The Orchard recently hosted our first ever 3-day virtual student series. With classes turned remote, we understood that while learning in 2020 is different, it shouldn’t be stopped. Our goal was to provide students and those interested in the music industry with insight into the operations of a global music distribution and artist and label services company. We hosted panels from the best and brightest on our teams, from Digital Marketing to Sales to Design to Brand Marketing and Communications to Content Acquisition. We partnered with incredible organizations such as The Digilogue, GIPHY, Fender, SheSaid.So, GRAMMY U, and Girls Who Listen. Not to mention, we held exclusive interviews with recording artists Ruth B (Downtown Records) and sad alex (Red Bull Records).
And can we just say: success! We were thrilled to have attendees from all over the world participate in our virtual student series. Attendees were encouraged to ask questions and pick our panelists’ brains – and they were up for the challenge! We received dozens of insightful questions and active participation across all sessions.
With so many questions asked, we put together a comprehensive recap of the panels featuring some of the most frequently asked questions during each session. The student series may have passed, but the learning never stops! Let’s dive in.
Tuesday, September 15
The Orchard’s Chief Operating Officer, Colleen Theis shared her backstory and how she and The Orchard have become leaders in the global music industry. Colleen emphasizes that not all paths are linear and to learn and grow with each opportunity.
Gain a basic understanding of how different areas of the business work. Try everything. Absorb as much as possible from who you are working with.
Career paths aren’t always linear. What you think you might want to do when you’re younger does not always end up panning out that way. “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”
The Orchard’s design team discussed their design background, what brought them to the music industry, and how they merged their love for music with their eye for design. The panel featured Airene Resurreccion (Associate Art Director), Kevin Macaraeg (Interactive Designer), and Jonathan Ellis (Interactive Designer).
The music industry is very fast-paced so you often need to keep learning and teach yourself new techniques to adapt and stay relevant.
Get inspired by the art that’s already in use such as the cover art for an artist.
Use criticism as a learning opportunity and don’t take it personally. It’s nearly impossible to create the perfect design in the first iteration.
What coding language or website developer would you recommend to build websites?
What programs do you find yourselves using most frequently?
Photoshop, Illustrator, and a lot of After Effects, Spark AR
What’s the best way to teach yourself how to use these programs?
How do you go about brainstorming a brand identity for artists?
Most of what we create has to adhere to an artist’s vision or album cover. Some of our work is for The Orchard’s brand and those are more open to what we pitch.
The Orchard’s Digital Marketing and Artist Services teams described how best to build an artist’s presence online and develop impactful campaigns. The panelists included two members of the Digital Marketing team, Amber Crisci Nagle and Ryan Whitman, and two members of the Artist Services team, Asmarina Zerabruk and Jasmine Brito.
Be authentic. Do what comes naturally to the artist and build upon their story in unique, creative and engaging ways.
Find your audience using social analytics to see stats like gender, age demographic, city and country and create content that speaks to them.
Stay active on socials regardless if you’re in the middle of an album cycle or not. Engaging with fans off-cycle will ensure they are ready and eager to listen when you do release new content.
Pick 5 brand stories and stick to them ie. music, fashion, friends, cooking, humor.
How necessary is a social media presence for an artist campaign?
There are creative ways to market in the real world: street teams, live shows. But at least during 2020, social media is the place to be. Maybe technically you don’t need socials to market your artist, but why not? Why not use every tool and opportunity to tell the story of your art in order to relate? Social media is a tool to connect.
If your artist is hesitant to engage on social media, consider starting with YouTube! YouTube is the intersection of a DSP and a social media platform. Start there with some live performances and build up your comfort level.
Should you go dark on socials leading up to an album?
I would suggest not. According to Instagram algorithms, those frequently posting will have their posts appear first when a user first opens the app. If you go dark for a couple of weeks, the algorithm will work against you. Also, you want to make sure your fans stay connected with you as a person, separate from your sound when you’re not promoting any music.
If your goal is to grow an audience, would you agree that engaging bloggers, influencers, and online music publications are key?
It definitely helps, surrounding yourself with the right connections and supporters of your art is always key. However, this goes hand in hand with your socials, what audience are you creating there, what stories are you creating on your own. If you’re creating something unique and engaging, people will want to write about it.
How have you adjusted to Tik Tok being so prevalent in how an artist is marketed?
TikTok is an important social media tool right now, but you have to remember to stay authentic to your brand. If you’re not an artist who would do a Tiktok dance – don’t do the TikTok dance. You can find other creative ways to be on the app while still being authentic to your brand as an artist. Whatever you post should be an extension of who you are and what you want to share.
What advice do you have for recent graduates looking to work in Marketing?
Stay on top of new developments and new platforms. If you’re a marketer, stay on top of anything new happening in that field. Utilize free publication and sign up for regular updates. Music Ally, Music Business Worldwide, Music Week, and Billboard are great places to start.
Should I be paying to be on playlists or platforms?
Stay away from paying! Companies that guarantee a specific number of followers or streams for your payment are most often fraudulent. Instead, look for other artists or creatives for collaborations. It’s always better to build followers organically. Those who have chosen to follow you, are more likely to stick around.
Ali Meyer from The Orchard’s recruiting team and SheSaid.So’s Harriet Moss share their insight on how to ace a job interview through story-telling and best practices. With an emphasis on doing your research and using smart connections, the pair gave their advice on navigating the application and interview process.
To pinpoint your career goals, write down what you want to do, what you don’t want to do, and what you’re interested in.
Keep in touch with classmates and teachers, utilize LinkedIn, join organizations that could help you connect with more people in the fields in which you’re interested.
When in an interview: Always be prepared with questions. Dress at least one step above what the dress culture is for the company.
What job sites can you recommend specifically for jobs in the music industry?
The most accurate representation will be up on the company’s website. Shesaid.So has a job page on the website. Music Week Magazine. Music Business Worldwide. LinkedIn. Glassdoor.
I find that I’m too experienced for internships but not experienced enough for full-time roles. What advice do you have?
I would advise you to strive for the full-time roles that make sense with the roles you have had. If you want to build out your experience, intern within other fields – a breadth of knowledge within the music industry is really important.
I think it’s important to assess the types of roles you’ve been applying to – do they typically have a title of Manager or above? If so, I would suggest applying to roles that have “Coordinator” or “Assistant” in the title as they are the roles usually reserved for entry-level or recent graduates.
What advice do you have for applicants who have a varied or broad range of experience rather than in one specific area?
That can be positive because you’ve spent time searching for what you’re passionate about. If you are applying for a specific role put those important experiences in. I often find that people who have experience in a lot of different fields are the sorts of candidates I want to hire. With that being said, it’s important to put together a pitch about yourself that encompasses all of your interests in a way that reflects your perfect job (for example, “After completing internships in marketing, A&R, and operations, I find myself most drawn to A&R because it allows for me to bring together my love of helping individual artists while still remaining data-driven”).
What’s the best way to make the switch into music when a majority of your experience is in a very different industry?
Skillsets; Organization, multi-tasking, fast-paced, passions.
Ali: First and foremost have a really targeted resume; at the very top of the resume you should have an objective section that explicitly states the type of role you’re interested in. Next, be sure to tailor your resume to the roles you’re applying to so that it’s reflective of the job post. Finally, hone in on transferable skills (such as communication, organizational skills, etc.) and make an effort to bring those up in your initial interview.
Wednesday, September 16
In partnership with The Digilogue, The Orchard’s tech team talks about using technology to empower artists, and how music and tech work together in the music industry. The speakers Kristin Briggs (Product Manager, Mobile + Marketing), Mike Lorenz (Product Manager), Olivia Wherry (Product Manager), Brandon Nales (Head of Content & Artist Relations, The Digilogue), and Paulina Vo (General Manager, The Digilogue), talk about the ways they’ve used their creative side hustles to better understand their user’s needs.
Take your experience and passions and build what you would want to use.
The key to being a great product manager is being a good communicator. Work on your ability to describe your product, update, etc. when speaking with different teams, such as business managers, engineers, finance.
Always Beta test. You never know what you might have missed until the product is put into action and tested with users.
Check out: Boss Lady Podcast, The Digilogue Twitch Channel, and OrchardGo!
How are you keeping creatives engaged with the products your building?
With OrchardGo, there was a great transition from the label-centric business model to an artist-centric business model. To keep people notified when a trend was happening with their music, we built out notifications on our app to notify an artist or label so they can act on it if they choose.
We also ask artists directly how we can help them. In order to understand more about the podcasting field, we talked directly with someone who was creating a podcast network in order to learn the in’s and out’s.
What qualities make for a great Product Manager?
One of the most important skills to have is the ability to communicate with all different types of people and departments. How you explain a product to a business manager is different than how you would describe it to an engineer.
Be able to think strategically and creatively with your ideas and solve problems in an agile way (don’t try to boil the ocean).
When you talk about the technological perspective in the creative industry, do you have a specific framework of skills you need e.g. data analysis/ app development in relation with computer science or others?
All types – engineers, analytics, designers, product managers
Where do you recommend starting to look to break into these types of roles for someone who’s recently graduated/has limited experience in the industry?
It can be difficult to get an entry-level product job with no product experience, but the good news is that there is no one path to a product or tech career!
One approach is to gain deep expertise in a field you love doing a non-technical or tech-adjacent job. That way, you’ll know a ton about that field’s users and their needs. Many roles have similar responsibilities to the ones PMs have (project management, strategic thinking, communicating with people in different roles) and can easily translate into PM work.
Another way is to find a company that will take on someone with less experience in a product role (these are most often larger companies or companies with larger product organizations).
The Orchard’s Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs, Michelle Arnold as well as Nate Day (Manager, Content Acquisition), walk through the process of signing a deal with The Orchard. From Nate’s process of seeking out and pitching labels and artists, to negotiating terms and finalizing contracts with Michelle, attendees learn all the inner workings that lead to a deal and partnership with The Orchard.
There are different levels of record or distribution deals that work for artists and labels at different levels. Understanding your goals and rights is important to determine who you’d like to partner with.
The music industry is a business – you must prove you would bring profitability to the table if you’re looking to get signed. Use measurable metrics to showcase yourself.
If you’re an artist or manager negotiating a contract or deal, get a lawyer and make sure you’re on the same page when negotiating contracts.
How does an artist or label obtain a deal with The Orchard? What are the prerequisites?
We want to see that some music has already been released and has resonated strongly with some audiences. It’s important for the artist/label to demonstrate they are consistent and capable of driving successful campaigns on their own. This means they will bring good ideas to the table, understand what it takes to execute, and most importantly, that we can build out a plan together. We want to work with as many artists/labels as possible, but it’s a competitive space, so we have to be selective with new signings.
Why should and artists sign a record deal when there are so many options to marketing and distribute without one?
It depends what you want for yourself and how much you want to do on your own. Record labels offer a lot (publicity, marketing, distribution, promotion, design) that you would otherwise have to do on your own. The bigger the name and the team, the more connections and relationships you’ll have to support your releases.
How do you measure sustainability when signing an artist for distribution?
We look for consistency, organic momentum and trajectory. The artist also needs a good team, and strong personal work ethic with long-term ambitions. Always helps to have a healthy Monthly Listeners-to-Followers ratio, and strong engagement on other social platforms.
Ten Minutes With (*More Or Less) is The Orchard’s editorial interview series. Bringing it into the virtual world, Darian Symoné Harvin, multimedia culture reporter and social media editor led a Q&A conversation with recording artist, Ruth B. Together, they discussed how Ruth B navigated the music industry early on, her writing process, how that process has been affected by COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter Movement as well as Ruth B’s latest releases like “Dirty Nikes.”
Danny Chang walks through his experience from intern to Director of Partnerships at GIPHY. Danny discusses how GIPHY can be used in an artist’s marketing campaign, the ease of access, and his role in finding artists and engaging content that users will find interesting and useful.
Anyone can use GIPHY no matter if you’re a big artist, new artist or simply a fan of gifs!
For the best visibility across apps, apply to become verified and find more helpful tips on GIPHY’s support site: support.giphy.com.
GIPHY wants traffic and wants people to use their stickers. The more interesting and expressive stickers are, the better!
Utilize your unique experiences and background to carve your path in future positions. Danny used his knowledge and experience in the independent music industry to help position himself for his current position on the Partnership Team at GIPHY.
Does Giphy tag content?
Yes, users can tag their own content and the editorial team tags content so that users can find what they’re looking for. Tagging is a very large part of the GIPHY ecosystem.
Is GIPHY exclusive to verified accounts or signed artists?
Your channel has to be a brand channel or verified for stickers and gifs to become accessible to other users. You don’t have to be a signed artist to be on GIPHY – you just have to prove that you have a following, a website, etc to become verified. Find more information on the verification process here.
What department do you work with at labels?
Almost exclusively with digital marketing departments.
Thursday, September 17
Recording artist, songwriter, and performer, sad alex chats with Bryce Carr about her team. From co-writers to managers, brand partners to record labels, Alex reiterates how important it is to remain authentic to yourself and focus on the aspects of your team that fit the best for your needs.
Be authentic. Whether it’s finding a partnership with a brand or filming promo content for a new release, bring your personality into anything you do.
The best partnerships between artists and brands are the ones that come organically. The brand should match the personality of the artist and vice versa.
Surround yourself with people who genuinely care and want to support your vision. Knowing who you’re working with on a personal level, whether that be writing partners, producers, label partners, managers, will make your work together that much stronger.
When were you able to transition into music as a full-time career?
I was a physics major in college but had always played music since I was young. During one summer I was interning early mornings with my Dad at his practice, but one particular night I remember staying up pretty late playing and writing music. I didn’t care that I wasn’t going to sleep much – I just had to finish it! When I finally went up to sleep I saw my Dad still working on something he needed to be done the next morning and I thought at that moment “I never would be able to lose sleep for that job.” I started to think more seriously about what would give me more nourishment and fulfillment. I decided I wanted to do music – I didn’t know what that meant, but that I needed to do it. After college, I decided to move to Nashville and just wrote with anyone who wanted to write with me.
How do brands decide when to work with artists? What factors are considered when selecting partners?
Brands are often seeking partnerships to position their brand in a new way or to introduce their brand to a new audience. In regards to Fender, one current marketing strategy is focused on Fender Play which provides guitar lessons for various skill levels. Their brand usually considers their target audience and seeks an artist whose audience and identity align with the brand goals.
As a music distributor, our goal is to get your music in front of your audience and increase streams. But getting followers to stream your music doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That’s where our marketing and sales teams come in. Edward Moses (Associate Director, Account Management), Jen Santibanez (Account Manager, Video Services), and Jennifer Schwartz (Senior Manager, Digital Marketing) all discuss their areas of expertise and ways you can optimize your presence to drive followers to your music. Using creative and engaging content is key to standing out and keeping fans returning for more.
Playlisting is not a marketing strategy. In fact it’s the other way around.
Optimizing every platform is the easiest way to look credible and also make sure your artists and music are accessible. Give fans as few steps as possible to find you, and your content. Use hashtags, clear imagery, consistent titles, verify your pages, do whatever helps your audience find you quickly and easily.
You can’t have one without the other. With every release whether that’s a music video, song, album etc, you should promote across every platform possible.
What constitutes “success” in these virtual marketing activations? Are there metrics you look to specifically to measure success?
Engagement is your best metric. Did someone just scroll past your post, or did it make them like / comment / share / click the link in bio / listen to the song / subscribe? Inspiring action is the goal of all of our campaigns. Get to know your metrics and take note of spikes and dips. Learn from them. Any increased bumps or upward trends are key indicators that you’re campaign successful and there is an interest in your content
You’ve mentioned a “release plan” a lot. What does a typical release plan look like?
A release plan is our marketing and sales hub. It tells us how you plan to stay top-of-mind and re-engage your audience in the months before and after album release. Are you releasing IG tracks or music videos? Are you doing any activations with press or brand partners? Are you hosting any events, live streamed or otherwise? What’s your plan for keeping fans invested in this project, and listening / watching as new content slowly drips out to the public?
Is getting an artist on a playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, etc. something the sales team does or is that more of the marketing side? What would that process look like for either team?
In short, playlist pitching is handled by the Sales team. Marketing is driving users to listen to the music in creative ways that feel organic. Sales works with services to highlight the artist story and marketing efforts with data, recaps, and pitch materials to secure support from key editors and partners.
Every business needs a brand, whether you’re a label, artist, management company, or otherwise. The Orchard’s Brand Marketing & Communications team made up of Jarred Hopkins, Meredith Nadeau, Michelle Golden, and Shannon Silver, discuss their strategy and how The Orchard positions itself as a leading artist and label services company across a variety of touchpoints. From social media to conferences, press to editorial, The Orchard always maintains the goal of empowering independent artists and labels all over the world.
Decide what tone, visuals scheme, and messaging you want your brand to have and then remain consistent anytime your brand is represented.
When writing a press release, blog post, or social copy about an artist or label, describe them as they would describe themselves, whether that be their musical genre, how they identify, etc. research official bios or interviews so you are respecting their self-description.
What would you say is the primary segment that makes up The Orchard’s followers across socials? Is it up-and-coming artists that are aspiring to distribute through The Orchard, fans of artists you work with, or a mix? Who are you trying to target?
Our audience is primarily members of the music industry. Our labels, aspiring artists and professionals, and our partners, employees, and friends! We are global industry leaders, so it’s important we highlight our impressive global talent and drive followers to our blog for more of our insight.
What’s the step by step process for securing placements in trade magazines and on platforms?
Once all those involved approve of the press release, we collect contacts at our target trade magazines, set a date, and circulate our announcements. Throughout the year we’re always engaging and maintaining those relationships.
How was the product launch approach for OrchardGo different from your regular product marketing updates?
This announcement was unique in many ways. Firstly, we were marketing a new technology so we had to be very mindful of our explanation of these features. Secondly, the app is only accessible to those who are distributed by The Orchard. So we kept in mind targeting our own labels/contacts but also to the wider industry who may be more interested in working with The Orchard in the future with their new awareness of this additional offering.
Our marketing efforts were therefore more specific to independent industry trades, and were often paired with an explainer video or at conferences with a full demo to help visualize the tool.
How do you determine which artists you highlight on your website, posts, etc. ?
We collect submissions from our global label management teams and review weekly priorities with our sales department. From there, we always aim to represent diversity in geography, race, genre, gender, and sexuality. We often highlight those artists that have new music coming or recently released, have a story to tell and are genuinely excited and expressed interest in us showcasing their music on our accounts.
The Orchard’s Associate Art Director, Airene Resurreccion returns alongside Interactive Designer and Intern Supervisor, Michell McCool to discuss what they look for in a design portfolio. Personality, a comprehensive design strategy, variety, and creativity in both design and delivery are all essential elements in making your portfolio ‘one-of-a-kind.’
Having a thoroughly developed campaign with a focus is more interesting than lots of little projects that showcase a single skillset (UNLESS you are 100% committed to working in a particular aspect of design i.e. you want to be an animator, a UX designer, brand designer etc.).
Show your personality in your work, your process, and your “About” section.
What’s a better way to introduce yourself without a dry, cookie-cutter “About” section?
Consider including a photo of yourself or having this section include more visuals like gifs or drawings that you created.
What are good websites to build your portfolio on?
Behance, Webflow, WordPress, Cargo Collective
What are some tips on making your page stand out?
Show your personality through your work and content copy. Your website should have a sense of branding — build your brand and your design voice to reflect cohesiveness.
What are some common mistakes you see on portfolios that you’d advise trying to avoid?
Avoid using the third person prompt “_____is a multi-disciplinary graphic designer who graduated from _____”
We also see a lot of portfolios that are filled with a lot of projects that are not thoroughly developed or fine-tuned. Quality over quantity! Focus on refining the few pieces you are most proud of, don’t fill your portfolio with tons of projects to show you have range because it will show through quality pieces.
Thank you to everyone who attended our first-ever virtual Student Series! We hope you were able to gain insight into not only The Orchard, but the role of a distribution and artist & label services company within the music industry. Keep in touch by following us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and The Daily Rind. Class dismissed!