Episode #5 is a warm reunion of LEVL8 co-founders Nick Sadler and Matt Ryan! Matt is also the director at Par Excellence and over the course of his career he has managed artists such as Foreign Beggars, Alix Perez, The Upbeats and Shades.
In this episode the two will go over the reality of artist management today, live shows, record release promo and marketing techniques for up-and-coming artists and much more.
NICK SADLER: "Welcome to the label machine series, where we discuss with successful industry professionals, how artists and record labels, market and sell their music. My name is Nick Sadler and today's guest is Matt Ryan. Matt is a director at Par Excellence, a artist management company based in London. He oversees various artists such as The Upbeats, Shades, Alix Perez and Gentleman's Dub Club, as well as managing record labels, such as 1985 Music. Matt, how are you today?"
MATT RYAN: "I'm good, thanks. How you doing?"
NS: "Yeah, I'm good! Thanks for being on the show. So, first question, how did you get started in the music industry to where you got to where you are now?"
MR: "So I went to BIMM or I played in bands for sort of years, pretty unsuccessfully, and then went to BIMM in Brighton. And then after that, I ended up, doing an internship with a friend of mine who was managing Foreign Beggars at the time. So I kind of worked my way up there basically. So I started off as the intern. Then I started doing logistics for them and I sort of ended up tour managing them for a bit. And then it turned out my friend actually left, decided he wanted to get out the music game. And I was able to take on, I became their manager basically alongside a couple of other guys and eventually took on, on my own. And then basically just built up my roster from that."
NS: "Nice. So you've got, I ran into a few, a couple of the artists, but, what are the company's main activities, today?"
MR: "In terms of like the management company, like?"
NS: "Yeah, in terms of Par Excellence, like what's your main kind of day-to-day activities with your artists?"
MR: "I mean, in normal times it would be a lot of touring stuff. 'Cause that's where we make the bulk of our money. Obviously at the moment it's slightly different. We do still have acts touring in New Zealand, but that's it. So it's literally everything, really. So it's from like figuring out - ultimately the end goal is trying to, obviously the goal is to have a successful act that is making, generating a living and making money out of music. So it's figuring out what needs to happen in order for that to happen basically. So it's like, essentially we were figuring out their release strategy, where they're releasing, who they're collaborating with, the timing of that, the timing of tours, getting them working with the right agents, the right lawyers, the right, like the right sort of merch companies, if that's relevant, like, and then it's literally figuring out the best, like the best strategy in terms of growing the audience, doing bigger shows and how that all pieces together. So it's kind of along with actually all the business side as well. So some acts will sort of do more - well it's basically all of them. We have civic accountants for them where we are essentially managing their businesses as well. So it's literally every single bit of managing a business, essentially."
NS: "Nice. I guess we can't really ignore the fact that we are in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic, which has had a huge effect on the music industry. So yeah. You mentioned earlier what you would normally do, I guess. How has that changed in the last six months for you? What are you focusing more on now that live looks like being delayed until 2021/22?"
MR: "Probably '22, really. It's kind of a mix thing, we're doing more merchandise for everyone, which is good. So doing physical sales and things like that, which is helping to try and bring some revenue in. We're kind of just looking - like the original strategy was I'm going to someone saying to me it's like during lockdown, it was a good time to either innovate or to buckle down and create some really good arts. So it's like either completely flip up what you're doing, or like really concentrate and come up with a great product where you've got the time to do it. I kind of went down the second route in that I didn't want to just jump on the live stream bandwagon. It's not to say we haven't done, we have done successful live streams actually, but, I didn't want to jump on the bandwagon and just do like live streams, Patreons, all these things that everyone was doing, the market was already flooded unless you had an interesting or a different way of doing it."
"So we focused more on, okay, right: we're going to have this period of time out, but we do have album projects on the go anyway. So it meant that those albums, somebody that's maybe bigger features on the records, or there was more time spent on the record, more time on the creative, around like the videos and the social content around it. So I think we've just kind of trying to utilize the time for when things do go back to normal. It was probably going to have to change again, as I think we were kind of working on a timeline where spring touring next year was going to happen. This was as of a few months ago, whereas this week is looking like it's probably going to be autumn touring if not 2021 touring basically."
"One of the things, 'cause we have two acts that are in New Zealand at the moment. So we cancel that. The strategy has changed slightly over there because there's no international acts coming in, which means you're able to drive bigger numbers on the artists that you have there, which is really good. So some of those we're going to grow to that point anyway, because we'd been working on them for a period of time and kind of working to go to that next level. But basically it's like, it's definitely, whilst you can do it, you can do more shows at the moment. There's more interest, it's like kind of capitalizing on that centrally."
NS: "And, is that just because New Zealand has been so good at making sure that COVID isn't there or is it something you could potentially do in Australia as well?"
MR: "It may be in Australia, they're talking about opening their work and what's it called, like, they were going to do it where you could, if you were from New Zealand, you could play in Australia as well. Obviously they keep having the local lockdowns in Australia. So I think that's probably going to be a duct in territories, depending on where it is over the next couple of months. There might be some New Year's shows, but it's still a little bit, a little bit sort of on the fence at the moment."
NS: "Yeah. Okay. Well, let's go back to the kind of more traditional way of running the business and we'll move away from the COVID. So as well as managing artists, you're also managing artists' record labels as well. Now people often think that when you're in a position where you're managing an artist and you're also managing the record label, it could be seen as a bit of a 360 deal. And, you know, in times before with majors, it could be seen as a negative or a bad thing. But can you sort of run through some of the benefits of working with someone that offers everything under the one roof, when you're managing the artist and their label?"
MR: "So I guess it's like, it's, it's good in terms of you, again, you can work on your timelines and strategies because a lot of, like, a lot of touring strategy and festival strategy is based on when, on the timing of releases and when they come out and making sure that you do get them out for the right periods; for example, if you're a headline act and you're getting offers. So if you're an act getting offers, say like the festival is in September, October, then it's prudent to have releases coming out around then. So that people know you've got new music coming to be promo around it and sort of to demonstrate that you're still with that fan base for the festivals. 'Cause I think festivals kind of get burned by people being promised records and then them not actually coming out ahead of, ahead of the performance. So when you're working with other labels, for example, it's like, you don't have that level of flexibility - not always, but necessarily, see what I mean? Depending on what it is. It's also great as well, 'cause like once the, for example, like with 1985 it's, 'cause it's Alix's label very much. It's very much his style. He does a lot. He does almost all of the design actually. And it's, by having really stuff from other people that helps him and the label, if you see what I mean, in the sense that it's the profile of both of them, that is, that is put out there, essentially."
NS: "Right. And by him being able to do the design as well, you're not reliant on a record label coming up with finding an artist to do the designs and getting all that approval. It just gets all done really quickly."
MR: "Exactly. Yeah. There's a really good workflow to it. And we do, we do use external designers sometimes, but it's kind of, yeah, the majority of it is Alix. But I think that's with any kind of business or anything, it's good to have clearly defined roles as to who's doing what, basically. So like if you're the creative lead essentially, and you have the sign off from the creative, obviously everyone looks at it, puts their input in, but ultimately it's good. Like if you have a "head," like the Head of A&R, Head of Creative, you know what I mean, a Head of Marketing, whatever, so that the different roles are signed off - obviously it's discussed, but it means that you don't kind of just get into a discussion or it's not, or you kind of mess it up where it's clear who's doing what basically, and things can move smoothly along."
NS: "Just going back a second as well, you mentioned, you know, releasing music and doing festivals. Just for the listeners, can you kind of explain what the festival cycle is?"
MR: "So in Europe - well in Europe and the States basically, or so the Northern Hemisphere actually - obviously it kind of runs from about May through to about the end of August, give or take, there's a couple of bits in September. And the bookings, it changes year on year in terms of how early those festivals book, but the general pattern would be: your super, super headline is like, you're talking your Stormzy's, people like that - probably over a year in advance, probably around mid summer, if not a bit before. Then, you're kind of 2nd tier is generally just after the festival is finished. So it's sort of, talking around September and then it kind of rolls on, it kind of keeps moving. It keeps moving lower and lower down the bill, basically. So some people will be getting booked up to after Christmas. There'll be a kind of January thing. And then for the late festivals it might run on, but in general, you're kind of wrapped up by the end of January in normal cases."
NS: "So does that mean you want to, if you do have music coming out, do you want to be releasing that before January? Or do you want to be making announcements? Like, where would you plug? Where would you, how would you work the music within that?"
MR: "So it depends on how much you had to come out. 'Cause obviously it'd be nice to have - so it's like, you're looking at a new act particularly, ideally that music's had some traction, if you see what I mean? So if you were to put it out a little bit earlier than January, say the back end of last year, it does really well on Spotify. When you're getting those bookings, you can step to the festival book and say, look, I've got this record came out in October, it's now got X amount of plays, doing really well. It's had this pickup, these look good on Spotify, send them the data, like, we've got X amount of listeners there and use that data to push it. If you're already a more established act and you kind of already know where your place is in that billing order, you can, you could probably put out a little bit later or around the time it's booking. So they know that you've some music out there, you know, there's gonna be promo around you and they're happy to kind of see that that is happening. Do you see, I mean, without necessarily having made the traction, basically?"
NS: "Okay. That's good to know. Is there - so sort of talking again about the being both an artist manager and a label manager for an artist - is there any situations where you wouldn't recommend having that set up?"
MR: "I guess it really depends what you're doing, but it ends up being quite a lot of work and it's a singular team. So that would be the only downside. I mean, if you know what you're doing in that market and it makes sense, then it can be good, but often for new projects, there's not a lot of budget involved. And it's really about, for new projects, it's really about a lot of times the team that's involved. 'Cause it's so hard to quantify how well music is going to do. And the only way to sort of say, before it has the success, the only way that people in the industry kind of are potentially prepared to take a punt on it is based on the other people who are involved in it, if that makes sense."
"So it's like, yeah, so you have the right manager involved with the right agent involved or the right lawyer involved or the right label involved or like a publisher. It's like, they're all checkboxes of being like, "Oh wow, those people that decided to get involved." So that could be something in this kind of thing. And this generally is the way that people look at it. So I guess in that instance, it's like you would take it and sign to a big label or you've got a secondary team. It's, it's new ideas, other like potentially additional investment also kind of potentially gives the project more credibility. It's like, not to always use the festival booking example, but for example, like sometimes with the new act, it's like, it will be - if they don't have that much traction - it will be the leverage of the agent, the manager, the label, for example, it's able to get them that slot. And it might be that the festival was kind of interested with the, with the management and agent team and then suddenly they get signed to a big label or let, and then that might, and you can say, look, we just signed to this label. That will be enough to then tip the deal and get that opening slot and sort of be given a chance essentially."
"For new projects, it's really about a lot of times the team that's involved. 'Cause it's so hard to quantify how well music is going to do. And the only way to sort of say, before it has the success, the only way that people in the industry kind of are potentially prepared to take a punt on it is based on the other people who are involved in it"
NS: "Gotcha. Strength in numbers."
NS: "So what are your biggest challenges as a music manager, managing artists?"
MR: "So I guess there's a few things. So it's like, like one of the things sort of in the modern days, the fact that we tour globally. So it's quite a 24/7 job. So we have acts in New Zealand, I mean, at any given points between 11 and 13 hours apart, it's not unheard of to have calls where you've got someone in New Zealand, someone here, and someone in America and then trying to find a time zone or time that actually works for that is, is really difficult. So yeah, it's kind of trying to, I think trying to sort of balance your work and personal life is definitely pretty hard in the management game. I mean, on some years I'd been away sort of over 120, 130 days a year. If you're not, I mean, if you think it's one in every three days, you're not actually at home. So it's like, which is fun, which it's fun for a period of time, but you've just gotta be prepared to do that at, at certain points."
NS: "Gotcha. What are some rookie mistakes or common problems that you see over and over again artists make? And I guess, you know, anything from someone who's starting out or even what you see some more established artists doing?"
MR: "I think sometimes people, like - we've had it quite a few times where like artists, they don't, what should I say? Basically, like, where they get too caught up in what they're trying to do creatively or particularly, like with artworks and things like that. And sometimes it can be, obviously you want to do the best record possible and you want the creative around it to be cool and to work for the project. But I think sometimes people can get a bit too sort of stuck in their heads about it. And it's like, actually you end up delaying things or put more money in or whatever. And actually for what you've kind of added to the artwork side, it doesn't really add to the actual, the whole project. Could you see what I mean, it's like you end up missing out on- you might sell less tickets for the tour because the record didn't come out early enough; you might not get that booking you wanted, like it might not have; you might not hit the deadlines you wanted to get the Spotify pictures or things like that."
"So I think, I think that is a big one. And also one of the biggest things is forgetting how much time it takes to actually do things. So a lot of artists say, "Oh cool, well that only takes a couple of weeks to get into Spotify. I'll do that." But there's so much more around that. And if you want good people working with you, it's like, they're going to be busy. So you need to give people as much time as possible. And it's like a well though-out campaign and well organized campaign is going to go a lot further than something that's maybe- maybe the tracks better, but if it's rushed and it doesn't have the time to do the, to be able to like to get everything you need to work well, then it's not going to do as well, because we really find that it's like, it's the sum of the parts that really makes, it really makes a successful record or artist, or, like, you wouldn't think the lip, but it's like making sure that every single little thing lands. So it's like, yeah, the iTunes home placement, and you get the Spotify placement, you get, but like you have the radio placement at the right time. You get these artists appointed, you send it out to everyone, you send it to managers. I don't know. But like making sure that the whole release strategy is actually done. And even though you wouldn't think one side of it made that much difference when it all comes together, it actually is kind of a snowball effect."
NS: "Hmm. So, artists, not to get too precious, I guess, about their artwork and branding, understanding timelines and just understanding that you're working with busy people, you need to make sure there's plenty of time. And, and by the sounds of it, it's all, it's the sum of all the little things. It's the long tail that cumulatively they all come together that actually makes the project successful rather than relying on say one particular part."
MR: "Exactly. Just to take about one step though, with say like branding is insanely important, if you don't, I mean the brand name, you have to go to spend the time and it has really got to be right. And some of the most successful projects are the ones with good creative branding. If you're not, I mean, you know what it is, you see the logo, you see something on stage and you can tell what the acts, who the act is. But it's just sometimes I think there's small details that you can get caught up on that perhaps don't play into that bigger picture."
NS: "So as a manager, I guess you're balancing between the "getting something finished" and "hitting a deadline and making it the best brand possible that everybody's happy with." I mean, what advice would you give to artists that might be being a little bit precious or they're sitting there and they're still worried about the name of their, you know, what they're going to name their album? Like what would you say to them?"
MR: "So I think it's, it depends on what you're up to. You're like, you've got to look at your timelines and then just make decisions basically. And I think it's like, they've we quite often find it's, you'll use whatever time you have. So you think, "Oh, I can't come up with a name or I need ages" and like spend three months thinking about it. It's like, if you know, you've only got two weeks to think about it. You'll use two weeks. If you have three months, you'll use three months. So it's like, because I think a lot of the time, particularly like naming stuff, unless you really sit down and just decide that you're going to come up with it, you won't. And it's, it's rare the things just pop into your head and you're like, "Oh great. I wasn't thinking about that. And suddenly now I've got this great name." It's only really when you actually put the time into coming up with it."
NS: "Right. So, a deadline seems to be the thing that'll make you sort of have a decision and commit to something, put it in sand."
MR: "Yep, exactly that."
NS: "Okay, cool. So, let's look at some, trending questions around marketing and sales. So, when it comes to record sales, where are you finding royalties are coming from, from the major platforms like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Tidal, etc?"
MR: "So it's mainly from Spotify for us on the digital side. Like we do well off the, like of the various kind of vinyl stores on the label, for example. And we also do, we do probably we do about 40, 50% direct actually as well. Which is pretty good."
NS: "So when you say, Spotify, you know, I think that's a big leader for everybody at the moment. So when you say direct, what do you mean by direct sales?"
MR: "Oh, sorry, sorry. So direct through our own website basically. And then we do a fair amount through Bandcamp as well. That said, Apple music, we do reasonably well on Apple music, on Amazon as well. But Spotify is kind of in terms of this, of digital numbers, Spotify is definitely the main frontrunner."
NS: "Gotcha. And when you're, when you're selling directly to fans via your website, are you just selling just the digital music as if someone was buying it off Amazon or are you packaging things up and that's, what's sort of helping with the sales?"
MR: "We do both. So it's so yeah, we generally do, we sell like a lot of vinyl through the website basically, because we also do it where you get a free digital download, if you buy the vinyl. You can buy the digital just separately as well, if you want to. But we do also do it through Bandcamp as well. And then what we normally do is, 'cause we do a lot of merchandise drops we should be doing really well and they generally sell out pretty fast. And so we normally do those exclusively through the web store to drive traffic to that platform.
NS: "Got it. Yeah. People are driving traffic and then even if they just want the digital download, they're getting it directly off you. High margins. So, you mentioned Spotify, and you know, Spotify is a big thing for all musicians, and labels these days. What have you been finding works for getting on Spotify playlists?"
MR: "To be honest, it's a little bit of a dark art in some ways like, it's, it's like, I think once you kind of get into the machine and they notice you, then it's, then it's quite helpful. I mean, always doing the Spotify pitch form ahead of time is helpful. Like, I mean, when you go to Spotify seminars, they always say like, just keep them updated, like with any kind of action that's on the release. So it's like, I mean, if you suddenly get added to a radio playlist or like, it goes, I don't know, at charts or something to that effect. I think like if you have direct relationships, they're great; is kind of, is quite hard as a few people. There's not that many people on those teams that do that and they look after a lot of music basically, but it definitely is a little bit of a, again, it's a little bit of a snowball effect, so it's kind of the more you get the more you're likely to get. Do you see what I mean? And once we found at the moment, like with Alix, for example, like he's getting a lot of playlists pickup and it's like, they're really great at giving us loads of support over there at the moment, which is really good. Like, and I think it feels like it's kind of growing and growing and growing, which is great."
NS: "So it sounds like if they want you to keeping them updated on, on what's going on, they're looking for action outside Spotify. And then once they see that you've all those little things you were saying to give it, to make it success, they will then come on board and say, "great, we'll also support you."
MR: "Exactly. Yeah. 'Cause they want to see it. They want, they want to be pushing tracks that are successful. So if there's signs of their success elsewhere, then it's a good indicator to them that it should be something that they should push. That's not to say that's the only way they might just, you might just get it to an editor and they love the track and add it to a playlist and that'd be great. But yeah, it's kind of, it's the wider picture as well. It's like people want to be seen to be supporting popular music, basically."
NS: "Gotcha. So I guess talking about other avenues for, you know, generating, interest and talk about music: blogs. Are they still relevant?"
MR: "I don't know. It was kind of hard."
NS: "What do you, do you personally find that they're still relevant for the music you guys are doing?"
MR: "I think it can be, yeah. And it's like some of the uploads that we do are still, I think are still - like we're uploading on YouTube platforms and things like that - are still really helpful and it definitely helps sort of kickstart a record and it potentially hits some people that may not have heard it, particularly with new artists. It's really good 'cause suddenly you've got your music in front of a larger audience that you wouldn't have done before, and then hopefully you'll convert some of those over into Spotify followers or they'll kind of follow you on socials. But yeah, it is kind of a hub one, but I do think there is still a place for it. And it's like, you might as well tick that box, if you know what I mean. It's like, if it's not too much, if you have those relationships, it's like, stick it on those blogs, stick it on those uploads, get it out there as well as doing the other things, basically."
NS: "Gotcha. When it comes to PR, do you use external companies?"
MR: "Depends on the record. So we, well, sorry to say, actually, 99% of the time we don't - this is for 1985 particularly. We just, we do it internally because it tends to be the same. I mean, we have good relationships with most of the publications, so it's quite easy for us to get music across them if they like it, hopefully they'll support it, but yeah, like we might, if we think a record might go further at radio and maybe gets, or maybe may get taken to playlist or something like that, then we'll potentially use a plugger, to push that out there. And the money you made back on the PPL kind of covers, as long as you get a certain amount place, you kind of cover the cost of that anyway."
NS: "Right. So that's a radio PR company for doing specifically for radio. So just doing it internally, if you were starting out though, would you maybe use a PR company and then once you built up those relationships with those publications and those editors, what you're saying is you just email them, because they're another person and if they like it, they support it. So you sort of essentially almost don't need a PR company?"
MR: "Yeah. It depends where you're up to. And it's like, and it's all about those relationships, basically. So if it's within ones, like within drum and bass, for example, there's not a ton of outlets you can go to, obviously certain records will go further and that will get more mainstream pickup. But yeah, it's kind of about the regularity with which you're speaking to people on the content you're giving them. So like using PR companies where they're speaking to people beyond that and putting bigger artists through them, you do increase your chance of getting covered by those people, by those publications due to the relationship of the PR company. So it's kind of on a case-by-case basis, but, yeah. So if your new and starting out who didn't have those relationships, then it would make sense to use a PR company because you're much more likely to get picked up off it."
NS: "Gotcha. Or you'd go, you're a one-off, you're doing a one-off project for an artist. You'd use a PR company, but you've got a record label, you're doing regular releases. Then you might as well build up those relationships. Cause you said, like you said, it's consistently keeping communication with them."
MR: "Exactly. If you had a record that was maybe going to go further or going to hit some new avenue, like you thought it might a bit more commercial appeal for whatever reason, you needed to hit some different styled magazines that you didn't have the links to - then, then I would say, okay, cool. Well, we know this person's got this reach. Let's see if they want to work this record."
NS: "And what do you mean when you say you think a record is going to go a bit further? What does that exactly mean?"
MR: "So say for example, for every reason it was maybe going to get picked up in like The Guardian or like some of the tabloids- some of the papers, sorry, or like maybe you're going to go on NME - so the commercial appeal of the record is going to be more than like the underground publications or this, or this genre-specific publications, sorry, I should say really that your currently pitching to, so it might be these one track is done crazily well at radio, or is that looking like it's going to get a chart or something like that. And suddenly it might be worth using a PR company to get that track out to a wider audience because it is going to appeal to that wider audience."
NS: "Gotcha. So you talked about radio plugging. Are people doing Spotify, playlist plugging? Is that a thing or is it just scams? What's your take on it?"
MR: "I think it can work. We haven't done a huge amount. I am completely honest. I know people that have done that to good success and you're getting the on, on sort of private, like user-generated playlist, basically, and that's sometimes that's been great and that's been enough to kind of really, really kind of kickstart a record and get it moving, 'cause obviously the quicker you get the plays, the more you're going to show up for people's algorithms. And the more you're going to show up in release radars. Like the track would just show up in more places basically. Plus you might pick up those playlists. So it's, yes, I think it can work. We generally haven't done that. Sometimes it feels a bit like some of, again, this isn't exclusively the case, sometimes it feels like the playlists start off really good. And then suddenly they have so much content on them. 'Cause it's all kind of paid for that. You're a bit, you kind of get a bit lost in a big playlist, but really, I guess it's kind of case-by-case basis, basically."
NS: "Yeah. Gotcha. Paid advertising. So we're talking about, running ads on Facebook and Instagram, you know, whether on that, you know, promote the release directly or, Spotify playlist, etc. Do you use them in your campaigns? What works? Any failures?"
MR: "Yeah. I mean, it depends on how you set up, really, but yeah, it can be really successful. So like driving people, like we said we've had really good success with other labels, driving people to get Spotify followers and Spotify listeners, through competitions and then driving that through paid advertising. That's been really, really successful actually."
NS: "So when you say through a competition, how do you mean?"
MR: "So it'd be all the artists on the label and then they would run a competition to make, we win a merch prize for all of it, but you have to just follow all the different artists on the Spotify on various Spotify pages, for example."
NS: "Right. And then you'll use an app like ToneDen or something to do the gating thing where people have to like."
MR: "Exactly. Yeah, yeah. And then once they've done it, they can enter the competition, things like that. I mean, we've done, we've had really good successful, obviously tour advertising sometimes promote us too a bit, but if you've built good audiences, it can be really good to, if you have really good audience that, you know, that are working, then you can work really well in terms of like, driving tour sales and things like that. And the same for the record as well, particularly for new acts as well. If you get it set up correctly, suddenly you're hitting, hitting new audiences and, and building the record up, basically."
NS: "Gotcha. So, driving people to Spotify listens has been working for you, with some of the paid advertising."
MR: "Yeah. We, we do it differently on different campaigns that are not on what it is. So it's like, we're sort of generally trying to, like on one might, we're trying to essentially sell the vinyl and then push as many Spotify numbers as possible. So if the vinyl was kind of moving on its own, then we won't necessarily put too much money into the advertising on that. But if something needs a little boost or, or we feel like maybe it's worth trying to grow that audience, then we would put some money behind that at that point."
NS: "And what, and what would you recommend to a, you know, a new artist who got the second release out on their own label, and they want to, do they want to do this? What would you advise them, you know, what sort of ads should they be running and focusing on?"
MR: "I think he needs to run a few different ones. So you need to run like, so see what audiences are kind of clicking on your page. Make sure you're interacting with your audiences, lookalike audiences of that, audiences of similar apps - so people who you think would be fans of lookalike audiences of those. And then generally, if you can run the split test as well to see what ads are actually getting engagement across those audiences, I think it's good to see just to run as much as you can and you don't need to put much money and just put a little bit in and see what, what pickup you get from that. And then start filtering it down. Basically, say if you have people that are engaging, move them into a different thing, into a different box. So you know that those people are engaging with the posts, then you can re-advertise back to them, essentially."
NS: "Gotcha. it sounds like it works, but it also sounds quite complicated and got to spend a little bit of time learning and implementing it."
MR: "Yeah, for sure. I mean the, that The Label Machine thing was good though. I watched that video on paid advertising. So you can, jump on that."
NS: "Oh, nice. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the reason why I'm asking a lot of questions is it's an area that we get a lot of questions about and it is something we want to, create more material around, and do more experiments on as well. So that's great. Moving on to social media, for your artists at the moment, what platforms are you finding you are getting the best response across? YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?"
MR: "I guess it's kind of mainly Instagram as, like mainly Instagram as the kind of engagement platform, but it sort of depends on the act as well. So like acts that have been around for longer, tend to have big Facebook followers, but it does really feel like networks Twitter and Instagram really feel like the kind of communication platforms. And then I kind of use SoundCloud and YouTube slightly separately in a sense that, because you've got much more music on there, you're pushing more things. So it's kind of, you need, you need to build those as well as the other ones, if you know what I mean, sometimes you're almost driving people to YouTube or SoundCloud to listen to things. You see what I mean?"
NS: "And is that to just get the, not just the listens up, but to start getting the followers on those channels?"
MR: "Yeah, exactly. And then obviously, eventually you have your own audience within YouTube and that becomes its own thing. But I think it's, yeah, we sometimes are driving people to it, to then try and grow that platform."
NS: "Right. Because I guess at the end of the day, you'll get to a critical mass where you've got such a big audience on all the platforms, it just self-sustains itself. You put music out; if enough people listen to it and buy merch, it just pays for itself and you keep on going around.
MR: "Oh, exactly. I mean, like you look at labels like Monstercat, for example. And the site, their YouTube channel is, is insane. You know, it's so big or so many followers and it's like, upload on there and just through their own followers, and it's almost a success just by people. Well, I mean, they put out good music. It's good for their audience if you see what I mean, so yeah, the release is going to do well off the back of uploading their own channel, basically."
NS: "Yeah. Yeah. It's amazing... Rear sync deals! Have you found ones that work?
MR: "What sort of sync deals?"
NS: "So, when we're talking about doing sync deals with either video games, TV, or film, have you found any areas that work particularly well for your music?"
MR: "It really depends on the genre. We've done quite a lot of computer games syncs, and some TV stuff gets quite a lot of stuff used on like, sort of on like sort of sports TV shows like football programs and things like that. Which a lot of the time it's UK stuff. So it's under like the blanket license, but yeah, it just depends really. I think obviously again, it's a bit like the bigger you are, the more successful your music is, the more likely you are to have successful syncs, basically. 'Cause people - advertisers - want music that they know is connecting with an audience, but that's not to say- it's always worth sending music over to supervisors if you know them and seeing what you can get, basically."
NS: "Gotcha. So you work with a lot of electronic music, which means you put music out on Beatport. So for listeners, Beatport is, I guess it's like a, iTunes/Spotify, but just very much focused only on electronic dance music. So, all the different types of club music are on there. It's got a chart system as well. So if you're selling well, you know, you can move up the charts and get, you know, top 10 or #1. Is for you Beatport still important as part of the bigger ecosystem?"
MR: "I guess. So, yeah. I mean, we still do fairly good numbers on Beatport. It's a good platform but we still, we still sort of push people there. It's obviously always in the link in like a Linktree thing."
NS: "But I guess from an industry point of view, do you think, like if you had a new act now and you are a new act doing, you know, techno let's say, so, do you think it's still important for them to get top 10 on Beatport? Like, should you be focusing your resources on driving sales there because you know, you can move your audience to either, you know, Spotify listeners or Beatport listeners, you know, do you think that's still relevant in 2020 (and 2021)?"
"the bigger you are, the more successful your music is, the more likely you are to have successful syncs."
MR: "I guess. I mean, I think we, we drive people and we drive people to Spotify a lot more because you can have followers and it's kinda, you feel like you're building your audience a bit more and that kind of streaming market it's kind of the future. However, there is still a lot of DJs, a lot of people that DJ at home that do go to Beatport and buy WAV's and MP3's so that they can DJ at home. So I think it's like, I don't know. I definitely, like, I think it's, it it's like it, like I was saying before. I think it's kind of like when you tick every box, if you know what I mean, all the pieces add up to make the whole, so you get number one on Beatport in that genre - cool, you are probably going to pick up some new fans that are going to DJ your music that perhaps wouldn't have heard of it through another way. So it's like that just if you have the resources, I think it's just push it, push everything. If you see what I mean, but I wouldn't say we necessarily do any specific... Actually, that's not entirely true. Sometimes we do do, we would do like DJ charts on people and things like that. And we will do, we will, we will give them content to push and stuff. It does really help when you do that, when you get staff picks and things like that. And getting in that top section does really help drive, drive traffic at Beatport."
NS: "Okay. Oh, that's good to know. So what is the future for Par Excellence?"
MR: "It's a good question." (Chuckles)
NS: "I guess, I guess normally this question like non-COVID it's maybe, people are moving on a certain trajectory, it's probably a little bit easier to answer. With us being in COVID it's a little bit more in the air, isn't it?"
MR: "I mean, we had our best year as a company by about 300% this year. It was that we had a really good year. Like it was every single one of our acts had their best year ever by like quite a bit. And that was kind of the culmination of 10 years work. So it was very frustrating basically to have lost all this touring. I mean, we were just basically trying to get, all our acts as big as possible. We're going to have this small, small roster of artists that we really liked. We liked the people, liked the music, enjoyed working with and get them as successful as possible, which was kind of really working this summer basically. So it's a little bit back to the, back to the drawing board in terms of timelines basically, and now seeing what, what else we can do. But I mean, there is other, there is other revenue streams coming in. It's like sample packs, things like that, starting to do well for people, as I say, like merchandise stuff, like there's, there's just becoming, there's potentially stuff like more sort of production work, things that, that particular electronic artists could do that perhaps they couldn't have done before with, with touring commitments. Now there is a little bit more time. Some of these other avenues are becoming a bit more bit more available. So we've just got to sort of see the moment it's like, you don't want to miss out on the tour and when it does start again, but equally you don't want to waste too much time rescheduling and rescheduling."
"When, when COVID first here, everyone just moved that dates two months and then it was another two months. And I was sort of saying like give it six, seven, eight months, 'cause that would probably be more realistic. In the end I was way off, it should have been sort of 18 or two years. But yeah, I think it's just trying to not get too caught up in what was happening before and be smart with your planning if you know what I mean, but also you've now got to be really flexible basically if you see what I mean and like, yeah, basically move. You got to roll with the punches essentially, but also whilst looking for other opportunities that are out there.
NS: "Gotcha. so if someone wants to, check out, Par Ex or any of the artists, is there a website they can go to, or...?"
MR: "We're actually building a new website at the moment, to be honest we don't really push up - like Par Ex's a management company and that we don't really sort of push ourselves as a kind of public facing brand, if you see what I mean. It's more focused on the artists there."
NS: "Gotcha. Okay, cool. Well do you want to give us a quick rundown of the artists we should check out? Make sure you remember all of them?
MR: "Yep. So Alix Perez, Shades, The Upbeats, Gentleman's Dub Club, Oliverse and PENGSHUi."
NS: "Awesome. Thank you, Matt, for taking a time out to come on The Label Machine series, super insightful. Really cool. And thanks for sharing a lot of that inside information, things can be really useful."
MR: "No worries. Thanks for having me."