The Label Machine Podcast #8: Pete Callaghan (Promoly)

On this episode we have Pete Callaghan, co-founder of email marketing platform Promoly. After finding initial success in the Dubstep genre with his label Tongue Flap Records, Pete was dismayed by the state of music promotion and marketing options available to artists and labels. 

Together with Mike Ramirez and Kaine Shutler, Pete founded Promoly, a digital platform where you can manage your promo campaigns and get detailed insights on your audience's engagement. Pete discusses with our host Nick Sadler about his beginnings in the music industry, the birth and development of Promoly, and ways artists and label managers can effectively create mailing lists, build relationships with tastemakers and promote their music to a wider audience.

NICK SADLER: Welcome to The Label Machine Series, where we discuss with successful industry professionals how artists and record labels sell music. My name is Nick Sadler, and today's guest is Pete Callaghan. Pete has extensive experience in running music promotions, marketing strategies, and business development for record labels. He is also the co-founder of software platform Promoly and it is both his personal and company mission to help record labels promote their music quickly and efficiently to the industry and their fans. So, Pete, how are you today?

PETE CALLAGHAN: I'm good. Thanks very much for having me, Nick. It is good to chat again.

NS: Nice. Where are you calling in from?

PC: I'm in western UK. Yeah, Sunny Worcester. To make a change from the usual rain. So it's all good today.

NS: Awesome. So let's jump straight into it and rewind the clock. How did you get started in the music industry?

PC: It’s a good question, I started off - I suppose I started when I was young, 11-ish, I started to learn to play drums. And then I moved on to guitar, bass and then production and then kind of bands in and out of bands when I was in my early teens. And then in my very early 20s, I went to SAE Institute to do audio engineering. I did that for a year. It wasn't for me, I realized that I was more interested in some business end of things as opposed to the actual recording of artists. So I left the course, I started a record label. I say, I made it sound very easy. I researched how to run a record label for a good year. And then yeah, I started off in the drum and bass world - never grew up listening to drum and bass. But I found a bit of a love for it when I lived in London for a year. SAE, you can't really avoid it with all the clubs what I say the clubs that did exist then, which are kind of all disappearing slowly at the moment, aren't they? And yeah, created a label, met some cool guys along the way, did some good releases. And that's when I found the need that I needed to be able to promote better. And that's it all started from there. So probably 22, 23 onwards, I started getting involved sort of seriously as in, you know, regular releases and learning about the music, business and best ways to promote and banner gap in the market. And for I like promoting over email, works really well. But I lose every bit of insight as soon as the email leaves my inbox and needed a better solution. And that's how Promoly was sort of born, really, that idea and sort of merged on from there. And here we are, 2021 and still ticking along nicely.

NS: So I didn't know that you did a drum and bass label. What was the name of it?

PC: Some stupid reason I call it tongue flap. And yeah, we did some… unusual releases. Probably the most well known one was done with Dubba Jonny. The “Dubstep Tutorial.”

NS: Ah, yes, I do know that! That's huge!

PC: Yeah, me and Brian, as in Dubba Johnny. He had a silly idea of writing the tutorial track and so I had the silly idea of releasing it so, weirdly, it did very well.

NS: Yeah, that must have been at the beginning of that whole like-

PC: Yeah, yes.

NS: Just as the dubstep thing started picking up or brostep in the US… Yeah, I remember that was like, what, 2009-2010?

PC: Yeah, around that.

NS: Yeah, that's about the same time as when we started Never Say Die. Oh, wow. I didn't know that. Awesome.

PC: Yeah. So we released that. And we did a couple other tracks for him and some other artists and then I launched a sort of more sort of techie kind of DMV label called Protect Audio. We have some releases from like guys like Marukomu - I don't think he's active these days. Hyroglifics, who's now on Critical [Music], sort of, the other guys, Survey and they've done quite well but I think they split now which is a shame.

NS: You mean Hyroglifics like Lawrence?

PC: Yeah. So Hyroglifics as in… Yeah, he's on Critical Music at the moment.

NS: Yeah, hold on, I'm pretty sure it's Hyroglifics as Lawrence. Yeah, ‘cuz I think Critical Records had their offices up just next to our offices up in North London. You know what, it's so funny because I think we, we connected... I mean, we connected through through the music industry, I guess, but it wasn't really on that whole - it wasn't in that Dance, or Drum and Bass worlds. And it's funny though, that, you know, I do keep finding myself bumping into people in the music industry that are from that background. It is it is quite uncanny. So you said you went through why you started Promoly. And you know, you said it was you essentially wanted to be able to have some of the control of what happens once those emails leave your inbox? So what, as well as that, like… what is the main rundown of your company's activities?

PC: The main rundown is we help record labels promote music over email, that's what we do. We just want to be the best at delivering promo emails. Currently we work a lot of labels to do pre-release marketing, as in delivering the music before it hits the shops to DJ’s, tastemakers, “influencers” if you want to use that kind of term in the music industry, and sort of bloggers and things. So we needed that tour to deliver that music and to show what people are doing with the music. So I didn't like the alternatives back when I started Promoly. So I kind of built my own. I found Mike, who's our co-founder. He's also a software developer, which is very useful. He has been developing software for about 20 years. He also owns Section 8 Records over in the states and BNB Radio. So he's got the music industry experience. And my other co-founder, he's left the company… Kaine. He's moved on to a web development business. So yeah, between the three of us, we sort of came to a plan and sort of start building a prototype and then kind of got ideas what we wanted to do, didn't want to do. And yeah, we built the MVP, which we ran for - MVP is “minimal viable product,” but the non so acronym world - and we ran that for a good couple of years, really, just to sort of see what other people thought. And it didn't look great when we first launched. But it was really good. It was functional and it did the job. And we thought if people are willing to pay for the non-glossy version and get results from our software, then we should be onto something and yeah, I mean, you know, fast forward five years, we're still chipping away before like we've barely started. And here we are today, and hopefully, many more years to come. And this year, we're aiming and growing our company a little bit more, building some more feature sets, which would be quite good.

NS: So for someone that is new to music promotion over email, like, talk us through exactly what that means? Like, is it sending a… you know, email out directly to your fans from your Gmail address? Is it, was it MailChimp? Is it Sendinblue? Like, yeah, let's talk about, run through what that actually looks like.

PC: So when you promote music over email is like, if I was delivering you a song, Nick, it'd be quite easy for me to manage. I could upload to Dropbox, I could email it to you saying, “Hey, Nick, here is a new track, check it out, let me know what you think.” That's fine. One-to-one is fine. But then, if you've got a list of 500 people like you, then it starts to become quite complicated. And you think, well, how am I going to deliver 500 emails with 500 download links to check up on 500 people? And then work out if anyone's actually listened to the music? Or is anyone actually downloaded it from my Dropbox? You're going to have sort of baseline stats, sort of like how many hits from the dropbox links, but how am I going to assign that to different people? So what Promoly does is it takes all the guesswork out, and you can upload your audio to Promoly and your press releases, your artwork, and then you can plug in your email addresses and then deliver it. Our system will send the emails and it will track every single result for you. And what we do, we deliver an email, we ask that recipient to click on the primary link. And then we take them to a unique page. And that page is unique for every single recipient. So if you deliver 10 emails 505,000, all in one go, every recipient will have a unique download page. And that is completely trackable. So it means that if you played a music, or a song or download it, or you leave feedback on the track, it will send all that information back to Promoly. So Nick Sadler is checked out this download, he's left the feedback saying he thinks the song was amazing. And he's going to play on his next radio show. And we compile that into a report, which is you know, accessible 24/7 in the Promoly app. So we just give that very simple concept of delivering music, but we make it very, very useful and insightful for record labels.

NS: So specifically, you're looking at promoting to other people in the music industry, not necessarily to your to your fans of the label that are listening to it on Spotify. Are you promoting it to say blogs? Music influencers, radio disc jockeys, club DJs. Is that right?

PC: Yeah, that is correct. Yeah, that was the typical way of promoting music, was to deliver it to your tastemakers. So Radio One DJs, for example, or DJ Mag’s editors, you know, we have a chance of they will pick it up and feature it. But as always goes, things are shifting slightly, people are marketing in different ways, the world has changed dramatically over the last year of how people promote. So some people do deliver the fans directly from Promoly as a way of sending that music out without a distributor.

NS: That’s interesting.

PC: Yeah, we've noticed different sort of trends, how people are doing it, and someone was running a subscription service off the back of Promoly, which I'm not sure if that is what we set out for. You know, basically, they were charging their fans per month and then delivering the music by Promoly.

NS: Right. So is that like using a service? just forgotten the name, what's the classic music subscription service that people are using?

PC: On other like the big pools?

NS: It'll come to me in a second. Music without whatever is on there, The Prototypes are on there. You know, you're Yeah, it's one of those platforms where you say sign up for $5 a month, then you get access to your private videos, and, and what not.

PC: Patreon.

NS: Yeah. So it's like a Patreon. And then what they do is, if anyone's on their Patreon account, say you got 1000 fans, you just send them the music. Yeah. That's really interesting way of doing it.

PC: So it's quite a clever concept. And what's great about it is all of these people were already expecting your music. So Promoly does make it very easy to deliver and to see what they're up to. You know, we track all sorts of stats, and we're going to expand that and make it more flexible, and insightful for people. Because I love stats. I don't know how I've ended up enjoying stats, but I'm one of these people, I like to know everything that's going on inside a campaign. So we kind of build Promoly for our own needs. And we found other people were quite similar to us as well. So it's sort of just kind of grown from there, really. And we're still on the pre release sort of marketing angle. That's what we do. We are slowly moving to a marketing suite as a whole. It's time to develop.

NS: So… I understand how this is used for sending out music to DJs specifically, and I do know, you know, in the industry people DJs like to get stuff early before a release date. Yeah, they're more likely to support it. But outside, say, the electronic or dance sort of DJs. out how would you see? Or do you see other genres like hip hop or trap using this? Or, you know, bands using it, indie bands? Can they use this platform? And if they do, how would they go about it?

PC: They can use it. And so, you tend to find it doesn't matter what type of record label it is, they all do things similar ways. The electronic industry we deliver to DJs predominantly, our market runs off, isn't it where the rock industry about delivered to light sort of Kerrang! magazine, for example, we're still sending to similar types of people just, you know, recipients who run big blogs and Spotify playlists and things like that. So providing you've got a tastemaker - I say tastemakers are holders and someone who has an influence over music and so be it a magazine DJ journalist, you know someone who can make a positive influence in show other people your music - you're sending them. So providing you have their email address. You can deliver it and get great results where we just take the guesswork out of, say, sending a BCC email over Gmail.

NS: Gotcha. So let's say I'm I'm like “Great, just started a label but I don't know anyone in the industry. I think this is this is a great service. And I do want to reach out to radio jockeys and, you know, Kerrang! magazine editors there. I don't have the email address. So what's the jump? How do I bridge that gap?

PC: Yeah, this is the jump where most people try and kind of get it wrong. The best way to do is slowly and to start researching people who wants to be on your sort of contact list. Once you've got an idea then you can start figuring out how you're going to contact them. So you know, I recommend people to make a list of 100 influential people so if you're if you're a commercial record label may be sending to Nick Grimshaw and Radio One’s producers email address, try and get your music charted at Radio One, for example. So you think, well, I need to find the producer email and I need to find out who is the show manager? I mean, do I go through him? Or do I go through the producer, do I go from Nick himself? So you have to do all of this research. It takes ages. And that's why publicists charge a lot of money because they've done this hard work, and they've got direct access to the right people. But anyone can start a list. But the important part is the relationship. That’s the most difficult part, which people get wrong, they think I've got an email address, I'll just send it to them. And of course, the person receiving it was like, “Who are you?” and just either delete it or ignore it. And that's the reality. And that's why so many musicians don't get noticed. So when you build your email list, jot out 100 people you want to deliver it to, don't go too crazy as in like, I want to deliver it to Billboard Top 100 chart, because the chances you can on Billboard are slim, unless you've got a sort of well known reputation or a big audience drive in your music every single week. So start off with the smaller tastemakers, like, who are similar size to you in your sort of industry and seeing for example, if you're a drum and bass DJ, just starting out, you think whoever record label starting out with good DJs who are playing regularly, online who making playlists and kinda contact them and get them behind it. And what you tend to find is that you build some great relationships with other labels, some other DJs. And then you give them your music, and they give you their music, and then you play their music, and they play yours and you grow together. So there's loads of interesting ways to build mailing lists. It’s no different if you're marketing the next book, or marketing the next cool guitar, you've got to find people who are interested in talking about that.

NS: And is that literally just you know, writing a friendly email? Introducing yourself and saying why you want to connect with them?

PC: Yeah, Twitter's really good. You can tweet them, you don't even have to find your email address, you can tweet and say, “Hey, I'd love to send you my new song. You know, can we chat through DM and some people have as turned off that now so as soon as they follow, you can send a message to say like, “I think you're a really good DJ, I've listened to some of your shows, your podcast is good.” You know, make it personal about them. Don't just say “hear me, I've got some music.” Because they're just gonna say, “well, who's this cheese?” You know, message me. If you say like, “Hey Nick, you know, I know you're on The Label Machine. I think my audience would really appreciate your content. And hopefully, we could share some mutual connection. Do you think I could send you my music or feature on your next show, for example?” And you'll probably think, Well, okay, you know, he knows who I am. He's done some research. He's made it about me rather than about him, then I'm more likely to accept that invitation and build out.

NS: I'll give them some time. I'll go “You know what, I'll give you a reply. Because I can see you've put some effort in.”

PC: Yeah, that's it. And so they've done the hard bit, you've replied, and then all you have to do is build on that. And it's no different to any other form of marketing. Just DJ’s get it wrong, because they’re after a quick success, and that doesn't happen.

NS: Yeah, of course. And could you use this for likewise for reaching out to Spotify playlist curators, or YouTube curators as well?

PC: Yeah, anyone, they all have in the same interest, they’re music lovers. So they want to, unless people send them music, they wouldn't have their business. You know, if, if record labels weren't releasing music over email, I wouldn't have a business. So it's within my interest to, you know, talk to new record labels, learn about them, and show interest about them. So if you're a record label, building a mailing list, talk to your DJs, you know, build like a close-knit network and keep some exclusive, you know, like sensitive top 10 DJs. And then you have like, sort of 30 others who are sort of B-list who play occasionally. So it takes time, and is best to deal with one by one. And once you've got that list, I don't think you need a list of 10,000 because realistically, are those 10,000 people unless you're someone like Andy C, for example, and drum and bass and not going to just hop on that tune back it, it takes time to build out. So build a really close-knit network and start small and build from there. So that’s the best way.

 Yeah, I mean, I have to agree. I have to agree with you on that. They're slowly I mean, even myself here at the label machine. I have a dedicated once a week, I have a dedicated hour just called networking. And I I've got a list on Airtable, which is like an online spreadsheet database. And every time I see someone that I'd like to connect to I put them on the database and then that i think it's it's Thursday mornings at 10 o'clock at the moment I get out and I just go in the database and I just slowly work through it for an hour, emailing up posts, you know, finding out a bit about them doing exactly what you said about them, and then build up that relationship, you know, and and you're and it's, it's doing it consistently every week. You know, you look, you look back in six months, and suddenly you've connected with 3040 people. And you know, it's funny how little, how few people you need to connect to actually really start getting the ball rolling and connecting with larger audiences.

PC: Yeah. And also, once you start connecting to these people, like, if you don't come across as an ass, and you, you know, be a professional, yeah, and professional and like, you've actually got something worthwhile or mean, spamming doesn't work - full stop. Ok, anyone who's spam should just stop and, you know, listen to what we're saying, because we've been there and done it. And we met through cold email, didn't we? And now we're, we're chatting on our podcasts, then we've had plenty of times before this as well. So it does work. You just got willing to put in the effort. So yeah, is, yeah, I wish people would just stop for five minutes, block out some time, like you said that that one hour per week is enough to build a solid list. In two months time, you'll have an amazing list of people you actually know opposed to a scrape mailing list off Google or, yeah, I mean, yeah, there's nothing wrong with scraping emails, provide you start building the email list and email them and just say, Hey, I got your email list, email address from so and so Resident Advisor, for example. You know, I really liked the show you put on Thursday nights at 10 o'clock. Do you think your feature my music, I sent some over through [to you]?

NS: Yeah. No, you’re dead right. I mean, it's the blog outreach campaign that we have at The Label Machine is something that I put everybody through. And everybody always says, “Wow,” like, you know, and it's a whole, you know, sort of the email template on what you send out to people. And everybody ends up reaching out to somebody and getting something featured on a blog or a playlist, and they're like, “Wow, it really works.” Yeah. And they also say, then they do the second, third and fourth release, and they just reach out to those same people. But we're happy to support them because they've got that relationship there. I guess it's hard at the beginning, but it gets easier as you go along.

PC: It does. Yeah, but you gotta remember when you're brand new, no one knows you. So you've gotta break that barrier and you release music, but there'll be 10,000 other people also releasing music. You know, Spotify, I think that's it, 40,000 tracks added daily, something ridiculous. So yeah, you've got to compete with that. And how do you break through that cycle of just being another release, you've got to be really either very talented and make amazing music, or you've got make very good music and be very good at marketing. The two are as important as each other, they say music sells, but only sells if people know about it.

NS: That's true. That is very true. Now, I don't know whether this is a secret or not. So I don't know if we've got to get this out. But I do know if you are in the electronic world, though, Promoly, it does offer a service where you can reach out to existing labels and tastemakers. Is that a thing that still exists?

PC: Yeah, yeah, no, it's not a secret. It's something we do advertise. But we don't talk about it too much, but are starting to, we started building our own contact list within Promoly just to see if it would help people. We kept it quite quiet, we just call it Promoly Pool within our dashboard. So what it is, is DJs and influencing tastemakers, mainly DJs. At the moment, they've opted into our service as a whole. And they are happy to receive any type of music within their criteria. So at the moment, I think when we last spoke we were at about 350. And we've now got 510. So we've grown by a couple 100 over the last few months, just to see what people are into. We find DJs want new music, but they don't know how to get it. So they've also got this big problem. Record labels wants to send to new DJs. But they don't know how to get their contact details. So we thought, “Well, I know how to get hold of people. So why don't I start building the list and funneling people in?” So it's a very, you know, there's a big trust element in it… All the DJs, you've got to do your own due diligence on them before you add them to your list because you don't just want to send blindly. What we do have is their SoundCloud link, Mixcloud link, Facebook link, Twitter link, so you can check them out before you send, but we take the guesswork out for you and just say, you know, “this person's waiting to receive your music.” And what is good with Promoly is you can't deliver a promo. If someone doesn't like drum and bass, you can't send him drum and bass, the two categories have to match. So it should reduce spam. I mean, Spam is an ongoing problem. Wherever you look in whatever industry, there's always someone spamming something. So we're really tight. What I've said, I think so too, before, we annoy our customers for our own good. You know, we don't allow any spam on our network at all. If you find someone spamming, we stop it and we say what you do. Same for my mailing list. If they upload a bulk mail list of 10,000 we don't allow them to send until we've checked out just because bouncing help anybody? Yeah. So the record label list is, is quite, it's not new, new, but it's newest to such spot, we're actually doing something with it. And I think we're just going to continue to grow it and have a two-way platform. That's the plan. If it works. I mean, that'd be really good.

NS: That's a massive asset. So yeah, if you are listening, and you know, you're starting out, and you're doing electronic music, and you want to and you don't have any of these contacts, this is gonna be a Yeah, an excellent platform to, your “one-stop shop” essentially, isn't it, doing your promo?

PC: Yeah. Because I remember when I started running a record label, I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't have a contact list. And like I said to you, I built my list, and it took ages. And it would be nice if we could help small record labels and bigger labels as well - just ‘cuz they’re massive, it doesn't mean they’ve got a good contact list, just been growing forever… So we're all in the same boat, you know, DJ’s want to receive music, that's their job, but they DJ. So why not make it a little bit easier, and increase the value for our customers by giving them a bit of a head start or some fresh contacts they might not have heard of? So yeah, that's the plan. You know, things change, it might go horrifically wrong. Or it might go really well. Buster, good thing of running a business, you don't really know until you try something.


NS: Very true. So I'm going to move on to some music trend questions around selling and streaming music. So when it comes to Spotify, I know recently that they deleted a whole lot of songs that they thought were being played off bots, which has been interesting. But what have you been finding works for getting on playlists?

PC: I think the biggest thing is lack of - going back to, and I say it all the time - is the relationship with the person who owns the playlist. Spotify playlist is different because they are built for an algorithm, like Discover Weekly, for example, they… you know, you can use Spotify for Artists, you can highlight your new release. And then if our algorithm picks it up, they say is curated by editors. But I don't know how much I believe that because you think-

NS: I actually, sorry to interrupt, I do know, I spoke to – well, I won't say who it was, but they had a “x” Spotify editor moved to their team last year and distributor I work with. And they were, they were speaking to them. And they said to be honest, 99% of the recommendations come from algorithms. From those then the editors look at what's working the algorithms and pick stuff out. But they said you know that the submission, you know, you can submit your music towards the Spotify for Artists. Like it doesn't really, just because you put it there aren't people reading it. They'll read it after, if the algorithms pick up on stuff. They're like, “Oh, wow, what's this track?” They'll then go there and look at it. But it doesn't really work the other way around.

PC: Yeah. So as I thought really, algorithms are everything, like with anything, like for example, getting backlinks, backlinks to a website, like if you're already ranking top 10 on Google, and loads of people are linking to you, more people will think it is going to be a valuable source. And it's the same with music. So the more it takes ages, the more snowball effect you have on Spotify, the easier it is to get playlisted but then there's also, you know, people like me and you, who have private playlists with big followings. They've already done the hard work. They've got that audience who listen, I don't know how legit some of them are, if they are bought, or you'll never really know until Spotify sort of cracked down on, you know, IP addresses accessing it and returning those plays. But yeah, to cut a long story short, get in contact with the people running the lists, there’s various websites that do allow you to submit something that where you haven't really looked into. We're just trying to do one thing, which is email marketing without sort of diluting our product, we have thought about “can we build some form of playlist tool?” We did actually build a scraper to curate all of your Spotify playlisters and scraped the contact details, but we didn't know how ethical that is. So we abandoned that idea. We never launched it. But yeah, if you, if you basically just google the Spotify playlist, do a lot of searching through SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook groups, and you'll probably find some point, they will be the owner of the playlist somewhere amongst all the details. It just takes ages to find… once you've got them, like I said, build that relationship. This like services, like Hypeddit as well, which are quite cool for getting in contact with the right people.

NS: Yeah, what about? What's the…

PC: SubmitHub?

NS: What did you say?

PC: SubmitHub, as well…

NS: SubmitHub? Yeah, that’s a really big one.

PC: You know, as much as they are a competitor in a way, they do serve a different slightly audience. And we do so you know, you might get some success. But at the end of day, there’s thousands of people releasing every single day, you just gotta be really good with your marketing. And if you can find that personal connection with someone, you'll find much more success than going through a third party. In my opinion, anyway.

NS: Yeah, gotcha. And well, I guess as well, once you've made that contact, you can say, “Hey, I'm going to add you to my Promoly list.” So yeah, to get emails from there.

PC: I think… Yeah, that's right. And the important thing is, once you've got this contact, nurture them, that's where people, you know, they fall short, they get this contact like I get your email, Nick, and I only email you when I want something. So which is in the end, you start thinking, “oh, this guy’s only contacted me because he wants me to feature his track. Like, check in, ask him how he is, you know, find something about him saying, did you have a nice holiday? Did you a nice Christmas, whatever season it is?" Random little personal emails, just cuts through that noise a little bit more and makes you look more human instead of just a marketing bot.

Yeah. I agree. Don't be afraid to have a relationship. I think that's sometimes where it comes from, is people are trying to just keep it all almost too professional into business. Sort of opening up and being like, well, how was your Christmas or something like it's too personal. But I have to agree you, you need to get over that and make it personal.

PC: A lot of people put themselves in the way that they're scared. And I think that's what it is. They're scared to reach out to someone and say, think these like, you know, CEO’s of huge monsters and huge corporations. But you know, just because the company looks spook around by people like ourselves, you know, we all start with a small idea. Same with the big playlisters, you know, people with like 100k lists, you know, that they're just music fans, unless I had to think about it. But they love music. Otherwise, they wouldn't have built it yet. They may have monetized it and turned it into a business. But that doesn't mean they're sort of untouchable or unapproachable. You know, some people aren't nice, but fortunately… there isn't very nice people, but there are some really cool people as well. And not everyone in the music industry is a snake.

NS: Yeah, it's a numbers game, isn't it?

PC: A lot of decent people as well trying to do the right thing and trying to help people and yeah, just don't be afraid to contact and check in or if you see them post a picture on Twitter about their dog, you know, just make it about them. Just “So, how's your dog?” and so on, you know, silly stuff like that. I know it sounds nuts, but it really does work because it shifts our perspective on someone. You know, I get random emails from people blasting services at me saying I've got an SEO service like, check it out. And I'll be like, “no, I'm not doing that.” But then I'll get a random email from someone just saying “Hi Pete, how’s your weekend” and I’m like “Who’s this?” but it intrigues me so I want to reply and say “yeah, it's good. How's yours?” And then they come in with their pitch. Which…

NS: So you've already opened the door, you've already let them in.

PC: Yeah, yeah. As soon as you get that reply, your hard work is essentially done. You might get a no overall, but it's getting the reply, which is the difficult bit with these tastemakers, but then people are scared. I think it was if they don't? I don't know. Yeah, it's a weird one. You see a lot of people here. They're scared. Yeah, fear of rejection, maybe? They think they're going to be turned down - in the music industry, you'll be turned down 90% of your time. And most people will say no to you. And if they didn't say no, they wouldn't be doing their job properly. You know, we can't have everything.

NS: But it's a numbers game, isn’t it? And eventually you find the people that you connect with.

PC: It’s a huge numbers game, huge numbers game and you think, what, the average email open rate is 25%. So that's just to get them to open the average reply rate by 3-4% for the normal human?

NS: Of that 25%.

PC: Of that 25%.

NS: So looking at .01% of people responding.

PC: Yeah, yeah. Unless you’re very good. And that's where sort of subject lines come in, in getting on the hook. And yeah, like it says, numbers. If you're sending out 10,000 emails per month, you'd probably get a decent sort of response. But then how'd you get those 10,000 emails out qualified? The use of email?

NS: Relationships…

PC: Yeah, it's a long game, long game. And as soon as people realize that, it, it sort of cuts out for difficulty, because you know, it's not going to be an easy ride. And when you've got to do set a time, every single day, like you said, and keep chipping away is the only way to do it. Soon as you stop, that’s when it goes wrong. You just got to keep going. That's the same for anything.

NS: Good advice right there. Now moving on to blogs. Are they still relevant?

PC: Depends on the blog. There's some really good-looking blogs, but they get no traffic. Whenever I’ve emailed someone, I always think what is the return on investment, though? I've invested 10 pounds into this campaign for me to reach DJs, for example. Now what I've, what am I going to make back off this blog, I've emailed, like, you need to check the traffic. That's one thing. You can use tools like Ubersuggest, they're an SEO tool, you need to see how much traffic is going into that website. Because a cool blog might feature your new song. But if that cool blog only gets two visits per month, was it really worth sending to that blog? You've got to think realistically, but if that blog is getting two visits last month, four visits this month, next month's predicted six and you can see, at some point, bad traffic is gonna keep increasing and peak - then that might be valuable. But if they’ve been stagnant for a year, and it looks like they don't really know what they're doing, then maybe not. So you've got to be careful, like with anyone you email.

NS: What was the total? You said to say, if, if I was like, “cool, I want to look at this blog and see how many views they're actually getting.” What tools can you use? Did you say…

PC: There's a load, there’s one called SimilarWeb.

NS: SimilarWeb?

PC: SimilarWeb, where you can just plug in a domain name and it will give you some stats, it will show you where their traffic's coming from, like, the percentage coming from like Reddit and Twitter, and how much of it. There’s Ubersuggest, which is an SEO tool, but it is free to start with, and you can plug in a domain and it will show you the organic traffic.

NS: So when you say domain, do you mean you put in the blog’s website address?

PC: Yeah, your website. Sorry, I'm talking technical?

NS: No, no, just so, you put that into Ubersuggest and it will give you an idea of how…

PC: Yeah, for example, you could go to Ubersuggest. I think is, just Google “Ubersuggest,” it is ran by Neil Patel. And you could put in, say, “” - my website domain, and it will show you how many traffic you've seen a month, I mean, some sort of website. So it's the same a blogger. So you could put in we use Kerrang! as an example. They've got a decent blog, in And I'll probably show you how many millions of visitors they get per month. So around would be really valuable. Where a brand new startup blog, they might be valuable one day, but at the moment, you know, yes, they want your content, and they need that. So maybe you could send your release to them after it comes out. But before it comes out, you want to build momentum and traffic. Everything's to trafficking.

Speaking of traffic…

PC: Yeah.

NS: Speaking of traffic, paid advertising. So what do you use? What works? Any, any failures? Any recommendations?

PC: Paid is… Yeah, it's a slippery slope, if you don't know what you're doing. I'm not an expert. But I kind of have an understanding of when I need to press the stop button. I use something that at the moment called

NS: Adrial?

PC: Adriel. They essentially run off the back of Facebook ads, that is a managed system. So for every five pound you spend, I think they charge one pound something management fee. So instead of paying a promoter, like a Facebook sort of pay promoter, for example, 1000 a month, because that's how much most of them will charge upwards.

NS: So paid, sorry, pay promoter, do you mean going to see a specialist who says “I will run your Facebook.”

PC: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And they charge a management fee. And normally, they sort of segment that management fee depending on the amount of spend on Facebook. So the bigger the budget, the more they'll charge. Adriel will do the same, but they charge you a percentage on the amount of money you're putting in. So you could test out a campaign at five pounds per month- five pound per day, sorry. And not per month, that'd be very cheap. And they will charge you, I think, all in all, is that six quid included in your ad spend per day.

NS: But what's the benefit of using these guys to just going on to your own Facebook Ads Manager and doing it yourself?

PC: Well, they know what they're doing, which is the difference. So if something's going horrifically wrong, they'll message you and say, I suggest you change this, or you need some new ad copy, or you you should limit this audience and you should start a new audience, I've been trying them out. And actually, they've got me really good results. And I'm not an expert when it comes to ads, I know so much. But then my limit sort of stops. And also ads is a scary place because you could use your entire budget in a day, if you don't know what you're doing. It's quite easy. Facebook will keep spending, they're not bothered. Same, same with Twitter ads, same with Google cost-per-click, you know, so I think if you can find a managed platform, or Adriel, I've had good results. The only downfall is that they collect the stats, the pixel gets seasoned, so the tracking pixel in Facebook, I get seasoned, but you won't have the campaign stats in your ad account. But for promoting a song… I don't know, it might be worth trying them out. I know. You've got various courses about sort of, you've got one on Facebook ads?

NS: Yeah, yeah, we've got one that takes you through if you want to, specifically, in fact, get people to listen to your music on Spotify. So it's setting up a Spotify pixel, which will register when somebody listens to the track on Spotify. So yeah, it will advertise it to more and more people like that.

PC: Yeah. Yeah.

NS: I don't, I don't find it too, I think…Yeah, I guess when I first started out, it was complicated. I guess, if you've got a formula to follow it is a bit easier. But when it does come to just spending hard money, it is a bit scarier. I guess some people are a little bit more weary.

PC: Yeah, you've always got to look as in return on investment again. So for every dollar you spend, for example, every pound you spend, you know, can you make four pounds back? You don't want to just plow money in and not make anything back. Because that's pointless.

NS: However, on that point, though, wouldn't you say that from a traditional business selling widgets? Yes. Because if you don't sell, you know, you need to get a return on selling that widget. However, when it comes to the music industry, and any entertainment industry, whether that's you know, film or music, that you would more look at the spend being a marketing spend, and you're not necessarily looking at like, I spend a pound, so I get a £1.50 worth of downloads or listens on Spotify. Or do you think it should be that way? Because, you know, the idea is building your fans and then, you know, and then they come to see your show, and that's where you make your money.

PC: Yeah, possibly, I suppose you've got a look at somewhere down the line, you expect to make that money back. I don't think any company with any brains will just spend 10k and not expect a return. for example, like, if, for example, you're spending 100 pounds a month on Facebook ads driving Spotify, you hope by the end of the quarter, you have made four times that amount back. So if you're spending say a quarter, so four months, 400 pound pump, the whole thing, you know, can you times that by four in your royalty statements? And if you stop those ads, do you notice your royalty statements go down? So that's I think how you have to look at it, it might be difficult to track Spotify plays, I know they pay absolutely peanuts, you know…

Perhaps breaking that up and spending some of that money on driving people to your Bandcamp page. Yeah, driving people to your website where they can you know, buy merchandise or post-COVID come to your show.

PC: Yeah, yeah, one day when they can come the shows. I wouldn't recommend spending money on pushing people towards say like beatport or… do you know? Because you know, Beatport will ultimately make more money than you. So I know it's not always about money and the music industry always says it’s always about the music but we still need to get paid, earn it, you still need to live so you got to be sensible in yes, it’s cool to have amazing releases, but you want to make some cash off it. And as much as people deny it, you know, deep down we're all in there creating a business to make a nice living and one day be very comfortable. But I'm sure there's others who completely point blank refused what I'm saying and say oh, no, capitalism, blah, blah, blah. But yeah, you have to be sensible with ad budget, you know, kind of “spend 100 pounds, want to make 150 back.” And then if you do, then that's great, you've just made a profit. And that's the same as selling music. If you can build a website which has mp3’s, drive people straight to your catalogue, track the conversion, and see how much you will have to spend for people to buy. And the good thing is, once you - going back to email again - once they buy from you, you've got their email address. So you don't have to spend that ad reach to reach next time, you can email them directly and just say I've got a new release coming out here, you can buy it straight away from my website. So you even need to think about you’re buying a lead, which will then be a long term customer of your record label or DJ sets or whatever you're doing. All you need to think about, can I make this money directly back on the sale? I think you're naive if you go in and just say I'm going to spend 200 pound a month and I don't care if I make it back. Because you know, it's mostly my business.

NS: I think the key that you said there is, is tracking it as well. So whether, you know, whether or not you are making return on it directly from the sale or long term, you want to be tracking that and making sure after a year is, is the arrow going up or down and change your strategies accordingly.

PC: Yeah, you've got to set KPIs for yourself. So your key performance indicators and I know it’s some very kind of business and boring…

NS: Just setting goals, isn't it? What do I want? I want to have 100,000 plays at the end of 12 months and I'm willing to spend X amount of money to get there.

PC: I see if the 100 pound a month campaign gets you that, then is amazing, you know, you've done what you've planned out and it's worked… is when you're spending 100 pounds, and you're getting 20 plays a month. And if you add that up, you think: “that is nowhere near 100k by the end of the year, so something isn't working.” But like you said, when you use your pixel, you can track that, you can see how many people have clicked your landing page – so, your website - and then how many people went on to press that purchase button on your mp3 download. You can track the multiple conversion stages from the time someone sees your ad to when they click on it, that's a conversion. So the “click-through rate,” to when they land on your landing page, which is your website or, you know, song catalog, bass, another conversion. So that'd be someone viewing. And then you can track another conversion. To initiate checkout is when they click “Add to Basket,” and then your ultimate conversion of when someone buys it. And you can work out all those different funnel stages. And as you can see where people dropping off of a bounce in when they get to your catalog when you think well why is that? Is the page running slow? Or is it not appealing? Or is it a mess? You know, some people have no experience in web development. And what they create is just a mishmash of colors and it doesn't look good on the eye. But then that’s where Fiverr comes in, you can do a lot of things for cheap, and get people to optimize stuff for very small amounts of money.

NS: Or even just using platforms like Bandcamp as well and count for you. Although I do know Bandcamp doesn't allow you to install a Facebook pixel, which is a real downside about the platform, unfortunately.

PC: I wonder why, I don't… probably because they want to keep it within themselves, I guess and they want to track but then I spend

NS: You know what, they are all about supporting musicians. I actually put my money on the fact that, however they built the back-end, the technology just doesn't allow it to easily work or it or it creates security vulnerabilities. But we're getting very technical here.

PC: I know, let’s talk about something easy.


NS: So, keeping I guess on social media, which platforms are you finding gets the best response at the moment? YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap, or TikTok?

PC: TikTok is an interesting one, isn't it? Yes. See, I've checked out TikTok a couple of times, the first time it scared me. I thought “what is this, is a load of girls dancing to music.” And I just thought this is not for me at all. And then I realized they’re making songs go viral. And I thought, “hang on a minute.” Like, we've got pro marketers and publicists charging a lot of money per month for massive campaigns. And then you get a couple of young 15 year olds dancing to tracks and they've fixed-

NS: It sounds ridiculous.

PC: You think of what they did to The Weeknd. And I know The Weeknd is really well known as an artist anyway. But his, that viral campaign was about as viral as you can get with those girls who just started that dance routine. And then millions of other sort of people copy that dance routine along to The Weeknd’s track. I don't know how well that can be pulled off or you know, is it repeatable, but…

NS: I think this is the thing about TikTok is, is people are seeing success from it that come from happy accidents.

PC: Yeah.

NS: And things that go viral, it's, it can be quite difficult to create something viral. But like a closer example actually, that just happened last week is the sea shanty song. I don't know if you've seen a guy. He's doing a sea shanty, and he sort of duplicates himself singing in unison, and he's been just signed to Universal last week and the track it looks like they're recording a professional it looks like it's gonna go to number one. And that was just him. Random guy doing a sea shanty song that just went nuts on TikTok. But again, I think that's a, I think it's a happy accident.

PC: I mean, they’re the best ones, aren't they? I suppose a good example is when I really started up a Johnny track with Brian and what, nine. Last time I checked, I checked in ages on UKF we, you know, we all agreed to do it. And what, 9 million plays?... Yeah, happy accident. We couldn't if we try that today, it wouldn't work. Right time, right place, right audience, you know, you just, sometimes, you just got to go for it. But as for the best social network, I think they're all equally as good. I think people go wrong is when they try and be on all of them. You end up limiting your time by all you're doing is, oh now I gotta go on Twitter to promote release, now got on Facebook, and Instagram, and now YouTube, and now TikTok, and then I gotta get on the Spotify playlist - you end up doing is just diluting your time, innit? You know, when you dilute things too much, you don't put enough attention into one thing that will actually drive an audience. So maybe just build up Twitter, or maybe just build up YouTube. Pick one and go for it and see what happens.

NS: So this is specifically… if you're a single/duo artist, or a small team, pick one, focus on it. And then…

PC: Yeah… like I said, I'm really stats driven. And if something is working, then why stop doing that to go on something else?

NS: Yeah.

PC: I think if Twitter really works, I mean, I don't know if they’re that great for releasing a new song. For example, I'd say some more Instagram, short teaser clips might be better. You just need to test it out, your audience might really like Instagram, and say for example, your audience's TikTok who the girls who are predominantly 17 to 19, they like pop music. That is where your audience are, you know; to then go on Twitter and try and release music to that same audience - you find they are not there. And if that goes with anything, you need to work out where they are, if they all sit in on Reddit, or in a forum, for example, on like a obscure thing about, you know, like a sub-forum about crypto kitties, but they all got really Japanese music, for example. And you know, you've got a little niche sat there, waiting to hear it. So you just need to test these things out, and do a little bit of everything to start with and see where you started getting the likes and the comments and then do a bit more. And then work out what people type of content in like today like videos, or do they like just written posts with a link to your SoundCloud? Test it out. And then just be consistent and monitor over a month and then at the end of the month, see where you started. See where you are now. Do I need to carry on? Yes, no, and move on. Or continue.

NS: Set goals, be consistent, and monitor.

PC: Goals, goals, goals, goals, goals!

NS: Yeah. What… going back to doing email promotion. Typically, what rookie mistakes or common problems do you see over and over again?

PC: Biggest mistake is sending out to people who you don't know who they are. Where we get a lot of our people scrape the list. And what I mean by scraping is I'll go on Google or pay a developer to scrape a email list off the internet and then they'll try and deliver it to those people thinking it will work. So that doesn't work, full stop, like I said is pointless. You're wasting your time effort. You're wasting your money, you're wasting our platform’s resources by doing that. So we put a stop to it, which is good. You know, what are the other big mistakes? Not giving the right release information. Sending the wrong release dates.

NS: Sending the wrong release dates?

PC: Yeah, yeah, like when people promote music, you think if you're a blogger waiting to receive that music they write about when the song is coming out. So if you don't send them a release date, or if you send them the wrong release date, so it's coming out in June and they put the release date is September the next year. They're going to put the wrong info. And sort of write up about you. So, you know, check the way - we do try and make it easy on Promoly, we actually got a release date box. So you can plug in the actual release date and we set that in the campaign. So you don't have to mistype it providing you don't give us the wrong information first, we'll deliver it correctly. What else do people miss in their press releases? They miss putting stuff, like artists’ names, you know, really basic stuff is just, I think they're even a rash, “I must get this song out.” Like we get so many record labels panic, saying, “No, I need to get a song out tonight. Because their release date’s in a week.” You know, just be more organized. And, you know, think about it strategically. You know, have you got release dates, basic stuff, is the artist information available? Are the song names available? Because some people will upload an mp3, for example. And it'll just be a string of numbers. And you just, you got to think this poor DJ, on the other end, if he downloads that, he's not going to know who it is. So…

NS: …title your tracks correctly.

PC: Title your tracks, we are building a feature where you can rename tracks within Promoly, which will be useful, it's been asked several times. But anything in development wise takes time to build… plan it, build it, test it and see if it actually works. So yeah, but you could save yourself some effort by renaming them correctly in the first place.

NS: Stay organized.

PC: Stay organized, set a release schedule, stick to it. Stick with your promotion schedule, have a checklist. I'm sure you teach this…

NS: Release checklist. Yup.

PC: Yeah. Like, follow it. Like, you know, take your advice, because you've been there, done it, launched a big label, which is still going now - you're still part of that aside? Or have you moved from it?

NS: No, no, no, I, I passed my shares on, Yeah. Years ago, 2005? 2015, 2014? Still going super strong.

PC: Oh, yeah. That massive, massive and, you know, release after release. But look at, you know, a really good example. They are consistent, aren't they? You know,

NS: Consistency is key.

PC: Every single month, they'll have a couple of big tracks out on Black Label and just Never Say Die label. And they'll just keep churning and churning and churning, they'll gauge the interest, see which artists are doing well. And we'll do that. But Never Say Die’s a customer of ours. And they've been with us since the beginning of Promoly’s evolution, I think… you know, checking with TJ and things. Occasionally we'll chat and, you know, they're, you know, they've got a close-knit network, they don't deliver a lot of promos. And I won't mean I can't go into details of what they deliver. But they've got a really close-knit network. And that's the best way to get results.

NS: So that's, the word is, even if you're a massive label, it doesn't mean you have to be sending out thousands of promos, you just got to send out to a select few. To the right influencers

PC: The ones that will make a difference. And that's it.

NS: But yeah, those relationships with people that are gonna make a difference is key.

PC: Deliver the right information to the right people. And, you know, if you do that correctly, then you'll be ahead of the game by a mile.

NS: Yeah. So finally, final question. What are you most excited about and the future of music? And in the future of marketing? Well, marketing music, I should say.

PC: I think I'm excited about technology coming out. The music industry is catching on at long last with cool little apps that will help people. We’re a bit behind compared with other sort of businesses and, you know…

NS: What would you mean, as an example?

PC: Like music tech that's coming out? For example, label radar? Have you heard of those guys? They help record labels deliver promos to inboxes - not promos, sorry. Demos.

NS: I was gonna say, aren’t they your competition?

PC: Yeah, you're promoting them now? No, they're cool guys. You know.

NS: Ah yes, they deliver… people that want to deliver demos into the inbox.

PC: Yeah, yeah. So they help. Record labels sort of receive demos, which is really cool. Before we didn't have any of this, you know, we literally live off, buddy Dropbox, didn't we? And they're all files, or the other big ones coming out? You've got Vampr over in the States. They've just done a huge funding round. They're trying to be the sort of big social network for the music industry. They sort of – I’d chat with the founder a couple of months back and you know, you can swipe a bit how imagine Tinder works, you can swipe left or right on someone's profile and then you can make a match and then you connect to them and build a relationship which is quite cool – not like, personal relationship. A professional relationship.

NS: “Vamper”?

PC: Vampr. V-A-M-P-R. And also I'm excited about is Cosound. Do you know those guys?

NS: Cosound? Again, I think I've seen them in my emails.

PC: Yeah, yeah, I've been chatting with them a lot, recently as well. And they are also a social network for the music industry. So there's some really interesting things coming out. I'm excited to see where these companies go. Like I said, I love building relationships with businesses. That's one of my strengths. And, you know, I don't really see them as competitors; even our direct competitors, you know, I wish them all the best. And I hope they do well of what they do. And so it works really well. And I think if you that way minded, and, you know, hop on these trends and help people succeed, then it is win-win for everyone. But yeah, music tech, I think there's going to be more of that people are riding a bit of the wave, which is good, including ourselves. As for big plans for us, we, we’re planning new features, in Promoly. We're trying to turn into a music marketing suite, as opposed to just delivering promos. So we're still work off email, but it means that you can also post release marketing within Promoly as well. So if you've got a fan list, you can have two separate mailing lists within Promoly. And you could deliver promos to your tastemakers and then sort of updates to your fans via email newsletters.

NS: Sort of the MailChimp there, or

PC: Yeah, MailChimp are good, and they're fine of what they do. But they're not catered for our audience. I don't think they ever will be. They say they can work with, you know, they may promote about music industry, but they're not in our industry. And you know that they're good at email marketing, but we can do better for the industry.

NS: I do hope you do set that up. Because I've often thought, “Why isn't there a, why isn’t there a MailChimp or Sendinblue that's just - or Drip - that's just focused on the music industry. I really… it's very bizarre that I haven't seen it. So I do hope you put that together.

PC: Yeah, yeah. So we have actually built a mailer. Like a sort of newsletter mailer. It's not in production, yet. It's in a process, we've got a big sort of hurdle to get over within our database setup. You know, we've got, you know, you can't have… you can have one database, which is fine. But databases are massive. And they're segmented hugely, we got to be sensible about how we have it set up logistically, so it doesn't sort of get under stress. So we're coming up with a plan with that. Yeah, we're just slowly developing things. And hopefully, it'll turn into something nice. Yeah. Our plan is where we're going to hop on them. We're going to try and start seeking investment. I think that's our next move. So we can build a bigger Promoly team because we, we're a small team at the moment. We do a good job, but we could do a better job with more people.

NS: And more money from investment.

PC: Yeah, yeah.

NS: I'll be buying shares when you…

PC: You can be an angel investor. I know. I know you're sat on a couple of million.

NS: Well, Pete, I want to say thanks for being on The Label Machine Series. If you're listening, you can check out Pete's company Promoly. It's P-R-O-M-O dot L-Y, go and visit there as well. And you know, if you, if you want to be sending a promo out, that is the place to be. Yep. Thank you again, Pete for being on the series.

PC: No, it's been good. Nice to chat with you.

NS: Alright, awesome. Thanks.

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