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From now until Midem this June, some of the world’s most cutting-edge label executives — our 2016 Label Ambassadors — will be speaking out here on midemblog about the state of the industry today. Patrick Ross, Head of Digital Marketing at AWAL & Kobalt Label Services, is the third of our five ambassadors. He is interviewed by Lucy Blair of Motive Unknown, who’s coordinating this series of posts.
midemblog: What are the best things about your job, and what have been your career highlights to date?
Patrick Ross: I love working with independent artists, especially when I’m able to help them better share their music and communicate with their fans. It’s all about connection, and enabling them to connect deeper and communicate more effectively is what really inspires me. Highlights have certainly been working with Nick Cave, on Push The Sky Away. The stronger the artist and their message the more I’m able to step back and let the connection happen. Another would be travelling to Athens to work with unsigned artists, a workshop we did in conjunction with Coca-Cola. They were truly appreciative of everything we had to offer them, which is reward in itself.
> What advice would you give to people looking to start working in the music industry today?
Get involved. I went to university for music business, but the most important experience in my early career came from internships. Actual real world experience is invaluable. You’ve got to be willing to start at the bottom, learn, and really put work in. Humble beginnings flyering in Nashville for Theroy 8 Records or burning hundreds of CD promos at Nettwerk Records as a start are still important foundations to me over a decade later.
> What do you predict will be the key trends for music consumption and marketing in 2016?
Did somebody say streaming? 2015 saw Apple enter the game, setting up a very exciting 2016. It will be interesting to see how music fans, particularly older ones, embrace this model of access versus ownership. I use my parents, who are in their 60’s, as a bit of a barometer of just how far new ways of consuming music have spread (when my mother told me she listened to Pandora while she exercised, I knew it had hit critical mass). I watched as my folks embraced downloads when Apple made it easy for them to do so from their phones. It being digital versus physical was a small step, but one they were able to make. As of yet, the idea of access to music versus ownership has still not yet sunk in. In that same vein, I think we’re going to have to get far more creative with marketing around streaming. As the revenues are drawn out over time it makes the strategy of spending up front on CPC and CPM based advertising less palatable and cost effective.
> What is the one innovation that we should be the most excited about?
I’m loving what the guys at Hive.co are doing. They bring together social media, DSP profiles, email, mobile, and messaging apps in one place, allowing an artist to see what fans they have where, how much they are spending, and how to communicate to them. That, and empowering the fans to be evangelists and spread their music wider and wider. As the ability to release music grows easier and easier, the maximisation of connection and communication with fans grows more an more important. There will always be mass market music, but digital tools allow more niche artists to develop a global fanbase and run their career as a small business. Success isn’t just about awards and millions of units. I see the artist that continually sells and connects to their 5-10k strong fanbase as a really interesting proposition. The more power the artist has to keep more of the margin to themselves means they can maximise revenue when their audience is limited. Allowing an artist to effectively communicate and engage with fans using intelligent fanbase management tools like Hive.co is going to be more and more important.
> What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the music industry this year?
One of the biggest challenges is the flow of revenues. As we move into a streaming world, it takes a long time to equate to real money. In the past, an artist would release an album and see the bulk of the revenue coming in around purchases near release date. Streaming means that revenue is now realised over a long period of time. So instead of getting $9.99 up front on an iTunes purchase, an artist has to wait for their fans to stream the track over, and over, and over (not to mention it has to be good enough for that repeat playback.) I think we’re going to see a lot of different approaches to solving that issue, which I look forward to.