Music data is the compass that guides musicians to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the industry. By reading the numbers, we can uncover the true path to success, where authentic connections with fans reign supreme and every decision is fueled by insight, not guesswork. In this episode, we dive into the world of music data analytics with Madelynn Elyse, founder and president of Shark Attack Records. She unravels the mysteries behind the algorithms that govern music streaming platforms like Spotify. Madelynn explains how independent artists can leverage these algorithms to their advantage and gain exposure to new audiences. She also discusses how to strike the perfect balance between artist-curated niche playlists and algorithmic playlists to stay ahead in the competitive music industry. Find out what really works when it comes to advertising music. Tune in now!
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From Streams To Success: Data-Driven Music Career Decisions With Madelynn Elyse
I am so happy to be here with Madelynn Elyse from Shark Attack Records. We’re going to talk about data. We’ll talk about some other things too but it’s important to talk about data and how you can use data to make decisions in your career and how you can not let data steer you in the wrong direction, which will be as much of a conversation as the first part. Sometimes, we get attached to vanity metrics and things like that. We don’t want those driving our decision-making. We will jump into that. First, I would love for Madelynn to let our readers know a little bit about your backstory, how you got involved in music, and what made you decide to start a boutique record label, all the things.
First off, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it. I started Shark Attack Records in 2016 as a home-brewed record label. I was an independent artist and we were working with a bigger manager. We were trying to get it signed, had a contract on the table, and decided it was not the direction we wanted to go because we were selling. All of our friends get dropped and signed and all that fun stuff.
Ultimately, we ended up saying it wasn’t for us. We got dropped by our manager and I stopped doing music for a while. One of my good friends, Eric Calvert, who’s a music supervisor, was like, “Do you want to do this thing for Sync?” I was like, “No.” He’s like, “I’ll get you paid.” I was like, “Okay,” because struggling musicians need to make rent. That turned into more things. Ultimately, after getting that Sync, my friends started coming to me like, “How did you do this?”
Eric came back to us and was like, “If your numbers were on socials, I can get you paid more opportunities for you.” I started getting into marketing and what data meant, and how to build out based on the data you’re seeing. That spiraled. It started out with my friends coming to me, asking me for my help and my friends’ friends. All of a sudden, labels started reaching out. Right before the pandemic, I had a lot of major labels reaching out asking me how I was doing, what I was doing, how they could get involved, and stuff like that. It spiraled into something so much bigger than I could ever have possibly imagined. It’s a beautiful thing. I do what I love for work every day.
What are some examples of the placements that you got? You had a connection there but you’re not going to those deals if you don’t have great music and if you grow your numbers a little bit. What are some examples of placements that you got? How does growing the socials get you paid more? I find that very interesting.
We ended up landing League of Legends. We got a couple of Gibson things. I’ve got been on a couple of ABC shows. It’s spiraled and I’m not in the Sync world anymore. I took a right-hand turn and went down marketing hard. The bigger an artist is, the more value they have in terms of being able to demand things. When you grow your social numbers, your streaming numbers and your whole package is ultimately better. You have more room to negotiate when you come to the table, not just with Sync but with anything.
I find that interesting that it’s true about Sync because I feel like with Sync, it’s more about how the song fits in the show or the movie.
For sure, but you could also go the other way if they want a specific sound. As I said, I’m not in the Sync world anymore but there was a brief that came out for a liquor company that wanted a specific artist. They were looking for exactly that specific artist and they hadn’t found that yet. They’re looking for an artist with X amount of thought. Target does this quite a bit. Target’s brilliant at this. They get influencers to be in their commercials. They get all these people to be in their commercials and choose music that has a foundation because it cross-pollinates. It’s possible. It’s on the rarer side but it is possible.
What made you decide to go headfirst into marketing and not stay in the Sync world?
I loved helping people. I’m very motherly. My artists are my babies. I mean that because every artist that I work with has been with me for years. They don’t go anywhere because this is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes years to develop. You don’t come screaming out of the can. It takes a long time. It’s about learning how to navigate that career that makes it worthwhile.
It takes a lot of patience. It takes being able to navigate twists and turns and ups and downs and all of that. I get what you’re saying. I’ve taken those brand tests. I found that I was considered an advocate because I love to promote other people. When I see something good, I want everybody to know about it.
There’s a negative toxic trait within music where we all compete against each other and I hate that. I’ve had a couple of friends like show me the other side of that. That’s what pulled me over to being like, “They can be doing cool things and I could be doing cool things. If we’re doing them together, even cooler.” Building that community is so important. We shouldn’t be cutting people off. We should be pulling them up.
All boats rise with the tide mentality. Just because I like one artist doesn’t mean I can’t like another. It’s not like I only like chocolate ice cream and I like nothing else. No. Some days I want chocolate and some days, I want strawberries. What made you decide to start a record label?
It happened naturally. It wasn’t necessarily something that I was going for but I want to be able to support the community as much as the community supports me. That’s how I felt about it. When I get to mentor, I help bring up another artist. It makes me feel good. It’s a selfish thing if you think about it. It’s very true. I love being on the front lines with them.
Something that I say and it’s super cheesy, so I apologize. I don’t bleed for my artists. I bleed with my artists and that’s a big thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on teams with major label artists or legacy artists where I’m like, “No one cares about this project. They’re all here punching a timecard,” and it makes me sad. That’s not what music is about. That’s not what art is about. We chose to get into this industry. We should love what we do.
If we don’t, why are we doing it? It’s not like music is the easy path.
It’s not like it pays crazy amounts of money, either.
Let’s get into analytics because this is something that confuses and frustrates artists. It can maybe get them spinning out in the wrong direction. First of all, let’s talk about what data matters. What data should we be paying attention to and what data should we be like, “That’s a vanity metric or that doesn’t even matter?”
Vanity metrics are anything like likes, followers, and streams. I could care less about any of those metrics. To me, what matters is engagement. Is it real engagement? Are you turning a fan? Would that person show up at your show? A big thing you see now is empty streams. This is why I tell people and I stole this from a dear friend of mine but he always tells people, “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” The reason he’s saying that is because you don’t know what’s behind everything. You don’t know how much money they put into advertising. You don’t know if they bought bots.
There are so many things to manipulate these numbers that you don’t know. What I try to teach my artist is don’t look at the number. Look at the whole picture. If you’re releasing a song and all of a sudden, your numbers go up. The second the song is released and you stop paying for whatever you’re paying for, everything goes down. There’s a problem. That means you’re going to get some decrease. Let me say that.
You’re not going to see that I call them peaks and valleys. On your analytics, if you see a massive peak and a massive valley, there’s a problem. That means either you were botting or you got on bad editorial. There are a lot of things that could have happened but what you want to see is that slow staircase. It’s like we got one step up here and we came down a little bit but we’re going back up.
You want to see that over long a period of time. You don’t want to see that quickly. You want to see that consistently with every release. You want to see a little bit more. The way you win as an independent artist is by playing the algorithms. An independent artist is never going to have as much money as a major-label artist is going to have.The way you win as an independent artist is by playing the algorithms. Because an independent artist is never going to have as much money as a major-label artist is going to have. Click To Tweet
Ultimately, you play for the algorithm. You want to hit that algorithm every time. While you’re hitting it, you want to make sure you’re seeing what I like to call spillage. If you hit Discover Weekly on Spotify, I want to see it going to your Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter. I want to see where else it jumped because, ultimately, I want to see that the people that it hit are invested in who you are. Does that make sense?
It does, but I do think it’s like a canyon to cross between Spotify and the other places. There’s no easy way to get people over there. You do have your social media on your Spotify. They can click through to that but you can’t grab an email address or anything. It’s quite a big jump for someone to hear a song, like it, and then go over to the other places.
That’s my point. You want to see that jump. If you’re not seeing that jump, are you hitting the right audience? When artists hit the algorithm and hit it successfully, you see that jump. You’re not going to see everyone jump. You’re going to see a smaller percentage. You’re going to see maybe 1% to 3% if you’re lucky. That’s what you want to see consistently because music is passive now. That’s the reality of it. How many people do you know that sit down and just sit down to listen to music? Very rare.
I do when I’m on vacation because I know I have time.
We were in Paris in January 2023 and I listened to a new record while I was up there. Every time I listen to that record, I’m going to think of Paris. It was the only time that I’ve had in months to sit down, listen to something new, and dive into it. You and I are rare in the sense that we love music. There are not many people that love music. It’s more passive to most people.
That’s hard for me to get because I am such an interactive person with music, being a musician, of course. I have a hard time getting the idea that people are passive but most people are like, “I like that song. Cool.” Go on to the next one. Not like, “I want to up with this artist. I want to make sure that I don’t like to lose track of them, so I’m going to go follow them on Instagram.”
They’re there. Those are the super fans and those are what you need to like to bolster your career. Everyone talks about your first thousand fans. It’s one of my favorite concepts out there but it’s true. Your first thousand super fans will make your career. That’s all you need.Your first thousand super fans will make your career. That's all you need. Click To Tweet
Do you have any ways that you help, let’s say from Spotify, those people get on an editorial playlist? There’s a spike and then you’re seeing that spillage. Where do they go from there? Do you have methods that you encourage people to use to get people to go from Instagram to an email list?
It starts with a conversation and that’s the key point of all this. We want you to engage with your audience. People don’t realize how rare it is for you to jump from Spotify to Instagram. Once they’ve jumped, then they make a comment on your post like, “I found you on my Discover Weekly Playlist or I found you on Fresh Vines Pop. I’m in love with you. I love what you’re doing.” If you don’t take the time as an artist to go and water that friendship in the sense that this is a friendship. They’re investing in you. You have to invest in them, especially when you’re just beginning.
I see artists do this all the time. They don’t want to reply to comments. Why? These people took the time to say something to you. These people took the time to DM you. You need to respond. That’s where it starts the responding. You have to respond. You have to build a friendship because these are the people that, down the road, when you release your next single, you’re hoping they support you. If you’ve built enough of a friendship with them, you can be like, “Can you share my single? Can you support me? Here’s my new song.” All those things along the way but I find that most artists stop before they even get to that point because they don’t want to respond. It blows my mind a little bit.
Sometimes they feel overwhelmed by responding but sometimes they think, “I need to maintain this mystique as an artist.” Do you find that happens sometimes?
All the time. The reality is, unless you’re the Doja Cat of the world and even her, she started by responding to everyone. Ed Sheeran is the same thing. Harry Style is the same thing. You respond to everyone. You build your audience out. These are your fans. These are the people that support you. If you don’t have five seconds to say hi back or thank you, there’s a problem.
You would say that the metrics they should be tracking are how many comments you are getting on Instagram, TikTok, or whatever your social media of choice is. Maybe how many people are asking you questions?
How much engagement are you seeing? How many people are singing your song? How many people are saving your song? How many people are going back and listening to your song? Those are the metrics to me. How many people are shazaming your song? Those are the metrics that matter to me. I could care less how many streams you have or how many followers you have. I want to see that you have a core fan base and you can build upon that core fan base.
Shazaming is so cool because, a lot of times, indie artists get placements in random streams. I run a female artist show where we play music by female artists. I was at the hair place getting my hair done and I heard one of the artists that we play on the show. I was like, “They’re being played on this hairdresser’s network or whatever.”
It’s cool that you can shazam when you’re in the hair place because you hear a song that you like. I’ve done this before. I’ve been sitting in the bank waiting to get called up or whatever. I hear a song that I like and you can so easily shazam that then go follow it on Spotify. The next time when that comes up on your playlist, then you’re like, “I remembered I liked this song.” It’s this long progression. Maybe the next time, they would go follow on Instagram.
There’s a rule of seven. You have to see and engage with something seven times before you interact with it. I’m a big advocate of that. I noticed from Shazam. I’ll have a song that I like. I’ve heard it so I shazam and I’m like, “I’ll come back to it later.” You forget and then you shazam it again. The next time you hear it and you’re like, “I already shazammed this song. I’ve done this like six times. Maybe I should go check this out.”
I did want to go back to one thing you said about getting on a bad editorial playlist. Is that an editorial playlist that maybe has so much turnover and it’s not the people that continue to follow artists after listening?
I’ve got a couple of great examples of this. My favorite is New Music Friday. If you’re an independent artist, you have no business being on New Music Friday. Only if you have no business being on it, your numbers tank. New Music Friday is for the top 40 hit-happening artists. People that people already know. It’s a very active but passive playlist because you go on New Music Friday and go, “This new Taylor. Here’s New Weekend. Here’s new Dua Lipa.”
You’re skipping through it, so your skip rate gets high. People aren’t discovering music on that playlist. They’re checking out and seeing what’s happening. The skip rate’s super high. What happens for an independent artist is it gets skipped so many times that it tanks your algorithm. You have no chance of hitting that algorithm. Discover Weekly, Release Radar Radio. It’s not that you have no chance but your chance is greatly diminished because of it. It’s such a high-traffic playlist.
If you get good positioning or decent positioning, you get skipped like crazy, then, all of a sudden, the song tanks. As an independent artist, your best route is getting those algorithmic playlists. I work with a pro metal guy. He gets to rock this all the time. You would think Rock Hits is a great playlist for him but it’s not because it’s Pop Rock right now even though they’re calling it Rock. He’s a Prague guy, so he has no business being on that.
The same concept happens where he gets skips a bunch and tanks his algorithm, then he doesn’t move. Although he got that initial first boost of streams, it’s never going to move past that. It’s the same with New Music Friday. I’m seeing it happen more often than not, which is frustrating from my perspective. Everyone’s gunning for a playlist and it’s like not every playlist, A) Is the same, or B) Is good for you.
Another perfect example of that is the workout playlist. The workout playlists are very passive playlists because what do you do? You put on a workout playlist. You put it in your pocket. There you go. You might get the streams but your save rate goes down quite a bit. Once again, you’re hurting your chances of getting on that algorithm.
You are chosen for editorial. You can’t say no. What do you do? Do you recommend that some people just don’t go out for editorial?
It’s something that we’re still trying to figure out from our perspective. I know from my Prague artist I’m probably not going to pitch him for editorial this time around because it tanked. We tried it. He landed 6 out of 6 everything single time and it tanked it every single time.
It sucks. As an independent artist, all I have is those algorithmic playlists to keep moving the needle for him. You sit there and you go, “What do I do?” We’re playing with ideas. I might be more specific with our distributor being like, “I don’t want these playlists. I want these. If we can’t get these, I’d rather not go for editorial.” It’s a conversation in areas to play within.
What about personally curated niche playlists where you go out to the individual?
I like a niche. I would be very careful with reaching out for playlists for yourself because Spotify is bug-infested. Once again, if you end up on the wrong playlist, and sometimes I see it happen where a hip hop artist will end up on a country playlist. You can’t get off of it once you’re on it. There are ways but it’s hard. It’s the same concept. I tell people, “Play the algorithm. Try to get the algorithm to move for you and don’t worry about playlisting. Get real people to listen to your music. Get actual fans to listen.”
To me, the algorithmic playlist is the most powerful. They’re the ones that I, as a listener, use. I don’t listen to editorial playlists.
Neither do I. I listen to my Discover Weekly and my Release Radar.
What about controlling? Is there any way to control where it’s like the similar artists that show up? Your fans also liked it. That’s what it’s called.
We can’t control it but we do have ways to trick it, funny enough. You can create a playlist and surround yourself with artists that you want to be associated with. You continue to promote that playlist versus the single. There are ways to trick it and help associate yourself with it. That’s more of a long-term strategy versus a short-term strategy.
Do you see, either in artists that you work with or other people that you see around, a disconnect where maybe they have 1 million followers on Instagram but they can’t get anyone to come out to a show or they have 0 streams or they have 1 million streams but no social following or they can’t get anyone to come out to a show?
I see all directions. I see people that have no streams and can pull 300 people to a show. I see people that have 1 million plus monthlies that can’t pull 150 people to the show. It’s wild but what I pattern that too is for the people that have 300 people coming after the shows or those 300 fans or those 300 friends. There is a very big difference between actual fans coming to the show and your friends coming to the show.
I love that friends come to support me. That’s awesome. That’s great. You should continue to do that but I want to see fans in the audience. I want to see people bobbing their heads into your music, selling your merch, wearing your merch, and engaging with you as a musician. If I see that and see zero socials and stuff like that, that’s something you can work with. When you go the opposite, it’s a lot harder because you’ve created this whole online presence if it’s real.
I have many artists that have million-plus followers that have a hard time pulling 50 people to a show. Their stuff’s legit but they built their presence online. When we do something online, that’s when they sell out. That’s when we sell a couple of thousand tickets and you’re like, “Here it is. That’s where it is.” You’re looking at it from a world perspective. Although you have millions of monthly listeners, maybe your audience isn’t in California or in Arizona. Maybe they’re in Texas, Utah, or London. You never know until you look at those analytics and see where they’re at.
What about the other direction? I feel like a lot of the artists that I work with are a little bit older. They haven’t established much of an online presence either with streaming or social. They’re starting out but they can bring people out to shows because they’ve been performing in a certain region for so long. How can people do that? They can bring people to a show that has fans and hopefully, they’re getting them on an email list from there. It was front of mind always when I was performing out that I got as many people on my email list as possible. What’s the best way to translate those people into helping you out algorithmically with Spotify and socials?
First, I would question, “Are you growing your numbers on socials to grow your numbers on socials or you’re growing your numbers on socials because you think it’s going to help?” If you’re pulling people to your shows and you’re an older artist, what’s the goal? Are you trying to make it to that next level or are you trying to play locally and to continue to support your craft? If you’re not trying to grow, don’t worry about it because your money is at your show. It’s not streaming. I would question that first. Is there a reason for you to grow online and do all that stuff? It takes a lot of money and a lot of energy to grow online.
Sometimes, they’re thinking, “I’m not going to be able to perform live forever,” or, “I don’t want to tour anymore. Sometimes, it’s not an ego thing in a bad way but like, “I feel un-legit because I have five monthly followers on Spotify.”
There was a statistic that came out that something like 80% of Spotify is less than 500 monthlies. If you get over that hump, you’re in the top 20%. It’s pretty crazy. People need to think about that because that’s wild to think about if you wrap your brain around it because 500 monthlies, digitally speaking, is nothing. You should be able to do that naturally.
That aside, I tell artists, “Every artist is different. If it works online for you to develop and grow, great. Let’s focus on that.” I worked at Boz Scaggs’ record. They wanted to do this whole promo thing where you went to Best Buy and you took a picture of yourself with the album in front of Best Buy and you uploaded it. All of his followers were in their 50s and 60s. They’re like, “We don’t know how to do this but we love the record. Thanks so much.” They would comment with that because that’s all they could do. That’s fine.
I’m working with Morris Day. He’s an incredible artist, a legendary artist. I love him. He sells out a show like it’s nothing. He plays this great performance and it’s a thing. It’s incredible and it’s so much fun. He’s got 100,000 monthlies. For a legacy artist that toured with Prince for the majority of his career, you would think it would be bigger but it’s not because his demographic isn’t on Spotify. They’re all over his Instagram and his Facebook but they don’t get Spotify. They’re not there and that’s fine.
The recordings are good but the real magic, I’m sure, is live.
Talk about someone that can bring down a house. Seeing him perform was one of the coolest things ever but that’s my point. We’re never going to be able to. Unless we’re going for a younger demographic, which we can do. You have to go for the tweens. You’ve got to go for the tweens to the 27th. That’s your demographic if you want online.
I always questioned artists about this. What’s the purpose? Are you growing it to play to your ego? Ego is a very kind term. I’m not trying to disrespect anyone. Are you doing it because you want to grow? When I work with legacy artists, the question is, are we trying to hit the demographic we already have or are we trying to build a new demographic? If we’re trying to build a new demographic, that makes sense. We have to figure out how to build around that younger demographic. How do we hit the urban outfitter kids? How do we get to that demographic? The younger kids buy versus the older ones.
What if an artist is looking to up-level their career and they’re thinking, “I need to have certain metrics in order to attract a label deal, a manager, or a booking agent?” Do you think that’s still the case these days that you need to have certain metrics? What are those levels?
You have to have certain metrics. Depending on what the goal is, the metrics are going to be different. I’m not a fan of major labels. Major labels are for major artists. If you’re an independent artist and you’re growing, I would say stay away from a major. You don’t want to be stuck at the bottom of that totem pole. You want to have that leverage to fight so they pay attention to you.You can basically advertise everywhere, depending on what the goal is. It depends on what you want to do with it. Click To Tweet
Getting a record deal isn’t hard. Keeping your record deal is hard. I shouldn’t say it’s not hard. That was bad. I mean that in a very genuine kind way. It’s hard but it’s not as hard as people think once you set the foundation. Staying on top, present, involved, and keep moving. You do not want to be at the bottom of that totem pole because you’ll get washed behind and they won’t care.Getting a record deal isn't hard. Keeping your record deal is hard. Click To Tweet
As far as managers go, you’ve got to find the right manager that works for you. I work with all sorts of managers of shapes and sizes, all different across the gambit. There are great developing managers. There are great major label managers. When we were working with a manager, he was amazing and wonderful but he didn’t know what to do with an independent Indie band. He only knew what to do once you got signed and did all that stuff. That didn’t help us.
You’ve got to find the right manager. As far as a booking agent, you got to clock those numbers because a booking agent’s only going to make money if you’re selling tickets. Until it makes sense for you to get a booking agent, do it on your own. The same with management. Until it makes sense for you to have a manager, do it on your own. You’ve got this. Anyone can do all this stuff.
That has been my call to arms from the beginning but I get so many comments on my Facebook Ads when I’m promoting a resource or something. The comments are like, “We’re musicians, not business people.”
I hear them but here’s the reality. You learned your instrument by studying, practicing, and building into it. This is no different from learning an instrument. This is just business. Learn the business. Get good at it because all it’s going to do is help you in the long run. If you can learn an instrument, especially the piano or the violin, you can learn anything
Let’s talk about when you’re looking at your data. What do you find is the best way to track your data? How can you utilize that data to turn those numbers into real fans?
I have signed up for every website, Spotify for Artists, and Apple Music for Artists. I look and see where people are converting. I’m looking for not just streams but for you to save, like, share, shazam, and engage with that single. When I see that happening, we look and we go, “Does it fall within a healthy range or does it fall beyond a healthy range or below a healthy range?”
On Spotify, the thing you look at is you look between a 5% and a 10% save rate. If the save rate is between 5% and 10%, you’re in good standing. If it’s above 10%, they’re in good standing. If it’s below 5%, something’s wrong. If they’re in that standing, I always say, “That’s good standings.” You have choices when you’re between 5% and 10%. You can put more money into ads. You can do some more social media.
Sometimes, I’ve seen as high as a 50% save rate, which is pretty wild. That’s like unheard of, especially when you get to the millions of streams. The higher number you get, the lower the save rate typically is. Sometimes you get a track that has 1 million-plus streams and they’ll have like a 40% or 50% save rate. You’re like, “This song’s taking. What can we do now to help support this song?”
A song will raise its hand. When it does, that’s when you have to pour on the gasoline and be like, “Should we do a music video? Should we do a PR campaign? Should we do an overhead music campaign? What other things can we do to promote this because this song has legs?” That’s what we focus on. We push hard until it doesn’t have legs anymore.
A great example of this from a mainstream perspective is Julia Michaels’ Issues. She sat on that song for years. They did remix after remix, tour after tour, and after all these things. They kept pushing it because the song had legs. If the song didn’t have legs, that’s when you move. It’s okay. Not every song is going to work. The majority of songs don’t work. As long as you land between that 5% and 10% save rate and you keep pushing forward, you’re going to be fine.
Is it good practice to email your list of fans and encourage them to pre-save or at least save the song when it comes out? Does that help spark the algorithm?
Yes. I’m not a big advocate of pre-saves. First of all, it wasn’t a Spotify thing until recently. It was a third-party thing that said, “Pre-save the song and we’ll give this out to Spotify.” I’m not a big advocate of pre-saves. They did change that. Where now, pre-save is a Spotify thing. The problem with that is that to even get noticed, you need thousands to tens of thousands of pre-saves. I’ve had artists get 3,000 or 4,000 pre-saves. For an independent, that’s incredible.
For most independents, 300 is good. When you get to 1,000 points, that’s like, “Whoa.” That’s not enough for Spotify to like anything. When you get to the tens of thousands, that’s when they’re like, “This is interesting. Let’s do something with this.” Don’t worry about the pre-save. When it comes out, tell your fans to like and share it because that’s what will help kick the algorithm into gear.
I feel like it was such a big thing pre-saves for a long time.
There wasn’t any data behind it to say that it did anything.
There was an interesting case study with Justin Bieber. He had probably hundreds of thousands of pre-saves for his record. What they found was that everyone that pre-saved his records only listened to the hits. They never got to the second half of the album. The second half of the album was never listened to. It showed that precision didn’t mean anything because they still went after the hits. When was the last time you pre-saved a song and went and listened to it right when it came out on an album? I can’t even tell you one time I’ve pre-saved a song. Maybe Beyoncé.
Often, it will send you an email and remind you that it’s there. Sometimes I would then listen to it that day.
Only once in the entire time I’ve had Spotify and it was for Beyoncé.
Sometimes you feel like you hear all this advice and you don’t know what the truth is behind it. That’s interesting about that case study. I did want to ask about ads since you did mention ads a couple of times. What do you recommend for your artists as far as ads? Do you recommend Facebook and Instagram Ads? Are you trying to drive them to listen on Spotify with those ads or sign up for email lists? What is your opinion about Spotify Ads?
The Marquee Ads are great if you qualify for them. I’m a big advocate of them. The in-studio ads are hit-and-miss. The Marquee Ads work even better when you have a known artist because it’s name recognition. I am a big advocate of them when they make sense. As far as ads for independent artists, Spotify and Instagram are great places to start. Meta Ads are great.
You can also look into Snapchat. You can also look into TikTok. You can advertise everywhere, depending on what the goal is. It depends on what you want to do with it. You always want to run a conversion ad. You always want to track what you’re doing. You never want to run a traffic ad. There are exceptions to that rule. I would say 80% of the time, you want to run a conversion ad because it’s going to get rid of a lot of that bot traffic. It’s also going to collect data for you and therefore, you’ll be able to retarget further down the line and that’s the key.
To me, advertising is a black hole. It makes a lot of sense to advertise when there’s a reason to but it makes no sense to advertise when there’s not a reason to. What I typically tell artists to do is, “Let’s get the algorithms moving naturally, then we’ll throw on the gasoline and the advertising when it makes sense.” If you’re not going to spend consistent money consistently, you’re targeting and not able to retarget. It doesn’t make sense for you to do it. It’s all about retargeting. It’s not necessarily all about the first ad. It’s about the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th, and the 5th ad.
A lot of times, artists think that ads are a solution when they’re not.
I get into this conversation all the time. Digital marketing means I’m going to get you in front of the right people but it’s your job once I get you in front of those people to A) Bring them in and B) Turn them into a fan. That’s the goal. There can be other goals but for most artists, that’s the goal.
You should be able to convert organically first.
You should naturally have that algorithm first. If you don’t, there’s a problem. Something’s wrong with the content and you have to start there because it doesn’t matter. I’ve worked crazy campaigns where we’ve had $500,000 to run ads. It’s fun and you learn a lot. It was a lot of fun working on that project but the reality is, no amount of money is going to change bad content. You can’t pay your way to the top. That’s not how this works. You turn a fan one person at a time and that is the whole point of all of this.
I always felt were not targeting the right people in Spotify Ads. Anyone that’s not paying for Spotify is probably not a hardcore music fan.
I like the Marquee Ads. They work well when you have name recognition. We had a feature track with Jeremih. We spent a ton on the Marquee Ads because Jeremih’s a known artist. They do work and they are effective. If you think about it from another perspective, a Spotify Marquee Ad costs $0.51. It goes to the primary user on Spotify versus Facebook Ads that can run $0.25.
I’ve seen it go quite a bit higher than that but we’re talking US. $0.51 per stream in the US for a guaranteed stream, that’s not a bad conversion. You can get it cheaper but then, you’re also risking it. When you’re advertising off-platform, you don’t know that it’s just Spotify. There are people that, in theory, are interested in Spotify.
Whereas it’s adding another platform into the stack.
A lot of platforms.
Is there anything else that you wanted to let our readers know about data and how you use it to help your artists?
I would help artists, developing artists, or even established artists. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Realize that this stuff takes time. Look at your data and read your data. Let that inform the decisions that you’re making. If something’s not working, it’s okay. Let it go. You can always come back to it later because maybe it’s a timing thing. Sometimes, it means it wasn’t the best piece of content for the time right then and there. It doesn’t mean it can’t work in a couple of years or six months but let the data inform your decisions.
Do you have one centralized dashboard that you used for data or do you log into all the different locations all the time?
I log into all the different locations. This could be me being a little weird. It’s important to log in and see what they’re showing you versus what a third party is ripping because they give you a lot of clues in your data and in their platforms that tell you how to inform things that necessarily third parties won’t tell you.
They’re free. You don’t have to pay for some third-party thing. This has been informative and helpful and even helped me solidify my thoughts about certain data and platforms and things like that. Thank you so much for that. Where can our readers find you online?
You can go to our website ThisIsSharkAttack.com and everything’s there. You can look us up from there.
What about social?
All of them are @ThisIsSharkAttack.
Thank you so much, Madie. This has been great. I appreciate you and all the knowledge that you brought to our readers.
Thanks for having me.
About Madelynn Elise
Madelynn Elyse is the founder and president of Shark Attack Records, a boutique label services company dedicated to taking artists to the next level of their careers by ensuring they have the tools and analytics they need to monetize their art, offering services in campaign strategies, sync/licensing, graphic design, branding, marketing, and more. She oversees the operations of the company, coaching artists to be truly independent, and showing them how to use analytics to grow their careers.