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Water & Music

The fine print of big ideas in music and technology, hosted by Cherie Hu and featuring a curated selection of leaders, innovators, artists and thinkers from across the music business. This is an ad-free audio companion to the eponymous email newsletter.

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Episode 4 (ft. Amber Horsburgh): Why marketing music to strangers, not to existing fans, is more profitable

INTRO/OUTRO MUSIC:"sleep" (instrumental) by min.aSpotify | SoundCloud | YouTubeTRAVEL UPDATES:I'm speaking at the European DIY Musician Conference in Valencia, Spain on April 6 and 7!If you'll still be around, you can purchase tickets here: https://diymusiciancon.com/eu/FEATURED GUEST:Amber HorsburghMusic marketing consultant; former SVP of Strategy of Downtown RecordsAuthor of the Deep Cuts newsletterhttps://us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=f0541c84182af8be2e2a9a627&id=6b07de7ce8Today's episode is inspired by Amber's blog post "Playing to Strangers":https://medium.com/@AmberHorsburgh/playing-to-strangers-8568f5e0e2fdSHOW NOTES:[3:44] Interview with Amber Horsburgh begins[5:32] Byron Sharp's book How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don't Know:https://www.amazon.com/How-Brands-Grow-What-Marketers/dp/1511383933[10:46] Music Ally's report on the "dry streams" problem and how labels and managers navigate it:https://musically.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Sandbox224-62916028.pdf[15:18] Kevin Kelly's original blog post on "1,000 True Fans":https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/[19:02] The Coachella lineup in 2012 featured many more artists from the rock and pop world—e.g. Beirut, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys and M83—than from hip-hop, R&B and similar genres:https://consequenceofsound.net/2012/01/radiohead-dr-dre-the-black-keys-headline-coachella-2012/[20:41] As one example of a study on rising concert ticket prices, the U.K.'s National Arenas Association found that the average ticket cost for a big-arena gig in the country rose from £22.58 in 1999 to £45.49 in 2016. Adjusting for inflation, that's a 27% increase over that time period:https://www.bbc.com/news/business-42982769[22:02] Artist manager Jake Udell's newsletter about how record labels often spend 80% to 90% of their budget on content, rather than on reach:https://artofamanager.com/2019/02/important-marketing/[24:26] During Spotify's Investor Day presentation in March 2018, CEO Daniel Ek shared that the streaming service receives roughly 20,000 tracks every single day:https://investors.spotify.com/events/investor-day-march-2018/default.aspx[29:49] According to a study by MusicWatch, 44% of Facebook users like an artist or band, while 56% of Instagram users follow, tag and/or share posts from artistshttps://www.soundexchange.com/2018/08/08/musicwatch-music-social-media-perfect-harmony/[39:12] Marshmello's groundbreaking Fortnite concert continues to be on the tips of everyone's tongues in the industry:https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/2/18208223/fortnite-epic-games-marshmello-concert-exciting-bizarre-future-music[40:33] Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile's critically-acclaimed collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice was released in October 2017:https://courtneybarnettandkurtvile.bandcamp.com/album/lotta-sea-lice[43:32] Overrated/Underrated segment begins[43:47] Bandsintown acquired Hypebot and Music Think Tank:https://variety.com/2019/music/news/bandsintown-platform-acquires-hypebot-musicthinktank-1203170255/[44:47] Throughout January and February 2019, both HuffPo and BuzzFeed laid off 7% and 15% of their workforce, respectively:https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/jan/26/huffpost-buzzfeed-layoffs-digital-journalism[45:23] I recently wrote a two-part essay for my newsletter Water & Music about how artist education is the new point of competition for music companies, especially for streaming services and third-party distributors:https://www.getrevue.co/profile/cheriehu42/issues/artist-education-is-the-new-competition-part-one-154161https://www.getrevue.co/profile/cheriehu42/issues/artist-education-is-the-new-competition-part-two-156331[48:37] Warner Music acquired Songkick in July 2017:https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/14/warner-music-group-buys-concert-discovery-service-songkick/Thank you so much for listening! :)★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★


1 Apr 2019

Rank #1

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Episode 3 (ft. Mike Warner): Playlists are here to stay, but you shouldn't pay to get on them

INTRO/OUTRO MUSIC:"Drifter" by postmoderndiscoSpotify | Bandcamp | SoundCloud | YouTubeGUEST:Mike WarnerAuthor, Work Hard Playlist Hard (https://gumroad.com/a/550745203)Artist + Label Relations, ChartmetricManager + Producer, Date NightCITATIONS:[3:32] Interview with Mike Warner begins[5:14] My original tweet claiming that "playlist placement isn't artist development":https://twitter.com/cheriehu42/status/1067873158705893378[5:41] My email newsletter issue about our new "post-playlist" reality:https://www.getrevue.co/profile/cheriehu42/issues/our-new-post-playlist-reality-138493[11:48] There are many other resources online about how to "optimize" your Spotify profile for discoverability and follows, such as on this blog:https://www.awal.com/blog/playlisting-tips[17:35] Spotify shut down third-party playlisting pitching service Spotlister for breaching the former's terms of service, as illuminated in an investigation by The Daily Dot:https://www.dailydot.com/upstream/spotify-playlist-scandal/[22:42] Playlist SEO is real, and there are ways artists can use it to their benefit (instead of, you know, for scamming people):https://diymusician.cdbaby.com/music-promotion/build-spotify-playlist-shows-search/[29:00] As I and a few other writers have covered recently, the role and power of music publicists has changed rather dramatically over the last five years in the wake of streaming and other digital trends:https://www.billboard.com/articles/events/women-in-music/8488966/female-music-industry-publicists-unsing-powerhttps://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8493224/independent-music-publicists-shrinking-media-landscape-premieres[32:40] Keith Jopling's blog post about the future of playlist innovation for MIDiA Research:https://www.midiaresearch.com/blog/whats-next-for-playlist-innovation/[33:51] Spotify launched a collection of horoscope playlists in January 2019, in collaboration with "resident astrologer" Chani Nicholas:https://newsroom.spotify.com/2019-01-17/astrologer-chani-nicholas-shares-how-music-matches-your-horoscope/[38:32] Overrated/Underrated segment begins[38:51] Facebook announced new music licensing deals in India, Thailand, Vietnam and other markets across Asia during SXSW:https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8502461/facebook-music-40-countries-india-thailand[39:40] In January 2018, a study by Diffusion Group found that 50% of adult Facebook users in the U.S. had never heard of the free Watch video service, while 24% had heard of it but never used it.https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/facebook-watch-half-users-never-heard-of-1202913756/[42:42] Around Spotify's launch in the U.S., the streaming service relied heavily on Facebook for acquiring users and spreading a reputation of the service as "social-friendly."https://www.wired.com/2011/05/facebook-spotify-together/[43:18] Spotify launched in India in February 2019—but without some clickbait-friendly legal action from Warner Music Group.https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/26/spotify-launches-in-india/https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/1/18243053/spotify-warner-india-global-food-fight-music-streaming[46:00] In December 2019, Indian streaming service Saavn merged with the music arm of Reliance Jio, one of India's biggest telcos:https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/05/jiosaavn/[47:05] Deezer is known for relying heavily on telco partnerships for customer acquisition, even if those customers don't stay around for long—leading to a phenomenon that MIDiA Research has called "zombie users":https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8258220/music-industry-spotify-churn-rate-inactive-subscribers[47:21] Here's a recap of the most-streamed songs on Spotify India in the first week:https://musically.com/2019/03/07/western-artists-prove-popular-in-spotifys-early-days-in-india/[48:55] Apple is expected to launch a video subscription service later this month:https://www.forbes.com/sites/dawnchmielewski/2019/03/21/apple-tv-app-to-get-a-second-life-with-video-subscription-service/#efa3e061e377★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★


22 Mar 2019

Rank #2

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Episode 6 (ft. Alex Bonavia): Artists are now launching pads for songs, not the other way around

INTRO/OUTRO MUSIC:"Muted Voices" by LandslideSpotify | Apple MusicLicensed from Lickd—listen and license this track hereLicense ID: 4d328232aa4a4fb1845b1b8097aaaf8eFEATURED GUEST:Alex BonaviaHead of Business Development at WavoTwitter: @A_BonaviaSHOW NOTES:[1:40] Interview with Alex begins[4:54] Adam Alpert on The Chainsmokers' monthly release strategy in 2017: "The strategy works very well for streaming services, because they are getting regular content, and playlist editors can help you narrate that story month to month."https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/dance/7718105/chainsmokers-manager-adam-alpert-interview-2017[5:25] The newly-reunited Jonas Brothers released their two latest singles, "Sucker" and "Cool," within 40 days of each other:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnAmeh0-E-Uhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_JbZvHc92U[9:15] An example of a label exec touting the power of building "career artists":https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8094078/2-single-release-strategy-music-industry[12:55] I wrote for Billboard last year about whether labels should be concerned about Spotify's churn rate:https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8258220/music-industry-spotify-churn-rate-inactive-subscribers[13:38] Splice raised a $57.5M Series C round in March 2019:https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/20/splice-sample-marketplace/[15:05] Alex's tweet about the rise of JVs:https://twitter.com/A_Bonavia/status/1105205494170480646[15:52] Managers like Jake Udell and Scooter Braun are starting their own labels in-house:https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8488954/artist-managers-launching-record-labels[17:09] ODESZA's label Foreign Family Collective:https://www.foreignfamilycollective.com[17:45] RÜFÜS DU SOL launched their own label Rose Avenue in October 2018, which has a distribution deal with Warner Bros. imprint Reprise Records, according to metadata from their latest album on Spotify:https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/dance/8478125/rufus-du-sol-rose-ave-label-cassian-lafayette[20:50] W Hotels launched its singles label in October 2018, and has collaborated with the likes of Amber Mark and Perfume Genius:https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/w-hotels-is-record-label-now-too-732641/[21:03] Red Bull Music Academy will be shutting down later in 2019:https://pitchfork.com/news/red-bull-music-academy-and-radio-to-shut-down/[22:08] Yes, KFC's Colonel Sanders did have a slot at the Ultra Music Festival:https://consequenceofsound.net/2019/03/ultra-kfc/[22:35] Mountain Dew's media & entertainment venture with Complex Media, Green Label, once housed the record label Green Label Sound, which collaborated with artists like Jay Electronica and The Cool Kids. The venture at large seems to be inactive today:http://greenlabel.com[22:53] More context on the multifaceted Kitsuné brand, co-founded by former Daft Punk manager Gildas Loaëc:https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8236269/kitsune-x-nba-new-standard-indie-label-releases-fashion-sports[26:25] ALL the JVs!!- Boominati Worldwide, Metro Boomin's JV with Universal Music's Republic Records: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/7849328/metro-boomin-boominati-worldwide-label-bryson-tiller-tour- Visionary Records, Visionary Music Group's JV with Sony: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ogdenpayne/2019/01/24/music-entrepreneur-chris-zarou-launches-new-sony-backed-imprint-visionary-records/#3abcd53c7485- Palm Tree Records, a JV between Kygo's manager Myles Shear and Sony: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8478266/kygo-myles-shear-palm-tree-records-sony-music[27:55] In 2017, Spotify's Director of Economics Will Page wrote an important analysis for Music Business Worldwide about why the arbitrary 18-month threshold for catalog marketing is no longer relevant in the streaming era:https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/music-industrys-definition-catalogue-need-upgrade/[31:54] Spotify automatically creates "This Is" playlists for artists on its platform, compiling and ordering songs in their catalog—e.g. this playlist for Anderson .Paak:https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DZ06evO1VjTu8[34:39] A designer and illustrator collaborated on a fun web app that automatically generates personalized festival lineups based on your recent listening habits on Spotify:salty-beach-42139.herokuapp.comtwitter.com/cheriehu42/status/1116779941838958592[35:43] More context on the power of fitness playlists, apps and studio companies in music marketing:https://www.forbes.com/sites/cheriehu/2018/08/02/fitness-marketing-revenue-music-tech/[36:03] My newsletter issue from September 2018 about the concept of "today's hit being tomorrow's niche," inspired by Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail:https://www.getrevue.co/profile/cheriehu42/issues/today-s-hit-is-tomorrow-s-niche-132544[36:21] MIDiA Research's Managing Director Mark Mulligan's blog post, "Kobalt Is A Major Label Waiting To Happen":http://www.midiaresearch.com/blog/kobalt-is-a-major-label-waiting-to-happen/[46:10] Overrated/Underrated segment begins[46:24] Sylvia Rhone got promoted to Chairman/CEO of Epic Records in April 2019:https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8508355/sylvia-rhone-chairman-ceo-epic-records[46:58] Great Billboard piece from April 2018 about the diversity gap among hip-hop executives within major labels at the time:https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8313035/hip-hop-boom-black-executives-music-business-labels[47:57] L.A. Reid left Epic Records in 2017 following harassment allegations from an assistant at the company:https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7793105/la-reid-epic-records-exit-allegations-female-staffer[48:23] Beyoncé's deluge of promotional flexes—- A $60-million, three-project deal with Netflix: https://variety.com/2019/music/news/beyonce-netflix-deal-1203193729/- The first output of said deal, the two-plus-hour documentary "Homecoming" honoring her historic 2018 Coachella performances: https://www.netflix.com/title/81013626- "Lemonade" is now available across multiple streaming services beyond Tidal, including Spotify and Apple Music: https://trapital.substack.com/p/beyoncs-streaming-strategy-explained[50:32] Kanye West's Sunday Service:https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/kanye-west-s-sunday-service-isn-t-his-redemption-it-ncna998061[52:34] More context on how Coachella promoter AEG is sharing in Beyoncé's streaming revenues, licensing fees and ticket sales from her "Homecoming" documentary and live album:https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8507795/how-beyonce-homecoming-pays-off-coachella-promoter-aegThanks for listening! :)★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★


2 May 2019

Rank #3

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Episode 9 (ft. Sammy Andrews): The music business needs to break down its own data silos

INTRO/OUTRO MUSIC"Flowers" by a[way]Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported  — CC BY 3.0 Free Download/Stream: http://bit.ly/Flowers-awayMusic promoted by Audio Library: https://youtu.be/h_7V5TXkAw4FEATURED GUESTSammy AndrewsCEO, Deviate DigitalThis episode is inspired by Sammy's recent column in Music Week about the stubborn data silos that persist in the music industry.TIMESTAMPED TOPICS[2:49] Interview begins[5:53] Preliminary overview of different data silos that exist among artists, labels, publishers, distributors and streaming platforms. Examples: Siloed consumption data among several labels for the album Siloed audience data among labels and promoters Labels charging outside parties to use retargeting data, not being open to outside pixel tracking [9:49] Importance of asking for access to certain kinds of data in recording/publishing contracts.[11:15] Promoters usually get left behind in terms of access to data, but take on the most risk in putting on shows. How can managers and agents help solve the issue? What role can streaming platforms like Spotify play in terms of driving higher clickthrough rates for ticket sales? [15:09] DSPs have a long way to go before fully nurturing and monetizing superfan relationships.E.g. possibility of streaming services offering artists the data and tools to retarget their most loyal fans off-platform[16:40] Distributors offering self-serve advertising platforms to indie artists Examples: CD Baby's Show.co; Sammy mentions Beatchain CORRECTION: AdRev, which is owned by CD Baby's parent company, focuses on Content ID management and video monetization, not on advertising. These types of platforms still may have a drawback in terms of full autonomy from a siloed platform. [21:08] Given that nothing is certain in terms of the future of tech and media companies, the best way to protect artists is to ensure that they can have their consumption, audience and payment data move with them, as opposed to constantly trying to cobble together fragmented sources at the whim of third parties.[26:05] What are types of data that music companies are very protective about and don't want to share, but whose openness could actually benefit them more?Sammy's personal example: Data silos prevented her from successfully building a global playlist brand for the independent community, to compete with major labels' curatorial brands (Digster, Filtr, Topsify). [30:03] More and more music companies all morphing into the same thing and eating into each other's revenue streams. Original article comes from Music Business Worldwide's Tim Ingham, writing for Rolling Stone. Caveat: Will this consolidation just lead us back to an era of predatory 360 deals? [33:09] Is bundling an effective solution for breaking down data silos, or does it just take advantage of fans?Examples: DJ Khaled vs. Tyler the Creator on the Billboard charts, and Taylor Swift's controversial Verified Fan campaign with Ticketmaster.[36:10] The chicken-egg problem for solving the data-silo problem: Should we try to build a concrete product first, or start by tackling wider organizational practices and behaviors? Lessons from other industries: practices for a global album launch should be on par with how big-name fashion brands Nike and Adidas plan global product launches. Data silos present artists from being able to treat themselves as legitimate, always-on brands. [42:31] Overrated/Underrated segment begins[42:39] Sammy's topic: Big tech players like Netflix, Facebook and Spotify extending and diversifying their reach into entirely different types of content and technologies. Example of a failure: Amazon's short-lived ticketing venture. Where does the music industry fit in, with respect to carving out different routes to market and thinking in a more innovative way about press and media campaigns? [47:25] Caveats of doing exclusive distribution and content deals with tech platforms Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu chose to go with a traditional big-screen release over a Netflix exclusive deal, which allowed him and the film to break box-office records and have wider cultural impact. Should artists "sign" to streaming platforms — or is the ideal relationship more nuanced? With great content opportunities come great digital advertising opportunities, which can go a much longer way than a single, poorly-placed TV ad. Sammy comes across a few new advertising opportunities for her clients every week. [52:46] Cherie's topic: Spotify is one of several tech companies supporting Facebook's new cryptocurrency Libra. Spotify published an official post on their website. The Libra partnership parallels Spotify's needs to integrate directly with local telcos in emerging because of the relative lack of separate bank accounts. Special thanks to Jay Shah for help with editing and mixing!★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★

1hr 5mins

21 Jul 2019

Rank #4

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Episode 8 (ft. Eugene Kan + Charis Poon): The case for greater creative and algorithmic accountability in the music industry

INTRO/OUTRO MUSIC:Yung Skrrt & Jonah Baseball - "The Man" (feat. Houdinne & Lunarboy) (Instrumental)Spotify | SoundCloud | BandcampYung Skrrt: Twitter | InstagramCOVER ART:Arielle TrenkFEATURED GUESTS:Eugene Kan — co-founder, MAEKANCharis Poon — writer, editor and producer, MAEKANBoth Eugene and Charis co-host the weekly podcast Making It Up, and were two of five co-writers of the essay "The Modern Creator's Paradigm: Reasons for More Critique and Accountability."SHOW TIMESTAMPS:[2:50] Interview begins.[4:00] Are we as consumers sufficiently challenging the creative work that's out there? Is it our role to challenge it? Should the consumer always "win"?[9:12] Music and video platforms are increasingly embracing their roles as gatekeepers, and taking on the burden of responsibility and scrutiny in their curation.Liz Pelly's "Discover Weakly," a study of gender representation on Spotify playlists.[15:45] A significant component of creative and algorithmic accountability just comes down to answering the question of why. Why is a platform recommending this song or movie to me? Why am I listening to this song, and does the platform know that reason? This is a question that word-of-mouth addresses better than any other tactic, and that algorithmic channels like Spotify's Discover Weekly still struggle to navigate.[20:36] Thinking more critically about a piece of creative work arguably drives up the value of that work. "Without creative accountability, the new work that’s generated rarely gets the critique necessary for it to develop into something refined and of higher value."[25:26] Regardless of whether the song "Old Town Road" is actually "good," Lil Nas X benefited from fast-moving forms of cultural response — including memes, which arguably comprise a form of cultural criticism.[28:42] Despite whatever creative democratization has taken place thanks to technology, our silos of communal critique may be deepening.[29:39] As a whole, if we're advocating for smaller, tight-knit communities of critique to help push culture forward, how many of those communities will we be able to see in the open? Who will even get to see it in the first place? (Hint: platforms.)[30:57] From a cultural consumer's perspective, higher barriers to consumption arguably lead to more impactful and emotional investment in creators.[33:41] Music distribution and tech companies are increasingly catering to the "middle tier" of independent artists and their teams.I wrote a recent newsletter about how music distributor Stem made precisely this pivot to "middle-tier" services.[39:01] A somewhat radical idea: What if creator-focused companies taxed hobbyists higher than professional artists for their services? Or, put another way, what if artists were rewarded with more equity, not less, for contributing positively to their culture and community — essentially the opposite of how traditional record-label deals are structured?[42:44] Discussion of the key building blocks for the future of media, speaking from our experiences building MAEKAN (Eugene/Charis) and a Patreon membership (Cherie). Key trends: Moving beyond news cycles, accelerated timelines and output quotas. "Finishable content" — i.e. moving past the psychological feeling of never getting caught up. Infinite cultural mindset — i.e. fostering culture with infinite longevity and cross-generational relevance, instead of focusing only on content that drives short-term engagement. [54:39] Overrated/Underrated segment begins. (this lasted more than 10 minutes, lol)[54:57] Charis: The conversation and controversy around Taylor Swift's new single and music video "You Need to Calm Down."[58:32] Eugene: The role of merch bundling not only in Billboard chart placement, but also in artists' cultural influence on- and offline.See the multiple articles online on DJ Khaled vs. Tyler, The Creator for more context on the merch bundle wars.[1:04:46] Cherie: YG Entertainment founder Yang Hyun-Suk stepping down, amidst a string of sex-related scandals in the K-pop world.Subscribe to my newsletter for more conversations on big ideas and trends in music and tech:bit.ly/waterandmusic★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★

1hr 15mins

25 Jun 2019

Rank #5