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Tuning into instinct: The power of creativity over data in music's golden eras

Music is on the brink of a seismic shift. Platforms like Spotify have redefined reach, but with it, they've threaded in complexity to the artist-fan bond.

Today's artist isn’t just writing melodies but building memorable experiences for their fans. But how? By mixing the raw essence of art with the cold, crisp clarity of data. It's not just hitting notes; it's touching hearts.

Miles Leonard, the brains behind Viva La Music and Token || Traxx, delved into this at AudienceCON. His exploration? A narrative of the evolving music industry and the undeniable gravity of audience influence.

Here's an overview of the key points covered in his presentation (enjoy the full session below).

Putting audiences at the heart of your strategy

There’s a quiet revolution underway. Streaming, while a game-changer, has lulled us into a passive trance reminiscent of the golden age of radio. This digital lull, however, isn’t the end. It’s a beckoning, especially for the artists of this decade. The challenge? To rethink, reinvent, and rekindle.

Consider Coldplay. In a masterstroke of audience immersion in Cardiff, they turned every attendee into a beacon of their performance, thanks to wristbands syncing with the show. Simple, yet profound.

Their strategy doesn’t end at the edge of the stage. It's a mix of sustainability advocacy, philanthropy, and raw, genuine fan engagement. Coldplay don't just sing, they resonate.

Today's industry is evolving, sculpted by a blend of intuition and insights.

Data should provide insights while allowing the artist's vision to guide the creative process

In the grand theater of creativity, data is no longer just a backseat driver but often co-pilots the journey. While it offers a map to navigate the world of fans and consumers, there's a deeper magic at play—finding the art in the chart.

Here lies the tightrope act: balancing the science of marketing with the art of creation. Artists and their A&R guides confront a core question: Where does pure creation bend under the weight of audience insights and metrics?

Sure, data can be threaded into creativity, but it's not one-size-fits-all. Every artist is unique, stretching beyond mere genres. Imagine artistry as a spectrum:

  • The Purists: Think Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. They breathe their craft, untouched and unbothered by the outside world. Their direction comes from within, a navigation led purely by instinct.
  • The Balancers: Coldplay. They play the delicate game of staying authentic while also lending an ear to their audience. The magic is in the harmony between artistry and relevance.
  • The Trendsetters: Steps, Robson and Jerome — they're in tune with the pulse of the masses. The recipe? Equal parts creativity, audience tastes, and a bit of that commercial sparkle.

Using data the right way

Today every click, stream, and play gets counted, noted, and analyzed. With platforms like YouTube and Spotify at the helm, artists now stand at the confluence of creativity and data. But, a question emerges: Are we drowning in numbers?

We didn't just transition to a data-rich landscape; we launched into an age of enlightenment. The numbers that dance across our screens aren’t just cold stats; they’re a treasure trove that artists and industry experts can draw upon to gain deep insights into their audience and fan base.

Take, for instance, the scenario of an artist preparing for a world tour. Data can serve as a compass, guiding them in fine-tuning their setlist to cater to specific preferences in different regions. If certain songs are experiencing higher streaming rates in Germany compared to the UK, adapting the setlist can provide concertgoers with a more tailored and memorable experience.

It's a matter of harnessing data effectively. By using data to empower decisions, musical acts enhance interactions and elevate the music experience. An artist’s success hinges on leveraging and integrating this information into the creative process and artist-fan relationships.

7 ways to leverage data in the music business

Audience insight

Platforms like Spotify and Apple Music provide detailed analytics on listener demographics, helping artists and labels understand who is listening to their music, where they're from, and how often they're listening.

Personalized recommendations

Streaming platforms use algorithms to analyze listener behavior, enabling them to suggest songs and artists tailored to individual tastes, which in turn helps with music discovery and artist exposure.

Tour planning

By examining where their music is most popular, artists can plan tours or concert locations to ensure maximum ticket sales and audience turnout.

Royalty distribution

Digital Service Providers (DSPs) track the number of streams and downloads, ensuring that artists, songwriters, and producers are compensated accurately based on the usage of their music.

Trend analysis

Record labels and artists can track emerging genres, mood preferences, and other trends to strategize releases and marketing efforts, ensuring they remain relevant in a rapidly-evolving musical landscape.

Engagement metrics

Through platforms like YouTube and Instagram, artists can measure the effectiveness of their music videos, promotional content, and fan interactions, allowing them to adjust their promotional strategies accordingly.

A&R discovery

Data helps A&R (Artists and Repertoire) teams discover emerging artists. By monitoring platforms like SoundCloud, TikTok, and even Spotify's viral charts, they can identify rising stars and offer them recording contracts before they break into the mainstream.

5 data pitfalls to avoid

Data isn't the only compass

Remember the artist who was launched purely on data? That venture failed to strike a chord. Why? Data can tell a lot, but it doesn't feel the room. Beware of putting all your bets on numbers alone.

The overconfidence trap

All signs pointed to success, yet the market shrugged. Just because the data paints a rosy picture doesn't mean the world will see it the same way. Real-world dynamics have layers data can't always penetrate.

Heart before chart

An album dropped, the data loved it, but the hearts? Not so much. The lesson? Metrics are great, but they can't measure the heartbeat of genuine emotional resonance. Seek the soul, not just the stats.

Breaking the mold

Tried and tested sounds safe, right? But the audience yearned for a different beat when played the same tune for a new artist. Even if data sings the praises of a formula, dare to compose a fresh melody.

Finding gold in the missteps

The journey teaches, especially when we stumble. Embrace the blend of highs and lows. It's a symphony of data, intuition, and heartbeats. Remember, the magic lies at the intersection of data, creativity, and the ever-evolving dance with your audience.

Key takeaways

In an industry driven by numbers, Miles reminded us of the irreplaceable value of intuition, audience connection, and true relevance in the creative sector.

  • Trust your intuition: In the creative industry, gut feeling plays a significant role. Listening to that innate intuition can guide decisions on the creative side, leading to more authentic and resonant outcomes.
  • Listen to your audience: Recognizing what the audience and fans communicate is crucial. If something is not working or an artist isn't having the expected success, it may be the audience's way of signaling that changes must be made. Being attuned to these signals can help make informed decisions about continuing or realigning engagement with artists.
  • Relevance over sales: Success and relevance are not solely determined by sales figures. An artist selling only 5,000 copies can still be the most relevant and exciting act, just as one selling 5 million can be relevant or not. Understanding this nuanced perspective helps assess an artist's value and impact beyond mere numbers.

Miles Leonard gave a must-see presentation at AudienceCON on the pitfalls of relying solely on data, the right way to use data, cultivating trust with audiences, and the role of innovation in maintaining relevance. Watch it here in its entirety.