Today, an endless sea of bands are proudly branding themselves “DIY Artists,” and are quick to talk badly of record labels or any other “gatekeeper.” However, our current musical landscape comes engrained with a dense sense of responsibility and strategy that few artists acknowledge. As a manager, this responsibility includes examining perpetual concepts like transparency, exclusivity, community, and discovery, while still prioritizing the minutia. New channels pop up every day, while merchandise, publishing, touring, and recording still need to progress. With so many moving pieces, managers often crave a single thread that can tie it all together.
The beauty of data for artist managers is that it serves as a strategic compass, both on and offline. It informs your day-to-day decisions, allowing you to strategically penetrate a focused goal, rather than achieving random acts of improvement.
Tour routing is a great example. Every artist can, right this second, pull up a list of the top 10 cities where their fans/listeners/viewers are located on Facebook, Soundcloud and YouTube. With these reports in front of you, you will surely begin to see patterns. These patterns should guide your routing. Although it may require a bit more effort, it sure beats saying “well, it’s a rock band, so let’s tour the South.”
But touring is just one piece of an artist’s career. Digital marketing firms use radio spin data every day. If an emerging artist, for instance, begins getting radio play in select cities, marketers garner this information and execute geo-targeted campaigns to propagate these same communities. Also, in the land of the free (download), collecting fan data is critical. As a manager, a highly populated mailing list is not just a bunch of email addresses and zip codes; it is a report telling you who and where your fans are. Website traffic, merch sales, ticketing reports, live show draw, and your quantitative social media footprint are other forms of valuable data for a manager.
With all that said, the most important “metric” is still trust. Trust, in its most genuine form, cannot be measured, and that’s what makes it so special. It cannot be bought; only nurtured. Developing trust with your fan community is critical, and can only be done through repetition and consistency. As trust develops, so does your story and your influence.
With great tools like Next Big Sound, and free insights from your social channels, it is easier than ever before to identify your fan base. Touring, radio, web and merch reports, combined with an obsessive focus on trust, consistency and community is a winning formula.
Without data, it would be easy to wander aimlessly through the evolving music industry. But with data as your guide, the entire process becomes much simpler.
Ethan Schiff is an artist manager, music industry blogger, and consultant for independent artists. He can be found online via Twitter @ethanschiff or through his blog.