Music Industry Pathways Program

November 30, 2018

Absolutely love the work that The Push does for youth in music, and was so honoured to take complete their Music Industry Pathways Program for 2018 as a mentor. Kate and Lou from The Push paired me with Johanna, a wonderful human being who also happens to be an incredible graphic designer working in the music space in Melbourne. Here’s us being cheesy:

P.S. info about how to apply for the 2019 program here!

Not All Streams Are Equal

October 31, 2018

Think of these three scenarios:

  1. A music aficionado with a Spotify premium account (of course) searches for ‘Scorpion’ on release day to hear what’s up,
  2. A person who kind of likes music enough to have Spotify but not enough to pay for an ad-free experience listens to Drake’s album because it’s on every playlist and you really can’t not listen to it,
  3. My uncle clicks on a Drake video on the YouTube home page thinking it’s the 60s hard rock band The Scorpions.

To be honest this is a bad example because Drake was always going to land the #1 ARIA spot and I don’t think any of my uncles like hard rock, but it highlights how not all streams on a song are generating the same revenue.

Half a year ago I posted about how Billboard in the States were changing their streaming rules to:

  1. Assign more points to streams from on-demand services vs. programmed platforms (e.g. Spotify vs. Pandora)
  2. Assign more points to streams from paid subscribers, then ad-supported, and then free users last.

Back home in Aus, the ARIA Charts introduced a similar rule last week to count streams from paid users higher than ‘free ad-supported’ streams higher. Here’s their official bit:

ARIA has confirmed that greater emphasis will now be given to paid subscription streams over free ad-supported streams on the ARIA Chart… The shift to a multi-level streaming approach to the ARIA Chart methodology is consistent with the global push to measure streams in a revenue-reflective and access-based manner. This new methodology replaces the current combined conversion rate, in which all streams are treated equally.

It doesn’t quite say if they are treating free streams without ads differently though (for instance, Bandcamp which is on its list of stores that count). Also Australia won’t be treating on-demand and programmed platforms differently, but I’ve always found that a bit contentious (because a lot of plays on Spotify come from playlists or radio so that’s still a lean-back listener, see Drake example 2).

It’s a weird time for trying to measure popularity for new music because how people consume music is constantly changing, but it’s a good move for ARIA (and other charting companies) to recognise that not all streams are equal. In fact, ARIA only started including counting streaming in its album charts in early 2017, with their streaming conversion factor to weight streaming appropriately with downloads and physical format.

Digital Strategy Innovation Summit

September 20, 2018

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve spent the past couple of days in Sydney:

  1. Sleeping in a capsule hotel,
  2. And doing nerdy things at the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit.

Capsule hotels, it turns out, are just glorified, high-tech hostels. Felt like I was in Aliens or The Fifth Element… Not sure if Mila or Sigourney ever wore thongs to the bathroom to avoid getting athlete’s foot though.

On the other hand, the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit definitely covered innovation, digital and strategy. Most of my digital and strategy skills are self-taught (peppered with a few great short courses here and there) so it was eye-opening, reinvigorating and inspiring to hear experienced strategists and innovators talk about things in my wheelhouse. And also comforting when it turns out that vague concepts in my heads are actually frameworks with fancy names.

Here are some quotes because everyone loves a quote:

  • “Digital is not a threat. It can be your answer. If you get Facebook really right, you have 500K marketing managers for your radio station.” – Linda Bracken, Former Head of Audience Strategy & Digital Design, ABC.
  • “Transformation is a subset of innovation. New technology is a symptom of human curiosity.” – Scott Ward, Founder, Digital Infusions.
  • “Machine learning is the high interest credit card of technical debt.” – Paul Tune, Machine Learning Engineer, Canva.
  • “Data only takes us so far. It shows us what’s happened in the past. Design thinking helps us figure out why things are happening.” – Scott Ward.
  • “Creating a product is easy. Selling a product is hard. You have to create something that people need rather than selling something you have.” >> Sadly did not catch this person’s name! Believe she was in marketing/comms strategy, and replaced someone who was ill so isn’t listed on the program.
  • “Don’t capture people’s data for no reason. Solve a problem, solve a beautiful problem.” – Jennifer Scott, GM Digital Transformation, ANZ.
  • The customer is in the centre.” – Rob Hango-Zada, Co-founder, Shippit.
  • “Creative disruption is the new business as usual.” – Scott Ward.
  • “Whenever you see customer friction, this is where change is going to happen.” – Jennifer Scott talking about waiting in line for a supermarket checkout, and then seeing what Amazon Go is doing in the US.
  • Not a direct quote, but Ali Adey (Head of Digital, Simon De Winter) and Kim Peirce (Founder, Babe Australia) talked about how they find micro-influencers to be more valuable than influencers for brands. While they have less followers, their audiences tend to be more niche and engaged. They’re also seen to be more authentic when endorsing brands because they aren’t already up to their eyeballs with brand deals.
  • “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable with uncertainty. We need to get excited about being uncomfortable with uncertainty.” Harmandeep Singh, former VP of Strategy and Innovation at Brady.
  • “Engagement is captivating interest for long enough that they give a shit.” – Rob Hango-Zada.

The recurring theme here was HUMANS.

Whether it’s customers for consumer-facing activity like marketing, sales, customer service and product innovation, or staff if we’re talking about processes, product development and digital transformations. A common sentiment across the board was that the best technology, processes, apps and ideas mean shit if they don’t fit the people. If you haven’t thought about how your team feel about something or how they are going to implement it, or you’re assuming blindly that people want your product, then you’re in trouble. (Side note – I have many, many thoughts about how this definitely still applies to creative industries like music. There’s much debate about writing music for yourself vs. writing music for the market, but that’s a giant blog post for another day.)

Story time. Back in my early twenties I worked in the diamond industry for a couple of years doing quality control and logistics. (Before you stalk me on LinkedIn, this job ain’t listed on my profile.)

My office was a very secure diamond vault, and I needed to get through five floor-to-ceiling fridge doors to get to it. Imagine the Get Smart credits – that was my morning walk into my office. It was also super cramped and so dark in the vault that I could barely read the tiny barcodes on my diamond bags.

The company paid a consultancy firm some hefty cash to help us improve productivity and therefore make more money. Some creepy dudes in suits came in for a few months, but not once did they actually talk to any lower level team members. Instead they went to lunch with upper management a few times, and then back with ‘business solutions’.

Their improvement for my role was to swap out my normal product trolley with a giant ‘high productivity’ trolley that did not fit into my bloody vault. I pointed this out to them, and they said they were 100% sure it fit because they checked the building’s blueprint. Turns out they didn’t think about the fact that a human needs to be able to fit WITH the trolley in the vault to put things on it, so I had to instead have my trolley outside the vault to do my work and walk double the distance every single time I retrieved a product. And also – no new lights.

People are important apparently. Talk to your humans. 😂

BIGSOUND: Edition Seven

September 12, 2018

Wot wot

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This year marked my seventh time up in Queensland for BIGSOUND. Here are some things that happened:
  • Ran a workshop with Bolster‘s Director Anthony Zaccaria on understanding data and being able to pull out actionable insights from a bunch of numbers.
  • Got attacked by a BIGSOUND monster. See above.
  • Finally watched No Mono live after months of hearing my friends gush about them. They were GREAT.
  • Went to watch No Mono’s second showcase, but accidentally walked through a Bin Juice set on the way and was blown away. Absolute music highlight of the whole conference. I didn’t end up catching No Mono again.
  • Asked a question at Darren Levin’s content panel, and then had a complete stranger in the loo afterwards tell me I had a lovely voice. (Not sure if she liked my question.)
  • This gem from Alex’s data panel, from the moderator Chris Carey: “Data only has an answer if you have a question to ask.” So figure out why you are looking at the data (what’s your artist’s top city, or the best retailer for record sales, or the top track this year, or good targeting ideas?) and then look at the data. Was fitting with the panel focusing on how there is so much bloody data available to us now, but people aren’t necessarily getting any extra value here. 
  • Got my own hotel room in a twist of fate because my roomie ended up breaking her ankle before flying up to Brisbane. Broken bones suck but privacy is pretty great.
  • The most incredible views from the Bolster boys’ hotel room.
  • Drunk conversations at the Eventbrite party comparing investing to advertising optimisation. (Give me a whisky and ask me about this.)
  • Heard a certain media person on a panel claim to simply take brands’ money and then bury their paid editorial with other content as their ‘native content strategy’… NB: person in question is not a Bolster employee, client or partner.
  • Pretty sure the Bolster espresso martinis were pure rocket fuel. See below.
  • Not getting completely sick! This is a BIGSOUND first for me. (I do feel not 100% and have been avoiding humans this week, but hey, this is still a big win.)

Bolster x BIGSOUND x Brisbane x…. Beverages 😏 #bigsound

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Creative Forecasting

August 16, 2018

Taking a break from our usual programming… with a podcast recommendation.

Like your standard advertising agency employee, I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes with things such as productivity, creativity and forecasting. I listened to this great episode of HerMoney With Jean Chatzky with Adam Grant, and it had so many bloody gems. Here are a few standouts:

  • On creative forecasting: studies show that creatives can’t critically evaluate their own ideas because they love them too much. Creatives’ managers are too critical and underestimate the ideas. The group that was the most accurate with predicting success of a creative idea was actually peers.
  • If you don’t have the luxury of running your ideas past your contemporaries, Grant suggests writing at least 20 (or up to 200, wtf) possible solutions for your scenario. Then number them from your favourite to least. Weirdly, creative forecasting studies show that your second favourite item will usually be the most successful.
  • When it comes to innovation, it’s often better to be a fast follower than a pioneer. The iPod was not the first to market, but it soon became eponymous for the MP3 player. (Let it be known I’ve never owned an iPod. I went straight from a Sony Discman to Spotify because I had some kind of music tech coma for ten years.)
  • In a similar vein, MVPing is very important. Shipping a minimum viable product is better than labouring away for years to make a perfect product, and then suffer when you launch because the market is crowded. (The example Grant gives was Polaroid, but a past workplace springs to mind for me. I worked in a team where where my managers were mad about perfection, to the point that everything we did was re-worked so much that by the time it was ready, the project was completely irrelevant and not timely for our end users.)

I’ll stop now 😝 Just listen for yourself below.

(Side note, this is the best podcast I’ve listened to in my entire life. If you’re into personal finance, the psychology of money, saving tips, stock markets, investing or all of the above, check it out.)

BIGSOUND 2018

August 12, 2018

The final BIGSOUND 2018 announcement is here… and I’m super excited to be speaking this year! Just casually listed with other Ps like keynote speaker Paul Kelly and the incredible Patience Hodgson. #notfangirling

With Bolster, I’ll be doing a workshop on data, metrics and reporting. Specifically on understanding advertising and social media metrics, why you should care, and how to figure out if you actually did well. Metrics are not a one-size-fits-all situation. Different campaigns have different benchmarks to begin with, and even within a campaign, different ads, targeting or channels can be/should be used for different purposes. For instance, is this $1,000 you’re spending here to drive awareness to prospecting audiences, or to drive conversions to high intent users who already know about your product?

The workshop will be at The Judith Wright Centre on September 5 (day 2!). More details here!

P.S. Bolster Co-Director Alex Zaccaria is also doing a panel on data, Creative Director Nicky Humphreys is on a design/branding panel, and Bolster Content Director/LNWY.co Editor Darren Levin will be speaking about content creation.

P.P.S. Also annual reminder that I have terrible eyesight so please say hi if you see me because I probably can’t see you.

CHANGES

July 9, 2018

Australia’s newest music industry event found its home in Melbourne this week. CHANGES was a music industry summit by day, and industry-showcase-and-adventures-on-Smith-Street-with-a-side-of-kebabs by night. In a spin to the typical conference format, CHANGES had zero panels. Instead they focused on small room workshops and masterclasses, as well as one-person keynotes by industry experts to let attendees get a deeper view on each topic.

CHANGES was run by the excellent folk at The Push, and Bolster was involved heavily through the graphic design, website, digital advertising and also popping up here and there on the event program.

Bolster‘s Director Alex Zaccaria opened the conference with an interactive keynote. We posed advertising trivia questions based on industry and Bolster stats, with attendees answering these with real-time polls using their mobile phones. For instance… How many metres of content does the average person scroll through daily on their phone? What percentage of festival ticket holders actually like said festival on Facebook? What percent of website banner ads booked for festivals and tours are actually ever displayed on a real screen to a real human? If you want to know the answers to those… chat to us 😂

LNWY and IOHYOU hosted the CHANGES closing party at the Night Cat, with some pretty phenomenal music from Krakatau, ALTA and Billy Davis & The Good Lords. (If you haven’t heard of LNWY, it’s Bolster’s evergreen content outlet with Laneway Festival. I love it, and so should you.)

On a more personal note, I also ran a closed door workshop with Al Parkinson, hosted by Music Victoria. We had good chats around all things social media, marketing and helping artists get ahead.

Here’s to CHANGES 2019!

Sarah Chav' - facebook.com/sarahchavphotos

Sarah Chav' - facebook.com/sarahchavphotos

Photos: Sarah Chav

One Of One

June 24, 2018

One of One is an incredible music blog started by three Melbourne women, with the purpose of shining a spotlight on the wonderful women in the music industry. I’ve been a reader for the past couple of years because it’s absolutely inspirational to see women in the music business kicking goals, especially those that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the past decade.

Sarah Hamilton (ahem, one of those said ladies I’ve had the pleasure of working with) interviewed me for the site last week. Have a read, laugh at my OTT Virgo method of dealing with stress and maybe find out a bit more about what I do all day at Bolster. Someone said my answer to the karaoke question was a cop out. 😏

(If the name One of One sounds familiar, I also went to their absolutely beautiful and empowering International Women’s Day Breakfast earlier this year. Read more about that here.)

YouTube Music

June 23, 2018

YouTube Music has been in Australia for a little while now, but Google just announced a whole revamped music platform recently. Bolster is actually working on a small part of the roll out marketing campaign on local soil, so Nicky (Bolster’s Creative Director) and I went to their YouTube Music launch party in Sydney earlier this week.

The new version of the streaming app is designed to put music discovery at the forefront, playing into the breadth of YouTube Music’s catalogue. More info on YTM here.

(Funny story. Our plane was super delayed so we only ended up being at the actual party for about an hour, but we still managed to say hi to some familiar faces plus watch Amy Shark and Vera Blue. *Shakes fist at Virgin.*)

Happy International Synth Day!

May 23, 2018

Happy International Synth Day from the Bolster team! P.S. Promise I did real work too.

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