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Do you know who your fans are? I mean, do you really know who your fans are? How old are they? What areas do they live in? Do they mostly listen to you on Spotify? Watch videos on Youtube? How did they react to the new track you posted on Soundcloud? Have you considered that you could actually be huge in Japan and not even know it? In all honesty, what could be more invaluable for a band than an overview of where you stand with your fans to make informed decisions about how, when, and where to reach them?
Just imagine... imagine there was a way to find out that you had a dedicated pocket of fans in Chicago, so that you could route your next tour through there. Or if you could see that a band in your genre had a huge increase in Facebook “Likes” after creating a contest that would totally work for you too. Having an overview of who your fans are, where they’re based out of, what makes them engage in music like yours, would completely change the way the music industry worked. It would broaden, deepen, and simply grow the relationship between bands and their fans, not to mention opening doors to a whole lot of potential fans too. Some of the stuff happening with technology now feels borderline Science Fiction. But it’s here. There have been amazing resources available for many different fields thanks to Data Analytics, and the time for the music industry is now. We’ve reached out to Next Big Sound, the pioneers in this field who are helping bands to connect with fans in a way that’s never been done before. To get a better idea of what Next Big Sound does and where this new facet of the industry is heading, we spoke with in-house NBS data journalist Liv Buli.
In an elevator pitch, what does Next Big Sound do?
We started collecting data as far back as 2009. It started with MySpace data and then as new sites started popping up and became more relevant to music we started tracking more. We track hundreds of thousands of artists from everything to Twitter to Wikipedia to Facebook to Youtube and Soundcloud-- pretty much anything that makes sense to track. We make this all available in a platform and our customers are able to overlay that with their sales data. Users are able to see all the data at once and in one context to be able to make more informed decisions using the analytics that are available to them.
Why should developing and emerging artists use Next Big Sound?
We have major labels as our customers but we also work with managers and individual bands because data in this manner can be useful to anyone at any tier in the industry. There are a lot of ways it can be used and I think it depends on what you do-- say you’re a band and you’re trying to make it in the industry today, being able to measure what the reaction is to the various things you’re doing to promote yourselves can be very useful. There are so many different social media outlets out there today and so many different ways people can approach making a name for themselves, and figuring out a way that works for your band is a very important and tactical move. There are some things that can work for major artists, whereas a smaller band needs to plan on how they are going to get the word out. And using something like Next Big Sound raises a million opportunities whether you’re doing something on your own, such as testing a pre-release, or you are looking at what other bands are doing that are within your genre or have a similar demographic that you’re trying to reach-- you can look at what they are doing. It’s basically a way to be able to measure what you’re doing and see whether it’s working.
What do you think is the most useful analytical tool available to artists and managers?
Well, what I use the most often is the graphs section. Once you’ve connected one of your sources [websites], it’s updated daily with information about what’s going on. You can look during a certain time period and see if you’re on a decline, or an increase, see what’s happening on Twitter-- maybe you’re making friends on Twitter but not on Facebook-- and you can look at all these different metrics on one platform and it’s a lot easier to comprehend. It’s all put out there in plain view.
In addition to the graphs, you have an overview page which is similar to what a record label would call a one-sheet that includes a quick look of what’s going on. When you set up an account you would set your key metrics which would be the things you are most interested in looking at on a regular basis and when you go into your overview page you would get a quick screenshot of these metrics, such as your geographics locations, demographics, where your music is trending data, etc. We also have a weekly ranking which basically tells you where you rank in the weekly ecosystem of artists. It gives you a very clean, quick look at where you are right now.
Do you think using social media analytics is the new way to track success rather than say, album sales?
I definitely think it’s important to track sales and radio, which you can do through Next Big Sound, but also social media does play a huge part of the industry today and how you’re interacting with your fans, how you’re building fan engagement. People aren’t looking anymore just for a recording artist, they’re looking for a full experience when it comes to an artist, and being able to present that and engage with your fans-- almost one on one through these platforms-- is what is going to create a sustainable career.
What other industries in the music business are starting to use Next Big Sound?
Anyone from distributors to brands would find the product useful. We started with major labels and are now focusing on other segments of the industry. But there are so many different uses for this information, and how it’s taken advantage of, is up to the individual user.
How do you think NBS is changing the way the music industry works? For example, people who work in A&R may start to use a "Next Big Sound score" to determine who to sign rather than just instinct and ear.
I definitely think it’s changing things. Today there is so much music out there, and using these tools to narrow the shows down that A&R reps should go to is definitely a time-saver in the industry and is really useful. We just launched a new product called Find which is basically an A&R research tool that allows users to identify artists using the criteria they consider important. But, it can also be used on the other end--with bands that may be in contract negotiations. You should know your numbers. You can negotiate for yourself by showing what you have. This kind of info can be empowering on both sides--for scouts to look for new talent and for the talent itself to know where they stand.
In terms of artists that are up and coming-- it’s completely free to make an account with Next Big Sound and I recommend to anyone to sign up and play around. There are features that you’ll need to upgrade to see, but the basic account is free. Also, if you’re an artist you should make sure we’re tracking you for tools such as Find, so A&R people can find you. Make sure all your sources are connected.