How new artists can use data to transform their music careers

Soundcharts give us their essential advice on how to use data to take your music career to the next level...


From Spotify to Facebook via YouTube, Instagram and beyond, digital platforms now offer artists more opportunities than ever before to promote their music.

On the flipside, they also contain huge amounts of information about the success of your music, posts and content. Whether it be the number of times a track is streamed to an audience's location, music makers can now easily access data about the behaviour of an online audience.

The challenge it creates is making sense of these new resources: how do you use these insights to propel your career in the right direction? 

We caught up Dmitry Pastukhov, Brand Manager and Content Creator at music data management experts Soundcharts, to learn more about these new sources of information and how, with some straightforward, strategic thinking, you can use them to take you and your music up to the next level...

Data is flooding the music industry as digital ways of consuming music become the norm. As a new band, there are so many different platforms/analytics available. Where should they start when trying to orientate themselves amid this sea of information?

If you're just starting out as an artist, your best friends are the proprietary data analytics tool. Spotify/Apple Music for artists, YouTube Studio, Facebook analytics...

Basically, every social media/streaming platform will have its own tool, and these platform-specific tools give you the most complete data on your performance on the platform. But as you've pointed out, that's a sea of information you can easily get lost in. 

The way you prioritize should be based on your promotion strategy. For example, if you're focusing heavily on your new music video, you should definitely track its success through YouTube Studio - to understand how it's doing and where your audience is coming from. If you're a SoundCloud guy/gal - stay up to date with SoundCloud analytics. If you're making your first moves in the business, focus on what matters for you right now. There's no one fit all solution here since every career is unique.

Why should new acts use data to make decisions around their music?

Well, first of all, you probably shouldn't make decisions around your music based on data analytics. You should, however, make decisions around your business based on data analytics - meaning managing your career, promoting your music, and so forth. 

For that, there's a lot of reasons. For starters, the music industry is extremely crowded. There's something like 40k songs added to Spotify every single day.

To cut through the online clutter you need to be serious about your career and running your music business. That means not only dedicating yourself to it but also thinking like a business, or a start-up if you will."  

Take music marketing. When you're just starting out, you probably don't know what's going to work and what would be the waste of your time/money. Should you invest in Instagram ads or shoot a nice music video with that money? You won't really know until you try it - and that's exactly the spirit of DIY - you learn by doing. But you should never get stuck in the same routine. Some would say that it’s the spirit of the music industry across the board, no matter if you're a new artist or an executive at a major label. 

That means making decisions, making mistakes, iterating, adapting, trying new things. And to compare the impact and find out what works for you, you need data analytics. 

What are your top tips for new artists looking to use data/analytics to take their career to the next level?

One thing to understand is that data won't magically make you successful and take you to the next level. Making it in the music industry takes hard work. However, analytics can make it much easier to make good decisions, so here's a couple of tips. 

Think and plan like a start-up: 

When getting into release marketing you have to clearly map out what are the steps you want to take, how do you track the success of each step, and what are the top-level goals you want to shoot for. Select the relevant metrics both for your strategic goals and tactical initiatives and make projections for what would define as success. Then execute, track the success of your campaign and, most importantly, learn from your wins and failures. 

Here's an example:

Let's say you plan to put a music video out. 

The success of your clip is your YouTube views, the number of blogs you get to share the video, or some other comparable metric. However, you should never just put out a music video just to put out a music video. Your end goal is growing your core fanbase - the people who will buy your merch, go out to your shows, promote you in their social circles and so on. So your end success metric should be something like social media following growth, or new Spotify followers and fans. This is an oversimplification, of course. Most of the time, you won't just put out a music video. It would be one of many initiatives you take throughout the release cycle. But understand, that your goal is driving your audience through the funnel from "I've heard about this artist" to "I'm buying this ticket, now!!!". To optimize that funnel, you need to understand the role and the impact of your actions and marketing investments. 

Use data to back up your pitch

If you're a young artist, your biggest goal is to find partners that will work with you and help you build your career. The music industry is built on collaboration. Having solid data to back up your pitch can go a long way." 

Let's say you're planning your tour and getting in contact with a local promoter/booking agent. Now, without the right data, your pitch can be something like: 

"Our fan reached out to us on socials and said that we should definitely come to your city, and it's along our route, so do you want to book us?"

With data it's:

"We have 1,000 monthly listeners on Spotify in your city right now. We anticipate it to double by the time we are on tour. Based on our experience, that means that we can get about 500 fans to come out to the show if the promotion is done right. And by the way, we've been played on the big radio in this city a few times, so maybe we could also leverage that to get some extra clout for the show."

The music industry is extremely competitive nowadays. All your partners will be investing money and/or time in your career but why should they go for someone other than you? Sure, they can believe in your music but at the end of the day, they need to make a business decision. Solid data is a great way to make a case for yourself. 

Find out what your opportunities are:

Good data analytics give you a holistic view of your career. This means that you can use that top-down view to detect the opportunities you haven't been aware of. A big part of it is the local opportunities. Nowadays, music doesn't really care about borders and geography, which means that the whole world is your market. You just have to act fast as seize it. I've seen Russian underground bands getting organic airplay on a major New York radio, I've seen French acts going viral on YouTube in Mexico. With real-time data analytics you can learn of your opportunities and make the best of them. 

What platforms should new acts utilize for data sourcing? And how can these platforms help them?

Well, as I've said, there are proprietary data platforms for almost every channel in the music industry. They are free and pretty deep: Spotify for Artists, Apple Music for artists, YouTube Studio. 

Then, there are distributor's dashboards that summarise the data across all DSPs - at least most distributors have them. Also free-ish and pretty deep. 

However, as soon as things get off the ground it becomes extremely difficult to get a 360 view. To build a report on your career (whether to put together a pitch or try to detect potential "pressure points") you need to go through each of those platforms, collect the data, scroll through dozens of pages. Even at the early stages of a music career, that can take a lot of time. 

So, that's what we're trying to do at Soundcharts for our clients. Collect all the data across all key platforms for you. Then add some useful data you can't get yourself - like airplay tracking and online media mentions. Then, present it in a clear way, that would actually empower you and help you develop your career.  

We wrote this article a while back on our blog, summarizing most of the data analytics tools. Check it out if you want to know more about the options you have. 

Do you have any great examples of artists utilizing data to help them transform their careers?

Well, yes and no. As I said, the data-driven approach to growing your career is not something that brings you success overnight. You have to continuously iterate and optimize. 

However, I have a few examples of how Soundcharts helped our clients to identify new opportunities and break into new markets. 

I can't really disclose names, but there was a case one of our customers shared with us. Basically, they were releasing a new album, primarily targeting the US.

Then, they noticed that in a few days of the release, the new songs got picked up by a huge Italian radio station. Then, some of the smaller ones around Europe followed. With that data, they found a promotion team in Europe and partnered with them to support the release. I'm pretty sure the guy is now in the middle of his European tour - which wasn't a part of their release plan in the beginning.

There are some counterexamples of the missed opportunities, that I've seen with some of the artists I follow on Soundcharts. There's this US band that I really enjoy, very niche but they have a loyal following - they've been getting a HUGE amount of airplay in India. There's basically a couple of international radio stations in the country, and the most powerful one was playing them like one or two times a day for about a month or so. That would be a great opportunity to contact the radio programmers and maybe launch a country-specific campaign but without the data, they just didn't know about it. 

What are the most valuable data sources for new talent?

Once again, it depends on your current marketing mix and priorities. But as a lot of the young artists don't have the time and money to engage in full-blown promotion campaigns, I would say that the top three data sources are streaming playlists, radio airplay data and online media mentions. Those are all huge discovery channels, and your exposure there can grow organically (to a certain extent).

Knowing about the new playlists, radio and media publications you get are essential to cultivate that organic exposure. Put simply, contacting a radio programmer that has already played your song is much easier than convincing someone who has never heard of your band to put you on the air.  

Visit to find out more. 

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by Jim Ottewill
November 25, 2019
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