Business Interviews

Q&A: Aileen Crowley, DigMark

By | Published on Thursday 6 August 2015

Aileen Crowley

This interview appeared in the July 2015 edition of the CMU Trends Report. Buy our reports from the CMU Shop or get every edition by signing up for CMU Premium.

With so much debate in music marketing circles just now focused on the role of online playlists – and the playlisters who make them – it’s not surprising that artists and labels are starting to talk about building relationships with those playlist owners in much the same way they have liaised with music journalists, DJs and heads of music in the past.

And while some of those playlisters come from a media or clubbing background, so are already on the music PR machine’s radar, plenty more are simply music fans who have discovered there is an audience for their curated lists of tracks. Which probably means that labels and managers, and the PR agencies they employ, need to find and start talking to a whole new community of people.

One of the first agencies we discovered doing just that is DigMark, which span off from the Nashville-based independent label DigSin after it confirmed the power key playlist owners have to help build buzz, and therefore streams, and therefore revenue, for key artists and tracks.

The company’s Aileen Crowley led the debate on this new brand of music PR at CMU Insights @ The Great Escape earlier this year, and more recently we spoke to her about the new business, and the new approach to marketing music.

CC: How did the idea to have an agency targeting playlist owners come about?
AC: Data. It started last year with Bronze Radio Return, a band on our record label DigSin. We saw huge numbers of streams in Europe – despite doing no promotion there – which all originated from a user-generated playlist. We replicated this approach for the rest of our roster, starting to reach out to playlisters, and got great results. So we expanded the service to a few third party clients, who also saw results. Since then we’ve developed great relationships with the most influential music-loving playlisters in the world.

CC: Why are online playlist owners increasingly important in the music marketing mix?
AC: Playlists are the new radio. They provide a huge opportunity for great independent music to be discovered. A great song above everything else still wins, and getting your track on the right playlist can change the game for an unknown artist.

CC: Who are the playlist owners – media, celebrities, DJs or music fans?
AC: All of that and more. Above everything else, the playlisters are music lovers from around the world. In many cases they are people who created a playlist for their own personal use, put songs on it that they loved, and then found they had fans who digged what they were playing.

CC: Some DSPs have their own in-house playlist creators, do you target them as well?
AC: We work with all kinds of playlisters worldwide. And we make recommendations to clients about which DSP-owned playlists they should pitch to, and we handle the global influencers for them.

CC: Some labels now have their own playlists. Are these a closed shop, ie they’ll only playlist their own releases, or are they worth targeting as well, will they consider complementary artists?
AC: Most label playlists are looking for great music too, and many love breaking new acts. Servicing new songs and artists to them can be fantastic for everyone. Again, great songs will get discovered and win.

CC: How did you work out who to target?
AC: We simply focus on the playlists with the most listeners. Every month, we find new growing playlists and quickly build relationships with the people behind them. As we get songs added to their playlists, we can quickly see the impact each one makes and measure how important they will be to any campaign.

CC: Do you target playlist owners across multiple digital platforms, or do one or two dominate?
AC: In the last eighteen months, we’ve mainly focused on developing relationships with Spotify playlisters since they have the largest audience.

CC: And how are you targeting them? What’s the messaging?
AC: We know the playlisters and their tastes – what music they like and don’t like. We only share new music we know they will respond to and will likely add to their playlists. As with conventional music PR, trust counts.

CC: Do you target playlist owners in sync with other PRs reaching out to press and radio, or does it start earlier or later?
AC: Ideally, we start working the track on the release date. Building streams on your track will lend itself to a story that a publicist or a radio promo team can use to help position the song and the artist for press and airplay.

CC: Are your clients labels, or do you work with artists too?
AC: We work with independent artists, managers, labels, distributors – if you have a great song where we think we can get results, we’ll work it.

CC: Have you any examples of the impact this work can have?
AC: Major Lazer’s ‘Lean On’ is a project we built to become the first worldwide number one independent record on Spotify. We quickly identified the reaction the song got, and dug in to find as many opportunities as possible for this track. Every day, we found growth opportunities that led to hundreds of playlisters supporting that record. Each one counts as we built the record to the success story it is today.

CC: So, how do you track success?
AC: When we see stream growth that leads to discovery, we’ve succeeded. When that story leaps from the digital to the physical world, the success is way sweeter!

This interview appeared in the July 2015 edition of the CMU Trends Report. Buy our reports from the CMU Shop or get every edition by signing up for CMU Premium.