Typically, music distribution companies don’t own any intellectual property – and their clients can up and leave with a short notice period.
These factors contribute significantly to the intense competitiveness of the sector, sharpening the focus on each of the added services each brings to the value chain.
But when it comes to the crunch, what really differentiates one ‘distribution plus services’ company from another in the modern music business?
Ingrooves has been thinking hard about this question ever since Bob Roback took over as CEO of the firm in 2015, and it’s settled on a clear answer: proprietary technology that offers artists and labels a strategic edge.
Especially when this proprietary technology can sift through, prioritise and contextualize the billions of lines of data being sent back to Ingrooves’ clients from streaming services.
This is precisely why one of Roback’s first major moves at Ingrooves was to build out a team of data scientists around analytics and veteran Dr. SK Sharma, who joined the firm as EVP of Insights & Analytics last year.
Since then, Roback and this team have been channelling investment into developing exclusive data-crunching tools which bring materially beneficial assistance to labels.
Now, they think they’ve got something special on their hands: Trends Now.
So much so, Roback likens this new B2B platform to Google-owned GPS app Waze – but for music marketing.
“If you were going on a journey today you wouldn’t start out with just a car and a map, you’d rely on a smart navigational partner,” says Roback.
“That’s what Trends Now does: it helps you follow the best direction to your destination – but it also tells you the smartest way to quickly correct your course if you’re headed the wrong way.”
Trends Now is, essentially, an algorithmic newsfeed, monitoring global online fan activity, which processes direct data from the likes of Apple Music, Spotify and many more.
Heard it all before?
Don’t be so sure, says Roback: the big difference with Trends Now, he argues, is that it “goes well beyond simple data aggregation and visualization” – and “is different to what everyone else in this market is doing today”.
The platform presents a series of cards to users detailing their key activity in real time across platforms, with alerts firing up whenever an opportunity, or major problem, strikes their campaigns.
“This isn’t just about technology… It’s a big breakthrough.”
Bob Roback, Ingrooves
Says Roback: “Trends Now synthesizes data from a wide range of disparate sources, then our team of Ph.D. scientists conducts rigorous analysis to build new – patent pending – analytical models around listener affinity, engagement, and other proprietary metrics.
“This insights-driven scientific framework is key to Trends Now and will be the foundation for our future product developments.”
He adds: “This isn’t just about technology; this is a team that’s building predictive models based on the unique output of analysis. It’s a big breakthrough.
“The whole music industry is dealing with the fact there’s a ton of data in music right now. Lots of people have aggregated that data to some degree – creating dashboards that at least allow you to look at it and see what’s going on.
“But we’re taking that extra step of comprehensively analysing it, and then presenting these findings.”
Currently, Trends Now offers labels daily streaming reports which boil down essential information regarding their success – or otherwise – on key streaming playlists.
Yet, according to Roback, what constitutes ‘success’ in this regard may require a shift in industry thinking, which he says Trends Now can help bring about.
“For example, you might see that your track is enjoying big streaming increases, and that a large playlist is contributing a significant amount of those streams,” he comments.
“Trends Now helps you follow the best direction to your destination – but it also tells you the smartest way to quickly correct your course if you’re headed the wrong way.”
“But then, when you look a level deeper, you see that these playlist streams aren’t actually converting to people adding the track to their collections. If you’re not converting in that way, you might have been misled by the headline that your streams are up.”
He adds: “It’s my belief that right now the industry has, generally speaking, a myopic focus on playlists as a marketing strategy; Trends Now reveals how that strategy is really working in terms of engagement.
“We’re surfacing information around listener affinity, which might show that a small social media marketing spend against a particular type of audience – who are using smaller, influencer playlists with a high conversion [to download] rate – will lead to a higher level of engagement.”
Currently, Trends Now informs Ingrooves clients how they’re performing on key digital platforms, both in consumption and financial terms.
In the future, says Roback, the platform will also uses machine learning to actually recommend subsequent specific marketing moves as a result.
“You can use data and insights to build a plan, but you also have to be in a position to deal with reality as it’s setting in moment-to-moment,” says Roback.
“This is all about informing people when to throw gasoline on a fire or to mitigate an existing or imminent problem.
The tech is certainly going down well with Ingrooves’ key client base.
Says Marc Jetton of Sargent House Records: “Ingrooves’ Trends Now gives an incredible amount of insight, allowing us to obtain playlist adds and fluctuations in track streams / downloads all in one convenient location. It’s a tool I now use daily.”
And Bill Armstrong, Side One Dummy Records, comments: “Trends Now lets us know what is going on across all DSPs with our music and gives us actionable data to help us and our artists find new listeners.”
Adds Roback: “To truly add value to our labels, we knew we had to meet a labels’ biggest marketing challenges.
“There is no shortage of data in the music industry today. The important thing is to clarify and then interpret what this data really means to a client – in a way that offers capital-efficient strategies to help them run their business.”Music Business Worldwide