In their interview series "How We Listen" Byta sits to to chat with artists and other music industry professionals about their listening habits, and how they discover music both new and old. In this edition, they speak with Amber Horsburgh, who works as marketing consultant for a number of major artists.
Guest post from Byta
How We Listen is an interview series where Byta interviews artists, their teams, and everyone else working in music about how they find and listen to music, new and old.
Who are you?
Where are you based?
Los Angeles, USA
Where do you work? What do you do?
I’m an independent marketing consultant helping major artists with brand strategy and content creation. I write about music strategy for label marketers and artists through my newsletter, Deep Cuts (subscribe). Prior to that I was SVP of Strategy at Downtown Records (NYC), Senior Strategist at Big Spaceship (YouTube, Samsung, Sonos, Google Play) and MTV.
What are you listening to?
Sharon Van Etten, Tommy Cash, Jessica Pratt, Jeff Tweedy and a healthy amount of Gaga.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Service and why?
Me personally, streaming mainly. I recently threw every single thing I owned out to go backpacking around the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa for a year so went and sold all the last remaining CDs or vinyl I owned.
The formats people prefer is all down to how they listen to music.
Vinyl is often an active listening experience where the listener very intentionally picks out the piece and listens to it as an activity, whereas digital is more passive. There isn’t the same time or monetary investment as with physical formats so the listener is often less committed. Vinyl is an artist’s premium product, whereas digital is more utility, both are important from a marketing perspective but satisfy different uses. I did Vinyl Me, Please’s Cameron Schaeferwho has great insight on vinyl listening behaviors and respective marketing.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
If an artist I care about releases something new I’ll sit down with it properly at home and listen top to bottom, but otherwise most of my streaming happens at work and the gym.
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
I get sent pre-released music through my work and friends if they want an opinion on anything, but I don’t seek out pre-released material.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
1) I can’t keep track of it.
I don’t listen to Spotify created playlists, the music starts to sound all the same to me, but I’m too lazy to categorize and make my own so I find I listen and forget about so much good music.
2) Artist discovery is terrible.
You’re looking at basically a spreadsheet of words that play music, no branding, no imaging, no story. It’s impossible to get a hook on an artist if you do not immediately connect with the first 30 seconds of their track. It’s boring.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
I don’t, really. I have a few private playlists that I update with new songs to not forget but nothing nearly as sophisticated as when I had physical music or even a digital library in iTunes.
With digital it’s really tough for new artists to get that follow or add to a playlist because it’s not the mainstream user behavior of streaming platforms. People’s music listening habits are driven by their emotions far more than they care to admit. Emotions, moods and events trigger listening patterns so for new artists they need to be top of mind when a listener is triggered. So, keeping track of new stuff may not be a reliable source of new fans but rather marketing initiatives that keep targeting new listeners. I write more about combatting this for artists in a recent post Playing to strangers: why people that have never heard of you are most profitable.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
Usually with videos, if the music is good but an artist has nailed their aesthetic and the videos are good, I’m hooked. I cannot stop shouting from the rooftops about Tommy Cash, I think he is a genius, so captivating, everything he releases whether it is official videos, merch, even status updates are more compelling than the next. His Pussy Money Weed video may be my favorite video of all time.
Anything you want to “promote”?
I’ve just started working on my own as a music marketing consultant, which is really fun, and gives me the chance to work on artists I’m most excited about. I write my Deep Cuts blog – all about music strategy that deeply analyzes marketing trends and tactics to build audience and creatively package music.
A good starting place to check out my writings are The A-Z of Artist Brand Building, Why the Music Business Gets Digital So Wrong and if you’re at labels or management firms check out my Bases Get Aces Album Promo Checklist and Music Marketer’s Toolbox (140 free and freemium tools for music marketers).