Live: In Conversation – Jenny Kaufman: Part III

Jenny Kaufman

Head of Digital Strategy at Terrorbird Media.

How We Listen Live: In Conversation with Jenny Kaufman was held virtually on May 25th, 2021 and presented in partnership with Terrorbird Media, a tight-knit family of skilled music industry professionals with impeccable taste, unmatched authenticity, and a passion for marketing and promotion. Plus it is where Jenny works.  Our venue was Baby’s All Right, one of Jenny’s favourite spots in Brooklyn, with one of the most recognizable stages in North America. 

Every month Byta’s founder, Marc Brown,  sits down for an in-depth one-to-one Zoom conversation with someone who provides deep music industry insights and tips.  How We Listen Live: In Conversation is designed to deliver the knowledge to enable tomorrow’s artists and industry leaders to better manoeuvre their way through the music ecosystem.  This episode’s guest was the Head of Digital Strategy at Terrorbird Media, Jenny Kaufman. Jenny’s role there centres around helping artists and their teams with digital release strategy and playlist pitching. Jenny offers up a bucket full of insights and tips.

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Part III of III.
In part III
(below) Marc and Jenny talk about having perspective, where your music can make the biggest impact, which platforms are best and to always encourage fan engagement. They also talk a bit about TikTok, Twitch and advice on user generated playlists.

Miss Part I & II? Find it here.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. 

Marc Brown: I remember what the Paramore thing was now, with timing. It was a super old track that was used somewhere else… Is that the story?

Jenny Kaufman: So, on TikTok. Many of you may be familiar with the fact that like Olivia Rodrigo is having the biggest debut album (Sour) for female artists, maybe, in history and there have been comparisons for a song, I think, is called Good 4 U. And it sounds a lot like the Paramore song, Misery Business, which is probably like a decade old at this point, maybe older. And because Olivia Rodrigo is so relevant and current, someone made a mash up of those two songs and uploaded it to TikTok and it’s absurdly viral. And then I caught last week that Misery Business was trending virally on Spotify for the first time since the song’s existence. When it came out, it never trended. I’m not sure that Spotify was even out. And it’s all because it sounds like Olivia Rodrigo song and because someone mashed it up and put it on TikTok. So there’s a really interesting relationship forming between TikTok and streaming and that we’re seeing this direct correlation. If your song goes up on TikTok, you have converted those people into fans who immediately go to these other platforms and listen. Even yesterday, TikTok announced that they are having a show on Sirius radio to bring on TikTok stars and talk about TikTok trending songs. So it’s super interesting that they see this close relationship and they’re trying to market it and commodify it so that they can kind of become tastemakers in their own right. It’s really, really interesting.

Marc Brown: So I’ve got one question on that. It must come up in tons of meetings. Can you orchestrate those kinds of stunts? Or, like, what are the things artists should be thinking about? Like, should they be trying to stuff like that on different social platforms or whatever? Or should they be sticking to the basics? Do you see what I mean? 

Jenny Kaufman:  Yeah, I think TikTok is a really great example of a place where if you want to engage with the community, it’s really easy to just start looking through TikTok on the For You page. Start looking through it and seeing do I think I fit in here, right? Could I make content that kind of resembles these things that I’m seeing? Do I feel comfortable making things like that? And if I do, maybe I should start posting on TikTok, even if I did it for fun. Once I made a TikTok just to see how you made one. It’s super fun. 

One thing that’s very trendy on TikTok is first person video, right? So, you take a selfie and you’re talking to the camera, things like that. If you enjoy making that kind of media, engage on TikTok and see what people are doing. Go look at other bands that are on it, see what they’re doing, see what content of theirs has been successful. And don’t copy it, do it in your own way. Do it in a way that feels organic and comfortable to you. I think that’s kind of the main thing I would stress to people is that everyone gets paranoid or panics that they’re not doing enough or they’re not doing the right things. When you’re examining those things, go look at artists you admire, go look at artists who have the ideal trajectory, the thing that you want, and see what they are doing right. And once again, don’t copy it. Don’t be inorganic. Engage with that in a way that makes you feel comfortable. And if you’re not, just don’t do it. I think there’s plenty of ways to engage with TikTok and the algorithm there, to try to get your music in front of some new fans.

Marc Brown: An attendee here just said that the hard thing about TikTok is that you can’t connect your account to your music until you’re verified there. Is that the case?

Jenny Kaufman: I’m not super familiar, admittedly, with the distro process to TikTok and how it relates to account verification. What I will say is you can still use any audio sound but you might not be connected to your profile, which is true. But ultimately, not sure. Because people can use any sound that they want, your music can still take off there, even if your account isn’t verified, right? So there’s still a reason to engage with it and start trying to use it. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the verification process though.

Marc Brown: Jamie has asked a good question in the chat…

What is the correlation between streaming platforms, and the behaviors of listeners on those platforms. And if it’s unique, how likely are you to convert fans on certain platforms?

Jenny Kaufman: I actually think this is a super good question, Jamie. Especially when you’re talking to people who work in the music industry, who maybe aren’t super involved in digital, they’ll just be like, well, I want all the Spotify and Apple playlists, right? That’s the attitude, it’s like a one size fits all situation. I think that that’s kind of unfair, is almost the thing I would say, right? 

What’s interesting about Spotify is the bulk of listeners on Spotify are listening to rap and electronic music. Obviously, these other playlists have tons of followers, they can absolutely break your band and have a ton of influence. But the bulk of listeners are listening to those two things. So if you’re making things like Folk or Americana, platforms like Amazon Music may have just as many engaged listeners as Spotify does for your type of music. It’s about being thoughtful and being strategic. 

Now once again, at least at Terrorbird, our mentality is to service every single store in America, regardless of the sound of your music. Our goal is just to get you as many opportunities as we can. But I think even when you’re being strategic about marketing partnerships or things like that, it’s about finding out where your fans are and where they’re actually engaging with your music. And to your point, I just don’t think it’s a one size fits all thing at all. Apple, I think, has a really great slew of playlists for people. And they’re like late 20s, early 30s, who are really into things like Pitchfork, right? Which is more the demographic of music that I work with a lot. And obviously, so does Spotify, right? But I think Apple has a much wider variety of playlists for that kind of music. So I don’t think it’s a one size fits all solution. It’s really interesting to see how everyone’s looking to differentiate themselves. Apple is going into hi-fi audio and they’re doing it for free. That’s really interesting. Spotify is also looking to go into hi-fi audio. You should always be trying to get your music in front of as many DSPs as possible. But yeah, they’re definitely different.

Marc Brown: 100%. I never think about Amazon; it just never comes up. That’s the mistake when we do all this HowWeListen stuff, that’s always the mistake that you or I have a certain way we listen to music, and then you make the mistake of thinking everybody else does it the same way. And it’s like, you know, some people could love Amazon and I’ve never even used it.

Jenny Kaufman: A lot of my friends use Tidal as well and they really love Tidal. They have a good playlists thing as well, so it’s really interesting. 

Audience Question: Do we pitch user generated playlists or satellite radio? 

Jenny Kaufman: So that’s a very good question. For those of you who don’t know what user generated playlists are, there’s obviously what we would call official playlists or editorial playlists. Those playlists are curated by the platforms themselves, right? So it’ll say, by Spotify or by Apple Music. Indie user generated playlists are playlists that have a lot of followers or have a following that is not official. So in user generated, I would put individual tastemakers who have curated playlists that have garnered a lot of subscribers. I would also put blogs that have playlists or other outlets that have playlists as user generated. I would also include YouTube, what we call MC ends – which are YouTube channels that upload music to a static image and have a lot of followers. There are a lot of YouTube channels like that. 

To answer your question, yes, we do pitch user generated playlists. Shout out to Sabrina, who is my counterpart in that area. One of the goals in bringing her on was that we really want to do more user generated pitching because some of the artists we work with are small, and they’re just not able to land these bigger looks immediately. But we want to get as many wins as we can. So, we totally see the value in user generated playlists. Sabrina has honestly been crushing it at leading that effort. We use a lot of tools, we have emails of different people, we use submit hub, some of these channels or playlists have forms that we have access to. So we’re using a lot of different tools. We absolutely see the value in user generated, I would advise anyone who maybe doesn’t have the money to hire a service like ours, or isn’t ready to start there, to start by trying to pitch their own music on user generated. 

Satellite radio- 

Satellite radio is actually something that our radio department handles. But we absolutely see the value in satellite radio, and we see the conversion between getting an add on satellite radio and seeing a rise in streams. There’s tons of value in satellite radio, but we leave that to our radio team.

Audience Question

Sarah Porter has a question, which I think is interesting. She says I work with blues singers and singer songwriters. They often get discouraged with the push for Spotify, and feel that it’s not really where their listeners engage. Are there certain genres that just don’t work on streaming platforms? 

Jenny Kaufman 

I think that streaming has become really ubiquitous, where there are fans of every genre on streaming but, to Sarah’s point, maybe it’s not as many as you would hope. Or maybe It’s not really an editorial priority for that particular DSP. So maybe they haven’t staffed out that editorial department as much as they have other genres. So, I agree with you, Sarah. You have to figure out what works for your artists at the end of the day and streaming, as we’ve said many times, it’s just not a one size fits all solution. 

For example, I really love math rock, which is a really niche genre of rock. It does not perform that well on Spotify. I once said to someone who pitched me a math rock band, you should spend that money on a really great live video. And frankly, for a blues artist where there’s a lot of craftsmanship and musicianship behind that music, sometimes that budget is better spent on doing a big YouTube ad spend. Right? It’s about knowing your artists. Knowing it’s not a one size fits all solution and figuring out the best way to market them and push them. 

Audience Question: Is SoundCloud worth pursuing in terms of presence in playlists? 

Jenny Kaufman: Yes, SoundCloud has an editorial presence. It’s definitely a younger one than some of the other DSPs. Once again, I think it depends on your artist. I guess the answer would be yes, I think it is worth it to pursue it. I think it’s worth it to pursue any DSP that could support your band or your music.

I’m a big fan of casting the widest net possible. In terms of things like SoundCloud or YouTube Music. I don’t know if you’re going to see a great conversion into-  play this add and now I have tons of streams. But that’s almost not the point, right? It’s just a great marketing tool to be able to say, I got on this playlist or to have the artists shout it out. And also to create a more lasting bond with that DSP to try to garner that into something bigger. A good example is SoundCloud, which just launched a distribution arm, so they will distribute your music and they will pitch it to DSPs for you. So if you get on an editorial playlist and you’re a self release artist, maybe you can finagle it into the distro side. It’s much more about just trying to find genuine fans. 

The other thing I will say, that I think is important, is that a lot of editors will platform hop. The head of rap at Spotify, who created RapCaviar, now works at YouTube. So guess where the head of rap there went to? He went to Spotify. So, pitch everyone. Pitch everyone because you never know where that person is going to go. They may end up somewhere where they have a ton of influence and can do a ton with the music that you’re working on. 

Marc Brown: What about YouTube?

Jenny Kaufman: YouTube is still the biggest music consumption platform in the world. People want to talk about Spotify all day, YouTube is the biggest place for music discovery. Period. 

I know these things may sound obvious to some of you but it feels important to reiterate that with every release you do, you must upload something to YouTube. This is my takeaway. Even if that is what I would call a static image video, or an official audio video, which is just basically a packshot, the album art, just sitting there with the audio playing over it. You want people to be able to access your music anywhere.

YouTube Music has an editorial arm, just like all the other DSPs. There is youtube.com and there’s music.youtube.com. They are different, but it’s very hard to reach these editorial teams unless you know them. That’s one of the reasons why user generated playlists is a great idea. To try to reach some of these YouTube channels that have a bunch of subscribers, which will ultimately help your presence in the YouTube algorithm and also drive people to your channel. The goal is for you to start harnessing subscribers and for you to start creating your own audience on YouTube. 

Other tips for creating a YouTube presence is posting consistently. So figure out if there’s things you like to talk about on YouTube. If you like to cook, you like to vlog, you like to record footage of you recording in the studio… Figure out ways to cut that content and also specifically release that around your music releases. YouTube really is highly pushing YouTube Live, right? Because they’re also competing with platforms like Twitch now. So people really love when you use YouTube Live. 

Audience Question: What are your thoughts on Twitch streamers using music during the streams?

Jenny Kaufman: It’s interesting. We have some of our publishing and licensing team from Terrorbird in this Zoom. I would be very curious about their thoughts on this. Obviously, if a Twitch streamer is using music in their stream that has not been legally licensed, it is illegal. Some artists would really frown upon their music being used in that context. I think that artists have every right to have an opinion on how their music is used and to have control over those uses. 

That said, things like Twitch are very similar to things like TikTok, where I feel that a lot of these accounts have a lot of sway and influence with their followers. If they find out that someone uses certain music, fans will be more inclined to go check out that music. I’ve seen a big correlation of music being used on TikTok, music being used in streams, to find new fans and to find new audiences for that music. So I do feel that there is a ton of value. 

The other thing is that Twitch is owned by Amazon and there is a big tie between those two. People have certain opinions on that. But right now, Twitch is still in the process of doing licensing deals with the major labels and with the Indies as well to be able to legally license music. So there’s pros and cons, I don’t think I have a firm stance on it. 

What I will say is I have friends who had their music blown up by influencers, just using it on YouTube. The amount they would have gotten for the license is nowhere near the value of the sales as well as streams that they saw from those uses. It’s hard to tell and I think it’s on an artist by artist basis as to what they’re comfortable with.

Marc Brown: There’s a label called No Copyright Sounds. I can’t remember all the types of licenses but their whole thing is that the music’s free and available to us on YouTube. It’s a genius idea because everybody needs music for their video in the background. So if you make it free and available… the amount of streams they get on some of those YouTube videos is insane. 

Jenny Kaufman: A friend of mine was contacted by YouTube to create 10 songs for their audio content library. They just paid him outright to create songs that anyone can now use on YouTube for their videos. It’s a super interesting business model. And they’re all trying to figure out how best to address it. 

Audience Question: Is there any downside to changing online distributors for different projects? Or should you stick to one? Because that’s a good one. So, you upload all your stuff to DistroKid and then you decide, I want to move somewhere else, to CD Baby or something? Is that a bad thing? Does that cause you a little bit of trouble?

Jenny Kaufman: So if you’re switching distributors, meaning you’re removing all of your catalog from one distributor and going to another, I would not recommend doing that mid-cycle. However, if you just want to switch, just want to release this new single via DistroKid, but I’m not going to move my catalog, then it largely doesn’t affect the pitch process really at all. 

The only thing that would change is your relationship with your distributor and if they are helping you, but if you’re really just using it blindly as a shell to just get the music up, no, it doesn’t affect it.

Marc Brown: Well, listen Jenny. Thanks a lot. This was awesome. Thanks for the insight. 

Big round of applause for Jenny and everybody.