I think the focus needs to shift from the playlist to the mailing list. And what I mean by that is capturing the fans. There has to be a holistic marketing approach for an artist, and if you're trying to build a career or story for an artist, it needs to be more than just one song. That's key; there has to be a bigger story than just the moment it had on TikTok.
— Aileen Crowley, former Vice President of Global Streaming Marketing at Universal Music Group
On our newest episode of How Music Charts, we chat with Aileen Crowley, former Vice President of Global Streaming Marketing at Universal Music Group. Before leaving the major label world in November 2020, Aileen devised data-driven streaming strategy for developing artists, working directly with artist management to translate streaming analytics, develop artist release strategies, and implement plans for audience growth.
Prior to that, Aileen was the General Manager of DigSin, a subscription-based independent music label focused on singles, playlisting, and data, as well as being an artist manager—and that was after spending almost seven years at world-renowned consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Today, Aileen runs The Streaming Story, a website dedicated to contextualizing streaming success with the narrative surrounding that success.
We talked to Aileen about playlist promotion, fan conversion, and why artists need a holistic approach to their digital marketing strategies. The most important tool driving these important decisions? Data.
The underpinning of it all is data. That was always what was driving our decisions, our strategy from the beginning. From those early days of getting the data back on what was being downloaded the most.... That hasn't changed. That continues to be the current running through everything that we've done and things that I continue to do.... Data has always been at the forefront of the decisions we're making.
However, data alone can't drive all decisions—it's all about contextualizing that data with a human eye and remembering that it always comes down to the music.
This song has 1M streams overnight, it's doing really well, and clearly it's a hit. Well, where are the streams coming from? There are the deeper questions you have to ask. Is it just one playlist that's driving it? What's the source of the streams. I've had people say, 'This artist is super popular in Spain'.... Well, she's just on that one playlist that's in Spain ... and it doesn't mean you should invest in an ad campaign for Spain.... You have to look deeper at the data ... and if you don't have the song, if you don't have the music, then you can't build a career, and you can't fake the data.
For artists looking to convert listeners to fans, here are some of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), beyond playlist adds and stream counts, that Aileen suggests artists monitor:
- Track saves: how many listeners have saved your track to their libraries and not just listened to you on a playlist
- Website visits: how many listeners have gone beyond listening to showing an active interest in your brand
- Mailing list sign-ups: how many listeners with an active interest in your brand have converted to potential long-term fans
Since recording this interview, Aileen has teamed up with Lark42, a digital consultancy that solves hard problems in the music, data, blockchain, streaming and startup space.