What does the future of music discovery look like in 2023 and beyond!
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
In part two Marc gets Mira to explain her theory about retaining/developing “a fan a day”. All three guests debate and weigh in on their own ideas on how best to build an audience when you are a new and developing artist. What role does social media take and how important is playlisting? Plus staying healthy.
Marc: I have a question for you Mira. You mentioned this idea of gaining one fan a day. What’s your theory behind that?
Mira Silvers: I’ve seen this happen in real-time, through one of our clients. They developed layer after layer starting with small shows in their local city and making sure they had a community rallying behind them. This client was doing really tiny shows pre-pandemic and they were getting kind of passive streams. They started doing the legwork and playing lots of shows, which is a risky move because touring is expensive. But you need to invest in yourself like Nikisha was saying. You are creating a product and a business and you need to put investments in that. Live is a big investment and so is recording and the design involved.
That client grew so much that post-pandemic they went on a headline tour and sold it out. You really want to focus on building super fans. I always say that it’s better to have 100 or 1,000 super fans rather than 100 million passive fans.
Marc: Right, but this one fan a day – can you briefly summarize that concept?
Mira Silvers: A fan a day is basically anything that you’re doing to grow. Everything that you do should be cognisant of building an audience like Phil was talking about. People tend to think about reaching the maximum number of people. However, I don’t think approaching it that way makes sense. You need to focus on what you’re into and what kind of fan base you want to appeal to. I really do think it’s more valuable to focus on your niche.
Marc: Phil, what kind of strategies do you use for this sort of approach from a theoretical point of view?
Phil Loutsis: I think Nikisha has a great point. I’m very into analytics. When you’re looking at how an artist is doing, you can look at the number of streams they have, how many views they have on TikTok or YouTube, how many saves they have etc. However, every one of those data points is different. A million views on YouTube doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a fanbase. Nor does it mean that you can sell out a show. It’s crucial to understand what kind of fans you have, and that should influence what you’re doing.
Marc: Nikisha, what do you think about this? Did you have a certain theory that you apply when it comes to building an audience? How does this compare to when you were at a major label versus where you work now?
Nikisha Bailey: As Mira and Phil said, small growth over time is still growth. Anything that shows you’re able to be consistent is important. Majors look for things that are hot right now. This is so that they can get market share. They also look at Google trends so that they can see an artist’s growth over time. This is then compared to other artists in the same market. Small growth over time is great because it shows that you can build and keep a fan base. You also have to set goals at every level of growth, whether it’s playing at a bigger venue, getting signed or something else. To me, that small growth is better than blowing up suddenly. The reason for this is there are cases of artists that become huge overnight. This doesn’t necessarily translate into longevity.
Marc: All 3 of you are saying that small, steady growth is the way to go. With that said, is that even possible in today’s landscape?
Nikisha Bailey: Muni Long is a great example in the R&B space. She was an artist for a decade and even changed her name a couple of times. It took her a while, but now she’s a #1 GRAMMY-nominated artist. But again, it came down to growth over time. She developed her artistry and fan base over 10 years and then eventually had her moment.
Mira Silvers: Jazmine Sullivan is another example. Same with Denzel Curry. He’s one of the hottest rappers right now and he’s been making music for a long time. You could see it at every level – every venue change, every growth strategy. You can see how he’s grown and remained authentically himself. To reiterate what Nikisha is saying about being viral, oftentimes it doesn’t work because a lot of people aren’t ready or don’t have the foundation in place for it when it comes. Making sure that you are building and working on your foundation will make sure you can stand the test of time.
Marc: I guess my 2 questions are: Is it possible to create virality or is it just something that randomly happens? On the other hand, isn’t it also super hard to develop that slow growth? How would an artist do that? So maybe three questions…
Mira Silvers: It’s a matter of planning, and finances also play a big part. You have to evaluate what is realistic for you. YouTube doesn’t really hit the way it used to, which is why TikTok is so great because you can just use your phone to create videos. The more constraints you have and the less budget you have, the more creative you have to become with the tools you have access to.
Marc: Phil, working at AWAL do you find that a lot of artists have been able to build up a career over time?
Phil Loutsis: It’s a bit of both. I’ve seen artists explode quickly and then we have to move super quickly to turn it into something long-term. Being viral kind of implies that it’s on a temporary level because the level of commitment of a fan is really low. That’s the thing with TikTok – you can follow someone or engage with them but it’s pretty low commitment and there’s no indication that you can turn that into something with longevity. That requires greater artistic skill.
We do see people developing in a way that wasn’t really the case about 10 years ago. Back then there weren’t the same platforms that allow you to really get to know your audience and vice versa, the way that there is Today. You can use Instagram stories, TikTok, or YouTube shorts to tell your story to your audience without having to spend a ton of money.
Marc: Nikisha during our pre-chat you brought up the idea of the artist being CEO. Mira was mentioning that it’s all about budgets and doing the most with what you can. Is that the name of the game – you need to find a way to build what you believe in until you have a breakthrough?
Nikisha Bailey: I think so! If you’re an artist, that’s your career so in order to move that forward you need to find ways to sustain yourself. You have to see yourself as a CEO and know that you have to invest in yourself before anyone else will. I think we often see the Cinderella Story where we see someone blow up overnight and get signed, but there are way more people who aren’t getting that and who are coming through more traditional routes. There are tons of artists who work for years before they see any real success. As a creative, You need to be real with yourself about that.
Marc: We do need to discuss the elephant in the room, which is that there are so many tech platforms and so many ways to get your music out to people. A lot of these platforms you can actually make money on too! Nikisha, I want to ask your opinion on this – should artists be looking at the platforms that can pay them or should they just be looking at them as channels to grow their audience?
Nikisha Bailey: Personally, I’m one of those people who would advise artists to try everything and see what works best for their music and creativity. Once you see where your fans are located then you should put your resources into that. You also need to realize that you probably won’t make money right away and that you’ll need other avenues of support while you grow your audience and work to get yourself into a place where you’re generating revenue from the different platforms. It will take a few years – I feel like people say they know that but then don’t fully understand it until they’re in it.
Marc: Mira, what advice would you give to new artists who are getting going? How can they find the money if they’re not getting paid for what they’re doing? Do you have any tips?
Mira Silvers: You really need to assess what you have. I don’t recommend that people leave their day job without any sort of plan, but I do think that people should push their mindset and really use the people and tools that are around them to see what’s possible. It’s the best way to push their mind creatively. If you don’t know who you are and what you’re trying to communicate to your niche audience, it’s hard for people to want to invest their time into what you’re creating. So there are some non-financial things you can invest your time in. My biggest piece of advice is to create within your means.
Phil Loutsis: I want to jump in, there are loads of options. The streaming revenue is potentially huge if you have a decent audience so focusing on that can be really important. But it’s also about understanding what platform you’re going to connect with your fans on. So whether it’s TikTok, Spotify, Patreon, Instagram or something else. Find the platforms that make sense for you and that you care about as an artist. It is a huge ask for artists – I really feel for them.
What I think you’re saying Nikisha, is that they need to get into the entrepreneurial mindset. Which is really hard, but you have to do your best. I also want to encourage people to look after themselves. Trying to kill it on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube shorts while also writing a blog and recording music while you have a day job is definitely not possible. So what I’m saying is be realistic and pick a few channels that work for you, unless you have a massive team.
Nikisha Bailey: Yeah. Just to clarify – I think reusing content is a really good way to accomplish more. You don’t have to create individual things, like whatever you create for TikTok can absolutely go into YouTube shorts and Instagram stories. You definitely don’t want to overexert yourself. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this Phil – I think that streaming is great but if you take an artist who has just started – they probably don’t have much of an audience. Those streaming platforms can be great, but it depends on what level of development you’re on. So I’m curious to hear your opinion Phil: if people are starting absolutely from scratch, how do you think those streaming platforms can help or not help?
Phil Loutsis: It’s a really good question. If you think about someone who has literally zero followers on Spotify, using tools like SubmitHub or reaching out to third-party curators is really powerful. It does have to be off-platform stuff since there’s nothing there to start with. The Spotify submission tool is also great. I don’t have much knowledge of the Amazon Music pitching tool, but kudos to them for launching one. Playlists are definitely the quickest way of developing an audience. I’d say more so “genre playlists” versus “new music playlists”.
Marc: Nikisha, do you have any last words on this stuff?
Nikisha Bailey: Just to add to what Phil said on the genre playlists, it’s important to give enough time for people to listen when you release your music. Time is the biggest resource that you should make use of as a developing artist.
Marc: Perfect. Phil, any last words?
Phil Loutsis: Not really! It’s an intense industry so make sure to make time for yourself.
Marc: Great. Mira?
Mira Silvers: I’m with Phil on that one! 2022 was one of the most burnout years for a lot of people, so relax and take care of yourself and the people around you!
Marc: Perfect. Thanks so much, everyone! I hope this helps everyone as they make their way through 2023 and beyond.