The ‘Midem Blog’ spoke to Cooking Vinyl‘s Head of Digital Sammy Andrews: after a career as a concert promoter, artist manager and independent record label founder, and after creating her own consulting firm – Sabotage New Media – in 2008, Andrews took on a position as Head of Digital at the record division of 19 Entertainment. She joined Coooking Vinyl in 2013. Founded in 1986 by booking agent Martin Goldschmidt and distribution manager Pete Lawrence, Cooking Vinyl is a UK-based, artist-focused independent record company. Artists signed include Marilyn Manson, Billy Bragg, Röyksopp, Madness, James, Gary Numan, Amanda Palmer, The Pretty Reckless, Groove Armada, The Cult, and The Prodigy.
I look after all things digital at Cooking Vinyl (CV), it’s an exciting and varied role that includes business strategy, innovation and development of relationships with key partners across the digital landscape and beyond. It’s an ever-evolving sector and one I take great pride in being a part of.
My team and I also look after all individual CV digital marketing campaigns, working closely with product managers and our brilliant label services teams to ensure digital strategy is maximised to its full potential for every release. In addition, I run an independent digital marketing consultancy working direct with artists/management, festivals, charities and brands. Before that I was a live event promoter and artist manager and tour manager. It’s fair to say I’ve worn many different hats over the years, but it’s allowed me a great insight into each corner of the industry which really helps with understanding a campaign thoroughly from everyone’s perspective and knowing where we can team up to maximise our efforts.
> What are the best things about your job, and what have been your career highlights to date?
Without doubt there has never been a more exciting time to do my joband with the landscape changing daily there is truly never a dull moment and no day is the same. Cooking Vinyl are a very forward thinking companyand I’m lucky enough to be afforded a great amount of freedom to explore new ground and partnerships, such as teaming up with gaming platform Twitch on The Prodigy’s campaign recently. As career highlights go The Prodigy’s album The Day Is My Enemy is certainly one of them… a number one record and a campaign that allowed me to explore and successfully execute all manner of digital opportunities.
I’m also very happy to have recently instigated a call for independent record labels to join forces on a new playlist curation brand to rival the majors’ offerings (playlist, digster, filtr). I’ve had an incredibly positive response from all indie labels and streaming platforms since announcing the call to action and am now in the process of getting the ball rolling. Working with Annie Lennox for the last ten years has also been a real honour and constant highlight both within work and the campaigning we do for HIV/AIDS and women and children via the Annie Lennox Foundation. Annie is a true inspiration and someone that’s been an amazing mentor for me as a woman in music.
> What advice would you give to people looking to start working in the music industry today?
Firstly it’s important to know that working in music is very much a lifestyle as much as it is a job. You have to be prepared for that and you need to have a true passion for it if you’re going to survive in the industry and succeed. If you’re a woman in music it can be a real battle sometimes in an industry that’s still so predominantly male dominated but you must strive to be the best you can be and also support fellow women in music. I’m glad to say sexism in music has changed significantly for the better since I started out and I hope to see many, many more women rising to the top. Male or female, if you’re just starting out, get involved wherever you can.
There are many opportunities out there and some great internships if you’re looking for an in to the industry – get stuck in! As well as gaining some really valuable experience you’ll also get the chance to see what part of the industry you feel most at home in then properly develop that further. There are also many people out there that will help mentor you along the way, find a good one and let them help guide and support you.
There’s never been a more exciting time to get into music. Work hard, play hard, dream big!
We’re going to see a lot of marketing exploration within in messaging apps for sure, the likes of Line, Whatsapp, Snapchat are already emerging as strong new areas to communicate directly with users. I think we’ll see a big shift in curation too and hopefully streaming platforms finally making some sense of listening data for recommendations and playlists.
With the iTunes aunch and Spotify’s spate of big recent big announcements I sincerely hope we’re about to see the opportunities to better market to fanbases within streaming — both organically and paid — blossom over the coming months. It’s frustratingly limited right now on some platforms and it should not be. With the sheer amount of data they’re collecting, the easier they make it to successfully target the right audience, the more relevant and appealing their ad networks become and the more revenue they’ll generate. It’s a no-brainer, but something that’s been a strangely hard battle with many of the services.
As far as consuming of course we’ll continue to see streaming continue to grow, I predict at a much faster rate than it is now with the launch of new platforms and the aggressive land grabs taking place right now. We’re also already seeing a strong consumption preference shift with playlists, that’s of course going to continue to grow and as listening habit data starts becoming more advanced.
> Are labels, distributors and publishers still the most viable route to market for artists, given the proliferation of direct to fan platforms?
Yes they are, but it’s about doing the right deals. At Cooking Vinyl we actually work alongside artists and D2C (direct to consumer) platforms to make sure artists are thriving across all platforms and that fans are able to get the best of every retail option and listening experience. I have a deep admiration for some artists that are thriving in the D2C spaces, some have successfully independently launched or reignited their careers by stepping away from traditional deals with majors and embracing D2C routes but now more than ever I think artists and managers are starting to understand the value in working with good labels on label service deals to get the best of all routes to market and the expertise, support, distribution, investment and marketing needed to successfully ignite a record on as well as breathing life and revenue into back catalogue.
> With music sales in decline, how can artists address the challenge of monetising their fanbases in the streaming era?
Okay so lets get something straight here… Yes, traditional sales are in decline on the whole (with exceptions on some formats) but streams are up and contrary to the headlines we’re constantly bombarded with, there’s actually never been a better time for artists to monetise fanbases beyond traditional sales routes… they’ve never had more access to data about who is actually listening, what they’re listening to, where they’re listening and when they’re listening. There have also never been more direct contact points and ways to both identify and communicate with fanbases.
That said, I’d still like to see all streaming services and social networks make it easier for artists to communicate with their fanbases and up sell tour and merch to help cover the quick revenue shortfalls they’re used to seeing. I have a few fundamental issues with some views I hear every day on streaming… What many people really need to grasp is that streaming rewards longevity (and not cookie cutter conveyor belt, bullshit, quick hit, based system the industry has created over the years ). As an industry we kind of screwed ourselves over by embracing that model (well.. .some labels did!) If you make a good album and people play it again and again you will earn past any original point of sale you may have got on a sale. Yes, it might take longer but it will pay out… if the album is good!
The next 12 months are going to be interesting for sure. All streaming services, without exception, still have a long way to go but as an industry we must embrace and help nurture streaming if we’re to see it develop and blossom into the revenue generating machine we all want it to be (and I have no doubt what so ever that it can be that with time and support). I think there is a very strong argument for looking at price models and tiered systems – we have to put value and incentive on premium services. However I’m 100% against taking away freemium completely, it’d set us back ten years to when piracy took off and the old boys at the top let the proverbial horse bolt without even realising what had happened. Its very true that those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them and I sincerely hope we don’t see those mistakes made again.
I think on the whole we’ll see many changes over the coming months and years on pricing as we figure out the right entry point but I also hope we won’t devalue music in the process. As I said earlier I think streaming services with ad platforms have a long way to go. The trick to making any kind of ad network successful is relevance. We live in a world where people know how to block out ads and a whole generation who pay no attention to ads whatsoever – any service using a freemium model based on ad rev needs to up its game with relevance on the ads its serving, when ads are of complete relevance they become incredibly valuable – until then they’re just noise that pissed people off. These services are collecting enough data that they should be serving incredibly relevant ads by now. (there are also some much bigger argument that goes way beyond music industry of letting people control their data so they’re served even more relevant ads because they choose to share their information… but I won’t get into that here!)