For labels, publishers, artists and managers, the YouTube multi-channel network (MCN) is fast becoming a key social media strategy with the added bonus it can also earn revenue. INDmusic (pronounced indie music) is a Brooklyn-based MCN formed by Brandon Martinez and Jon Baltz in 2011 and calls itself ‘YouTube’s largest independent music network’ boasting over 4 million subscribers and 1600 channel partners. The company helps its partners find ways to gain fans and get as large a share as possible of YouTube’s $5 billion+ in annual revenues without sacrificing creative control or rights to their content.
NEKST contacted INDmusic Channel Manager Arshan Sadri who outlined the network’s goals, its belief in artist rights and some of the ways they actively help YouTube channels to grow and scale.
NEKST: INDmusic got everyone’s attention when it became an integral part of the viral success for “Harlem Shake.” How?
Arshan Sadri: Mad Decent Records was one of our earliest partners. A lot of what we did with them was to instill the community-focused strategy that you see now driving their content. They have a rabid fan base that likes to comment on the videos, they like exclusives and being in the know about what’s new and emerging. We now work on rights management and strategy with over 100 labels. We start cultivating relationships with new and emerging artists by making sure they can own their rights and helping them determine how best to engage the YouTube community.
NEKST: Explain your number stats for Partners, Subscribers and Network Views…
Arshan Sadri: We now have 1600 channel “partners.” Those are record labels, artists, rights holders and some are just traditional content creators. We build strategy and do rights management for them. “Subscribers” are the aggregate YouTube community that subscribe to content from all our channel partners which is currently about 4 million. Video “network views” measures the lifetime of views across our entire network— 3.5 billion—which is very large for an independent YouTube music network. And those numbers are growing on a weekly basis.
NEKST: And you cross-promote this large subscriber base across all your channels with tactics like your Spotlight program?
Arshan Sadri: Right. That’s one way we highlight up and coming talent within our network and invite our 4 million network subscribers to discover new music.
NEKST: Do you work with any Nashville artists and how do you help them?
Arshan Sadri: Throughout the network we are heavier with dance, hip hop and rap, but are completely genre agnostic. And with everything going on in Nashville we see it as an emerging market for us. We also work with legacy artists like Buck Owens, who are buying back their rights and help them create and/or claim content they own on the YouTube side. Our partners get to work one-to-one with our strategy team and design both long and short term plans. For example, with an artist like Ben Rector whose from Nashville we might recommend tags used by similar artists with more subscribers. It’s about crafting ways to insure that fans will find the content. If we have an artist that comes to us and says, we think we sound like the Black Keys then we can study the analytics and determine what Black Keys fans search for when looking for YouTube content. We then apply that across SEO, annotations, or on a tagging level so when people search for the Black Keys or similar artists, our artist will appear in relevant searches as well.
NEKST: Are TuneCore and Audiam partners or competitors?
Arshan Sadri: TuneCcore is a partner, Audiam is not. TuneCore is the largest digital distributor and we collect YouTube revenue for their partners plus allow them to opt into our network. Once inside the INDmusic network, TuneCore partners get advice from our strategy team and the benefit of our higher CPM ad rates. Audiam is different, because they focus on static content claims. Having worked on YouTube for so long we don’t use that approach because we believe it’s necessary to have a long term strategy to implement community engagement. Rights management—whether it’s for publishing or sound recording—will only monetize if the community engages with that content. Our goal is to see fans subscribing, coming back for the next upload, watching some of your older videos and even sometimes finding a new artist they want to reach out to and follow. So for us it is not just about getting paid on static views, we want to insure you are getting a fan, a subscriber and someone that can become a real follower. Ultimately, we want to build community within the network.
NEKST: Instead of just picking the low hanging fruit, you’re planting trees?
Arshan Sadri: That’s how YouTube has been able to build such a rabid audience both with their original series and their bloggers, the process works. People subscribe because they want to come back, see what’s next and form a relationship. You can apply that similar strategy with music. A true fan is going to come back, click on your links or even make a video with your new music. Your community of fans will do that and come out to see you on shows.
NEKST: Is there a way to take this process to other platforms beside YouTube?
Arshan Sadri: Whatever comes next will be about building community, providing artists with transparency and sharing the analytical data about who is searching for and watching their content, plus all demographic and traffic source info. We are always thinking about cultivating communities with similar platforms like Soundcloud or whatever is coming up. We believe in artists owning their rights. Artists made the music. The fans are there for them, so artists should retain those rights. That is what has made us successful on YouTube and whatever comes next we are going to apply those same practices.