On this episode Nick sits down with Benji Stein, artist manager and founder of PlaylistSupply, the foremost playlist search tool used by major and indie artists alike.
With a background in graphic design, Benji has built quite the portfolio working early in his career for music industry giants such as Roc Nation and Red Light Management. He has gone on to develop PlaylistSupply as a way of helping independent artists build connections with curators on Spotify and promote their music in a fast, efficient and inexpensive way.
Join Nick and Benji for an hour-long discussion on Spotify playlists, outreaching, music promotion, artist management, social media for musicians and much more.
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 Benji Stein. Benji is a creative director and the founder of PlaylistSupply, a online platform that offers state-of-the-art research to help managers and artists find the best playlists for their music. He's worked at some of the respected music companies in the industry, such as Red Light Management and Roc Nation, and has a wide range of talents as both a designer and manager, making him a true multi-hyphenate in the music industry. Benji, how are you today?
BENJI STEIN: I'm. I'm doing great. Thank you for that introduction. I was, I'm, I appreciate it. I'm a, I'm grateful for all the kind words and the accuracy. And, yeah, I'm excited to be here.
NS: Awesome. And where are you calling in from?
BS: I'm calling in from Los Angeles. I live in the Valley, Encino, to be a kind of by Lake Balboa. Right now, the company is kind of working out of here, too. And so, yeah, that's, that's where I'm coming from.
NS: Awesome. So you were born and now you're here talking to me. Tell me what happened in between.
BS: So I actually grew up not too far from where I'm at right now. I grew up in Van Nuys, which is just kind of like a little bit a few miles away from where I am now. Deeper into the Valley. And yeah, I, I, I was born and raised out here. I went to school out here. And so, I don't know, I'd always kind of been surrounded by that, that, you know, the L.A. kind of music scene in high school.
I was going, I was going to the Low End (Theory) and like sneaking in back when they had the pass where you could get into Low End for five bucks. And then I'd like, you know, a few years later became ten bucks. And so I remember seeing, you know, Flying Lotus before he had blown up and, you know, all kinds of like really, really, really cool L.A. artists and yeah, I remember when Good Kid Bad City came out and like driving to high school and like listening to that.
And so very kind of typical L.A. Valley music listener-type upbringing. And I think when I really started kind of getting involved in music in a more serious way was I had a couple of friends who were kind of starting to try and, you know, start their music careers. One was a producer making kind of really interesting Mr. Carmack style beats, and he was also doing he was also tracking rappers.
And another friend of mine was kind of a singer songwriter and a rapper, and both of them were kind of trying to get their music out there. And at the time I was like, I was like one of the people in my friend group that was like first test Reddit, first to Instagram. And so I really understood social media and I was like, you know, I'll start by helping you guys with the social media stuff and you know, that's, that's like kind of a I didn't know what a music manager was. I didn't know anything about the music business. It started out as just helping a couple of friends and, you know, you start figuring out what the distribution platforms are and you start looking into, okay, what, where these like, Tumblr blogs. At the time, Tumblr was really popular for some music kind of going viral and yeah. And that, that was kind of the start of it all and that kind of in college grew into me starting like a little bit of an independent record label where I was managing releases and kind of just actually managing like a small roster of artists.
And yeah, that, that was kind of like, like I in college, I studied graphic design and I studied marketing, but there was nothing that I really felt passionate about putting those skills towards. That wasn't music. I always felt like, at least in my life, music was some of the most influential artwork. Like there was times when I like my first. One of the first concerts I went to was a Def Leppard concert my parents took me to and I just like it left such a lasting imprint on me like, you know, my, my dad took me like right to the front row and I was, you know, and that was like that was just like first crazy concert rock and roll experience.
And then I remember, I remember falling really deep to black hippie and all of the L.A. hip hop music. And I remember in college during like the early angsty kind of period, I remember music kind of getting me through this like weird, youthful period where you don't know what life is going to be like. And the only thing I needed was my headphones and I was like, “all right, the world could end and I'll be okay.”
And so when I, when I was like studying marketing and I was studying kind of like the, the way that digital marketing is opening up and graphic design. The only thing I wanted to do was put that towards working with musicians and trying to get my friend's music out there. And yeah, that kind of took a little bit more of like an official path when a couple of the artists that I was working with that initial producer started to become pretty successful.
And I also kind of like I, you know, I took some of this small, like, like indie roster and some of the stuff that I'd started and I had leveraged it into getting me my first internship, which was at Red Light Management. And then after that I ended up working with a whole bunch of different labels doing like, you know, as a part of marketing teams.
And I worked at Roc Nation under Davis for a little bit. She's kind of like a she's kind of like an executive producer and she handles a lot of the tours, documentaries. And I was doing like graphic design for pitch decks, and I was just helping her do logistics stuff. And, you know, that kind of thing was like one of those jobs where you just kind of like you just that was how I started to see all the cogs behind everyone's favorite music works and how these things get planned.
And yeah, more recently I've worked with a whole bunch of really cool artists. I manage a singer, songwriter, producer, I manage indie rock band that's doing really cool stuff right now. They just signed to Fat Possum, Luminol and yeah, they, you know, they started playing music like a year ago. I like, went really crazy with the marketing thing and, you know, they're doing, they're about to do their first UK Europe tour. They're on Billboard, they're on Pitchfork. And yeah, it's, it's all the stuff I was doing before. It kind of just evolved as the industry evolved and I learned a bit more and yeah, and that kind of came to PlaylistSupply, which is my most recent project, probably the project that's growing the fastest.
And you know, I had a lot of experience working my way kind of into a position where I was working with artists that were higher tier and, you know, working with managers that are kind of managing these big acts. And I got to see from the back-end how the whole playlist thing it's kind of a gray area where artists, especially indie artist, get taken advantage of.
And, you know, it's, it's it's a crazy world out there with Spotify having such a monopoly on the entire streaming world. And then all of you know, Spotify’s real resources being leveraged directly by big record labels that have huge budgets. It kind of just evaporates any opportunity for indie artists, and it's crazy how dependent numbers are. And that's another thing that playlist thing kind of became really important initially because people were trying to drive numbers up and you know that A&R instinct that I kind of learned about when I first cut my teeth in music is completely gone. It's like, people want to see your Spotify monthly listeners and they want to have tested appeal before they invest in an artist kind of like a stock. And these labels are only looking for safe investment. And so, you know, if you're a new artist trying to break it and, you know, it's real easy to get wrapped up into some playlist company that's going to give you some streams, that's going to make you feel like you have a better chance at making it.
And so it's yeah, it's really interesting. Things have gotten more accessible and with that accessibility comes more saturation. But it's like people, you know, start a band or they put a song on Distrokid or SoundCloud and they don't always know what they're up against. And yeah, I kind of came from indie management and the indie artist world and then bridged into into the more official like, quote unquote “music industry.”
And I'm like, I'm like still like an indie manager at heart. I like, I like management because it's something where I can walk into a label and I can still make sure the artists gets what they need. I'm not like I'm not, I'm, I'm not I don't feel like I'm on like the label side, you know what I mean?
NS: I, I'd have to say as well, being able of being like a talented graphic designer, it's such an asset to having a manager, such- you either want your manager to be a lawyer or a designer.
BS: Exactly. Those are those are the two like like I can't tell you how many times there was some creative asset or, you know, the album artwork was the wrong size, and it's like, okay, I've been using Photoshop for ten years. This is going to take me one minute. Or I could hit up the graphic designer, get two days turnaround and 100 bucks, 1000 bucks.
NS: Yeah, oh, we just did it. We took the design of the tour process fallen through. We need something by tomorrow. Okay. I guess I'll cancel my plans tonight.
BS: Exactly. No, it's with merch. Like the merch pile thing is, is always super difficult if someone doesn't know how to prepare the files for merch and it's just like, I can't tell you. It's countless times it's been a, it's been a lifesaver. And it's also an incentive for people to work with me in particular, yeah, I've directed music videos, I can, I can play multiple roles, which saves money and that's yeah.
NS: That's all you need out in the world.
NS: So I'm switching over to PlaylistSupply and Spotify playlist... Can you give us a rundown of what your main activities are at PlaylistSupply?
BS: Absolutely. And so I was kind of just touching on it at the end before, but basically PlaylistSupply started… I was working, I was like working as a part of a management team for a couple of larger acts. And I was helping more specifically with marketing, and we were doing a, we were doing a ton of playlisting and I was not happy with the results we were getting.
And something we were doing internally was we had people on our team kind of doing what PlaylistSupply does, but manually. And what that is, is it goes onto Spotify, it looks in the description of public playlists and it looks if there's a contact information like an email or Instagram handle or a Twitter handle, and I had a couple of people who would work on this for a few hours a day, and we'd get a handful of playlist contact information.
And, you know, when COVID hit and the pandemic kind of really settled in, all of the artists I was working with had their shows canceled. It looked like the music industry was about to collapse. It was it was like it was seeming really dark. And so at that time, this manager, this label, all the people I'm working with are like, “we need to go harder on digital. How do we leg in on streaming? How do we like take streaming to the next level? Because touring is indefinite, canceled.” And so I was thinking, okay, we have this system we've been doing that's working. What if we try automate it? And so I have a really close friend of mine who's my co-founder for PlaylistSupply, and he's a big booking agent in Europe for mostly techno and electronic acts. And he manages a couple acts too, and he was having the same thing. He was like, This whole genre is dependent on shows. I need a way to grow their streams when they're doing no shows. And we, we found a couple coders on freelancer.com. I basically just explained to them the system that my team was doing.
And within a few weeks we had like a workable software on my computer. And at first I just kind of gave it out to a few my friends who are big managers, to people at Mavericks and people I create and all kinds of people to get like beta test information and all the feedback we got was like, “This is next level. You got to make this available to more people. You got to make this available to indie artists.” And yeah, that's basically what we did. We made the software like an online search tool, and the way it works is anyone can sign up. It's $20 a month and you get access to like Google or Bing but exclusively for Spotify playlists.
And now what previously would take my team a few hours, you can go to PlaylistSupply, you can type in Cloud Rap or some, you know, some new trend or new kind of genre. You'll get hundreds of playlist contacts in just like a few seconds, it's, it's like lightning fast. And so you can spend more time emailing curators, doing outreach, and less time trying to hunt down who these people are, what playlists they have, and yeah, that kind of thing.
NS: Gotcha. I mean, so I get my next question and I think I know the answer now is how do you keep the playlist database up to date? But so correct me if I'm wrong, you don't actually it's not actually someone manually your machine copying onto a spreadsheet you've access to, it's actually pulling up from Spotify, is that right?
BS: Exactly. So a lot of the existing like playlisting services and companies, they would use like a like a list that they had from before or list of people they know. And the difference between most of those and PlaylistSupply is that PlaylistSupply in real time. Search Engine. If we make a playlist right now and it's, you know, and it's called like Supreme Rock and Roll after that playlist is made, songs are added.
It's had time to, you know, be indexed into the Spotify. It'll show up next day next hour whenever it gets published on PlaylistSupply. And so that allows us, you know, we don't have like a database or a finite number of playlists that we update. Every time you run a search, you get fresh results. It's like it's literally a real time search engine for Spotify playlist.
And that's really cool because you can do things that are super current. You can work with old songs. Yeah, like, like if there's a TikTok trend that's going up, you can catch a list all the playlist curator list to get updated. And it's also just you can cast a wider net. Some of the record labels that use PlaylistSupply aren’t working on huge budgets and they can export thousands of playlists and they can reach out to thousands of playlists using email software like GMAC or MailChimp. And yeah, there's, there's a whole bunch of ways to use it. But yeah, it's basically it's a real time search engine.
NS: That's amazing. I, you know what? I don't know if you need to update your home page, but I think that should be front and center as you're kind of USP because I wasn't actually aware of that. But it's it's actually real time pulling because that's yeah, that's amazing. That's incredible. You've built that and make so much more sense because you know, you're not, you know, it's it's fresh and relevant. So when you know it is pulling this information and it doesn't need, I guess, to be public, like what kind of information is being pulled from there? Like if I was to use the software, what kind of stuff can I expect?
BS: So it pulls basically all of the public data points, everything you can see when normally looking at a playlist. And then it also pulls some kind of metadata details that are really interesting. If you run a typical search on PlaylistSupply, you're going to get the follower count, which is one that, you know, that's like a common one. People want to see the playlist with the most followers or they want to sort by how many followers. And we've also got popularity. That's a data point that's not like super publicly available. It's kind of a metadata point. Spotify shows this on desktop with like a little like a little meter. But basically what popularity is, is it's like a it's like an average of all the songs in the playlist and Spotify assigns a score to each song on how it's doing popularity-wise listens playlists.
And so a playlist that has a high popularity score is going to be, you know, say it has a really high one, could be all really big songs, really successful songs. If it has a really low one, it might be a playlist that's filled with songs that, you know, no one's heard of or haven't got a lot of streams. And that's a really cool one because that's a data point that allows users to kind of filter and go through and determine if playlists are quality or not.
There's a couple of other data points. There's “last modified,” which is when the playlist was last changed, a song added. There is various “contact” data points. If it finds an email or a social media handle like Instagram or Twitter, it'll show those. And it also brings the description right into the tool. Yeah, those are- it has a link to the, the profile of the playlist owner in case you want to see if they have other playlists.
And there's another really cool feature that we just implemented where basically what you can do is there's now a checkbox next to every playlist and you can select playlists that you say you want to save for future, and you can click them. You click save the database and you have your own database where you'll see changes. It'll show a little red arrow or a little green arrow. Say the playlist went up 100 followers last week. When you go to your database where you saved your playlist, you'll be able to see, “Okay, this playlist is increasing in popularity or increasing in following or decreasing.” And so this is really cool because there's playlists that they fluctuate followers and crazy amounts, and that's an easy way to tell if a playlist isn't legit and there's no real way to track. “Okay, how do I see the exact followers going up and down?” And with playlists supply, you can kind of monitor and do your own vetting. And it's there's a lot of built-in ways to take the data and determine whether or not these playlists are like ones you want to reach out to or ones you can now.
it's a crazy world out there with Spotify having such a monopoly on the entire streaming world. And then all of you know, Spotify’s real resources being leveraged directly by big record labels that have huge budgets. It kind of just evaporates any opportunity for indie artists, and it's crazy how dependent numbers are... It's like, people want to see your Spotify monthly listeners and they want to have tested appeal before they invest in an artist - kind of like a "stock." And these labels are only looking for safe investment.
NS: Yeah, that's very, very cool. So I'm a label, like so going through a hypothetical situation, I'm a label owner. I have a release from a folk singer, a folk style singer-songwriter. I've used the platform, I've found 20 ideal playlists. What's the next step?
BS: Yeah, so the next step and this is one that we offer like a lot of resources on, but the next step is kind of up to the artist and it's kind of up to the label and the manager in that outreach process. It's like it's like doing a press campaign or it's like, you know, it's doing, it's like doing official outreach in any other, in any other format. You want to bring the playlist curator into your world. You want to be like, here's some unreleased stuff. Here is my latest music video. Here's a little bit of, here's where I come from. You want to you want to try and pitch your story in the same way you would pitch it to a blog or to, you know, any kind of any kind of coverage. And you want these people to not just see it as like a quick transactional, like, put my song in your playlist. You're going to want to reach out and kind of explain why these people should kind of invest in you and why you're the next big thing. And that's kind of like the approach that most of the kind of more official label people will take.
There are also other approaches because the tool can go just for social media information. You could do a PlaylistSupply campaign where you just DMing people and you know, Instagram DMS, for example, are really cool because you can DM someone there. You know, people are more likely to respond to a DM right away than an email.
BS: And they also kind of like a stock your artist profile and they can kind of hear about before they even talk to you. And that's like a really powerful tool. And you know, for a lot of artists that put a lot of quality content into their social media, this person might check you out and be like, Oh, this is so cool. I'm like, I don't need to talk to them anymore to add it. And so Instagram is cool in that kind of way, but to get back to your question, I would basically, you know, think about the best way to form a pitch and just get to emailing them, get to DMing them, get to outreaching to their playlist.
NS: Yeah. Gotcha. And yet and you're saying as well, there's resources to kind of cover that off on your website as well, which is good to know.
NS: And I, I know, I'm pretty sure it doesn't, but it doesn't include numbers, does it? You can text anybody.
BS: No, right now it doesn't include numbers. I'm not yeah. I honestly, I've done a lot of time looking through Spotify playlists and I haven't seen too many people put their cell phone number.
But we are looking we are looking at the features that like do that make things a little bit easier if you're trying to hunt someone down who didn't put like a contact information. What a lot of people do is, you know, they'll use PlaylistSupply will find playlists that are quality, some of which might not have a contact. And then you can look up the user's name on social media, on Facebook or on Instagram as a way to find someone that might have not put a contact information. And so we're looking at ways to kind of like make that process a little bit easier. And yeah, I think that's kind of up the same alley as like looking for a phone number. But I don't know, for whatever reason, people haven't been putting phone numbers so much.
NS: Yeah, yeah, that's fair enough. And sort of staying on the same topic, though. Any tips you can recommend or like kind of top software platforms that artists and managing managers can use to ensure that their music will actually get through to their playlists? And let's say we're just talking about on emails.
BS: Yeah, 100%. And so something I use a lot even outside of playlisting and PlaylistSupply is GMass, GMass is a really cool software. It's kind of like MailChimp premium plus it's like a more like advanced email automation software that kind of syncs up with Google. And I use it for everything. I use it to help automate responses for just regular emails with people. I use it to help me just like stay organized. There's a lot of automation that it can do, and for playlist, supply and outreach in particular, GMass is really good at helping you keep a campaign organized. Automating responses. Yeah, they even. They even just included like some new some new like organizational tools. GMass is definitely my recommendation of the software that if you're not using it, you should use it and have a more back on like the point of like a tip, kind of like a one that everyone knows that I'll kind of get behind as well is, you know, if you're an artist and you're not putting your stuff out on TikTok get to it. That's, TikTok's an important platform right now it's an important software. Learn to use it. It's more important that Instagram… get on TikTok. Yeah.
NS: Yeah, yeah. I mean even the label machine, I'm on TikTok now, you know, more so that I understand the platform because it's something I recommend for people to use. But yeah, it's, it's here to stay and so just going back to GMass as well, is that, is that the type of thing where you can have it connected to a Google spreadsheet and you can have their first name, email address, you can then have like the name of their playlist in a interesting song that they have on their playlist.
And then you can write an email that says, “Hey, Jared, I really like your playlist, X, Y, Z, in particular, how you've profiled the song, and then the song name comes in there. It's really like my artist.” So you can kind of and then just hit go and it will mass send out. It does stuff like that?
BS: Yes, 100% that it definitely does that. And there's, I've worked with a couple of labels just onboarding with PlaylistSupply and talking to them for feedback as they've used it. And that's 1,000% a way to use PlaylistSupply. There's people that use GMass and PlaylistSupply and you can kind of do a big campaign kind of canvasing many playlists.
And so how you're how you're describing using GMass is exactly how it can be used and PlaylistSupply works with that really well because we also have an export feature. And when you're running a search playlist, you can then export all the results to an Excel or a CSP and there's even a there's PDF, whatever format is most compatible with like whatever email software you want to use. And so those to sync up perfectly. And there's definitely, you know, there's definitely big labels and big artists that are running campaigns with PlaylistSupply, doing exactly what you're describing.
NS: Because you need to because you have to personalize it when you reach out to people, right? People can people can see that you're just doing a mass email, but you can be smart and mass personalized. I guess that's what it is, isn't it? You mass personalizing stuff where you just you're batch, you're batching up the personalization of those emails. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. You know, it shows you still actually gone on and thought, is this playlist relative to the music? So I'm not wasting their time. It just means saves you having to write out all these individual emails. Yeah, that's awesome, man. That's awesome. I didn't know about GMass, but I'm going to look into that and I'm already thinking I'm going to have to do like a special course for my members. On how you use playlists supply and GMass to personalize your playlisting Marketing Campaign.
BS: Yeah, no I'm and I'm super on board to help with that, my team would love to help.
NS: Should we just do it together and we can just share the screen with everyone?
BS: I'm definitely interested in that. I'm yeah I'm definitely down to talk about that and plan it. That sounds really good to me. Our team also, just like we're always doing demos for people. If if you reach out to PlaylistSupply and you want to see how it works, Ryan on my team, he's our project manager. He'll personally do a screen share and run people through.
And so, you know, for anyone who's listening to this that wants to give it a shot, just reach out to us and we'll like we'll do a video call and show you exactly how it works. And yeah, I, I think that, you know, the GMass method is tried and true. And I know that there's labels that are doing big campaigns using that method.
But I also will say there's a lot of there's a lot of value in fully kind of personalizing outreach. And, you know, some of these people, you know, obviously the GMass campaigns work mail. Mail outreach has worked for a long time. That's why people still do it. It never stopped working. That's why all of the, you know, all the companies that ever do anything when reaching out to you, do it through email. And so it is definitely tried and true, but for a lot of artists that are smaller, I often suggest them trying to go the Instagram route and trying to be more personable because a lot of these relationships you build early on and with these curators, this is someone who you could build a relationship with that, you know, they'll add your first song to the playlist, but they might also add your first album and a lot of these people, they didn't get a successful playlist by, you know, having bad taste in music. They have a good ear. These are people that are opinion leaders. They're normally the people in their friend group that are like putting everyone else on to the new music. And so, you know, for, for artists that's just trying to get their numbers up and playlist and mass and get the algorithm going, GMass might be the way, but for someone that's looking to kind of build their first hundred, build their 4000 bands, you know, it'll take it takes to minute an email to, you know, do a little digging, maybe find out like find the song in that playlist that you could write a few sentences about. You could say, You know, this is one of my favorite songs and here's why. And I know you have a good taste in music. You might like my song, like, you know, try and take it a level deeper than just like this. Put my song on your playlist. Thank you. You know what I mean?
NS: I do agree. I do agree. I think that go I think it depends on what audience you know, like if I'm speaking to an individual artist self-releasing their music, that is typically what I'd say if I'm speaking to; if I'm speaking to one of my label members who, you know, I guess a little bit more, they're doing bigger campaigns and they need to kind of go for those numbers. It's that kind of GMass thing and tied in as well. Like you'd always encourage us to like reach out and create their own relationships because, you know, if you think about the world like a global village, if we were in a village, you would just be going up to those people at a bar or party and be like, I'm in like, I love your music you're playing right now. You should check mine out, you know, and have that conversation with them. I think you just need to remember that that's essentially what we're doing on a global scale.
BS: Yeah, exactly. I really like that. I really like the way you put it there with the global village. I think that's that's really good. And you're also you're super spot on. It depends also a lot on the market. Like, you know, there's some genres right now that are so saturated no one cares if you Instagram vignette but there's other genres where it literally is like a village, like the genre is kind of small and niche and people just know each other. And so it's like you're going to have better results by being like, you know, just more personable. And so yeah, no, super good point. So I really like that Village one.
NS: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's something I'm really pushing with all my members as well. This year is like grow your network because it's the one thing I've seen all, you know, labels that do well, they network with other labels and they kind of all talk to each other. And you know, even the labels I knew, like when we're in the scene and we're like, we're kind of coming up on that first EDM wave in America. And so we all knew each other and like we're all yarning about stuff and it was all kind of and it was all really cool and that, that really helped. Like, you know, it's helped the scene but then also really helped us out as well. And you know, like I keep saying, build up your network, your professional network. So don't just always be thinking, I've just got to grow my fan base. Like you've got to grow your industry contact base as well. And yeah, and playlist it. You know, playlist is a very key part of that.
So I know we're talking about Spotify playlists, do you guys just cover Spotify playlists or do you do YouTube channels or SoundCloud channels as well?
BS: So right now, PlaylistSupply is only for Spotify. Apple doesn't really have like public playlist being as much Amazon, all the streaming platforms are a little bit late to the playlisting thing and Spotify is actively expanding on, I don't know. There was an article that came out a couple of weeks ago in TechCrunch that talked about how Spotify in the in the next few months is going to be taking curated like user-curated playlists and making them official.
And so this will be a really interesting move because before, there's been a lot of this, you know, there's a lot of exclusive around the Spotify editorial playlists, which, you know, no one has contacted before unless you know someone at Spotify. And, you know, they've had I can't tell you how many stories about people getting fired and text messages getting sent and the whole editorial things kind of like a scheme. But for most artists, the only people that can get you on are the people that accept those Spotify for Artist submissions and you have to go the official route. But Spotify is going to kind of upend some of that by taking playlists that are user-made playlists that are really popular and making some of them official Spotify playlists.
And the curator will still be you know, it won't be someone that works at Spotify anymore. And so this is just one there's another thing they released recently released.
NS: Spotify-verified playlists or something that verified the playlist. Does the curating get some money for that or…?
BS: It's really unclear. They literally like I read this article, I think it was like like a week ago, maybe last like April 12th or something. There's a couple articles out and it's I was like doing some digging on Reddit. It's like definitely been confirmed that this is going to happen. It's not just like skeptical and it sounds like it's a, it's on a boat of a bunch of new updates to playlists that Spotify is doing.
Like they also just did one where you can now share a playlist with someone. There can be two curators, two owners of a playlist. So if you and I wanted to have our own playlist, we can now have a joint playlist that we both own, both add songs to. Yeah. And there's this other one called Blend where we can actually merge. Like it'll make an automatic playlist based on what you and me like, and we'll both be the owners of that playlist. And so they're planning on actively expanding on their, on the playlisting world. And we don't really do YouTube. YouTube playlist things like is like very particular, PlaylistSupply just focuses on Spotify. And I think with the way a Spotify is going to be expanding playlists on its own, it's cool.
But we do have plans to release new software tools that kind of help you approach, you know, whether it be book skiing or whether it be YouTube. We have other ideas that, you know, we might expand the “Supply” family.
NS: Yeah, I gotcha. That's really interesting about the collabing playlists together because I mean, I also say to artists, you should start your own playlist because it's super valuable and you can use that as a value, something of value you can add to somebody else when you want to live with them or you want to get them to share your music or something. And that's going to like take it to a whole new level. That's it's incredible. Yeah. And amazing. Amazing. I think it's cool. Hopefully there is some sort of kickback for the curators. Otherwise I think they might get a bit of people, get a bit of a stink about it.
BS: Oh yeah. Lord knows Spotify needs to cough up for everybody right now. Curators, artists, I you know, they should hook managers up to at this point they've got so much money and they're giving artists pennies. They need to they need to go back.
NS: What are your thoughts on SubmitHub Services? Do you think they still have a place?
BS: So I have definitely used SubmitHub in the past. It's definitely a great platform that the difference kind of between PlaylistSupply and SubmitHub is just like the finite amount of people you can reach out to. I run SubmitHub campaigns where I spent a good amount of money and I got zero results and that's like that's never that's never a good feeling.
There was a point where I was working with kind of like some rap metal artists, and there was just nowhere that represented the genre at all on SubmitHub, and that was actually around a similar time when I started PlaylistSupply and I was like, There needs to be a tool that represents all genres, not just the popular.
And, you know, it's I think they have like a few hundred playlists in their network and with PlaylistSupply like you could run, search for anything and you're going to get more of a different platform with different goals. A lot of people use SubmitHub to get blog articles and to get press coverage. It's not, it's not nearly as geared towards playlists and yeah and I think, you know, I think that personally, I think press is great for, you know, having some validity and report, but press doesn't drive listeners anymore. There's very few blogs that actually, you know, blogging kind of died, journalism kind of died. Most of these blogs are payola. A lot of the SubmitHub blogs are payola. And it's like, I don't need a, I don't need a blog post that's not going to drive, that's not going to get me any new fans or any new listeners.
And so I kind of outside of like official press and using a publicist, I kind of like gave up on self-service PR a long time ago. But yeah, no, that's kind of like a little extra rant about…
NS: No, no. Because I was going to ask you blogs, are they still relevant? And I guess what you're saying is in traditional PR. Yes, but not for what did you call it, self-serving PR.
BS: Not for getting new fans. They don't convert. I've run campaigns like doing marketing with a major label artist who gets a placement on a blog that everyone knows the name of. And I can tell you like it converted to like 200 clicks onto the album and it's like, you know, it's a good look. You can post it on your Instagram, it will open doors, the highbrow music industry people that are looking for approval from like some, you know, some trendsetter or this one writer at this one blog, those people will be happy. But in terms of you getting, you know, you selling out a show, it's not going to make as much a difference. In terms of you getting your first thousand listeners on Spotify or on a streaming platform, it's not going to happen from a blog post.
NS: You know, I do agree. Like you said, I think it is for, yeah, you can share it on Instagram. It does show as well, like, you know, when you are when you are trying to open up other doors, people are like, well, who out like beyond you saying that you're awesome as anybody else. And I have, you know, these blog articles. They're like, okay, cool. Like, you know, and so I guess songs that are just complete payola ones, it does offer a little bit of like, you know, more so than the person that doesn't have any blog mentions.
NS: Which artists and labels do you have or currently work with? Um, that have done a campaign that you're particularly proud of, that you're, that you're working with.
BS: Done a campaign with, with PlaylistSupply in particular. I think I've, there's so many people using the tool I have some good friends over at Create, I have friends over at Republic. A really good friend of mine who's a manager at Maverick uses PlaylistSupply all the time. I have a few friends that are like A&R’s that use the tool at some pretty cool labels.
Very early on we ran some really successful, like some of the initial testing for PlaylistSupply campaigns. Before it was like a public tool. We did a really cool campaign with Matt Hawkes. All of the clients that I have personally has used PlaylistSupply Yeah, basically, like everyone I can, I've tried to, I've tried to get them to do a campaign, or at least get their manager to have an account.
You know, even if your team is someone that, you know, they might not be looking to do playlisting, I think being able to type in your artist name and see all the playlists they might be on is also a really cool metric. And there's, there's kind of like other ways to use PlaylistSupply that I really believe.
NS: That’s interesting!
BS: To be free of major record labels have someone who is using PlaylistSupply at the label I've just I've had conversations with people at Island and I've most of my connections are the people I leveraged early on to kind of be the beta testers and be the people to give me feedback. And so the first 200-300 people to use PlaylistSupply or music industry, people who kind of like I was looking to get them to tell me how to make it better.
That's how we got features like a playlist database directory feature and the one where it shows the analytics changing. And yeah, but right now most of the people doing campaigns and using it are indie artists, and there's some really cool indie artists that have kind of like had like, you know, such successful campaigns that it's kind of been like a case study. There was this one band called Nighthawks that was really, really, really using PlaylistSupply all the time, and they had amazing results. There was this band called Wax Charmer, and if you go on Reddit and you just search PlaylistSupply or you just Google it, you'll see, you know, in the comments of the YouTube videos and yeah, on Reddit and a lot of these different social platforms, there's people who have gone and kind of posted their own testimonial, success story.
And that's, you know, I've I like something like this is going to be successful for, you know, for a big artist, for a Matt Hawkes or for, you know, someone who everyone knows. But I'm I really love hearing success stories about PlaylistSupply being used for indie artists and people who, you know, they don't have a budget and they don't have a team that's going to do it for them.
They're just, you know, they had 20 bucks and they're like, where's my 20 bucks best spent this month? And it's on PlaylistSupply to do playlist outreach. And that's another thing. A lot of these services, they'll have a minimum of 500 or they'll have like a minimum of this amount. There's and, you know, like there's no guarantees you could spend a bunch of money and get nothing and something I tell people a lot, especially indie artists, is, you know, $20 and one month of PlaylistSupply. You could export unlimited results, you could do 100 searches, you could work really hard, you could save a whole spreadsheet of playlists. And then you can unsubscribe for month two and you paid $20 and you got a year's worth of playlists to do outreach to.
And so, you know, I think, I think that alone has more value than, you know, throwing $20 towards coins, which may or may not get a response even. And so yeah, those playlists could be people you outreach to get more listeners, they could be people you look at the playlists and you see what other artists that I'm looking into who else is up and coming. There's infinite data within this within PlaylistSupply, even just outside of reaching on curators. And so yeah, I'm often telling people just try it for a month, download all the results you need and yeah, compare that to anything like, $20 on Facebook ads won't get you anything. You know what I mean?
NS: No, I mean, yeah, I completely agree. I mean, and you've also had the approval from Adam Ivy as well, I say, which is awesome.
BS: Yeah. Adam Ivy, he really kind of supported the tool just off the strength, he's been doing the indie artist kind of guidance thing for a long time. And we connected like over Instagram DM and you know, he's someone, he just took off with it. He was like, I'm going to show everyone PlaylistSupply. Yeah, now he was probably our he's probably our biggest social media supporter yet. Like no, I don't know, any one is like publicly made it but yeah Adam Ivy and Adam Ivy was just awesome guy too.
NS: Yeah yeah and yeah he's got a big following just going back as well. I just talking about the other ways you can use PlaylistSupply which occurred to me, which is incredible as you can search for yourself as an artist, you're going to see all the playlists you're in. Then you can get the details and then tell them all, “Hey, by the way, I've got a new track out.” And of course, like, that's going to be like the most highly engaged audience, you know, because they've obviously already put your music in there. Like, I mean, you should just use it for that one function. If anything.
BS: Exactly. And that's a great example of like, you know, thinking about outside of the box ways to use it. And I've had friends who use it to find new artists like they’ll type in an artist who they're looking at signing and they'll see what other artists are in the same place as this artist. And normally, you know, say you're someone who was first to this new artist and you made the playlist about them and you're just a listener. You might put another artist in your playlist that that no one else has heard of. That is really good. That should get signed next. And so I've seen, I've seen crazy stuff. I've seen people use PlaylistSupply in all kinds ways outside of the typical and it's it's just kind of like, it's just like a software tool. It's like a productivity software tool that just like, you know, it's just a resource that artists should have available. And, you know, I was like at first I was like, I need this resource, but now it's like, anyone can get it.
NS: Yeah, yeah. It's awesome. So I guess and this can be about any kind of adventure we'll do this question can be not just for playlisting, but because you know you are a music artist and you know you wear many hats in music industry. What rookie mistakes or common problems do you see over and over again that new or early career artists make?
BS: I think there's a, there's definitely a lot of them. One is just like it's like you got to, you got to have consistency and quality and you can't let one of them fall behind in order for the other. You know what I mean? And so yeah, I think that, and that comes across that's like you want consistent and quality music, consistent and quality content that you're posting for visuals.
You want consistent and quality people that you're surround with that aren't going to, you know, give you bad advice or drag you down or and yeah. And it's, it's also kind of looking at trying to look at everything as an opportunity. I can't tell you how many times I've seen an artist kind of like squander an opportunity because, you know, they didn't really see it as like beneficial to their career, but they weren't seeing like, okay, how could this lead to a better relationship? How could this lead to a placement here?
And so, yeah, I think those are the two. And I think being open to new ideas, a lot of people were kind of anti TikTok when it first came out and now, you know, artists are getting signed directly off, TikTok. There's an artist who might have a viral song, a TikTok, and he gets $1,000,000 record deal the next day. And then, you know, you can't be the artist that's like, well, I'm, I don't like it.
NS: I mean, if you and also if you're on Instagram and using reels, well just use TikTok like.
BS: You should do both and it's like it's yeah, it's, it's, I think that there's, there's, you know, obviously for some people it might not, it might not be right. But there's just like certain things that increase your chances of getting heard, that increase your chances of people finding out about you. And, you know, like the TikTok algorithm won't be as hot as it is now forever, you know what I mean? And there will be a point where there's the next thing, the next Instagram, and for the next TikTok. And if you're someone that at the beginning is like, “Wait, I've been waiting for this opportunity, I'm going to be this, I'm going to get my username and I'm going to be the first person posting this genre on the platform.” And if you jump on that, it's, you know, you're going to be leagues ahead of the people that were like, “Well, I'm going to wait till everyone else is doing it. Or I don't like I don't like doing videos of myself” and it's it's really interesting, music I'd say in the last 20 years or so, it used to be of some, you know, 50/50 or 60/40 music, good music and marketing, but it might be more marketing in 2022.
It might be like 70% marketing and then the rest, good music. There's no shortage of good music. It just is. Are you going to find it or not? You know what I mean? And yeah, artists are able to to blow up just from, you know, a funny TikTok video, whereas before you need it to do so, you need to do so much else before you were in that record label office getting that deal, you know what I mean? And so it's it's a crazy world. Yeah. It's nuts.
NS: I think as an artist and an entertainer, you had to craft and you had to go on to expensive studios 20, 30 years ago to get whatever that personality is to connect with an audience. Whereas you don't have to do that now because if you you know, if you have a personality, TikTok would allow you to connect with your audience and then writing music as well as obviously, you know, like the art of recording music is so much cheaper and easier with computers and sound cards and technology and stuff.
So I, you know, I don't think it's a bad thing. It's just shifted because technology has allowed it to. But ultimately, the end result is you're connecting with fans that like you, who you are as a personality and your music. And that's the important thing.BS: Yeah, exactly.
"...a lot of people were kind of anti-TikTok when it first came out and now, you know, artists are getting signed directly off TikTok. There's an artist who might have a viral song, a TikTok, and he gets $1,000,000 record deal the next day. And then, you know, you can't be the artist that's like, 'well, I'm, I don't like it.'"
NS: So I ask everybody this question. So drawing on your music experience on music releases, how would you run a typical single release today that has a six-week lead time?
BS: That's a great question. And I think it's just, you know, plan in advance. If you have a six-week lead time, make sure, you know, release dates locked in, DSP stuff is locked in, you know, when it's going to come out, you know that it's getting all of the you know you're getting it in early enough to get your pitch to Spotify editorial. You're getting it in early enough to reach out to a few blogs and do some official press. You're getting in early enough to maybe share the song with some playlists early via a SoundCloud link or a private link to maybe have a playlist, have a playlist campaign locked in for the week of release. That's something that's really cool that you can do what PlaylistSupply if you get, you know, so you reach out before it comes out, you can have them at it the day it comes out and that increases your algorithmic playlist game.
You're going to show up in more fans, weekly mix and more fans Monday mix because Spotify algorithm says, “Oh, this song just came out. It got added to five playlists. It must be good. We're going to add it to more people's algorithmic playlists.” And so, yeah, I would just basically make sure you have all your bases covered. I don't I'm someone who I don't think you should post social media about a new release six weeks in advance, but, you know, have some good content for the week before. Have some good content for two weeks before. And yeah, just kind of make sure you're hitting all platforms. Something that people often forget about is they might have a mailing list somewhere if you have a website or you had some sort of sign up, you know, have that mailing list go out as well. Send everyone your new song when it comes out.
And for newer artists, something I'll lean on is, you know, you can put stuff out, you can post on social media, but there really is no there's nothing comparable to you like texting a friend to being like, “hey, I just released the song. Can you give it a listen? Let me know what you think.” Comments like my Instagram post and you know everyone knows ten people that they could get to immediately support them. And sometimes that that initial ten is, you know, those ten comments on Instagram, those ten repost on SoundCloud, that stuff, that stuff does make a difference early on. And so I'll a lot of artists will they'll put it on their Instagram and they'll put it on all their social media and they'll do the release right. But you know.
NS: They didn’t tell their sister about it.
BS: Yeah. They didn't text their best friend to check it out and it's like everyone knows, you know, everyone knows 20 people that you could immediately get feedback from and you could immediately hear what they think of it. And, you know, I think that's a, that's a really important one, too, is that it's the kind of start small and branch out. You know, you're not going to you're not going to post on Instagram and blow up overnight, even though it does happen with TikTok sometimes that that first Tik Tok post needed the first ten likes before the algorithm took off. And then you got seen by that 100 K or whatever. Yeah.
NS: No, I agree. You shouldn't be embarrassed to reach out to your close network of people to support what you're doing, because they're the ones that will 100% support you, you know, because they're in your close network.
NS: With record sales. Where are you finding royalties are coming from across the major platforms, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Tidal, etc., where anything is weighted at the moment and 2022?
BS: I mean, I know, I know Apple and Tidal pay the best, but they're just not the most used platforms. Tidal's done some really cool stuff to kind of expand to kind of expand their platform. I was like talking to their team not too long ago and they are releasing a new thing right now where artists can kind of like directly pay out from Tidal and there's like, there's like that's like a really interesting thing.
I think they can I think Tidal may have purchased Cash App I think it could have been and you can now pay out via a Cash App if you're like an approved artist or you're an artist that like is in contact with their team. They have some sort of kind of verification process that enables that. But I think, you know, honestly, the, my management clients right now aren't getting a ton of plays on Tidal.
The best money comes from Apple Music and then the most plays comes from Spotify. But with Apple Music closely behind, I think Amazon and Tidal, at least for the genres and people I'm working with, are just a little bit less significant. But, you know, they're all they're all paying pennies. Streaming is not a, streaming is not a consistent form of income for an artist that isn't kind of doing that isn't doing big numbers. Most of their revenue comes from touring and from merch sales.
NS: I just what I said, everybody, what you've got to think about is streaming now is your top-of-funnel. It's just discovery platform that if you do get a lot of followers, there is some money made off the back of it. You know, it's, it's not like it's completely there is no value to it, but it should definitely just be treated as another metric in that respect.
Across social media, just speaking about like what gets the best responses, where are you finding in 2022 with the clients you're working with that they're getting the most interaction from fans from across YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok?
BS: So aside from PlaylistSupply, I do a lot of marketing and kind of marketing consulting for bigger management teams and labels and I think, I think TikTok right now I've said it before, I think TikTok is like probably the most like the algorithm is the most beneficial to new posts and users putting out content consistently. Instagram especially after iOS 14 the ads platform has just been like significantly kind of like brought down. It's a lot harder to use, a lot harder to get the results people were getting a year ago even just outside of promoted posts and stuff posting on Instagram. It's like if you just post and you don't promote the post, you're not reaching your you're not reaching your ten K followers, you're not you're just reaching a percentage of them.
And they've kind of locked up that full reach unless to encourage people to use the ad platform, which TikTok hasn't done yet, they very well could in the future. But there's still people who like make their very first posts on TikTok and get 100K overnight. That doesn't happen anymore on Instagram that the algorithm is just a little bit dead and I don't know, it's the botting on Instagram out of hand. I don't know if you've seen underneath any celebrity posts recently or anyone that has a significant following. There's just like a million bots posting like the same messages and the same emojis and the platform is def like, Instagram's like, it's kind of like in my opinion, it's become more of a portfolio platform and less of like a place where you can actively get discovered and find new fans and that kind of thing.
Yeah, I've, I've honestly had a lot of, I had better results finding new music and even doing marketing on Reddit than I have on Instagram as of recent. But nothing, nothing beats TikTok. Definitely the the top the top one to focus on right now.
NS: Yeah. Yeah. It's what everybody's saying at the moment. Have you used speaking of TikTok have used it for influencer marketing, have you used it for PlaylistSupply or any of your clients before?
BS: Yeah, definitely. I've used it for a lot of clients. The influencer marketing thing was like really big when Tik Tok first started to become like the buzz. And yeah, I think, it's, it's, it can be successful, but it's, it's one of those things that's so dependent on genre. It's so dependent on the type of music, it's dependent on the market. There's certain genres where, you know, the market is not receptive to influencer marketing at all. You're working with like some genre that's like punk or like lateral to punk. They don't want to be told what to listen to. So they're not, you know, it just won't work… if you're working with like a Jack Harlow or someone that's a very mainstream kind of more pop artist, the influencer campaigns were really well, if you're, you know, you see your favorite influencer on TikTok or on Twitter, post the Jack Harlow song or say that Jack Harlow is cute you're going to think so, too.
And so, yeah, it totally depends on the market. I think the scale is a is a big bet. It is like a lot of the small marketing. I don't think it's worth it like cost-per-conversion. But if you're like a major label and you can afford to have Kim Kardashian post on her story, you're going to get clicks like that. It's going to get clicks and it's yeah, I've seen really clever influencer campaigns run by labels that were that went perfectly and then I've seen ones that it was just a waste of money. And so I think it totally depends on what kind of and what kind of campaign you're working on, what kind of music it is. There's like a lot of factors and some of it even comes down to like the strategy of how you're doing it.
Like I've seen, like I've seen a influencer campaign run by a label where the copy was just terrible, like the person's like stream this person's new single right now versus like them kind of finding a subtle way to work it in like the influencers, like, you know what I mean?
NS: Doing the vacuuming and it's like the music in the background or something.
BS: Exactly. And that's, you know, you got to you got to with influencer marketing, with any marketing, even with outreaching to playlists people on PlaylistSupply, you got to think from the listener perspective. Yeah. You can't just think from the marketing perspective because you'll, you'll waste money or you'll lose people and yeah.
NS: I, it's funny, I, I saw a video on TikTok the other day and it was a guy talking on a panel like a marketing conference panel. And he said, the statistics showed that 70% of marketers, people that work in a marketing come from like an affluent, educated background that actually really only represents 30% of society. And he goes, You're thinking, you're thinking what? Like everybody thinks like you do and with the way you bought up and your values and everything and it goes, but that isn't representative of what actually society is. And you need to, you know, think about that and you need to think about your audience and not from the marketing like exactly what you're saying, but it kind of, you know, like he was explaining like the kind of stats and numbers and I was like, that's such a good point. Like, you know, yeah, to, to always bear in mind and when you're doing your marketing so.
BS: That stuff can backfire too, if you don't think it through. You know what I mean? Yeah, sorry. Continue.
NS: No, no, no, no. I agree. So just looking at the time. So I've got a question. What is the future for you and PlaylistSupply? Is there anything on the horizon should be looking out for?
BS: So we just released PlaylistSupply, just released our biggest update yet, which was that playlist directory feature the one I explained where you can save results. We've got a new update coming. We're planning on launching it next week. I'm hoping it comes around like Friday next week. And this new update is going to be, it's just like an overall speed improvement, like the tool is just going to be lightning fast.
We've gone ahead and done a lot of upgrades on the back end that make it really quick. And we've also kind of upgraded our search algorithms and these new, complex, better algorithms are going to just deliver better results, more playlist. It's more sensitive to niche and genre keywords and it's, we're just going to keep expanding it. The plan with PlaylistSupply is to just keep adding features. We get a ton of feedback and so if anyone tries a PlaylistSupply and they want to think of a way it could be better. I'm actively always looking for critique. I'm actually always looking for feedback and yeah, and in terms of my personal, I'm planning on, you know, I've been doing music management for, you know, six, seven years now along with the creative direction and PlaylistSupply kind of, you know, I'm not a tech-oriented person.
I come from the music kind of business side, but I'm planning on laying in a bit more on tech. I think there's a lot of big implications for the uses of technology within music. I think there needs to be more automation, there needs to be more software that is accessible to indie artists, to indie managers. Right now, all the major record labels. They've got bots, they've got spiders, they have the budget to have a development team that can, you know, follow your favorite A&R and see exactly when he follows a new artist and they pops up in an email. They've got the tech for that. But the indie artists need the same tech. The indie artists need more software solutions. And so, yeah, look out for more software solutions from PlaylistSupply and our team.
You know, I'm working with this artist right now Sun A'marri totally totally developing act. Most people haven't heard of him. He's just putting out his first songs. Go check out Sun A'marri because this time next year is going to be huge. And that's, that's you know, that's on my management tip. I'm trying to pick the artists that are my clients to be the biggest artists in the world. And, you know, some maybe some technology will help me do that.
NS: Yeah definitely just sort of Sun A'marri how do you spell it?
BS: Sun A'marri, S-U-N A-M-A-R-R-I, two words, his name is Sun and his last name is A’marri and he's this really cool R&B kind of singer songwriter, producer. And he's he's just like, I don't know, like when I found his music, nothing had kind of spoken to me the way his music did since I heard the first PARTYNEXTDOOR tape and PARTYNEXTDOOR is just like R&B underground. Like legend. And I think I think Sun is the next one.
NS: You’ve heard it here. Not necessarily first, but you did hear it earlier on Sun. Yeah, I'll go check it out. And and where can we, where can we find you? What what's the playlist, supplies, email address and where's the socials.
BS: So you can reach out to us contact at playlistsupply.com you can also you know @playlistsupply on Instagram, @playlistsupply on Twitter, our team is super responsive. Our team is like composed of, you know, my partner is a booking agent, my project manager is a producer and artist manager as well And so we're actively like, if you shoot us a DM, we're going to respond. But we're @playlistsupply on all social media.
NS: Awesome. Benji, thank you so much for taking the time out for being here. It was super insightful and you know, I knew it was a cool platform, but after speaking with you in depth about it, I realized how amazing it is and why people like Adam Ivy are just championing it. So thank you so much.
BS: Yeah, thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me on. Thank you.