How Data is Transforming the Musician’s Landscape

How Data is Transforming the Musician’s Landscape
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
David Fabel

Continuing on the theme from my first blog, Music as a Marketing Mechanism, I want to zero in on how audience data can help musicians grow their fan base and brand.

The Power of Data

In the music industry, first and third-party data has the potential to unlock vital insights. It can help artists identify specific audiences, from large segments down to the one-to-one level. The industry has started to realize this potential and has implemented various mechanisms to collect this information. Some common collection points include where fans are located, what device they are using, the date and time they downloaded or listened, what musical genres they have interest in, purchase history and sharing habits on social media, to name a few. For purposes of monetization, if artists can zero in on a target group they can begin to differentiate between casual fans and repeat listeners. They can decide on the approach they want to take when marketing their sound. Bands can put their efforts into the channels that will have the biggest return. Or they can find ways to target those casual listeners in an attempt to turn them into true fans. Labels can make recommendations on other artists on their roster to build a buzz around up-and-coming acts, expediting the discovery process and increasing revenue. But the brutal truth highlighted by services like Napster and Limewire remains: how can labels and artists capitalize and monetize their work when access to music is readily available without having to pay for it?

Today, record labels and musicians realize that the most important way to drive revenue is through live events. With this realization comes opportunities for merchandising and ticket sales. But ringing the register depends heavily on reaching a large enough fan base, which may be difficult to do. This is where data becomes invaluable. It offers insights about the fans to help artists figure out the best ways to reach and connect with them, such as targeting specific cities or geographic regions for live shows, designing set lists, tailoring merchandise and releasing new singles.

With music distribution exploding, largely due to social media and music sites like Pandora, Spotify and SoundCloud, identifying true fans can be a difficult task. There is so much clutter and so many sources to stream it can make your head spin. This makes the need for data critical and has inspired the creation of a whole new subset of data collectors. The more the artist understands the listener, the better they can strategize how to reach the fans. Companies like Linkfire are tracking how users listen to or buy specific music so they can help artists determine the best ways to connect with audiences. In Pandora’s case, the company is offering a service to working musicians so they can target fans and send audio messages to help promote their tours. While some may say using “likes” on Facebook or Instagram can spot trends, it would be more strategic and revolutionary if an artist knows when a listener may have stopped listening, skipped forward, hit rewind, etc., and leverage these “in-the-moment” data insights.

Music data is growing, and with companies like Spotify expanding their offerings through the acquisition of data companies like The Echo Nest and Seed Scientific, and Pandora acquiring Next Big sound, the access to intelligence is transforming how artists strategically target fans. The undiscovered artist today has an advantage past players didn’t: they can immediately capitalize on data insights to drive their careers from the very beginning. And as technology continues to expand, the adaption of artists to map careers to fans will become more precise and scientific.