

One of the biggest changes in recent years has been the explosion of streaming.

After years of struggling sales and fretting about the disruptive influence of digital technology, the music industry posted double digit growth for the first time in over a decade, and this is almost entirely down to streaming’s exponential growth.

Streaming now accounts for more than 50% of all UK music consumption. Meanwhile, in one day alone, more music is streamed in the US than downloaded in an entire year.

Although Spotify has been around a while now – it launched in 2008, followed by Deezer in 2009 and Apple Music in 2015 – something happened recently that’s tipped streaming over the edge.

This means that your streaming data, more than social media and YouTube, is probably the biggest indicator for any record company, artist management, tour organiser or venue promoter of your perceived value as an artist.

It’s so important we recently overhauled our entire Stats & Activity page to include a brand-new trends graphs to show our artists more streaming data than ever.

Whereas we used to show your Spotify streams a few days after the first stream of your track, we now show streaming data from Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Google Play AND download stats from iTunes and Amazon all in the one place.

We also tripled the amount of historical data available, showing three months’ worth of figures rather than one.

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Generation Z; why ‘Young Millennials’ love Spotify and why you should care

One of the big drivers behind streaming has been the coming of age of the ‘Young Millennials’.

Unlike their more piratically-minded older siblings, the latest crop of 16-19-year olds are overwhelmingly positive about paying for music and have made Spotify their platform of choice.

A recent survey found that 67% of them think music is worth paying for, compared to 56% of music lovers overall.

It also found that this age group are overwhelmingly found on Spotify. 53% of 16-19-year olds regularly use Spotify to listen to music, compared to 47% who use YouTube.

If you suspect that 16-19-year olds are going to be your biggest fans, you need to be thinking of Spotify as your main platform for of choice.

Think about boosting your presence by pushing fans there from your social media platforms. It might go without saying, but you should also keep optimising your Spotify Artists Page.

Keep your bio regularly updated, keep posting playlists and make sure you select the right ‘artists pick’ track. We’ve got a great Spotify For Artists Guide that tells you how to manage all of that.

If you are focussing on a record deal, it also means that it makes sense to focus the bulk of your efforts on nurturing your streaming platforms rather than selling digital downloads.

Does this mean that Scouts only care about streaming numbers?

A&R Scouts stake their reputation on an artist when they get behind them. Although your data stats are going to have an influence on how you are perceived across the industry, scouts are still going to make a gut-based decision about you as an artist, and your music.

Although they can bring you to people’s attention they are not the be-all-and-end-all. However, you should be should be nurturing them like a new-born baby.

“Data is invaluable to independent artists who want to create a career from their music, enabling strategic and well developed artistic and financial decisions to be made,” says Spinnup UK Scout Trenton. “At the heart of this however is the actual music, which is without a doubt the most important thing for scouts. Yes, data is useful for driving and maximising independent music, but there is still a huge importance on great artists and the creation of great music in the industry.”

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What about independent artists?

The good news is that big data isn’t just useful to music business executives.

It’s never been easier to build a fanbase, and artists who make an independent living are expected to grow massively over the coming years.

The real value of your data lies in getting a sense of the types of content that resonate with your audience.

Do some platforms work better for you than others? Do some tracks resonate differently on YouTube than, say, Soundcloud?

Understanding this data allows artists to make better strategic decisions and waste less time and effort trying to second guess what will or won’t work.

It also allows you to manage multiple touchpoints with your fans more effectively, especially as you get busier over time.

At Spinnup we’ve included huge amounts of social media stats, so you can track the number of fans and followers you have multiple platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and YouTube.

We’ve also added Plays and Views from SoundCloud and YouTube as well as downloads from iTunes and Amazon.

Good data allows you to connect all the dots and makes sure you are making the most of your key channels; those platforms where new fans are waiting to discover your music.

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Action Plan; 5 things you need to be doing with your data right now

1: Own it!

If you don’t know you can’t act. You need to commit to taking ownership. Don’t rely on someone else to do it for you, especially in the early stages of your career.

2: Use a data management tool

Keeping on top of your data can be time consuming, particularly if you have to log-in to multiple platforms to get it. Make sure you pick a tool that covers the ‘4 Vs’:

  • Volume – it can handle an explosion of data
  • Variety – it can pull in data from multiple sources
  • Velocity – it can keep you updated in real time
  • Veracity – it provides a picture you can trust

Added to that should be accessibility. Having your data at your fingertips, while you’re out gigging or recording, will help you make real time decisions while you’re on the move.

3: Book tours and gigs in the right places; break new ground

Now you know where you’re popular, you can start booking gigs where it matters. We’re creating a new feature right now that will break down your streams by geography – so you could soon be booking that tour of Serbia!

4: Build partnerships

Smart artists are looking to partner with others, so they can swap support slots where they are not so popular and cross-pollinate audiences.

EDM artists have been doing this for years when releasing tracks. Partnering with artists with big followings in different territories gives them a platform and lets them piggy-back on their partner’s popularity. It’s why you see so many tracks FEAT. multiple artists.

5: Boost your channels where it makes sense to do so

If you see a sudden boost in popularity on a certain platform, use your social media presence to push your fans to that channel.

Conversely, don’t waste limited resources promoting yourself on channels where there’s little or no movement.

Remember, this is about creating and nurturing multiple touch points with your fans. It’s a great opportunity that artists from previous generations could have only dreamed of.

Yes, it’s another thing on your endless to-do-list but do it well and you’ll be well-ahead of the game.

Good luck and remember to keep checking back with our blog for more advice and tips on how to do keep working on your music career!