On this episode we have Amy Jayne, an artist and freelance consultant at a number of electronic music labels, including Friction's Shogun Audio, Elevate Records and Technimatic Music. She is also the current label manager at Maraki Records and one of the leading figures in music conferences across Europe.
As an experienced label manager, Amy shares with us a bit of her background in the music industry, as well as some of her techniques on music promotion, radio plugging, DSP's, getting on playlists, creating your brand and much, much more. It's a one hour-long episode filled with some of the best music industry advice we've had on the podcast series so far.
NICK SADLER: Welcome to The Label Machine series where we discuss with our guests how artists and record labels sell music. Today's guest is Amy Jayne. Amy is an artist and label consultant for Shogun Audio, Elevate Records, Technimatic Records, she was named Best of the Rest of the Music Week’s “30 Under 30” list, is a regular industry expert on panels at music conferences such as the Brighton Music Conference, Amsterdam Dance Event and Beats Evolution Conference. She is the current label (manager) at Maraki Records. Amy, how are you today?
AMY JAYNE: I'm very good. Thank you very much. What an intro. This is your life!
NS: Did I say, did I say Maraki Records? Is that how you pronounce it?
AJ: Maraki Records. So yeah, Maraki Records is a UK-based label, which is led by My Nu Leng and FineArt – FineArt is also known as Friction. This is bass house aliens.
NS: Oh, nice.
AJ: So yeah, I've been working with them for quite a while because they were working underneath the Shogun umbrella. And now I'm just kind of doing it on a freelance basis.
NS: Nice. So can you give us a quick rundown of how you got started in the industry up to kind of where you're at now?
AJ: So many, many, many moons ago, I basically got involved in music by just networking. And at the time when I was 16. And I was doing it I didn't even realize it was networking. It was just going out and chatting to as many people in the music industry as possible. And unlike some of my friends, I wasn't really like blessed with the talents of being able to sing or, I'm a crap DJ. But I was always surrounded by talented people and music and I knew I always wanted to get into the music industry. And, but I didn’t know where, I didn't have - I was living up in Newcastle at the time, I was putting on drum bass nights, some were doing well, some weren’t doing as well, putting on dubstep nights. But I just surrounded myself by like artists, managers, artists’ agents, promoters, DJs, and just soaked up as much knowledge as I could from like a really young age. And so after years of losing loads of money as an event promoter up in Newcastle. I've got chatting to Lund electricity from who the founder of possible records. And at the time back in 2011-12, they were looking for a promo system. Now I hadn't had any label experience by that point at all. I kind of blagged my way into the job. But no I didn't, I didn't blag my way - Tony Coleman, I owe it all to him, like he took a chance on me. And so I joined the company, and knew that not that I was in over my depth, but I knew that I was given an amazing opportunity. So again, I just soaked it all up and just threw myself into the job, which led on to me being promoted to Head of Promo. And again, that opened up so many doors, I met you at multiple conferences, I was going out meeting so many people within the industry, and just soaking it all up. And I did and then after Hospital, I did a little stint of freelance, which was a lot of radio plugging and marketing and a bit of press, join Shogun and… as Head of Marketing, and which again, opened up loads of more doors and led me into the label manager role, and I did that for a few years. And now I've taken all of that knowledge from the past decade or so. And I'm throwing it back into my freelance role as an artist and label consultant.
NS: Nice. And so you've really got to experience all parts of the industry and in particular, the promo marketing side which, you know, for me is like, once the music's been made is the most important part because if no one can hear the music, it's just not going to go anywhere. And it's not doing it any justice. Yeah, we need to spread the love and spread the music.
AJ: Yeah, unfortunately good music doesn't sell itself. It's just so busy out there and you got to fight through the noise quite literally.
NS: So as a freelancer, what are your main activities at the moment in the music industry?
AJ: Um, so my two main clients are Shogun and Elevate. So even though I left stepped down as the label manager role... I'm still very much involved with working, with the - because they've got two new label managers there now. They've got Pete who is label manager Shogun and Jess who is label manager Elevate so I work alongside them. I do radio plugging and DSP plugging for them. And generally just kind of like consult on how the campaign should run and stuff like that. So they're my two main clients. And then obviously I've got Miraki, which is label management. So I do everything from kind of like distribution, to getting all the assets ready and communicating with the artists and everything that a label manager has to do. And then I work with Technimatic, I've just helped them launch their own label, which is Technimatic Music. So again, it's just kind of by talking to them about the release strategies, how to make the most out of different avenues, and just pushing people in the right direction. And I think that's me taking the decision to leave, step down as label manager, it was because I was like, hang on, like, I've got all this knowledge. Instead of me just giving it to one person, I'd like to help lots of people. So… But yeah-
NS: I totally relate to that.
AJ: Yeah. But if then it's just like, “Okay, you got to make a business out of this as well. You can't just go around again, giving everyone your secrets and telling everyone exactly what they need to do.” So yeah, but I love it. I love helping people. And… yeah.
NS: So earlier you mentioned you were doing some freelance promotion to DSP’s. So what is like for listeners that don't know, what is a DSP? And then when you say you're promoting to them, what does that look like?
AJ: So DSP is “digital streaming platforms.” So you've got your top three, in my opinion, which is Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer. Amazon Music is also rising in the ranks. Obviously, I work predominantly in dance music, so I go where the listeners are. So yeah, I pitch to the editors, and get placements on the platforms, like New Music Friday, massive drum and bass on Spotify, Apple Music, they got Best of the Week, New in Dance, and Drum and Bass. And Deezer has selected DnB. So yeah, I speak to the curators and update them on all the new music coming through and get placements.
NS: Nice. And as part of the promotion that you offer – because I know especially in club music, that you want to get the music to the DJs that are playing it, like playing on radio, or you know, when we're back out of lockdown, and playing it in clubs and festivals. Do you offer, do you service those DJs as well? Or do you use other kind of companies for that? How does that side of it work?
AJ: Yeah. So obviously, over the past year club promo is not really a thing. But yeah, I use Label Engine, which is full of data that I've collected from over the years. So I have kind of like a “top tier,” and I have kind of like “emerging artists.” And yeah, with dance music, obviously getting that club support is really, really important. So that is a service I offer as well. And yeah… with those things as well, another thing to think about, as well is some DJs have radio shows and podcasts as well. So it's all about making sure that everyone has the music and everyone's in line. Spotify don't like it when you “go on air and not on sale,” as they say. So it's making sure you're ticking all the boxes and keeping everyone happy. And basically getting the music as far and wide as possible.
NS: Yeah, gotcha. So when you - I just thought I had a question I want to go for but… with the current environment of people not going out, how has that affected, or how have you seen that affected the landscape for promoting music to these, to what would traditionally be DJs playing it out in clubs? Like, are they, are they still picking it up? Or like how is that sort of changed in your opinion?
AJ: Well, in terms of the DJs receiving the promos, they are downloading and they're given feedback back, which is always good as well, because even if that they aren't able to play it out in a club, having your Label Engine report, which has your peers feeding back on the music can really boost an artist confidence as well. And it gives you a kind of good judgment because another thing as well is the label wants to know what the peers think as well. So that feedback regardless of whether there's going to be club play is obviously invaluable to the label and to the artist. But in terms of kind of the promotion element of club plays, I… with Elevate Records specifically, because that is very dancefloor, Drum and Bass heavy kind of platform. We, I did, we did struggle last year because it was just kind of like it… all we knew was, we released bangers, get the music out there, get a massive video of a big drop. And then everyone's like, “Oh my god, I can't wait to hear that in a club.”
AJ: How can you sell music which is made for that? Which you can't enjoy in that setting? Like, hopefully by 21st of June… we can try and get back to some normality. But yeah, it has been really difficult this year. Sharing that feeling of “Ah, this is gonna sound so based on a sound system” when people are so mentally far removed from that right now.
AJ: But yeah, we, we just gotta keep going, though, because we will be back in the dance soon.
NS: Yeah, yeah, I mean, and there's only so many running playlists you can kind of add that music to.
AJ: Exactly, exactly.
NS: Or doing the housework playlists. That's what I still put on my drum and bass - running and doing housework.
AJ: Yeah, exactly. And that's, that's another thing, actually, especially with drum and bass. Because like drum and bass, I've been working in drum and bass since I was 20. Like, I know it inside out. But even though, like, it's taken over my life, is still very niche in the grand scheme of things. So like you said, like, in terms of playlists support, people associate it with like high energy stuff by going to the gym. There isn't as much editorial content, the drum and bass I think at the moment, because there's so much music coming out, and only selected eyes to get in represented in the, in the right playlist, which again, getting to the right audience. But that's a whole other interview that I could just say, “hey…”
NS: For the listeners, when you say editorial, what do you mean by editorial?
AJ: So “editorial,” by that I don't mean algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly, or Release Radar, they're based on listening, listener, listeners activity, whereas editorial is someone has physically read the email, read the press release, and made a decision to add that to the playlist based on whatever is going around with that artist. But there's, there's hundreds and like, I'm a freelancer and I have four releases out this Friday, and I'm one person and three out of four, those tracks are drum and bass. Imagine how much other new music is coming out on a weekly basis: it’s great, but these platforms that hold the key to success sometimes - well, especially now - don't have the availability to accommodate... What, of course, they can't accommodate everyone, but at the moment they can't even accommodate the people who need the love and deserve the love, more importantly.
NS: Okay, so I guess keeping on trends. Like, what are you finding is working for artists and labels selling music today? What do you find is and probably even, you know, extend that beyond like COVID, like even pre-COVID, you know, what's moving the needle? What are you finding is moving the needle with selling music?
AJ: Well, I think all in all, if… obviously the music's gotta be great, that goes without saying-
NS: Assuming the music is banging.
AJ: Yeah, of course. But I think kind of… fans love a story. Like don't get me wrong, it could be “Macky Gee – Tour,” it could be an absolute banger and do like 35 million, just out of nowhere, that does happen. But I think for longevity, for an artist success, not just selling one record, you want to sell all of the records is the goal. As an artist, you don't want to be a one-hit wonder. But think you've got to have integrity and a story and connect with your fans, which is not really something that every artist wants to do, but there's different like, I'm not saying they have to jump on stories 24 hours a day, “hey fans, I'm just going to the supermarket!” like some people do that and some people wouldn't dare do that. But you got to do what's right for you as an artist and connect with your fans. Whether that's doing like production tutorials, like being quite, like get into the nitty gritty of making the music or whether that's doing stupid TikTok dances, like whatever your audience wants. You kind of got to get on the same level as them.
NS: I mean, I, you know, I've heard that many times and probably a lot of listeners have heard that as well. You know, like to have a story and create a story. But what are your, you know, what are your tips for say a new artist, who doesn't really have a story? Like, you know, they may be early 20s, you know, they had a good education, like nice upbringing. They started, you know, they got a computer and started making music at home. And they've got some cool music that they want to share with people, like, what would you advise someone like that to kind of, “hey, you want to have a story?”
AJ: Well, everybody has a story, just because it's not like dramatic doesn't mean that they don't have a story. Everyone is influenced by someone, like so that say this individual, you'd say they've had like an okay life, this and that… “Why did they get into production? What? How did they get into production? Did they teach themselves and stuff like that? Like, and why, like, what music has influenced them?” So like simple things, like on your Spotify profile, have a playlist of maybe your back catalogue, but then maybe have another playlist that's showing your listeners, what music influenced you to get to where you are? And stuff like that.
NS: Yeah, I see. I hear what you're saying. Is there any other, just going back to the trends as well, you mentioned earlier that Amazon is sort of picking up recently… Excuse me, that's the sound of East London. Yeah, you mentioned Amazon is now trending quite highly. I mean, years ago, we saw Spotify on the rise and is now number one. Yeah, is I mean, talking about Amazon, is there any others that are you seeing changes in the, in the trends?
AJ: Um, Amazon's obviously gonna continue to grow with Alexa and everything like that, that was, I'm not, that's not a trend that I'm surprised to see. It's just really good to see that they're now getting on the playlist front. Because before, you could just say, “Alexa, play drum and bass” and it will play anything. Whereas now they're obviously going to go down the Spotify route of curating playlist, which will obviously be prioritized.
NS: Just one second… my Alexa picked you up saying it! Alexa, stop.
AJ: Alexa, stop playing drum and bass!
NS: I thought for a second. I was like, I wonder if she's gonna hear you. And she did. That's so funny. Okay-
AJ: See? Exactly. Alexa is playing drum bass everywhere. Whoever listens to this, their Alexa is going to be going mad.
NS: So yeah, that's great to say. So how is the playlist submission working with Amazon, most people are pretty familiar with now with Spotify. How does it work with Amazon?
AJ: So with Amazon, unlike so with Spotify, obviously, through the app, they get inundated with emails daily. So they obviously streamline everything through the app, which is great, because a lot more is, again, a better understanding of how DSPs work and because every artist can pitch their own music it gives it opens it up to so many more producers, however, with Deezer have a form is kind of like a Google Form; Apple Music and Amazon is pitched directly to the editors. So that's just by email, letting them know that the release is coming, if there's any kind of like big features like a radio premiere online support, and again, telling the story of that release and describing it. And one thing that the curators don't ask for but I like to do is because they're, they're very busy people. So you have to make their lives easy for them. I like to highlight where I see the music sitting on their platform. So if it's a drum and bass track to Spotify, I would highlight like master drum bass and things like that. And just, yeah, whenever you're pitching, regardless of whether it's Spotify, Radio One, or UKF, just make everything very clear. And very simple. And that will get you far.
NS: Yeah. So you're saying that Amazon and Apple are familiar in the way you submit to editors? So would you say for, you know, “the average musician” is not quite the right word. But you would probably have to go through, I guess the differences on Spotify, anybody can just go on and submit your playlist. But what you're saying is Amazon is you would probably have to go through someone who has a relationship with the editor, i.e. like someone like you or any kind of service like that.
AJ: Yeah, or a lot of District a digital distribution companies have kind of like a promo arm. I know... They've got a guy called John there who speaks to all the platforms. So it's subject to who your distribution is through as well. But always ask because it's in their favour for your release to do well. So I'm sure they'll help you if they can.
NS: Gotcha. Um, so I guess, what challenges do you find indie labels are facing and the DIY climate of artists that maybe think they don't need a label?
AJ: Well, as technology grows, the floodgates get wider and wider of crap, to be completely honest. Yeah, I think it's great that more and more NDR’s have the opportunities to self released, like, obviously, I'm doing that with Technimatic. They've had an amazing, amazing, three albums with Shogun, and they just wanted to try something new. And like loads of people in Drum and Bass are doing it because you see Alix Perez and all sorts. But yeah, I think and the one thing I find as well, because I speak to a lot of artists that are running their own labels, they, they forget how hard work is. Because there's so much detail, there's the marketing, well, there's obviously getting the music ready in the first place. There's handling the mastering, there's the distribution, contracts and everything. So when they're bogged down doing this, they're having less time to be the creative. So the workload is something they never consider. They think it's really easy, but it's really not. And another thing I see, and I've seen this for years, with artists, moving labels, or self released in or anything like that, sometimes they don't get the right A&R support. This is you have to be paired with someone that understands you and your sound and help get you to where you want to be, which is the whole point of a label. And some labels are just lazy, shall I say, and they’re just like, “Oh, yeah, I'll take that one. I don't like that one.” But that's not what a record label historically is there for, you want to work with someone that is going on: “Well, you can make those changes, can do this, do that” like, that is what a record label’s about. When you're self releasing, unfortunately, you don't get that. I think it's good to have a non-biased opinion - not a “non-biased opinion,” you know, when you've been staring at something too long. And you just need a fresh pair of eyes or ears…
NS: To see the wood from the trees.
AJ: Yeah, exactly.
NS: So and so A&R is, I think traditionally stands for “artists and repertoire.” So that is, what you're saying is if an artist is self-releasing, they're missing out on what or any artists needs to make sure the label is feeding back on the music. So what you're saying is, not just saying “I like that truck, or I don't like that track,” you're saying you need to do this to the track, you need to have this element, you maybe need to take the vocal out or put a vocal in or something. Is that what you're talking about? Yeah,
AJ: Yeah. And then so there's the advice on the music, which is obviously first and foremost. But some artists shouldn't be allowed on social media. Like, some people just need to be slapped and say, like, “what are you doing?” You know, I mean, like, so like, you need someone to guide you on how to handle your presence on social media and beyond. And some people just get it and some people just don't get it at all, and see people getting cancelled for stupid things that they share on the internet, you know, I mean, and…
NS: Yeah, thinking twice…
AJ: Yeah. And if you're too busy, because you're doing everything yourself, you could ruin your career with one Instagram story.
NS: Or one tweet.
AJ: Mm hmm.
"whenever you're pitching, regardless of whether it's Spotify, Radio One, or UKF, just make everything very clear. And very simple. And that will get you far."
NS: So, I mean, I guess that leads on to this question, which is, “Do you think you can have a successful music career without a traditional record label?”
AJ: I can. Yeah. But I think it depends on, it depends on the artist. It depends on like Technimatic, for example, they're not young, 21 year old, they have had releases on multiple labels, they understand how it works, and they're not trying and at the moment, they're focusing on their own releases, which is a good start. They're not trying to bring in new music and do everything all at once. So yeah, I think you can definitely have – well, look at Alix Perez and everyone, like they've absolutely killed it. I think you can definitely have a successful career self-releasing. But I think it depends on where you are in your musical career and what level of help you need.
NS: Yeah, I think that's key is if you're going to do it, you need to have somebody helping you, whether that's a community, you know, something like that we do at The Label Machine, whether it's with a consultant like you, or, or it is like your manager. So you mentioned Alix Perez, you know, I know, Matt, his manager, and I know how hard he works on that label. Like, that's, that's a big part, like Alix praises is doing music, all the actual paperwork, and those bits and pieces that are quite tough. His managers doing that, you know, obviously his managers getting a cut for that. But again, it just illustrates, I think that if you do want to, if you do want to do without a traditional record label deal, you still need help, and you need to find that.
AJ: 100% Yeah. Always got to have the right team around you, whether that's your agent or your artist manager. Otherwise, things can turn very toxic, very quickly. Creatives love a bit of drama.
NS: Yeah, and it does seem to be the more talented the creative, the more drama. Not always.
AJ: I found the opposite. Over the past year, actually.
NS: Oh, really?
AJ: I found that the the pioneers of the scene that I respected – proper gentlemen. and then these 21-year-olds that I've never even heard of send me a tune and expect me to know who they are – that’s just rude as fuck.
NS: Yeah, that's true, actually. I mean, that might be just a more reflection on general society and younger people having a sense of entitlement that didn't exist years ago.
NS: So. I mean, that, again, probably leads on to the next question really well, which is, what rookie mistakes or common problems do you see over and over again, that new or early startup record labels make?
AJ: Labels or artists?
NS: Let's go with, let's go with label. Let's go with labels first. Keep it on the label tab, and then we'll go in and you can feedback on artists making what kind of mistakes they made.
AJ: I'm trying to think. I'm trying to think of labels that have not done things in the correct way, like new labels.
NS: I guess if you're starting a label, what are some challenges you're gonna face? You're an artist, or you've been releasing on other people's labels already, you're not going to do your own one. What kind of challenges are they going to face? And or what mistakes have you seen people make?
AJ: I can't think of any mistakes that people have made. But I think, as with any brand or business, before you start, you've got to kind of understand what the ethos behind that brand is going to be. And that's the same for a label. Like, you don't want to just go around and just scoop up loads of random producers, just because they're looking for an outlet for their music. You want to know like, look at Metalheadz, look at what they've built up over the past 20-30 years.
NS: 25 years?
AJ: It’s more than 25. But yeah, look most of the time around. Yeah, most of them around 25. But like, it's all stemmed from growing a roster and a sound. So if you went to Hospitality, you know, you know what you're going to get, if you went to a Metalheadz night, Critical. People know what that label is all about. And I think you need to really think about that from the beginning. And set kind of like a roadmap of what you want to do. Because otherwise it's just going to be a bit all over the place.
NS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's something I always suggest, as well, like, as part of writing your business plan. Like, what's your story? Why should anybody give a fuck about you, basically?
AJ: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. What do you start? What does you and your brand stand for? Hmm.
NS: So I guess moving to artists, are there any rookie mistakes you've seen artists make?
AJ: Well, we talked earlier on about it being key to have a good team around you. And what I'm seeing, well, I've been seeing it for years actually, is 21-year-olds get their first book in because they did a sitdown rave in lockdown. And then they've got a manager. And this manager doesn't know their head from their arse. They're friends with someone's cousin who's friends with that person who knows Andy C. And it's just like, 20% of nothing is nothing, like don't have people around you that are going to restrict you. And don't feel like you need to have a management contact on your Facebook to be, to be successful because that means fuck all, and no one cares. Right?
NS: So what you're saying is some, basically, someone's getting like an inexperienced manager or someone who's just keen to get into music industry and say-
AJ: That goes for agents as well…
NS: “I'm gonna be your manager.” And really, they have no context and no experience in doing it. Yeah, don't sign up. Because I guess then that you have to deal with that manager. And that's frustrating for you.
AJ: Yeah, exactly. And I've seen, I've seen it on both sides. I've seen artists not get represented enough because their manager has been doing a rubbish job. I've dealt with managers, which I've had to turn around and go, what are you doing even managing this person? If you don't know this question that I'm asking you? So yeah, it goes, like goes back to what we were saying earlier on, you have to have a team around you to help you to get where you want. But it has to be the right time. And it has to be the right people.
NS: Awesome. Okay, so I'm gonna move on to some music trend questions. We sort of covered this a little bit earlier with record sales, where are you finding royalties are coming from across the major platforms, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Tidal?
AJ: Spotify is obviously the leading one. Apple Music is second. And probably this time last year, I was seeing the Spotify streams, Apple Music streams were roughly for the artists I was working with about half of what Spotify was. But that was mainly because Spotify has wider territory. Apple is big in America, Americans don't quite get drum and bass properly. I mean, they get like, there's so many different sub, sub genres, some performs well over there, some doesn't. I've noticed that that is probably now is about three quarters. So Apple Music is just growing and always will. And Amazon, like we touched on earlier is growing. Spotify, like Spotify is like, a household name, isn't it? Like, your mom probably doesn't know what Amazon Music is or understand what that is. But if you say Spotify, she will know exactly what that is. So yeah, Spotify will hold the key continue to hold the key for quite some time.
NS: You heard it here first.
AJ: And then well, they're currently in Parliament arguing about “what is a stream?”
NS: Yeah. I mean…
AJ: Is it a license?
NS: Yeah, I do hope that it goes in the favor of musicians.
AJ: Well, we can live in hope. But Tory government aren't exactly helping us that much really, are they?
NS: No, no. They're usually on the side of the corporations. But we shall see. Speaking of Spotify, what have you been finding works for you to get on Spotify playlists? And not the? I mean, yeah, I guess so from a, from the official curated playlists to the privately curated playlists.
AJ: So the algorithmic, the non-algorithmic?
NS: Yeah. So what do you what what would you say works better for trying to get on the algorithmic? And what do you what do you think works for getting on the private playlists?
AJ: Well, I've got a good tip for algorithmic playlists, which is so simple that when I tell people and they don't know it, I'm like, “it's common sense.” But it's not. So whenever we do a release, artists have their own curated playlists within their profile. And again, I’m talking about like, that, in itself, is content. And it's a way to talk, to show what that artist is about, whether that new music of the moment they like or influences or anything like that, too. One key thing, I always, without a shadow of a doubt, get an artist to do before a release is a couple of weeks before, ideally, consistently leading up to the release, drive as much traffic to your profile as possible. Because if you can drive someone to listen to a track on your, on your artist profile a couple of weeks ahead, the bigger the chances of the algorithm picking that up, and then your releases appearing in their Discover Weekly and Release Radar going forward. And it's such a simple thing, if there is an algorithm, work with the algorithm and take people there, so it picks them up. So that's my top tip for algorithmic playlists. A little light bulb went off, you’re just like-
NS: No, no, I mean, it's, it's, I mean, it's something that I've been… Likewise I say, “hey, drive people to Spotify, because Spotify want to see people on Spotify, and they will reward you for that. So I totally, I totally get that. And the little light bulb went off as I just kind of thought, a couple of artists I've worked with on their first release. It's actually done better than this second, and I think, and I think, I wonder if that's because they'll say, “Hey, I'm on Spotify, I've got the Spotify stuff,” they're driving everybody to Spotify, the second release, because they're not newly on Spotify, and they're maybe talking about other platforms, that whole kind of like momentum, because momentum from zero to 100 listeners like 100%, you know, where your momentum from 100 to 120, the algorithm is going to go “hmmm, it’s maybe not the same.” And I was thinking, yeah, that might be a big reason for it. So that's a great tip. And what about for the privately curated ones?
AJ: So obviously, getting home, getting through to an editor, however that will be, whether that's pitching through Spotify, or having your label pitch to the platform, or however you're going to do it. And like I said, with pitching… you want your information to be clear, you want a streaming link, so they can listen within the email or within whatever you're pitching on. So it's all nice and simple. And again, telling the story of the release. So I always say you have to kind of like “tick all the boxes” with a release campaign. So you've got your single, make sure you lock in your radio premiere, your online premiere, your launch date, and everything like that. And give them a quick rundown of that. And obviously you do the club promos, they this has been feat’d. This has been supported by Friction, Chase & Status, highlight in all the… obviously don't send an email with like, all of the artists that have replied to the promo. Use your brain, go “Right, well, that person performs well on Spotify. So I'm gonna pick that one or that one person's performs well on Amazon, that kind of thing. And don't copy and paste, like the pitch, to all different platforms. Make sure you tailor it like simple things like with Spotify, making sure that you're highlighting what playlists that would work well with. Make it easy for them, because they're inundated with emails and messages every day. So the easier that you make it for the person to absorb the better.
NS: Yeah, I hear you on that. And with the, when you're talking about sort of what you're doing on the marketing side and having your like key premieres, would you say if you've got almost like a press release, having underneath that, you'd have like, a short list of what you're doing, like just saying, “hey, like, this is what we're doing on the marketing stuff,” and just making that available to them? Yeah,
AJ: Yeah. Like anything. Like it's an album, if you've got an album launch party, when touring starts back up, again, highlighting key territories like – don't have to, again, you don't have to highlight that you're playing in room two in like some student union in Oxford. But like, say, I've, I've warmed up for Wilkinson… so it’s using your brain, picking out the highlights and making it digestible and making yourself look amazing.
NS: Name dropping.
NS: Have you used SubmitHub? Would you have used it? Would you recommend it?
AJ: SubmitHub? Is that the one where you, so you click to submit your track, and then it automatically makes you follow all of those crap playlists.
NS: No, I was getting to ask on the next questions… SubmitHub. So it's a curated list of playlists across Spotify, and YouTube and, and SoundCloud, and you submit your music, and then they have to listen to at least I think 30 seconds or 40 seconds. And then they get paid. You buy credits, and then they get paid, like 50 cents or something for listening and providing feedback. So they're kind of getting rewarded. And then if they listen to check me out, I really like this. And they click support. They say yeah, I'll upload this to my, like my Spotify playlist, or I'll feature it on my SoundCloud account. It's, I mean, we've used it before and it's, it's pretty cool. I just wasn't sure if you'd come across it before.
AJ: No, I've not heard, I've not used or heard of that one, actually, but with third-party playlist, again, it's just doing your research. Like there's loads there's, there's a drum play, a drum and bass playlist called Freshest DnB by a guy called Simon who's been growing that over the past two years, and he did it by just really doing a thread in 174. Facebook group every Friday as a “new releases.” And then someone went, “hey, you should make this into a Spotify playlist.” And he did and that's now got nearly 13,000 followers and is basically like one of the key places that real drum and bass fans go.
AJ: Do your research, keep your finger on the pulse, and connect with these people. It's all part of the networking is the same as if with radio. If someone got a new radio show and they were playing the kind of stuff that you're selling, then you'd obviously reach out to that person and be like, “Ah, I see what you did there. You should have a listen to this.” You’ve got to have your finger on the pulse all the time.
NS: Finger on the pulse. Now I'm sure that you don't use these. But what's your thoughts on companies that are saying, I will guarantee you 100,000 plays or I will guarantee you'll get on 50 playlists. Like I know you're a professional, so you wouldn't have used them. But have you worked with any artists that have tried using those and what their experiences were?
AJ: I've had a couple of artists ask me if I'm going to be using it like, going “hey, you should use this.” And I'm like, “NO.” Because as far as I'm concerned, they're not… What's the point, they're like fake, kind of like fake streams. Yes, you get paid for it. But you realistically you want to build an audience that are engaged and that are going to come back and they're going to follow you. Being added to random playlists, just for the sake of being in there that aren't really going to convert that many streams seems like a complete waste of time to me. And plus, I have seen them where like it, you have to log in with your Spotify, because I think I tried one a couple of years ago when it was still really new. And I was like, “Oh, what's this?” And then I was like, “hang on, Techstep 1984?” I'm like “what are all these playlists that just randomly appeared?” And it just yeah, it's not… the reason why those playlists have got big numbers is because you have to follow it to get yourself in there.
NS: It's all vanity numbers, isn't it?
AJ: Yeah. Yeah. It's like buying Facebook likes. I don't know if that is a thing anymore. And then trying to get bookings off the back of fake Facebook likes, huh?
NS: Yeah. Well, you'll get- you might get some bookings, but no one's going to show up.
AJ: Exactly. Yeah.
NS: Blogs, are they still relevant?
AJ: I mean, every kind of exposure for an artist is relevant. I think it just depends on whether you have the resources… to reach those. So if I was to prioritize promo, I would prioritize radio and streaming over blogs. Because Yeah. It's just… reaches a wider region. With blogs, like you might get, you might get the stream or buy link added to the blog. But realistically, people probably listen to the YouTube embed, and then skip off and then you've lost that. You’ve lost that fan, then. But um, but yeah, we're still definitely relevant. Because like, it's a good thing, especially for emerging artists, like the UKF blog, you've got Magnetic Man, they do their top drum and bass things every month, is definitely still relevant. It's just not everyone has the resources to put equal amount of love into all of those platforms.
NS: Yeah, I guess it can be used as a stepping stone like, “Hey, I was featured on this blog and then trying to get somewhere else.” Yeah. paid advertising. So running ads, promoting music across Facebook and Instagram. What works for you? Any failures?
AJ: Video content will always be king. In terms of reach, engagement, and even as organic content, let alone paid. I'm finding that if you can put little amount, little amounts on and kind of, because I know some people when it comes to paid advertising, they get into auto mode. And they're like, “right, I've got an ‘out now’ video, chip 50 quid on it.” And then they forget about it. And one thing I will always say is start off small, and watch it and change your audiences. Because one thing which Facebook is particularly great for is renting all your money. So you have an add-on for 50 quid, and for five days, starting from Monday, on Wednesday, I'll have a look at it. And it's had like 10 clicks, and it's only spent about 20%. But then it magically spends the other 80% in a day. So yes, smaller amounts. Keep an eye on your analytics, change your audiences throughout the campaign. And don't go too wide on your audiences as well because especially with Facebook pages, some of them are so dead and you're going to be targeting people that are not gonna engage or click through to your page or anything like that.
NS: So when you say to, and when you say changing audiences to a campaign, do you mean setting up a different audience? And like, do you change it within the campaign? Or do you create a new campaign and go, we're now going to target these audiences? Do you have audiences saved that you keep using?
AJ: Yeah. So always, always, always set up a bespoke audience. Whether that is you for yourself, or you with a roster of artists, always make sure it's tailored to the tee. What I always advise on Facebook, because of the way that Facebook and Instagram restricts your own followers seeing your content. A good tip, actually, is to put a very small amount on the post, say this is a boosted posts, and put a small amount on it first. So it reaches all your audience, and your audience already follows you, they already liking. So they're probably more likely to engage, or even just click the like button. And then when you turn it to what is called a cold audience - so people that don't follow you - when they see the post, which has had all this engagement on it and looks like a popular post, these cold audiences are going to be more susceptible to engaging with that post. What people won't do is engage with a post which has got zero likes and comments, they're just going to see it as spam. But something with lots of engagement on already will perform better.
NS: Gotcha. So what you're using is, within Facebook, when you create an ad, you can create an ad with a piece of content that's already been posted on your page. So what you're saying is that's been posted, you've done a little boost to build up your organic and then you go “I'm now gonna turn that into an ad and go there to the cold audience.”
"Video content will always be king. In terms of reach, engagement, and even as organic content, let alone paid."
NS: That's a, that's a great tip. Social media, social media platforms. So YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, etc. What are you finding these days are getting the best response from fans? And are you using TikTok yet? Well, are your fans using TikTok? Not your fans, sorry, are the artists you work with using TikTok yet?
AJ: So I set up a TikTok for Elevate (Records)… last March. And by June, I had 10,000 followers by not really doing much.
AJ: It was pretty much, I was essentially just posting drop videos. And like, I posted one of Friction playing in his headline show in London, which happened last March. And then like forgot about it, because I don't use TikTok, I'm not a TikTok user. And I kind of forgot about it. And then I went back when I was like, “oh yeah, let's check that post.” And then I was like, “Oh, shit, that post is had 500,000 views.” I was like, “What the hell?!” And it’s all based on like, if you get on that, well, what was Instagram’s version of the Discovery page. I think it's called Explore on TikTok, or Made For You / For you page.
NS: Yeah. It's kind of like it's just keeps scrolling past you as you keep scrolling up.
AJ: Yeah. And like, I know, TikTok have gotten a lot of trouble in America and what not, because it is based on hashtags and algorithms. Like if I go on there now, it's just like “drum and bass, drum and bass, drum and bass, drum and bass” or bassline, and someone listed it as drum and bass. And I'm just like…
AJ: But it's a mad platform, is crazy. Like, I was like, I don't need another one. I made 30. I don't need- and like, they're all really young. And plus, when you've got them play like bassline, and they're like, “I love drum and bass,” is just like, “oh, cringe!” But yeah, a lot of younger artists are using it. And it is… It is quite engaging for a young audience. Me personally, I don't use it. But one thing I will say is, at the time, when I was doing the TikTok, it was more I was just experimenting with it for Elevate and one thing I did see quite clearly is what the content that I was putting out on TikTok for Elevate, I couldn't put the same content on Instagram.
NS: When you say you can’t, what did you mean?
AJ: So the content that I was putting out on TikTok felt like it was aimed to a young… towards a younger audience. It was a little bit more slapstick comedy. So like I remember that Friction had a new tune out and I got a video of you know, there's cheese – where they chase the cheese roll down the massive hill. And there was a bit where a woman like fell and rolled over, and I timed it on the drop. And I posted that.
NS: I remember that one. I saw that.
AJ: I posted that on TikTok and like that, they loved it. Whereas if I posted that on Instagram, I think it's not really like the right audience for Elevate on there, they'll they want rock videos, they want big react stuff, they don't want stuff which is too overly cheesy. And as a brand we don't want to come across cheesy either. So it's just kind of like exploiting the platform and their audience and giving them what they want. They're like Shogun on the flip side of that, we never got really- well, there is a TikTok Shogun, but only so we have the domain and it links to the Instagram so if people do look up Shogun on TikTok, at least they're directed to where the content is.
AJ: As a company umbrella, we didn't go, “Right, TikTok is big. So Shogun, you need to be big on TikTok.” It was really like, “Oh, hang on, it doesn't really work for this brand. But it could work more for this.” So yeah, to cut to, basically, to sum that up, don't think because a platform is new and shiny and because people are talking about it that you, as a brand, have to automatically jump on there. Yeah, have a little look like I did…
NS: But if you do, you'll get 500,000 plays on your drop video!
AJ: I know. I know. But like it depends what you're about, isn't it? Like, I can't imagine Doc Scott doing like, going on TikTok and building a following and doing TikTok dances you know, I mean, so as with everything within marketing and in the digital world, is it right for your brand?
NS: So okay, maybe give it a go see if it's working. If it is, keep going; if it's not, focus on that another one of the platforms that it's working for… Sync deals, rear sync deals, have you found ones that work?
AJ: Um, well, I got a very successful sync deal. And which was back in 2018. So I was lucky enough to bag that Kopparberg advert. Kopparberg cider…
NS: Oh, yes. Kopparberg cider, yeah.
AJ: I was chatting to them. They wanted… I can't remember the name of the original. “I need your loving…” Right. But what-
NS: I remember like the hardcore version that came out in like the 90s. With this cheesy piano line. That song, though.
AJ: Yeah, well, we got, we put it towards some Shogun artists and got them to do a rework. We worked with an ad agency on that. And they had a very specific brief of what they wanted. And working with Harry Bryson, who is one half of Pola & Bryson. And an amazing singer called Cimone, we did a up to date version of, that version is called “Everyone's Got to Learn Sometime” by Abacus. And, yeah, we secured the deal for the TV ads, cinemas, and everything on that, which was massive. And there was a 30-second ad and a 60-second ad. And they rolled on that deal for three years.
AJ: We were allowed to release the record, we put out on vinyl. It was quite funny, actually. Because we didn't know that it rolled over another year. And then all of a sudden, it was like number 10. It was like number nine in the iTunes chart two years after release. And I was like, “Oh, the adverts back on then.”
NS: That's good. Another royalty check?
AJ: Yeah, and like that's done really well. Um…
NS: So that's done over that would be over five figure. Five figure deal.
AJ: Ah, Yes.
NS: Oh, yes… And so, and how did, so how did that actually come about? Like, how did you, how did it come about that? Do you say you spoke to an ad agency, did they reach out?
AJ: I actually… that came about because I was actually speaking to a gentleman that worked at Apple Music. I was talking to them about the Pola & Bryson album actually it was and yeah, we were just chatting and he said that he had this friend that really wanted a drum and bass remix, and he connected us and I played in some stuff from different artists from the Shogun label. And he was like, “Yeah, get some demos over.” We sent them a couple of demos to choose from, from different artists. And they settled on Abacus, which was great.
NS: Oh, lovely. Very nice networking.
AJ: The advert is great as well, it's called… 2018 I can't remember, um, bring the out, bring the outside indoors? Kopparberg, it's got loads of kites and stuff. It's a really good advert.
NS: That would be pretty relevant now. Bring the outside indoors.
AJ: Yeah. Bring the indoors outside.
NS: Yeah, sorry. That's it. Yeah. Um, so yep. Final question is, if you had to run a typical single release, you had a six week lead until release date? How would you, how would you run your single marketing campaign?
AJ: Right, well, obviously, you needed to get it delivered, get it in the system as soon as possible, once distribution have delivered it to the stores… You got to then obviously, do your pitch in. Well, before that you would probably got – I started answering this question. Like, it's not something that I do every...
NS: I think it's because, you know, everything to be done. It's like, “where do we start again?”
AJ: Obviously, you need to get the music to the stores.
NS: So we've got to distribute. So it's on distribution, you've got your release date on, let's say, May the 1st, you know, it's coming up that date, you're like, right now, how are we going to get everybody to listen to it on that release date?
AJ: Yeah. What I always do is I build a Google timeline with the artist, which breaks down week by week building up to the release, and afterwards and say, I said it earlier on, about “ticking all those boxes,” so promo, and radio and playlist plugging, I say, I always say it's like an equilibrium reaction. So radio, want to know, what press is saying about it, and what and what previous support it’s had, whether that's other radio shows, or DSPs, or whatever; DSP’s want to know whose supporting out on radio, and this that the other… it's all about getting the timing right. Generally, I always lock in my radio premieres first…
AJ: Just because obviously, you've got… you want your radio premiere to happen on a specific date. And say, with this drum and bass, say, for example, I get… to premiere it on the Tuesday of the week of release. So then you get that locked in, your online premiere, say, that's with UKF, Drum&BassArena, whatever, whatever kind of platform you're going for. And I always lock them to our first, basically, because it's a date wise thing. You need a specific date. So the earlier you get it to them, the more likely you are going to secure the date that you want. And then once you've got all that information, and you've got your press release, and everything all nailed, then you can start spreading it out to what I call VIP press. But back in the day, it was just called print press, because you had to make sure that you're getting the press to meet print deadlines, which is obviously not as much of a thing now. And then you start getting out. And like we discussed earlier on, if you've got Label Engine or Inflyte, or any kind of promo service like that, you want to get it out to your peers and get some feedback from them. Because that can all feed back into this main pitch. And then once you start getting it all out and getting all this feedback, and you kind of build a picture of the release, who's supporting it, and where it's going to go, then you can do your DSP picture. And then obviously, there's everything else that will come with that in terms of “Is there a music video you’re doing?” “What kind of content are you doing online to tie it all together?” So then you need to get then delve down onto the kind of like nitty gritty of the marketing and social campaign and your budgets for ad spend or whatever. Yeah, there's a lot to do.
NS: There was a lot to do.
AJ: So much so that I forgot for a brief second.
NS: And are you like, and that's obviously leading up to the release? Is there anything that you always do? Like 100% without shadow of a doubt after release date? So the tracks out what are you doing for the two to two to three weeks following it?
AJ: So generally on release day, I am making sure that so, not only is it important to get kind of like editorial support, but it's good to give yourself a little digital spring clean. If you're a label, you want to make sure that those new releases are in your back catalogue playlists and stuff like that. So on Friday generally do this on like, make sure your SoundCloud upload is up to date with all the ISRC details so you can monetize on Soundcloud and then YouTube if you're having a premiere elsewhere that you're going to put it up on your own channel and monetize that after the exclusivity period. So make sure you've got all that lined up, because again, it's all content that you can share on social media. And yeah, I also… streaming platforms like Spotify, obviously, because they do. Because they do the pitching through the app. It's harder to do, they do like follow up stuff. But if there is key support, or anything that is newsworthy, then follow up with the DSPs after, if you haven't got support in the first time, just because if basically, if there's more to the story that you can tell, drop them a little courtesy email and just let them know. Because there's like, we were talking about earlier on, there's a lot of competition out there. And just because they missed out on release day doesn't mean that they won’t support later down the line.
NS: Gotcha. Amy, that has been amazing. It has been incredibly valuable. Super insightful. Thank you so much for sharing that. Everything. Where can people find you? Where online can they find you? If someone wanted to work with you? Where's the best place for them to go?
AJ: Um, so my work email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm on Twitter at @MissAim, and same on Instagram as well.
NS: Awesome. Yeah, I will definitely be recommending anybody who is looking for any kind of club music promotion to come your way or someone to help run their label. Thank you again for your time. Amy.
AJ: Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.