“the fun you can have is completely up to your creativity” – seb mysko, rising digitalBack
From a sofa in the snug at Duke Studios in Leeds, Seb Mysko of Rising Digital can cast an arm out and stretch around the world.
“Santa Monica, we’re recruiting out there again – there’s massive demand in L.A., massive demand. And we’re building in London now as well.
“It’s crazy actually, because six years ago I don’t think this job existed. I might be wrong, and I’m sure someone will shout at me for saying that. But knowing what the team that work at Rising Digital know how to do, as a combined skill set, I don’t think that existed six years ago.”
Because it’s new, what exists at Rising has not reached the point yet where it’s easy to define. The ‘about’ sections on their social platforms try to capture it in a line or two, variations upon: ‘We do lots of digital stuff (ethically) for artists and record labels.’
“I found that using words which people in the music industry might find less intimidating is a good way to approach how Rising Digital talks about itself,” said Seb. “So instead of sitting there saying, ‘We do yadda yadda yadda,’ and coming out with twenty-five marketing buzzwords that mean nobody understands what the hell you’re saying, I’m just saying – we do digital stuff. And it is as simple as that.”
Adapting to a world dominated by ‘digital stuff’ has been a hard struggle for the music industry, which is still rubbing its bruises and looking hurt after its encounters with mp3s, file sharing and music streaming. Simple measurements of success, and simple sources of revenue – record sales, CD sales, chart position – no longer apply to a landscape where an artist’s music isn’t constrained by format or platform, and where a fan can express his or her love for music without ever walking into a record shop.
“We can see the progression of artists and how hot they appear to us, based on some really simple things,” said Seb. “We had this kid a few years ago who I think was in his early twenties, called Alesso – he got signed to Sebastian Ingrosso’s (Swedish House Mafia) label. And he was uploading tracks to SoundCloud that were getting hundreds of thousands of hits in a very short space of time.
“There was no huge advertising, there was no mass scale marketing going on. That was just a kid who was very relevant, and that was that. He was just making music that people wanted to hear. For us it was a case of thinking: that thing is doing very well as it is, so how can that platform be further optimised? I think he was nominated for a GRAMMY this year… mental huh?”
Stats and data gathered across platforms like SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Beatport, YouTube and beyond are now as relevant as record sales, and are the vital indicators promoters need when taking decisions on booking the live shows that are now the main way for the industry to make money in a post-record sales era.
“If your video is getting millions of views on YouTube, your Facebook page has high engagement, and you have people going nuts on Twitter about you, then you can put all the stats in front of a promoter and say, with some certainty, this show will do well. Then boom, there you go, thanks very much. Everyone’s a winner.”
Data alone can’t tell the whole story of an artist and their fans, though; and data is not infallible, and not always pure. Rising adhere to the Womma code of ethics, a set of guiding principles for word of mouth marketers, but still see peers going ahead with buying Facebook likes and Twitter followers to boost their clients.
“I use an analogy about going into the pub and not screaming and shouting at people, but just trying to be yourself and being humble – that’s just the very beginning of it,” said Seb. “You can take that further – do you go around the place minesweeping, or do you buy the beers? It comes down to the Womma code of ethics for me, and how you go about your marketing. I try to just keep things as squeaky clean as possible.
“It falls into this world of two way dialogue, so it’s not about just walking into a bar and shouting and screaming at everyone and flyering and postering and whatever else. It’s about going in and starting actual conversations.”
The communication between musicians and fans has developed through social media from what was once very much a one-way transaction, where the artists produced an album or a video that the fans listened to or watched, to a scenario where the artist’s eyes and ears are just as available as those of their fans.
“When I was eleven I was massively into the Prodigy, yet at that time, I had no idea about who they were, what they looked like, or what they sounded like off-mic, so to speak. Rightly or wrongly, the access that fans now have to their favourite artists is often far greater than I’d ever imagined.”
The kind of marketing Rising Digital specialise in shifts the target away from simply selling a product, to encouraging that two-way relationship – and having a good time.
“We’re now in a world where someone can put on a tour, and it’ll be sold out across however many countries and however many cities in a matter of minutes,” said Seb. “It’s insane, or it is to me.
“So what then happens with people like us is we say okay, now you’ve got this audience, why don’t you have some banter with this situation and really engage with them? Social success isn’t based on ticket success alone – it is a massive part of it, but if you’re in a privileged enough position to have sold a show out, then the fun that you can have with that audience leading up to the event is completely up to your own creativity.
“It makes our job, for the most part, so damn enjoyable. If you’re marketing to kids that want to be talked to, then you’re going to have more fun because they want to get involved. People are now buying tickets two to six months in advance – so imagine if during that time you were given some free tracks, a downloadable mix or something acoustic, or something online like a Twitter Q&A or a Google Hangout – fans are getting an experience with the artist or the brand before this thing kicks in, so you can constantly build anticipation.
“Some people design mobile apps with push notifications about what’s happening, what’s being announced about the line up, so there’s this constant flow of dialogue always with open arms saying: talk back to us, we want you to share our information, we want you to comment, tell us what you think. It all just depends how far you want to take the technology, in line with your brand, and how engaging you want to get… and of course your budget plays a part in all this too.”
Rising help artists tap into a community that is ready to support and ready to get involved, and also to understand the audience response, exploring what works where, who with, and why. “Social media is an ever changing game,” said Seb. “Essentially we help artists, labels and management companies to develop their online strategy, and within that a lot of things change.
“What we’re seeing at the moment is that sometimes Facebook can be quite negative in comparison to, for example, Instagram – if you go on to so many people’s profiles on Instagram, especially artists, and you see the comments, it’s like – ‘Come to Philly! Come to Australia! You’re amazing! This is great!’ Little emojis left, right and centre, and everyone’s just so happy and full of love. But I guess it also depends on your audience, and how you’ve built it.
“One of the labels we work with is deadmau5’s imprint mau5trap, and its engagement has always been fantastic, especially this last year or so – and its followers definitely tell it like it is, and they seem to be genuinely very happy to be communicated with. The funny thing with that brand is that even if they’re not happy and they want to give the label abuse, it’s like it’s all tongue in cheek anyway.”
Keeping positivity and excitement flowing is integral to what Rising Digital have built, and are building out from Leeds to L.A.
“The beauty of what we’ve been able to do is that, since day one, because this is the music industry and because it’s artists and DJs who are out there essentially having an awesome time, making a life out of doing what they love – for the most part, they’re all up for anything! Yes it’s hard work, but it’s good work.
“I think I speak for all the team at Rising when I say we feel privileged to work in this industry. While our artists often tour ridiculous hours, and graft away in their studios, we beaver away behind the scenes getting strategy, planning and implementation nailed as best we can. At the end of the day, we’re all very fortunate to be doing what we do.”
Originally published in The City Talking: Leeds issue 11