Do you have a great video of your beach day but just can’t find a good song to use without getting charged for copyright? Or are you the music artist with a lot of great songs but just can’t figure out how to get them out there? Thematic is IT for you! In this episode, the Co-Founder & COO of Thematic, Audrey Marshall, tells us about how their platform connects music artists to video content creators, allowing them to get their songs featured and build their fan base. At the same time, providing content creators access to songs that they can easily filter and match to video themes without having to worry about copyrights. Don’t miss out, tune in, and find out how you can collaborate with the most talented artists today!
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Connecting Music Artists & Content Creators Through Thematic With Audrey Marshall
I am here with Audrey Marshall from Thematic. I’m excited to learn about what her platform can do for musicians and how it’s built to help creators. I’m always looking to bring people on the show that are creating new and cool ways for musicians to make money, get their word out about their music, build their fan base, and everything. We’ll get into that in a minute. I wanted to find out from you, Audrey, as we get started. I know that you have a huge passion for helping musicians and I’d love to know where that came from.
First of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here. I grew up around music. My family is not necessarily super musical, but I have always been a huge music fan. I grew up in the era of Backstreet Boys and NSYNC and all of that amazing time of music. My favorite musical artists changed over time, but even through high school, I’d always be following a band, going to the concert, or trying to pass out street team flyers of like, “I love these artists. How can I help them get discovered by new people?”
Even in college, during one of my first internships, I reached out to a couple of my favorite artists at that time. I was like, “I’d love to learn from you. How can I help support you?” I started working with them on a one-on-one level. Two different artists, and one of them was part of this independent record label, and I got to be part of her DIY album release.
I started understanding distribution platforms. This was in 2008 and 2009. It was at that independent record label where I met my now co-founder, Marc Schrobilgen, who co-own the label. We started getting in on what are new digital strategies to help support music artists? Ever since then, we have been working together to unlock that nut and figure it out of there are new avenues and ways to get this music out there. We started working with our other co-founder Michelle Phan, who was the premier beauty influencer of her era, and placing music in her videos, seeing the success, and how that catapulted new readers, fans, and followers for the music artists.
Who were the artists that you got a chance to work with as an intern?
Some of my favorite artists in high school or college were Giant Drag, which was this indie grunge alternative rock band. I’m all over the place when it comes to my musical tastes. It’s this amazing singer-songwriter who now goes under the name Ames, and she’s brilliant. She’s doing so much interesting work and has an amazing talent.
I have a very diverse love for music as well. I love that you are all over the board with that and mentioning the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC are totally different from those things.
It’s totally different. It’s evolved over the years.
We can be passionate about all sides of the music industry, which is great. Let’s get to the heart of what Thematic does because I honestly don’t know yet. I’m looking forward to hearing what the idea behind this was. What was the problem you were trying to solve for musicians, and how does Thematic do that?
Back in that early era of 2008 and 2009, when we were trying to figure out new avenues to get music out there, we started to see that as a fruitful measure. Michelle Phan, as an example, was one of the creators we were working with, and she would always come to us and be like, “You guys work with music artists. I’m making this beach summer video. I need a cool artist to feature, but I don’t want to use Quantum Five. I need something that’s entertaining and vibrant.”
We were like, “We have this artist who has this amazing song. Let’s make this connection happen.” Over the years, we started to hone in on that and we have evolved the business in that regard to being more of an MCN of the time, like one of the early YouTube MCNs where we were working hands-on with a handful of independent music artists and different YouTube video creators. Constantly sitting at this intersection of either side just asking us like, “I released this new single. How can I get it out there? I put it out, but I don’t know what my next step is. I don’t know how to get it. I can’t afford to do a big marketing campaign.”
We are like, “We are working with this other beauty influencer and that soccer influencer. They need this great song.” Identifying almost on this music supervision level for the content creators. These are great songs that you should be featuring, and then the artists on the other side are finding opportunities to get their music placed without having to go and do blind outreach to influencers or try to get a budget to get product placement in their video for their song. Both of these people traditionally would charge each other for the service.
As an influencer, they would be like, “I will feature your brand. It’s X amount of rate for my reach.” The music artists on the content creator side were like, “I want to use this song,” and the music artists would be like, “Great.” There’s this sync fee and you’ve got to go through all this. It’s super complicated for an average video creator, and we are like, “Why don’t we bring you guys together and make this a one-to-one value exchange where you are both solving your own problem?”Consistency and quality of content. If you check both boxes, you'll get to monetization. Click To Tweet
We were doing this in a very manual matchmaking capacity. After our co-founder, Michelle Phan, went through a public lawsuit regarding music rights and her earliest YouTube videos came down from that. She’s able to get through it, but she came with the sentiment of like, “I don’t want any other creator to have to go through what I went through.”
At the same time, the music artists were like, “I had nothing to do with this. This is all my label. Michelle has done more for me than anyone.” There was still the value of both these parties wanting to come together. Michelle invested in us and we put it into a product so we could do what we were doing in this very manual capacity for many more people than we can handle on a one-on-one basis.
What year did you guys start this company?
We officially incorporate it in 2016. We were in a private testing area for a few years. Essentially to sum it up for the music artists. It’s free influencer marketing for their music. They can get their music featured in YouTube videos and launch a song campaign for totally free, no charge. On the video creator side, it’s almost automated music supervision. Here’s the best music from the hottest new artists based on what you are creating, what your favorite musical tastes are, and what your aesthetic is.
What lead time do you need? I’m thinking about this going, “I have got a holiday album and I’m thinking that would be totally great for this.” How early are people looking for something that’s theme-based holidays or maybe summer or spring music?
I love that you have that built into your mindset of like, “We got to gear up for this. We should not release this on Christmas.” There’s a window of time. When we are looking at that, it’s fun because, in the past years, I have done so much managing YouTube channels and understanding the content creator workflow. We have a good insight onto when that process starts.
When we are talking about Christmas or the holiday season, a good thing to keep in mind for music artists is that they have this tradition of doing vlog miss. It is one video a day every day of December or at least up until Christmas or the first twelve days. Everyone makes it their own. There’s a huge influx in demand for that content, but the creators start producing it about Thanksgiving or earlier.
We are trying to onboard or think about getting a lot of holiday music in say late October or early November. We are curating a new playlist so artists can submit as early as now, but we obviously would want to time the release in to make it make sense. There’s no sense in putting out a Rudolph song in the middle of August.
When you say release, I could load my songs in there now, but you could time like, “These are going to “come out” on the platform in October.” Somehow that’s going to get them in front of more people. It’s like a release on Spotify or whatever, where its release radar shows up for everybody, and they are like, “This new song is here.” Is that how it works?
We launched them as a song campaign. Some artists like to do it on the day of the release and have that song be available as soon as it hits Spotify because they want to supercharge their distribution and promotion of that new song. Some artists are like, “I have this song which maybe I released six months ago, but it’s like I want to have it released on Spotify, but I don’t want to launch this on the campaign until I’m finished with my other song campaign. I’m in the middle of other promotions.” It differs on an artist-by-artist basis, but we want to make sure that the music being serviced to the video creators is timely and relevant and is not random. We do that both mix of algorithmically and editorially.
When you say served to the creators, they go in there, and do they type in like a keyword or something and then stuff comes up?
I’m excited about this part of it. We do instant matching. We learn about the creator as they are signing up, like what’s their YouTube channel and the content they are creating? What are their favorite types of music? Who are people in their circle followed on the music artist or creator side? From that, we are able to curate for them.
We do a section called Weekly Matches, which are ten of the songs that are most relevant to them that are going to perform well in the type of content that fits their musical aesthetic. It’s like we serve that up along with a handful of playlists and then any of the new releases by artists they are following. They can log in and essentially get their Discover weekly, equivalent from Spotify like, “Here’s what’s relevant to you based on what you are creating and who you are.”
Fast track the discovery experience because that’s a huge pain point for video creators. It’s like, “I have to listen to 10,000 songs to find that good one. What is the genre anyways?” If the creator is looking for something specific, we do have a whole filter experience from there. They like, “I need something that’s low five that has no vocals. That’s this beat or mood.” We have all of that, but we find a lot of creators find success with the matching.
Can they type in a word? I want to get into this in a minute, but when I’m creating on TikTok, I’m like, “Is there a song that has this word in it?” I was doing one on haters, and I’m like, “Is there a song that talks about haters?” I don’t know any songs like that, so I typed that in and some stuff came up. I was like, “This is cool. I can put this in here.” Can you do that on your platform too?
We can, but I would say we are still improving it. I know curation and it’s an endless pursuit of trying to get that faster, but we want to make it as easy as possible. We tied a lot around video themes. It’s interesting from that perspective, even on the music artists’ side, to understand the communities or the types of videos being created with the music.
If I’m a hip-hop instrumental producer, I may be like, “My audiences or dudes are these types of people or audience who are of this age.” What we find is they are very surprised a lot of the time, where that guy may be like, “My music does well in makeup videos.” That’s a market I would never have targeted.
I would never have done Facebook ads to that but there seem to be resonating and like, “I should hit up Revlon and see if we can get a brand deal going here because there’s a resonance in like-mindedness.” We are constantly in terms of figuring out and connecting songs to themes, topics, video ideas, and keywords of summer like, “I need a summer song.” Maybe the song doesn’t say the word summer in it, but how could we better match that and be like, “This is the perfect beach vibe.”
I love that they could get proof of concept that people like their song for makeup videos, which they would never have thought of. They then can do that through this platform, and then they could go and approach a specific company for a bigger brand deal. That’s cool and they can be like, “It’s been used in these other videos already.”
It’s a testing ground. A lot of people put in a few songs and then realize, “This one is catching a lot of fire. I should put additional resources here or I want to level up on this.” It’s all about giving them a choice and the information. Instead, for a lot of campaigns for music artists, they put music somewhere, and they are like, “We are going to promote it.” Maybe they don’t know where it ends up. It’s just out there. They know it’s doing something. I see Shazam in Spotify is going up. We knew the data and the information about who is using it and how they are using it is important. Be sure to load that and artists have a full dashboard where they can see the stats of how many videos and which songs are picking up traction. What are the types of creators? What playlist am I being featured in?
The artists will want to get that out there, too, if their song is being featured in something that’s cool. They are going to want to let their lists know, put them on social media, and drive people there. That only helps the influencer.
I love seeing it when the artists are commenting on the creators and the creators are following them on Instagram. It’s more than just like, “My song is in your video.” We made this deal for this. We are about the community and how we bring these people together in an intuitive and organic way. That’s not me being like, “You have to use this song and then fit it into your video.” It’s not as fun when you are doing it. It happens all the time, but it’s fun to see the organic results of what we are doing.
Is YouTube the only video platform that you are working with here, or are there other ones?
We started with YouTube. I’m like a specialist in digital rights management, specifically for music on YouTube, and they do have an infrastructure for right management content ID, which is both a blessing and a curse. There are pros and cons, but we have found a way to integrate it with our platform that makes it a seamless collaboration.There will always be a new platform, and it's a great additional distribution and marketing strategy for music artists. Click To Tweet
YouTube is our bread and butter. That’s why I know how to optimize content and manage digital rights, and that’s where our co-founder Michelle Phan blew up and got her start. We focused on that, to begin with, but also on Instagram. We’ll be looking at other platforms. For us, it’s always about how we ensure the exchange of value is there for both sides, the video creators and the music artists.
If we are all of a sudden like, “We are going to do it for Twitch streams, podcasts,” or whatever that next thing is an audiobook. How do we ensure that there is a proper exchange of value and no one’s abusing the system in terms of like, “You didn’t give the required credit to the music artists?” What’s the penalty? How do we enforce that so one side is not getting gypped, getting copyright claims or getting their videos taken down if the music rights are settled on other platforms?
That’s what I was wondering about. You’ve got the content ID built-in so when the influencer puts the song in, they are not immediately getting a copyright strike or that thing.
We knew that it was a huge bummer when somebody goes and they do all the right things, get a license and is like, “Why am I still dealing with the copyright claim here?” It’s frustrating. It’s not a part of the creative flow. We built it into it, so it’s all preventative. As long as the creator has the proper credit and license information and promotion for the artists included, they will never see a claim. They are good and golden.
We do make sure they forget and people forget. We have a reminder system in place like, “You got to put this in.” If there’s ever an instance where the creator is using the song and they have failed to give the credit for whatever reason, we go ahead and monetize that video for the music artists. There is a checks and balances system, and anybody who doesn’t have a license at all gets claimed and monetized for the music artists as well.
How does it work with something like Instagram? You said you were starting to work with Instagram. Instagram already has the ability to put music in Reels and Stories. You can do that through Spotify. Is that confusing to have two different ways you could put music, or is it done through your platform and not through Instagram the way you would with Spotify?
It talks about two different types of use cases. When we are talking about purposeful or intentful content or somebody who’s releasing something across multiple platforms, they usually edit their video outside of the platform and bringing it to that platform. You talked about this earlier on TikTok. You are like, “I don’t know what song to use. Should I use the trending song?” You are using what’s being served you, but you still, as a creator, have to make the decision of like, “What do I want to do? Does this fit me?” You then are sorting through if you go to Spotify, you are like, “Which song should I listen to?” It was a repository. You are like, “I don’t know where to start. I guess I will start clicking around.”
What we like to do is reduce the time and friction where you are like, “Here are songs that are relevant to me from new artists who I can support, and then I can feature them.” We find a lot of crossover between YouTube and Instagram, especially as a promotional engine of like, “I dropped the YouTube video. I’m going to do a story about it on Instagram, and that’s going to be an excerpt of the YouTube video and promote it, or it’s a Reel that compliments it as a teaser.
Doing it as a distribution channel, versus I’m trying to get going.” As we are looking toward other platforms, it’s a matter of whether it could be either a combination of servicing it through the app in a native way like on Instagram. It could be more of like, “We have cleared a set of music for a platform that maybe doesn’t have a central hub for music to be serviced.”
If they recorded the video in a separate app, as you said, not inside of Instagram, and then they were putting a clip in there. Would they be expected to give the artists credit and maybe tag them or something?
It’s what makes sense for the music artists. Links do no good on Instagram for anybody. It’s so hard to enforce some track if it’s in their bio or that situation. On Instagram, we look at more of an app-mentioned system. We are able to identify like, “You have to include app mentioned for the artists, so they are instantly notified, and they have some accountability for what’s being created.”
It’s good. I know that if I get an app mentioned a lot of times, I will get a bunch of followers from it. That’s worth something to them.
Eighty percent of our artists had said, “My social media following has increased from using the platform.” We require there to be some connection and integration with the artist’s channels.
From the artist’s side, if they are uploading their songs or putting their songs onto Thematic, do they put the full song? Do they choose segments on TikTok where you have 30-second or 1-minute segments of the song? Can they do all of the above?
Right now, when they upload, they upload the full song. We gate it, so then one who’s not logged into the platform doesn’t get the full experience. They have to log in to be able to so they are not using us as a streaming platform. That’s not why we are here. We are looking at adding alternate versions of songs like instrumentals. I know a lot of people like slowed-down versions. There are different edits that they are releasing.
We are looking at adding that as well as doing pre-segmented clips for social platforms. That may be coming maybe quarter four, in terms of making it like, “What are additional options.” When we go to other platforms and we are servicing other video or audio experience platforms, we can highlight to the creator, “Here’s the best clip that you should use for this platform or it’s pre-cut.”
Right now, we provide the full track, a high resolution if it’s uploaded in high resolution. The artist also needs to specify where you want us to drive this traffic from the YouTube video. They can select the Spotify music player, their latest due to video, a SoundCloud, and adjust this at any time. Then when new people discover their music from watching these videos, we are driving the streams where they want it, and they can also check out all the other social links from the music artists.
I know you specialize in YouTube. Do you have a particular certification? What did you learn? It sounds like you had to learn a lot about music rights in order to be able to do this confidently.
I’m one of those people who is constantly learning about what’s the next thing. I want to master it and be good at it. Even back in the early-2010s, it’s weird to think that the 2010s were a separate decade from now. We were one of the first initial companies before starting Thematic. We had our hands on one of the first music labels CMS, like a content ID for music with additional audio-visual capabilities on YouTube.
I learned and taught myself a lot of understanding the infrastructure, but then YouTube also came out with a certification program. I believe it was 2013 or 2014 that you got the nuts and bolts of how Content ID works and how to best manage assets on YouTube. Here are the best tried and true strategies for YouTube channels. It was a combination of learning both the digital rights side of it and how to work with that in a space like YouTube.
At the same time, I was also managing YouTube channels. We built up a lot of content creator channels, makeup channels, dance channels on YouTube, and music artist channels. How am I optimizing content? What strategies are working? Analytics is not so tracking like, “This strategy worked. If you do this, you are going to supercharge your Discovery on this video.”
It’s learning both sides of digital rights management, how that works, and doing the certifications year over year. Whenever they would expire, they’d come out with new programs. Also, learning from the creation process and from creators like, “This is working and this is how this is playing with that.” It’s always been a fun discovery flow.
You probably know more than almost any musician about that stuff. We are usually groping in the dark. We know that they are tracking us. I have had some musicians’ experience where they got copyright strikes against themselves.
Everyone should go through a course. You get this email, and it’s like, “Your video has been claimed.” It feels scary, especially if it’s your first time running into it. I’m like, “It is scary if you don’t understand the infrastructure of it.” It’s like, “How can we educate more?” I’m always talking to our artists and they are like, “Why is that?” I was like, “I got you. Let’s talk about it. Let’s jump on a call.”Believe in the power of the masses. Click To Tweet
I want them to be able to feel comfortable and knowledgeable. Even music managers don’t understand the infrastructure of Content ID or what it means to allow lists to channel. What’s the long-term impact of this, what’s happening behind the scenes when you switch distributors and are things falling through the cracks.
It’s hard to know about it if you don’t have your hands on it. It’s not a tool that’s accessible to everyone because it’s managed at a high level and typically through a distributor. It’s a matter of how we can better get information out there. When they make deals, they understand what’s happening and what are the mechanics behind it. What does this mean when I’m using music or putting up my own music video like, “Why am I being claimed for my own song or I should be claimed for my own song because it’s the only way for me to monetize my video until I’m part of YouTube partner program.”
It’s hard, by the way, because I haven’t made any yet. I’m releasing a show every week.
Consistency is key. With the partner program, I have seen every side or iteration of it from when they first launched and you had to apply each video for a month. Every video make a written request of like, “I can monetize this and I can go through,” and then you have to be approved for it. That’s even after getting accepted to the program, and then they let anyone monetize for a period and are like, “Maybe this is not a good idea scoping it back.” It’s constantly iterating, but it’s an achievement once you get there. I’m confident you will get there with your channel. Consistency and quality content like you check both boxes, you’ll get there.
I’m working on it. I’m curious about the rise of TikTok and the built-in ability to add music to videos that weren’t there before and then Instagram copied that. Has that changed anything for you guys? I know the big thing for you and where a lot of the value lies is the curation and the saving of time.
In TikTok, there’s always going to be a new platform. It’s a great additional distribution and marketing strategy for music artists. You can’t acknowledge that. We had this great success story of this artist Nicky Youre who released a couple of songs on our platform. One of those songs was Sunroof. I think how he was able to distribute and accelerate that content was he put it on Thematic and we started to get a social swell of engagement right off the bat with the song. It’s a great song, but then likewise, he was working the song on Sunroof and doing a cross-promotional strategy there. A lot of our creators on Thematic would natively want to use it on TikTok because it was a relevant song.
It’s one of the hottest songs to come off of TikTok. I’m sure you’ve heard it if you’ve been scrolling on there, but it was this amazing superpower of content distribution from the music side. A hit song is a hit song and how do you get it out there and discovered. People were resonating with it across the board right away. It was a great amplification strategy.
What we also saw from that is a lot of the people on TikTok wanted to cross-post their TikTok on YouTube. The only way for them to be able to do that in a legal way is to get a license for the song. Thankfully, we had it available on our platforms that they are not getting penalized for sharing their TikToks on YouTube because the music clearances don’t transfer. There are different mechanisms and infrastructures for using songs across platforms.
I wondered about that. I wonder how many people take their thing from TikTok and put it on YouTube Shorts and don’t know that they are breaking the rules.
There are so many. There are Content IDs for the artists who can monetize that. There’s a balance system. For the content creator, it’s so confusing. I see these messages all the time where they are like, “I got it from TikTok. I don’t understand what the problem is.” I wish I could talk to all of you, but there are thousands of you having this problem like, “How can we fix that?”
We are looking to go to other platforms and how we integrate with TikTok to make this easy for creators. People want to put content out there, whether it be a video or a song. I want it to be heard, seen, discovered, or engaged with. There are all these friction points and I’m like, “Let’s make it easier.” These people want to help support each other, get their songs heard, and not be blocked in this territory.
Even for musicians, royalties and all that stuff are so decentralized. They are all over the place. If they are going to be in a centralized place, and this is probably never going to happen because even if we were able to work it out in the US to get it down to a few places that, you had to make sure that everything was set up, so you got paid. There are still other countries and all of that, but it can be so mind-blowing for the musician to keep track of all the places they need to have registered their song and make sure to report this and that to get paid what they are doing.
It’s such an industry of if we could build it over to a very simple system, I’m all for it, but I’m like, “We are so far deep. I can’t imagine.” Prove me wrong. That would be amazing.
Tore it up, threw it all down, and then like rebuilt it from scratch. That would be amazing, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. As you said, we are too far down the road in so many directions.
It was built for one type of distribution and how we were handling music ages ago. I’m like, “Nobody could have accounted for how this is happening or this remix culture of I’m reacting to your video that features this song.” The rights clearly aren’t transferring between songs.
Even accounting for the internet was hard enough. That wasn’t even built-in.
All these Band-Aids, and all of a sudden, this person is covered in Band-Aid fixes. You are like, “This is the world we live in.” How do we make it simpler? The ways that we are able to control are in the industries of like, “Let’s make it easy for these two people to work together or let’s make it easy for you to get your song out there and not have this huge problem about it.”
Do you see artists featured through other creators and stuff are getting a surgeon Spotify listens?
We have done a study across our artists. They are seeing about a 20% increase in listeners and streams on Spotify, as well as if they are pushing to YouTube, it could be YouTube. Across the board, we are seeing this lift. A true testament to that is an artist who’s like, “I don’t know if this is for me. I’m not sold on the model.” They don’t understand it or it’s something new that they have to try out. I’m like, “It’s totally free. You can opt out after three months and be like, ‘This is not my thing.’” What we find happening is we put in a song, and we are like, “Let us show you what we can do here.”
Literally, within two weeks, they have uploaded their full EP or their next three singles because they see it off the bat. We notify them like, “Your song was featured in this video. Check it out.” That video could be the biggest influencer on YouTube or it could be someone starting out. We believe in the power of the masses. It’s a different strategy where you could put all your bang and buck and put like, “I’m going to spend my entire budget and do this one huge influencer in a traditional influencer marketing campaign.”
You can go out and be like, “I need 300, 500, or 1,000 people to start promoting my song,” then you are having a bigger market reach and you are getting people from different industries, territories, verticals, communities, and allowing your song to thrive and succeed. It’s usually the case that they get that little result of it of like, “Put your song out there on Spotify.”
You are getting no streams. You serve it to your existing fans. What’s next? Instead of like, “Maybe they don’t have a marketing budget or it’s already allocated to a different campaign.” We can still help them out and get it out there. They see the success and are able to track of like, “When this influencer featured it, I saw such an uptick on my Spotify. They engage with me on Instagram. My Shazams are going through the roof.” It’s fun to see because that’s why we did this. We want them to succeed and their music to do well.
Like on TikTok, songs that have been out for a while can be revitalized this way too. Once your single is out for three months, you feel like that’s the end, but it doesn’t have to be the end.
We have an opt-in term. We are always about trying for the video creators to service the newest and most relevant songs. Artists have different song campaigns. We try to do and achieve a level of success for every song that comes on the platform, and 99% of the songs on our platform have at least one influencer placement.Let each song have its moment. Click To Tweet
It’s a matter of, “How can we get this song out there, get it to a tipping level of success, and keep that going as long as they want to keep it going?” Also, provide opportunities and ways for us to service their next single. It’s like, “How boring it would it be if it’s only your single from three years ago that’s getting placed.” “I have created twenty new songs. I have a lot more to offer. I have improved so much and being able to funnel that new music to that same audience who already loves it and get in front of new people and opportunities.”
We do have a cyclical campaign model, almost like a radio where songs are coming on. If an artist is like, “I’m done. This EP is a different identity. I’m moving on.” They can put on their next one and transition a song off. We are not trying to tie up their music rights for years on end. It’s more of a term, but if they want to keep it going, we are here to help support them.
There’s nothing keeping them from putting music that was released years ago out if they don’t have any new music.
That’s no problem at all. We are not here to get 50,000 old songs. How is that relevant for a video creator? We still have older material from artists who are like, “I’m not doing a lot. This song, I don’t feel I gave it a lot of energy when it came out. I want to put it in again and see what we can do with it.”
Maybe the theme of the song is very relevant right now. They might have a song about gun violence or something.
We see that happen all the time. It’s interesting to see how the users and the music artists are interacting because now I have seen one of our music artists title his songs in ways that are very similar to video titles. A song would be like a travel vlog. He’s creating music that is inspired by the video creators, featuring his music in new work.
They are feeding off of each other and getting inspired by each other. Another huge problem for a video creator or any content creator is like, “I have run out of ideas. I have hit the internet. It’s over. I have done everything I could think about to do.” That ideation process can be very restrictive. What we find is that when they come to our platform, they are getting inspired by the songs, which gives them new video ideas.
We show them a song and other videos that have featured this song. They usually get the spark of like, “I didn’t think about doing a video about how to decorate shoes or whatever it may be. I like this song. I don’t have a video idea, but I see that this song would be cool to feature in a video like this.” Utilizing it and having the creative community help each other in their creation process and marketing and distribution process.
Do you have a maximum number of songs to be in a campaign from one artist at a time? They are not going to go in there and upload their entire catalog, right?
We have had that happen. We do new music releases every Friday, so we put out a cohort of songs. We try to make sure there is good variety of songs. If an artist is putting out their chips on the Thematic table, we are here to support them, but we’ll try to strategically release them in a way that’s going to be most beneficial to them because we want every song to have its own moment. If you put up 20 songs at 1 time for the creator, we’ll try to match them as best as possible. As soon as we get more data about who’s using it and where it’s being used, we get to start sorting it and servicing it to the right creator, but it’s also a matter of letting each song have its moment.
It’s like releasing singles versus an album.
Exactly. We can eventually do a single for every song on the album. It’s a matter if you want to give it its best shot, and then one starts taking off in a way that you didn’t expect. That’s going to steal the spotlight from maybe the others.
What about very specific content? For example, I have some songs that are Christian songs. Are there Christian creators on there? Maybe your songs are in Spanish. Are there ways to identify that?
We do have this entire filter. There are ten filters you can niche into if you are trying to find, like, “I usually like to do Odessa type, electronic, inspiring stuff for travel vlogs. I’m making a video and I need there to be a salsa beat or it needs to feel like a different type. I need it to be in French because I’m going to France or something like that.”
They can filter through. We are finding an increase of people trying to find things that are more of a certain aesthetic or vibe and less of a genre, but we do have it available. We have like, “I’m looking for things that are from African artists.” That’s a great request because it’s not necessarily one language or one genre of music. It could span any genre and any vocalist type.
It’s so interesting to think about how people are trying to figure out what’s resonating with them like, “I want to support this type of artist. I want to support people who are doing bilingual content.’” We are constantly learning and adding in new attributes for songs of like, “This is going to be more valuable than something else and not to take other filters away.” What are the nuances to how people are classifying music of, “It’s doing well in this type of content or it’s good for these environments?” We’re allowing them to discover that fit match.
Can you match similar artists? If I were to say, all my song is similar to Sarah McLachlan and somebody was looking for something that was like Sarah McLachlan. Could they search for that?
On each artist profile, we have the top similar artists for that artist. You can easily filter like Ryan Little or you are probably going to like this other artist here. We can identify that for you, but we also put in that we are still in the test mode of a similar-sounding search. You can drop in a YouTube link for your favorite song, and maybe we don’t have that song on Thematic, but we can give you songs available for you that match that same song’s sentiment and audio. It’s fun.
I have gotten so much information about this, and it’s all very cool, but I have to ask you. If it’s free for the artist and influencer, how are you guys making money in order to keep your platform going?
That was a question we wanted to think smartly about. One of our mantras was how do we make this accessible to all types of creatives without putting a financial burden on it? You’ll see a lot on the video creator side where it’s like, “You can use that One Republic, Justin Bieber, or you name it song like a relevant song, but it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg, and it’s going to cost you even more if you have a huge audience.”
It was that friction point of both sides was trying to charge each other to find the same value point. We wanted to make it accessible for any size of a creator, whether they are the largest or the smallest. We studied in a free mode for the first couple of years of the product to understand what the community values and what we could build that’s going to be equitable to everyone.
On the content creator side, there is a subscription for a premium service. That gives them extra playlist. They can have multiple people working to find music for their channel. They can have additional YouTube channels, and then they can get access to the most discovered or trending songs on the site.
It’s this balance of identifying from a song campaign level. Our job is to get songs to trend and get to a matter of relevance. We were talking about earlier that if that’s the only song from three years ago, that continues to drive attention from an audience, how do we make sure that their next new releases are getting discovered as well?
Once a song has reached a tipping level of success and it’s in the top 20% of our songs on the platform after a specific period of time, we’ll go ahead and graduate that song with this award. It becomes a diamond song on our site and exclusive to the premium creators on our site, as well as any creator who helps support and get that successful.More people are trying to find things that are more of a certain aesthetic or vibe and less of a genre. Click To Tweet
All songs start out free. There’s no like the song is better than that. All songs get an equal starting point. Should a song reach that tipping level of success, it’ll go to premium. Anyone who’s already downloaded it, even if they are a free creator, they are going to continue to have access to it. They were part of that song story.
It rewards the people that help the song rise.
That community of like, “You were my street team for this song. You got it to there.” We are not going to penalize you because you were a part of its success.
There is so much great stuff, and I love this model. This is a model I haven’t seen before. There are companies out there that do licensing, but this is more of a connection to connect people. It feels a lot more organic and community-based versus the whole licensing thing of how it’s been done in the past.
That’s our goal and our sentiment as a company. Using sync as a tool, but it’s not about what we are about. We are about the creation process and bringing these creatives together. We can do influencer marketing for music artists in a very meaningful way, and the mechanism happens to be through synching the song on YouTube videos. That’s not the value about it when you go and do other promotional platforms and you are doing brand deals or whatever.
You wouldn’t necessarily call it a sync era. Maybe it’s product placement. It’s a mechanism, so we are not trying to be that part of it. We find that a lot of our artists are able to define their success how they want it, which is what I’m all about. Let them be the CEO of their own company if they want to remain independent and have a thriving income and go tour. Go do additional sync licensing with brands or whatever that is, or if they want to sign a label deal. The ball is in their court and it’s how do we bring these people together, so they can each thrive and build out their own business as they see fit.
Is there anything else we need to know that we haven’t covered about Thematic, how it can help indie artists, and also how they get started?
I would love to hear anybody’s music who’s trying to get it out there. We listen to every song. We make sure that the rights are there and it’s cleared. If you want to submit a song, it’s HelloThematic.com/Artists. You can also get a link if you go to HelloThematic.com. We have a cool creative community. We have a private Discord where all types of creators can come together and support each other and get feedback. If you are looking to get your music out there, meet some cool people and do some cool things, I’m all about it.
I know you guys are on social. Can they connect with you there?
We are on social. Pretty much everywhere @HelloThematic. We are on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, you name it. We are probably there, and if we are not, send us a message, and then we’ll be there. We will find you. We will get to you. If you are reading, drop us a note that you read about us on the Profitable Musician show. I will be sure to give it some extra love and attention.
Thank you so much, Audrey. This has been great, and I always love shining a light on new ways that musicians can make money and get attention on their music that will help them get money in the future. Build their fan base, which is their asset pool, to then eventually make money. There are so many roads to income and this can be one of them for artists. Thank you for providing this service and letting everybody know how it works.
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciated our conversation. It’s great to talk with cool people like you who are doing amazing things for music artists.
- Marc Schrobilgen – LinkedIn
- Michelle Phan
- @HelloThematic – Instagram
- TikTok – HelloThematic
- Twitter – HelloThematic
About Audrey Marshall
Audrey Marshall is a co-founder and the COO of Thematic. She is responsible for leading the company’s product development, technical programming, and business development endeavors. Audrey has been working with, and connecting, content creators with music artists, their labels and publishers, for the past 10 years as a lead executive with the music media venture, Spin Move Media, LLC.
Audrey’s background is steeped in digital media entertainment, social media activation, and public relations. She specializes in creating and implementing digital strategies for music artists, content creators, and brands, with previous campaigns for Macy’s, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, the American Cancer Society, and the L’Oréal luxe family of brands, among others.
Audrey has developed and administered channel optimization initiatives for talents ranging from Jennifer Lopez and Thalia, to corporate clients like Warner Bros., Endemol, and L’Oréal. She is a graduate of Chapman University and a certified expert across the board with YouTube in digital rights, channel management, and audience development.
Audrey has a specific focus on, and passion for, digital rights management for music assets and has helped developed and managed some of the leading beauty, lifestyle, and dance channels on YouTube.