In four years, Jacob Fowler rapidly worked his way up the chain of music distribution giant The Orchard from Product Manager to Director of Product to Senior Vice President (SVP) of Engineering and Product and then to his current role as Chief Technology Officer (CTO), starting in February 2020. On this episode, we talk with the music industry exec about music tech, mobile apps, and signals that artists and their teams should look out for in their streaming and social media data.
The Orchard is “a pioneering music distribution company and top-ranked video network … [with] local reps in 45 markets. From digital retailers and physical stores to performance rights societies, [The Orchard’s] partnerships help amplify your reach and revenue across multiple business verticals.”
Jacob started at The Orchard in 2016, after three years at 2u, a publicly-traded educational tech company. Before that, he was at the University of Michigan, where he studied Political Science and Southeast Asia. Though he doesn't come from a music or music industry background, Jacob's tech-trained perspective has helped him build out The Orchard's tech focus with a principles first approach.
The OrchardGo Mobile App
Right before the pandemic changed the world forever, Jacob spearheaded the launch of The Orchard's OrchardGo mobile app, a music analytics tool that allows artists and entertainment companies who use The Orchard as a distributor to track streams, playlists, and social media trends from their phones.
We needed to get a mobile app out there because we work with all of these labels and artists who are constantly on the go.... If you're running a label, you're likely — well, in pre-COVID times — out at a bunch of shows, constantly on the move, and you want quick insights into what's happening across your label without needing to pop open a laptop while sitting on the tube or the subway.... We started with basic things like streaming consumption data, which we kind of refer to as that private data ... and the big thing we started hearing was wanting more actionable data but not just on that ... private consumption data, more of this theory and concept that we had started to kind of put a name around of public plus private data. That's marrying the world of all of this private consumption data that we have access to as a distributor ... with that public data, and that's really social data, charts data – the data that everyone could go to a website and see or scrape and have access to, combining that in one place.... The other big concept was fan engagement. Folks wanted to know who were their biggest fans – who's posting about them the most.
Helping users understand fan engagement was one of the primary problems for which Jacob was trying to build the right tech solution. And that's because understanding fan engagement can help artists and their teams understand how and why their public social and streaming data might be influencing their private consumption data.
Measuring Fan Engagement
One of the ways in which Jacob tried to help artists and their teams understand fan engagement with the OrchardGo app was by building features that allowed users to see differences between fans, micro-influencers, and macro-influencers.
I might think a highly engaged fan is someone who's posted about me more than a 100 times regardless of the amount of reach they have on socials. So, even if they had 2 million followers, if they're posting about me 100 or 150 times, I'm probably pretty sure they're a pretty engaged fan – unless it's bad posts about me, which you can see pretty clearly. We show those right away.
In effect, measuring fan engagement isn't about chasing clout — it's about having a better understanding of who your actual audience is and who is going to champion your work the most effectively, not necessarily to the most people. Increasingly, the music industry is turning to tech solutions to measure that fan engagement.
The Tech Perspective
While Jacob spends a lot of time thinking about the user experience, most of The Orchard's clients are music businesses, meaning The Orchard is a business-to-business (B2B) operation and not a business-to-consumer (B2C) operation. In other words, Jacob is building music tech solutions for music industry professionals, including many artists, and not music listeners and consumers. From a tech perspective, that's a pretty good position to be in nowadays.
I think B2B is actually becoming, I hate to say it, sexier.... B2B is a lot more enticing and interesting at this point, because the challenges you face are just a lot harder.... I think COVID obviously impacted that a lot. You're seeing a lot of those B2C companies who were rapidly scaling starting to pull back a little bit on it, and so I think it's just exposed folks more to the B2B companies where maybe they weren't looking at those before, and as they get in, they see the interesting challenges they try to solve.
To learn more about The Orchard and how they help artists and their teams amplify their reach and revenue, listen to the full episode below.