Record stores wouldn't do this back in the day

“Hi, welcome to Tower Records. You’re a musician? Great, why don’t you stop by every single day to take a look through our accounting books so you can find detailed information about the people buying your music from our stores, which will probably help you make real-time decisions to improve your marketing efforts…”

Yeah. That never happened.

First of all, your music probably wouldn’t have been available in Tower Records. (Well, maybe on consignment at a single location.)

Second, if your music WAS there, it would’ve been made available through a physical distributor representing a label. Whatever slim data the retailer did provide — sales, returns, etc. — went to those parties, not to you.

And thirdly, retail outlets weren’t providing artists, distributors, or labels with real insights into your fanbase, let alone delivering fresh data every day.

Today, platforms like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music give you daily updates on who is buying your music. Not their names, mind you, but actionable information: hometowns, age, gender, playlisting activity, and much more.

Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform, Spotify for Artists, and Apple Connect also provide, to varying degrees, the opportunity for you to communicate directly with your audience. Again, you couldn’t walk into Tower Records and tap on a customer’s shoulder as they were purchasing your CD.

While other aspects of their businesses might not be as transparent as we like, the big streaming services ARE giving artists and labels unprecedented access to key demographic/user information. It’s not just data. It’s USEFUL data.

Keep that in mind when someone tells you the music industry was so much better twenty years ago.

Were some things better back then? Probably. Are some things better today? Absolutely. Flux!

One thing that IS great about today’s music industry is how artists can be empowered with data. Whether it’s using Spotify data to sell out a European tour, noticing something unusual in your Pandora data and using it to get 55k views on a Facebook video just a day later, or simply monitoring the effectiveness of a paid streaming promotion campaign, data gives you an edge as long as you’re inclined to look at it on a regular basis, you wrestle with what it might mean, and you’re prepared to change course accordingly.

To access data about your music’s performance on Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes all in one place, check out CD Baby’s Trending Reports.

[Photo of Tower Records by Jessie Lingenfelter.]