The Drum DADIs: music marketers must figure out the "unknown unknowns" of data says Restless Natives

Music marketers must figure out the "unknown unknowns" of using data says Restless Natives

Music marketers still have to figure out the "unknown unknowns" of using data according to Restless Native's co-founder and audience manager, Paul Smernicki.

Ahead of his judging role at The Drum DADI Awards 2018, Smernicki talks to The Drum about data mining and how AI driven data can help improve marketing strategies.

Smernicki, formerly director of digital at Universal Music UK and journalist Gordon Smart founded Restless Natives at the end of 2016 to help brands and organisations deepen their existing customer relationships through culture.

What is Restless Natives doing with data/insight/digital?

With our music artists it tells us more about listeners and fans than ever. For example, one of our artists got included on a Spotify playlist in Canada. We looked at the audience in that territory - demographic, location etc - and created Facebook ad campaign based on that - it has a great uplift effect across all platforms from that country. For our brand work, it really helps us build a robust rational when we suggest talent for activity and campaigns, then measure the impact of that.

How can the industry remain transparent when it comes to mining consumer data?

That feels more and more like hygiene than ever before. People are more aware of their data than ever and it would be a massive own goal to be opaque about how data is used. Just making agreements and acceptance form plain English would be a great start. The mobile bank Monzo have done a great job of this and should be used as a yardstick for best practice.

How can AI-driven data help improve marketing strategies? E.g. improved insights that benefits the artists, fans and the industry.

By asking the questions and surfacing data in a way we might not. If we can figure out the unknown unknowns, that would be amazing.

Where is the best place for artists on digital?

If I had to choose just one I'd say Spotify - it's got scale, is a discovery platform as well as a commercial one and in their playlists, there is a real opportunity to get mainlined to a relevant global audience. It also has great artist analytics platform which is vital for artists today.

How are the direct-to-consumer platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud affecting the record labels?

The labels need to have a robust response to that change in the landscape - they are no longer the gatekeepers to audiences. I think that how the smart labels have re-engineered themselves to deliver a full range of services for artists across all strands of their business has been great. But all of that independent activity can also act as an incubator for labels - observing data, identifying artists with a pulse early, placing bigger bets but with less risk. I love that all of this is really possible in a meaningful way not just for artists but new music companies - it’s a great time to be in music.

While the major record labels still own the majority of music content, how can the industry tap into the data that independent artists have from direct-to-consumer platforms?

That depends on what data artists and platforms want to share or make available - at a very simple level we can now see in almost real time what's being listened to and where and how. I'd like to see a bit more from some of the platforms - for instance, not just what's being listened to but how it's being discovered as well as deeper available data on playlist performance. As an independent artist, the depth of insight you see is nowhere near as sophisticated as the major labels get and I can't think of a reason to address that, even if it's making it available to third parties to provide data science services over the top of.

What purpose does the record label have now?

There is still a great allure about signing to a label - sometimes it's about heritage, sometimes about kudos, sometimes about plugging into the global framework they can offer but also really about the people. I think artists want to sing to people as much as they do labels and the record companies I know are mostly staffed by incredible, talented people who know what they are doing.

Smernicki is a judge for The Drum DADI Awards. The entry deadline has passed but you can still enter by applying for an extension. Please contact Laura Gregson for more details.

These awards are in association with UKFast and sponsored by Shazam.

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