When MusicPromoToday founders Raffi Keuhnelian and Anthony Katz launched their digital music marketing agency over a decade ago, MySpace and a nascent Facebook were the top social media platforms while iPods and downloading MP3s were the de facto listening experience. How things have changed. As the world prepares to push play on 2019, MP3 devices have been replaced by smartphones, Instagram and YouTube command the attention of a rising generation of digital natives, and streaming now accounts for 75 percent of the music industry’s revenue.
The market has certainly changed its tune. Artists marketing themselves on streaming and social media platforms and attracting media and influencer attention is more important than ever — and MusicPromoToday was among its first pioneers. So how does one not only survive but thrive in a business as competitive as the music industry for over a decade?
Every hitmaker needs the experience and expertise of a digital marketing guru behind him. Drake didn't amass over 50 billion streams after one recording recording session and it certainly took more than a publicist. His success came from a trusted agency that helped him level — and today he plays the biggest venues, has platinum-selling albums and chart-topping singles.
“Sometimes, we have to turn down campaigns; the music has to be 100-percent good. If it’s not marketable, we push the talent to do better — even if it’s by a household-name star. We make sure that artists have the best product before we work with them,” says Anthony Katz, MusicPromoToday cofounder.
MusicPromoToday’s first client was Swizz Beatz in the early days of Twitter, where they got the Grammy-winning super-producer to be one of the first artist to trend on Twitter and the relationship continues to this day. From there, they went on to work with Cash Money Records — spending day and night with legendary ghost-writers and producers at the Hit Factory creating viral digital strategies that took artists from ‘upcoming’ to ‘mainstream’ including Tyga, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake and many more.
A major milestone in the digital marketing and music PR agency’s triumphant trajectory was being enlisted by the biggest label in the world, Universal Music Group, to do publicity for its top-tier campaigns — from fashion collaborations with brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Salvatore Ferragamo to meeting with legends like Charles Aznavour. This solidified their reputation as publicity powerhouses.
“If actions are louder than words, our experience says volumes; most of our campaigns go viral and our clients know if we are onboard, the world is going to hear their music,” says Raffi Keuhnelian, cofounder of MusicPromoToday.
He continues, “Digital marketing and music PR are full of boutique agencies lacking experience — Anthony and I have over 20 years of it, combined. We don’t only do great content or run campaigns, but show positive ROI through measurable KPIs so that artists can focus on the hits and we take care of the rest.”
Having established MusicPromoToday as the leading music marketing and PR powerhouse, the firm now boasts a team of over 30 people with offices in Montreal, New York City and an expansion to London in 2019. Its team just returned from Art Basel in Miami, where it was helping indie artists generate and earn commissions they’re not normally granted. As the music industry becomes increasingly globalized via social media and streaming platforms, so too does MusicPromoToday’s client roster, now including top K-pop groups alongside promotions with Capitol Music & Warner Music in France and Universal Music in South America.
According to Katz, globalization is one of the biggest trends in music at the moment — as proven by K-pop’s international success, swelling the Korean industry to over $5 billion in revenue. Also, streaming has replaced social media as the most influential force in the industry. That said, artists have more platforms and tools than ever at their disposal, allowing them to not only make the music, but market it without ever needing to rent a studio or spend a massive budget on a video or mastering.
Keuhnelian notes that digital platforms have made artists more independent and removed the necessity to sign up to labels, allowing them to control their accounting and royalties. Many now manage themselves and run their own social media platforms to engage directly with their fanbase, this includes Benny Benassi, Roger Sanchez and Carl Cox, among others. This has closed the gap between artists and fans, often putting them in direct communication with each other.
“Daily fan communication via social media or chatbots is mandatory in today's digital world, and the most successful artists should be directly engaged in speaking and listening to their base. When running a marketing campaign and helping a label or artist, we still try to keep the talent involved on their platforms — this way they’re hands-on and personally see the fruits —and followers— of their labour,” says Katz.
While fan engagement is essential, executing social media, digital marketing and music PR campaigns can often be overwhelming. Though artist independence is higher than ever, MusicPromoToday continues to attract more and more clients because it is able to manage and market promotional plans that get results — from to-tier media marketing to viral creative artist branding. For Katz and Keuhnelian, and their clients, the future is only looking brighter for the power players behind the playlists.