David Weiszfeld spent nine years at Universal France, rising from intern to Head of International, via stints in A&R and Promotions.
His time at the major coincided with the transition of music consumption from almost entirely physical to almost entirely digital. He recalls, however, that the industry entered and explored this new world “blind” – hence the constant tripping over bumps in the road and disappearance down potholes.
When Weiszfeld left Universal, he founded bSHARP, a consulting and management company working with record companies including Caroline (Childish Gambino, Glass Animals, St Vincent, etc.) and Mtheory (Porter Robinson and Madeon, Flume), as well as artists including Petit Biscuit, one of the largest fully independent streaming acts in the world.
As an independent music company, bSHARP’s need for data and insight was greater than ever, yet pioneering companies in that very space, such as MusicMetric and NextBigSound, had been taken off the table via acquisition.
So Weiszfeld decided to create his own internal system to track and ultimately shape the careers of bSHARP’s clients. Then to share it with a few industry friends. And then a few more. Until, eventually, it became clear that this tool, Soundcharts, wasn’t a bespoke answer to a specific question; it was a comprehensive solution to an industry-wide problem.
Following a $3m Series A funding round in 2017, Soundcharts is now used by hundreds of companies all over the world, including all the majors in records, publishing and live, plus the biggest independent labels, managers and even video game companies and social media platforms.
And last year, says Weiszfeld, Soundcharts doubled its annual user base and revenue.
Here, Weiszfeld (pictured inset) explains what makes Soundcharts unique and outlines his ambitions for the platform in 2021 and beyond.
In addition, he discusses the music industry’s biggest data problems – and how Soundcharts plans to help fix them…
There are dozens if not hundreds of companies who claim to analyze data and provide insight as a result- what makes Soundcharts different, either in terms of the data you pull in, the way you analyze that data, or the type of findings you deliver to clients?
Beyond the quality and depth of the data and the real-time engine, Soundcharts tries to be the ultimate productivity platform for music professionals, where you can trust the data performance to give you what you need to succeed.
Soundcharts really gives you a clear picture of the global music landscape, what goes up, what goes down, finding trending songs, tracking your own roster, being alerted in real-time – it just works.
“We are not just plugged to a few public APIs to serve data as ingested, we actually deduplicate, match, assign, merge on the fly and then act as a search and discovery engine for music metadata and music market data.”
Our users also rely on us when it comes to tracking and cleaning at scale, while keeping the entire engine in real-time. We are not just plugged to a few public APIs to serve data as ingested, we actually deduplicate, match, assign, merge on the fly and then act as a search and discovery engine for music metadata and music market data. We are not your typical music data aggregator!
Usage of our API has been growing exponentially but we also have clients who don’t have the capacity to build on it themselves and still want to go beyond our dashboard, so we’ve automated playlists, radio and social reports for companies on their front-end or Google sheets, and we’ve built custom discovery charts for others based on long-tail trending songs and artists that are still far from reaching the charts.
Can you give some examples of the types of insights you provide – and of how these can be used to advance careers, maximize opportunities etc.
We always work backwards from the questions our users need answers to – especially with A&R teams doing discovery.
Questions like, ‘Who is the fastest unsigned rap artist in the US at the moment?’; ‘What are the genres of music beyond Latin that are rising in consumption?’; ‘Which indie catalogs are trending on platforms like TikTok and could be signed and worked like frontline?’; ‘What are my three biggest marketing talking points of the week?’ ‘Which are the top indie releases of the day/week/month, globally/locally?’ Etc.
We love answering impossible questions for our clients.
How are you most useful to artists and managers?
The platform provides managers with a complete view of their artists’ data. While some data is available in their distributor dashboard, or on the many platforms’ proprietary tools, they use us to avoid spending hours looking for data points.
“Spotify for Artists, can’t show Apple Music and YouTube data, the new Amazon dashboard won’t show that your users generated content on TikTok…”
And while all these will allow you to go deep to see your private data, they won’t allow you to benchmark with other songs and artists outside of your roster due to the nature of their ‘see your own metrics’ foundation.
With us they can keep track of their artists’ performance and also identify local opportunities and pinpoint industry trends to apply to their strategies. When a manager looks for a feature or a remixer for his artists, he is acting as an A&R; it is this flexibility that makes Soundcharts a requirement for any professional who keeps an eye on their roster, and the other on the market.
And how are you most useful to labels?
Just like managers, labels monitor their roster, but they usually go way beyond using us for discovery and keeping an overall eye on the market.
We work hand in hand with some to tweak and add custom features to our dashboard and API, just like Salesforce does on their suite of products.
“I personally come from working global campaigns for labels, so we’ve had a natural fit with international marketing and labels’ strategy teams from the start.”
We’re obsessed with our customer’s success and see ourselves as partners rather than a SaaS (Software as a Service) business. I personally come from working global campaigns for labels, so we’ve had a natural fit with international marketing and labels’ strategy teams from the start. Over time, more A&R research teams joined our service as data science grew in music over the past few years.
To build discovery algorithms and predictive models you need a clean, fast, accurate, cross platform source of truth. And it needs to be in real-time if you want to remain competitive.
Can you give us some numbers that give us an impression of the growth and current size of Soundcharts?
Regarding usage, in the last seven days alone, just under 2,000 users from paying companies connected to the platform on their desktop or using our mobile apps.
We love our small to medium-sized business clients and also work with the largest music companies in the world, some with an unlimited users-type agreement, so Soundcharts can be rolled out company-wide.
“Every day, our databased ingest over a billion rows of data.”
Regarding tech and product, every day, the database(s) ingest over 1 billion new rows of data. Our historical metadata and data goes back to up to six years on some data points and we’ve continued to clean it as an evergreen project within the company.
We’ve been focusing our efforts in ensuring we dive deep into solving our users’ questions (and our questions, as well!) and have been able to achieve tremendous advances. In 2020, we’ve released the best in class TikTok tracking for music discovery, custom discovery blocklists, real-time playlist alerting and a fully revamped API.
Next on the list is the mobile apps, which are now available for iPhone and Android in beta, and will officially launch next month.
What is the music industry’s biggest data problem today in your view? Can it be solved?
The biggest is the metadata mess and lack of interoperability between the platforms (and radio etc…). This has complex-ified discovery, reporting and payments for decades!
These difficulties have been amplified the last few years with the exponential adoptions of video UGC platforms (Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok). Today anyone can use any music and generate a piece of content that can go viral; this new version might then be covered, remixed etc. It’s a mess! And like any systemic issue, there are opportunities for those who seize them first!
“Today anyone can use any music and generate a piece of content that can go viral; this new version might then be covered, remixed etc. It’s a mess!”
For example, those who find new songs faster than the rest of the market – therefore identifying trending catalog [that labels can] work like frontline.
This is what happened with Fleetwood Mac last year, but that was the tip of the iceberg. To monitor this well you – and we – must monitor the whole market, in real-time.
How can you see the music industry’s use of data analytics evolving – and the importance of it growing – in the years ahead?
I think we are at the beginning of a new paradigm for the industry. When you compare the org chart of Netflix and Spotify vs Universal Music Group and Sony Music Group, for example, you can clearly see where the music companies are going. Strategists, analysts, insights — VPs, managers, associates — are being hired by music companies, who all want to understand the nuances of their existing business, find new internal and external opportunities, as well as understand the overall market.
“Big music companies understand that knowledge is power and are investing a lot to fill this gap.”
Big music companies understand that knowledge is power and are investing a lot to fill this gap. It is harder for small and mid-sized businesses to build their own analysis but most are also trying to find ways to improve. And using our standard platform is a start!
Can you give us an overview of your client base?
We work with all the majors and large independents from the recording, publishing and live industries – the usual names you would imagine and see at most music conferences.
“Over the past year we’ve also started working with companies like Epic Games, the studio behind Fortnite, as well as Triller, the fast growing social music platform.”
Japan has been a source of new clients for us as well, with digital taking over the market late, but now at a very rapid pace. We added Line Music to the tracking last month to help our Japanese clients even further.
I’d say that about 80% of the top 100 music companies in the world have at least one paying user, most have at least a few. We doubled our user base and revenue in 2020.
What are your headline ambitions for Soundcharts in 2021?
I mentioned the mobile app a little earlier. The real launch will happen in a month or so. But both iPhone and Android are actually already live on the stores – they are not companion apps, but the entire Soundcharts experience on your device.
“there isn’t a single magic feature or algorithm that will ‘solve’ the music industry.”
Our company culture is rooted in constant and daily improvements. We love to fix problems one after the other, and realize that there isn’t a single magic feature or algorithm that will ‘solve’ the music industry.
Our headline ambition for 2021 is to do more of the same. We’ll keep innovating on the best data analytics and productivity platform for the music industry.Music Business Worldwide