Part II of III
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In part II (below), Christine talks of figuring out a way to make music and getting an army of volunteers to help promote your work, aka “street teams”. She has some advice: find your audience, discover where they are and focus your energy there. You do not have to be everywhere, but you have to be there for your hardcore fans. Christine also explains how her awesome event, Measure of Music, came to be.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Marc Brown: You mention that you don’t necessarily want or need to be everywhere. I sense that this is a problem for a lot of people. Is your advice that you should be on all of them, socials etc., at some base level. Then focus on the ones that you feel most comfortable with and bring you the best results?
Christine Osazuwa: You should get your username everywhere because you don’t want someone else having your username. To be honest, I don’t think you need to spend all of your time being on every platform. If you think you really should have a presence on one and feel really strongly about it, then yes. Those core fans think about creating a street team. Street teams aren’t really a thing anymore, and I don’t know why because they are very, very, very important. Have a presence on a channel where it doesn’t necessarily have to be you. You do not want to stretch yourself too thin.
I don’t think most people become artists so they can post continuously on Instagram. Maximise doing the things that you’re good at rather than doing the things that you have to do. That’s how you should approach things. You don’t need to be on all the platforms posting all the time. Be on the ones that matter and ignore the rest. When it comes to the distribution of music, that’s different. Your music should be in literally every single place that’s possible to be. But when it comes to things like socials, save yourself the trouble. You don’t need to be everywhere.
Marc: This street team thing, we’re both from North America. I get the impression that street teams weren’t as popular in other places such as the UK. For people who don’t know, because I think you’re onto something, what would a street team do today?
Christine: A street team would do the same thing they used to do. Though probably just more on the internet. When I ran street teams, we had posters, flyers, and stickers passed out after gigs. We were always talking about the artists. I had other street teamers working on things with me, but those were also the people who would call up the radio stations and request the songs. This was an army of people. It doesn’t have to be a large army of people, but an army of people that were continuously talking about the artists, the music. The bigger, the better. I don’t think artists think about that anymore.
I find it fascinating because these are people willing to work for you for free. When I was a kid, I got free show tickets which obviously would cost much more money than the actual amount of money they would pay me at that point anyway. I’m not saying you should work for free, always get something. Those are the ones that will do things on your behalf, potentially at a scale that you couldn’t do on your own if you didn’t have the support. So, like creating those Spotify playlists, the 2021 equivalent of calling radio stations, posting on socials and talking about your new release. I guess Kanye’s doing it again now, but artists don’t really have listening parties anymore. Bring your biggest fans to your listening party or even a virtual listening party. They’re going to talk about it all over socials, and it doesn’t cost you much of anything, really. All these different ways where you can embrace the fact that you have an audience no matter how big or small the audience is. Use it to amplify yourself X amount of times, that is really what it comes down to, and I don’t think people are using their audience in a way that’s most effective anymore.
Marc: That’s amazing, ok, could you talk about email, because I think people think email is pretty uncool these days, and you don’t think that way, do you? Do you think emails are a good thing?
Christine: Yeah, they’re a good thing in moderation. When it comes down to it, the reason why email is important is that it is platform agnostic. What is not platform-agnostic is everything else.
I always put it in context this way, I worked at Universal for a few years, and they own Deutsche Grammophon. Deutsche Grammophon is arguably the oldest record label in the world technically. They’ve been around for approximately a hundred and fifty years. Spotify has been around for approximately twelve at this point, meaning Spotify could live for a long-time or not. Deutsche Grammophon has been around ten times longer than Spotify. Music has been around for much, much, much longer.
Always have the email addresses of your fans and audience. That way, when the next Spotify or the next TikTok or next Instagram comes along, you can send them an actual email and say, “Hey, I’m over here now”. Then they know where to find you. Otherwise, the second that platform stops being cool, you lose your audience.
Marc: Did you hear that Spotify has announced something for Podcasters? That they can contact their audience directly?
Christine: I have not! That’s actually quite interesting. The problem with that is there’s still this middleman of Spotify, which is really great, but there’s still a middleman there.
Marc: I think that’s always been the big frustration with Spotify, is that correct? That you can do all these things with Spotify, but you don’t really know who your fans are, that you’re getting through Spotify’s filter or whatever. So is email the only way around that? Do you have any other advice on how to get around that kind of stuff?
Christine: Yeah, if your audience is heavily in one country, it would be a little easier for this one, but SMS is actually still a thing. You can still use it. If you have the phone numbers of your audience, for example, that’s another means to kind of go about it and contact them. Those are the only two that I can really think of where you could actually go platform-agnostic. Everything else is generally living somewhere else that may or may not exist in 10, 20, 30, or 40 years.
Marc: I know in my last chat, it was this guy named Bruno from Tunecore, in Brazil, and I hear all the time that in South America, it’s all about WhatsApp. How would you contact, as a small artist, mass SMS?
Christine: So, as a small artist, your SMS list probably won’t be very big anyways, but there are plenty of platforms that allow you to send SMS in the same way that email platforms like Mailchimp, Emma, etc., allow you to email at scale. Some platforms allow you to send SMS messages at scale.
WhatsApp is really great, but you have to have a separate app, and again, that’s no longer platform-agnostic to a certain degree. It is better because it’s a phone number. However, it is not the same as the idea that I own a phone and I can call you. That’s the most agnostic platform, but WhatsApp is definitely a good option, but not everyone will have it.
Marc: So say I do all these things that you’re talking about, and I sort of get going as an artist, or I’m a manager. Help me connect all these things to what you do at Warner. Is it just more of the same but in a lot more detail? Can I do everything by myself as an artist if I have more and more success and access to smart people? Or do I need to be in that major label environment?
Christine: I would say you don’t need a label to be an artist. What labels allow you to do goes back to what I was previously saying; labels allow you to just do the things you want to do as opposed to all the other things you don’t want to do. But if you have a really strong and solid team behind you, you can do it. I think the issue you run into with not being on a major label is two things; export, it’s often much more challenging to get out of your own country, especially if you’re trying to break into the US without a label, and additionally, access.
A major label can call up Spotify fairly easily. I mean I don’t call Spotify but if I need something, I know the person that I can talk to that can call Spotify.
As an indie artist, you might not have that, but if you have the right team behind you, you might have that support. AIM for example in the UK, is for independent artists and they can call up Spotify. That’s a way to help you out, and then if you have the right distributor, you have Tunecore or CD Baby, they’ll help out if you’re like, “Hey, my song’s not where it’s supposed to be”, or “Someone put a copy of my song up.” But again, you have to piece this all together yourself.
If you have an excellent manager that will help you piece it all together, so you’re not doing that too, I think it’s definitely doable. But as an artist, the problem is it trips up your time to create music, and most people do not go into music to be their own lawyer, finance person, marketer, or everything else too, because if you did, more power to you because you’re probably keeping a whole lot more of your money. But it’s certainly not the easiest thing to do.
Marc: I actually first heard about you through Measure of Music… you’re working all day long at Warner, but then you’ve got this other thing on the side. Explain what Measure of Music is first, and then I want to talk about why you’re doing that on top of your job.
Christine: Measure of Music is a part hackathon, part workshop, part conference. I put it on for the first time in February 2021. I put it together as a way for people to easily understand or get an understanding of music tech and music data in a way that highlights the way it works within the rest of the industry as a whole. Rather than highlighting what you need to learn, like how to code, it’s more like how do the Marketers use data, how do the digital service providers like Spotify use data, how does HR in music use data. It talks about how data is used in different ways.
Part of it was a conference. We had panellists, we had speakers. The hackathon was where people were given music data or had access to music data and then created projects that had something to do with music and data but not necessarily just music and data. For example, some people did artist reports; some people created apps; it was a really interesting mix of what people put together. They had approximately 48 hours, each team was between 4-6 people, to put together a project that they presented to a team of esteemed judges, including Marc.
It was very cool and we had a thousand people or so watch the panellists and the presentations and we had 70+ people participate in the actual hackathon component. There were some people who had never touched data in their lives and some people who came in having a lot of data experience, so it was a really interesting mix.
Marc: Why on Earth would you need another big project like that?
Christine: That’s a super great question. I am obviously a glutton for punishment is the only obvious answer there. What really happened was that during the pandemic, I had a lot of people reach out to me that were looking for roles, having just graduated from school, and were like, “Oh, this is the worst-case scenario.” I loved talking to them and had set aside time on my calendar to talk to people twice a week. I’ve done it for most of the pandemic, and my calendar was always full four to six weeks in advance. So I wanted to be able to help more, but I didn’t have the time. So I thought if I just put together an event where I could gather all the people from the companies I was talking about, it won’t have to be me all the time.
I called up my friends from Spotify and Chartmetric and put them all together, let them talk about their data and how you get jobs, plus all kinds of fun stuff instead. I started off thinking maybe fifty people would sign up, and it’ll be super chill and maybe we’ll have three speakers. Fifty people signed up within the first few hours. I filled up every spot and realised I’d need to scale this out a bit.
Instead of being a couple of speakers in a single day, it ended up being a three-day-long conference. I had never put together a conference before, so you know, why not? It worked out really well, and I had speakers from Spotify, TikTok, Warner, and Patreon. That was really cool. There was a wide array of speakers from all over, which was great! But that’s how it came about, it was just about helping as many people as possible, and it worked out. I actually got a text from one of the women that volunteered and helped out for the event, she just got a job offer from TikTok, and she’s really excited about that! I got another person a job at Warner.. the catalyst behind it all really was wondering just how I could help as many people as possible.
Marc: How much did it cost to put it on? I think this is the ultimate punch line because you announced it at the end of the event when you brought your husband out to thank him.
Christine: Yes, I did. I actually put the entire thing together for two hundred dollars, well, two hundred US Dollars. It was a combination of Zoom, Mailchimp, and the fact I’m actually a Web Developer. I was able to piece it all together with very few resources. A lot of amazing people that are willing to give up their time for free is what it came down to for it to be possible. I did a calculation of how much it would have cost if everyone was paid for the hours and time that were put into it, and it was like thousands of dollars.
Marc: There are a couple of people online saying that your event was “…one of the best experiences they’ve ever had. A great opportunity to work with a variety of people with different backgrounds. It felt like a community.”
It was a really impressive event, and one of the things I noticed was that afterwards, I’d get requests from people on LinkedIn, and they all had those green circles that say “Open to Work.”
What I really liked about your event was that everybody that was there seemed to really want to be involved, and it didn’t matter how much experience anyone had. I think that is quite rare. What impressed me about your event was there were loads of different people talking, not the usual suspects that show up at conferences. Is that something you consciously think of or is it just who you are as a person?
Christine: Really, what it comes down to is…I love the music industry for better and, for many times worse. However, I want the music industry to be full of people that don’t suck. Plain and simple. I know it seems like it’s really selfish of me, but I just want it to be full of great people! So when it comes down to helping other people, it’s a really selfish thing because I just want to be surrounded by smart people. People that are really passionate and really excited about the music industry, should be working in the music industry.
I know so many people who are very disillusioned by the music industry and have given up. There are plenty of people in the music industry that are jaded and do not need to be there anymore. So why not figure out a way to help people that actually want to be there.
In addition, it’s an industry that is still very much lacking diversity in a lot of ways, especially in senior positions. When I put together Measure of Music, the participants in the hackathon, as well as the speakers, were majority-minority for both gender and race on purpose, but it was not manufactured. It’s because that’s what my network looks like, that’s what the people that reached out to me look like, and that’s how it ended up getting put together. That’s really quite important to me because not only do I want to have a music industry full of people that do not suck, but I also want to have a music industry where more people look like me, but people don’t look like me. I want a combination of that right now. When you look around, especially as you get more Senior in the industry, it’s not what you see. Again, very selfish. I just want to be surrounded by great people. If I can help make it so that I am surrounded by great people, that’s really all that matters!
Want to read on? Read Part III here!
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