Why Algorithms are Getting Smarter with Ari Herstand
I had a great chat about the future of streaming and more with Ari Herstand, who isan independent artist who also runs Ari’s Take, an education business to teach others artists about the industry. He just released the third edition of his book, How To Make It In the New Music Business.
Ari joined me to discuss how artists are navigating new music releases. It's increasingly getting out of the artist’s hands in favor of the uncontrollable algorithms powering the likes of Spotify and TikTok. Ari says it’s like, “playing the lottery.”
While algorithms are taking the human element out of music discovery, that human touch has found itself into new artist monetization tools like NFTs. It has inverted what Ari calls an artist’s “pyramid of investment” for an artist growing their fanbase.
Ari and I covered a lot of ground on this episode. Here’s what you can expect to hear from us:
[3:10 ] Waterfall release method infiltrating Spotify
[8:15 ] Music discovery power shifting away from human, toward algorithms
[11:40 ] DSP’s purposely pulling power away from playlist editors
[19:21 ] TikTok isn’t for every artist
[21:26 ] Evolving team structure of an indie artist
[27:55 ] Role of music NFTs
[31:44 ] How Sammy Arriaga sold $250k of NFTs to non-fans
[40:02 ] The Pyramid of investment
[49:10 ] Ari the musician vs. Ari the educator
[50:05 ] Updated version of How To Make It In New Music Business book
Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS
Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guest: Ari Herstand, @ariherstand
Learn more about Ari's book, How to Make It in the New Music Business here: https://book.aristake.com
Learn more about Ari's Take here: https://aristake.com/
This week’s sponsor is Laylo. Join artists like Kodak Black, Sam Smith, and others who notify their fans instantly when they drop merch, tickets, and more. Create your own drop page for free in seconds at laylo.com
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[00:00:00 ] ARI HERSTAND
I'm not a good recording engineer and I'm not a producer. So that's another team member that I'm going to hire when I make a record. Like I'm not Finneas. I'm not going to make a record in my bedroom. Like I can't do that. And that's not what I want to do. Like honestly, that doesn't inspire me. What inspires me is to make music with other people.
[00:00:26 ] DAN RUNCIE INTRO
Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level.
[00:01:36 ] DAN RUNCIE
Today's episode is a playbook for all the indie artists out there. I had a great conversation with Ari Herstand, who is a musician himself, and he's also the founder of Ari's Take, which is his education business that focuses on how artists can make it today, especially indie artists. How indie artists can make it today in the new music business. And that's actually the title of the third edition of this upcoming book. Ari and I talked a lot about some of the new and updated insights that he has in this edition of the book, specifically around streaming, and how artists are starting to favor and prefer focusing on algorithms and how that can get them more listeners and where playlists currently sit with artists prioritizing them. And we also talk about NFTs, TikTok, and Ari's concept in the book called the Pyramid of Investment. This is a great conversation for anyone that wants to better understand the music industry, especially for the growing segment of independent artists that are carving their lanes out for themselves. Here's the episode. Hope you enjoy it.
[00:01:48 ] DAN RUNCIE
All right, today we are joined by Ari Herstand, who is the author of his new book that's coming out, how to make it in the new music business. He's an artist himself, and I was lucky enough to be a guest on his podcast a couple months back. So Ari, it's great to have you on. And congrats on the book coming up.
[00:02:06 ] ARI HERSTAND
Yeah, thanks, Dan. Thank you. Thank you. Very exciting. The third edition and get ramped up for that. But it's great to be here with you today. Thanks for having me.
[00:02:17 ] DAN RUNCIE
Yeah, definitely. And I know for you, one of the big topics of the book is just how artists continue to evolve with how they're releasing music, how they're paying attention to what's going on with streaming right now. I feel like you have a good vantage point for this because you're doing so much of this yourself with your own releases. What are some of the big changes? Because I know that everything post-pandemic has been a little different, and now we're heading into this new phase right now with the new year. What's the big thing for you that you're seeing with the evolution?
[00:09:07 ] ARI HERSTAND
Right. So every artist needs to ask themselves what their intentions are with their release. And so, you know, the beautiful thing about the new music business and the scary and daunting thing about the new music business is there really isn't a right or a wrong way to do anything. There is the right and wrong way for you. And that could be the wrong way for me. So everyone, you know, it's based on your intentions and what your goals are for the release. If we just go, you know, more in the mainstream realm or let's just say your intention is to be successful on Spotify. Because that's a metric that most artists these days are kind of using to gauge the success of their release. And they want to have the best chance of, you know, grabbing that Spotify, being being blessed by the Spotify God, I guess. So to do that, there is a very specific release strategy that has been studied and now tested and now used by everyone from Lizzo and Krungman to Maggie Rogers to Robert Glassberg. And that's the waterfall release method. And Indie artists, you know, that are just releasing their first few singles are using this as well. I mean, this is the waterfall release method. And I'll break this down a little bit on what this means. This has started to get used a few years ago, but it really picked up last year in 2022. And now 2023 is I think going to be the year of the waterfall. But basically what it is is that, you know, you release singles leading up to the album. That has been happening for years now. However, here's what gets a little bit more where where it gets a nuance on how those singles are released. It's you don't just release a single song anymore as a single. You release your first single one song. That's just the one song released one second now your second single is that the new song is track number one. And the previous single that you released is track number two. So it's technically your second single, but it's kind of like a two song album. If you really go that way, if you're tuning it up, if you're an artist is to the artist asking this all the time. Well, how do I do this in my district? back end or whatever, like doing it's a two song album. And the way that the streams maintain for the previous single and that you don't lose your playlist inclusion, all that stuff is you use the same highest or C number. And so it's if you use the same highest or C number that used when you released that track, a month prior, it will be identical stream counts. And then a month later, you release your third single, but that's now a three track album. You know track number one is the new single track number two is the single you release a month ago and track number three is the is the single you release two months ago. And as long again, use the same highest or C numbers, it'll be included in the same playlist. They will be identical tracks, wherever they're included on people's algorithm, personal playlists, all that stuff. You can do this. People are doing five or six singles that way. And then the album and this release method, you know, this could take eight months, essentially, if you want to do one single every four to six weeks, and then the album. How you can kind of look at it, is you're building the album. And so it doesn't have to go on order, you can pick whatever order you want based on your singles. And then the final album is the album order, no correlation doesn't have to be the single order, you can pick whatever order you want each time. The track art can be different each time. I've seen it, people do different single art for each release. I've seen people just use the album cover for every release. So you know, at the end, you might have like six singles released that each have a few different