How We Listen is an interview series where Byta interviews artists, their teams, and everyone else working in and around music about how they find, listen and experience music, new and old.
Who are you?
Where are you based?
On a boat called Holly, on Regents Canal, in London, England
Where do you work? What do you do?
I’m the Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy for Music Ally. I educate the industry on all things digital marketing as it relates to music, constantly in front of folks spreading the good news of digital. I also work with artists and labels to help them better connect with their audience. And sometimes I even write for our publication, but usually I just talk and someone else quotes me.
What are you listening to?
How do you discover new music?
Apple Music does a good job of telling me what’s out. There’s the occasional well done Instagram Story ad that piques my interest, like it did with the band Parcels. I also hear about a lot of stuff from our Sandbox publication, which covers all kinds of great digital campaigns. And then of course there’s artists I follow talking things up on social media and email.
On the latter I’m always looking for acts doing things outside of the usual suspects. I’m not a Spotify person, so those playlists are kind of meaningless to me. And Apple Music is far more about presenting albums than transient playlists. What I really look for is artists taking a leaf from a recent article (and panel in NY at our Sandbox Summit conference) that we’ve been talking about. The Dry Streams Paradox, as we call it. The idea is that simple playlisting alone is not going to create a sustainable artist-fan relationship. So I’m always on the lookout for artists doing interesting things to stay connected with me, and fans at large.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services and why?
My daily listening is usually done on Apple Music. (I also still have iTunes Match that keeps all my more obscure collection available on the go.) At home I listen to vinyl, but only buy records I really love, and these days, have fallen in love with digitally.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
I do a lot of travelling these days. (Recently realised I was on 9 flights in the span of 7 days. 🛫🛬🛫🛬🛫🛬…) So a lot of listening on airplanes, airports, etc. There’s a Panda Bear album, Person Pitch, I listen to on every takeoff. It’s been putting me to sleep in-flight for over a decade.
Commuting of course, gotta have something to drown out the noise on the bus.
At work we have a Sonos on our boat, so we can all share what we’re digging. (As well as play some key “yacht rock” playlists from Spotify and Apple Music for our obligatory “bubbly booze” on deck sessions in the summer.)
And at home it’s all about my vinyl collection. Drop that needle and let it play.
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
If it’s an artist I am really into, there will often be an NPR First Listen. And yes, we do often get stuff through from the artists we work with pre-release. Usually they are sending around a Soundcloud link.
I was teaching in Lillehammer, Norway for most of last year, and got a lot of stuff coming my way from the very talented students. They use Auddly as a place to manage their song rights, so I get a fair few links from there for my listening pleasure.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
When listening to stuff digitally, that’s not released, it can be challenging. I get a fair few links in emails. (I also send a fair few, usually what I am passed.) If I actually love something, being able to download is a plus, as I can add it to my iTunes library and listen over Apple Music. Private Soundclouds can be annoying, especially because I can’t play them on the office Sonos. Also, I inevitably end up losing them, as you always need the link to get back to them.
As for general digital music, as mentioned a few times I use Apple Music. It’s basically the same experience I’ve had with iTunes for years, so very familiar. It works for me. Since relocating to the UK a decade or so ago, I’ve been mainly digital. Yes, I did finally bring my records over, and do love that format best, but as I’m on the go so much I love having my library available anywhere. As a teenager I took all my 400 CD’s with me wherever I went. Now I just need my phone.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
Apple Music does a good job of keeping things in a “Recently Added” list. It’s what you initially see when you navigate your library on the app. (And it’s far more exhaustive on desktop.) They also do a good job of surfacing your favourites to you, both by showing what you have in heavy rotation and by surfacing tracks that you know and love.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
I have tried things, like music discovery / sharing app Laylo, but find some of the best ways are still the old ways. Mine tends to be either directly messaging friends / family about what I think is good. That, and continuously loading up the office stereo with things I am digging.
Anything you want to “promote”?
Since beginning writing this and finishing writing this, Music Ally has started managing our first artist. He’s called Ruben Dawnson. His latest track “What Happened to the Days?” is just great, and getting some Spotify love in Scandinavia. He’s also got a great little video for it. Check him out!