Water & Music

By Cherie Hu

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The fine print of big ideas in music and technology, hosted by journalist Cherie Hu and featuring a curated selection of young leaders, thinkers and innovators from across the music business. This is an ad-free audio companion to the eponymous email newsletter.

Episode Date
Episode 6 (ft. Alex Bonavia): Artists are now launching pads for songs, not the other way around
WAVO's Head of Business Development Alex Bonavia joins this episode to discuss the new marketing paradigm in the music industry that treats artists as de facto brands and media properties, independent of any song or album cycles. What are the implications of being able to "subscribe" to an artist long-term, instead of just streaming their music? Why does seemingly every music company with some kind of brand cachet want to start a joint venture with a record label? Why are creative directors for artists more in-demand today than ever? And how can data analytics help artists and their teams land better deals and make smarter decisions in this new landscape? After answering these and many other questions, we discuss some of the buzziest recent industry news—including Sylvia Rhone's promotion to Chairman/CEO of Epic Records, and reflections on Beyoncé's Netflix doc "Homecoming" and her decision to make "Lemonade" available beyond Tidal.
May 02, 2019
Episode 5 (ft. Kero One): The lowdown on lo-fi hip-hop's past, present and future
DJ-rapper-producer Kero One joins this episode to break down the past, present and future of lo-fi hip-hop—from the perspective of an artist who has been making music for almost two decades, but became associated with the "lo-fi" scene only recently after the genre's solidification in the mainstream. We dive into the deep ties among lo-fi hip-hop, jazz and Asian culture, the positioning of lo-fi as an alternative to trap, the role of technology in evolving who gets to participate in the lo-fi resurgence and the reasons why Kero hates the term "study beats." Towards the end, we share our thoughts on Lil Nas X and the infiltration of K-pop groups like BLACKPINK and BTS into traditional U.S. media.
Apr 20, 2019
Episode 4 (ft. Amber Horsburgh): Why marketing music to strangers, not to existing fans, is more profitable
Music-marketing consultant Amber Horsburgh joins this episode to discuss why marketing music to strangers—i.e. to people who don't know who you are yet—is more profitable than catering only to existing fans. What are the limitations of Kevin Kelly's widely-cited "1,000 True Fans" theory in the context of artists trying to scale their brands? Why do record labels fall into the "content is king" trap and spend so little of their marketing budgets on reach and distribution, compared to other industries? How can artists engineer demand for their work and cater to lighter and more casual listeners without diluting the integrity of their core product and creative vision? After answering these and many other questions, we provide forward-looking as well as cynical takes on the recent news about Bandsintown acquiring media sites Hypebot and Music Think Tank.
Apr 01, 2019
Episode 3 (ft. Mike Warner): Playlists are here to stay, but you shouldn't pay to get on them
Streaming expert Mike Warner joins this episode to set the record straight on what playlists really can, and cannot, do for artists' careers. How does one build a playlist strategy that optimizes for fandom? What does it mean to be "ready" for a placement on New Music Friday, and how can artists maximize their preparation? How can you ensure that third-party playlist pitching services aren't ripping you off? And how will the playlist as a format continue to evolve in the future? At the end, Mike and I discuss whether the launches of both Spotify's and Facebook's music offerings in India and other emerging markets are overrated or underrated.
Mar 22, 2019
Episode 2 (ft. Dan Runcie): How hip-hop and venture capital are blueprints for each other's futures
Trapital founder Dan Runcie joins this episode to discuss the wide variety of shared opportunities—and problems—between hip-hop and venture capital. What are the similarities in how independent musicians and tech founders navigate their respective funding landscapes, and what alternative funding models are emerging to serve their needs? How do record labels and VC firms make investment decisions, and how could they potentially improve (e.g. pattern-matching biases)? How are third-party music distributors like UnitedMasters similar to tech accelerators like Y Combinator? At large, will the convergence of music and venture capital actually increase the value of recorded music itself—or only exacerbate current issues of wealth disparity and diversity in the music industry? After diving into these questions, we each share our carefully-selected picks for the latest overrated music news.
Mar 11, 2019
Episode 1 (ft. David Turner): Pop music was never "behind" on streaming—and Ariana Grande is proof
Fellow music writer David Turner joins the inaugural episode of the Water & Music podcast! We unpack Ariana Grande's record-breaking, rapid-fire release strategy, debunk the stereotype of pop music as "lagging behind" in the streaming era, debate the pitfalls of manufacturing virality and flooding the market at all costs, and emphasize the importance of giving fans multiple entry points to participating in your story as an artist. As part of a new segment, we also share one piece of recent music-industry news that we think is over- and/or underrated (hint: our answers this time around involve Fortnite and holograms).
Feb 25, 2019