“Start small and don’t skip steps” isn’t just an axiom embodied by Diana Gremore’s own career, it’s something she encourages artists and their teams to think about when approaching their own growth trajectories — especially during the uncertainty of live music in a post-COVID world.
In this episode, we chat with Paradigm Talent Agency's first-ever Business Intelligence Analyst about creating her own role in the music industry, how artists benefit from brand partnerships, and what the future of live music (and live streaming) looks like after coronavirus.
Originally from the sunny sprawling suburbs of San Diego, California, after graduating from the UCSD, Diana Gremore packed up all of her things and moved to New York City, sleeping on a friend’s couch and giving herself just two months to make it in the Big Apple. And she did.
For the past three and a half years, Diana has worked at Paradigm (not including the year and a half she was a part of AM Only, which was acquired by Paradigm in 2017), one of the entertainment industry’s most important and highly regarded talent agencies. While she now holds the illustrious title of Business Intelligence Analyst, it’s a role she created for herself, working her way up from receptionist and office manager.
I started learning data visualization with Tableau actually.... We were in meetings and I noticed us looking at spreadsheets and ticket sales, and just thinking, 'Oh wow, I think I can make this better to look at and easier to comprehend,' so I started toying around with stuff and bringing that into meetings just for my internal team, and then the teams would get larger and start hitting up other people at the company and somebody suggested that I actually do this job.... Everybody uses data all the time, but there was no one person doing it across the entire company, and I thought we needed that and so did a lot of others.
As a Business Intelligence Analyst at one of the industry's premier talent agencies, Diana became both data coordinator and data executive, bringing together the disparate approaches to data from each department, agent, and genre.
Data has always been important in the music industry ... and everybody has looked at data since the dawn of time in this industry. But I think at some point, with the rise of social media and streaming services ... the data got very messy.... You'd think one metric meant something and it ended up being the exact opposite and a lot of people would say, "Data is going to solve your problems" ... and it'd end up not solving the problem or just creating a new one. So, a lot of the beginning of this job was just sitting down with our agents and figuring out what data meant to them ... taking stock of all the data that we have, all of the data that's out there, and figuring out what works for Hip-Hop vs. Pop vs. a jam band. It's really different, but there are common denominators.
Today, many of the nuances of Diana's job also involve helping develop tour strategy, strategizing what markets to hit (or avoid), optimizing strategy for signing meetings, and A&R: What is this artist's buzz? Do they have potential for people to want to go see their live performances?
It's happened a lot where an artist is streaming super super well, but nobody wants to go see them at a show ... which goes a lot more into the touring strategy than it says about the artist.... It speaks a lot to the agents and the strategy that they've developed through intuition and trial and error.... When you have an artist like that, it's really important to start small: "Don't skip steps." There are important venues that you don't want to skip, because if you play there and it's small, first of all, you get touring experience ... and you get to really hone your live performance and figure out what you and an audience look like together. And then if that sells well, you can kind of graduate to the next sized room.... So, it's important to not skip those steps, and in those ways, you can kind of not have the experience of being a wildly successful streaming artist and then not being able to sell a ticket.
Another particularly important strategy for artists and their teams to consider is leveraging brand partnerships as both a revenue stream and also a marketing tool, especially in a post-COVID industry environment.
As long as it's authentic ... it can resonate with people, and that's where you see success from artist-brand partnerships or influencer marketing.... There's so many beautiful partnerships that you see opening up where the brand, not only the brand, but the artist really take the time to find common ground and find an issue or a narrative that they're both passionate about.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Paradigm has had to shift its priorities from touring and live events and focus more on other, more digitally-oriented verticals like brand partnerships and sync licensing. That leaves the future of the talent agency world a bit uncertain, but it also means that live music has had to roll with the punches.
Everybody wants to know what's going to happen, but the truth of the matter is we're not going to find out until it does.... When things get back a little bit more so to normal ... there's going to be a huge change in the way international artists tour. It's going to be more of a focus on national ... an increased focus on the local scenes, boosting community that way, because we're not going to get these international bands.
While physical localization could see a resurgence, live streaming is likely to accelerate digital globalization as well. According to Diana, K-Pop artists seem to have found a winning formula in this arena, so artists from all over the world might consider learning from them as we all prepare for the uncertain road ahead.