At the helm of Whitesmith Entertainment, Emily White has taken the management of DIY artists like Sydney Wayser, Gold Motel or (previously) Amanda Palmer‘s The Dresden Dolls to a new, label-like level. So when she agreed to answer our “Who needs labels?” questions, she did so from a “management perspective, because we’ve taken on so many label roles over the past decade :)”
midemblog: Who needs labels, now artists have all the tools they need to do everything themselves?
Emily White: It depends on the definition of “label.” Most artists of any size would always like help getting to the next level. Unfortunately there has been so much inconsistency with traditional labels, that one doesn’t always know what they’re getting involved with. But that is changing and evolving for the better.
The labels that exist today are often in it for the right reasons and are making smart decisions as to how they market artists and derive revenue. With regard to the recording and distribution tools that are now available, this is a huge win for both new and established artists. New acts can use these tools to help lay a solid foundation for a career, whether they want a larger partner or not. Established acts can maintain creative control, release music / content whenever and however they want, and keep a larger share of income than ever before.
> You’re very much involved with Brendan Benson’s Readymade label. How does it act in a D2F way?
With Readymade we have led with a D2F strategy first and foremost. The way we structured Brendan’s label allows him to consistently make money based from his most loyal fans whenever he makes music. When we do have a spike and there is mainstream airplay or a traditional “hit,” all the better, as Brendan keeps more of that revenue than ever before. But regardless, we’ve set a foundation for Brendan to create music for his fans and in turn, allow his fans to continue to support him for the rest of his life and career.
> How has your company’s role evolved in recent years, notably with regards to social media artist engagement?
I’ll answer this from the perspective of running a management company, since manager’s roles have evolved so much over the past decade. We have always viewed social media as the foundation of our artists’ careers / campaigns, as that is the lifeblood of how we connect with their fans beyond email address collection and mainstream top-down tactics such as radio airplay. There are so many ways to release and spread content on social media as well that intertwining marketing is inherent in everything that we do, even if it is truly organic and coming from the artist; which is the ideal scenario.
> What direct-to-fan tactics does your company use? What proportion of your team is dedicated to such activities?
Any and all, whether it’s as basic as an email capture or having the artist connect with each and every individual fan in person signing autographs following a show. All of our team members have direct-to-fan in mind, as it is the core of our artists’ businesses. Whether we’re selling music directly or answering customer service questions or disseminating information on social networks, everything we do is from the artist to the fan; so it’s all direct-to-fan in a way.
> Can you share an example of one of your artist’s social media success translating into commercial success?
Every artist I’ve ever worked with that has maintained mainstream or larger success has started with a strong social networking foundation. The tactics we employed on artists ranging from Amanda Palmer to Zac Brown Band are strategies we keep in mind for all current projects whether we’re launching a new band from scratch or putting together the overall plan for a legend like Eric Burdon‘s new release.
> How important is midem for discovering new ways your artists can engage with their fans?
It is crucial. I always come away from midem incredibly focused and inspired. The two tangible highlights I consistently come away with are new partners in territories ranging from South Korea to Brazil as well as discovering new technologies that we can apply to our artists, offices and artist fan bases for everyday use to keep moving forward.
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