A marketer’s job is never done. Amber Horsburgh knows this well. With experience both on the label and independent side of the business, she’s used to being the connective tissue between the different strains of an artist’s projects and career. In this Co.Lab, she teaches us the importance of a holistic marketing plan and how the person you want on your team is one that can execute as well as they ideate.
Spotify for Artists: Before you went out on your own, you were the Senior VP of Strategy at Downtown Records. What was that job like?
Amber Horsburgh: At Downtown, I oversaw publicity, radio, project management, production, and creative (which included art direction, music video creation, content creation, digital marketing, advertising and, to a degree, remixing). A marketer’s job at a record label requires stitching all the departments together and mobilizing them towards a common goal.
Now, a lot of artists, whether they’re attached to a label or not, will have me come in and help them figure out what point A looks like, and how we get to point B from there. Essentially, I find the “why” behind their ideas. My job is to connect the ones that make sense for the goals that we identify. I use analytics and data to look at an artist’s brand and then coach them through their ideas and help them assemble teams.
What are some of the tried-and-true marketing methods that you find yourself going back to often?
Social media advertising. It’s boring for sure but once you get the targeting right, what you put in, you get out. Whereas with influencers, you throw money at them to make something that might not match the aesthetic of your campaign. There’s also little chance that the content they make is going to stick. A creative idea that gets fans engaged helps as well. You will also need a plan B for that idea. If you have an ambitious idea that falls through and you don’t have any back-up and it’s the week of release, you’re in trouble. How do you mobilize your fans? That’s the question. Digital social ads, top creative, and reliable partners are tried-and-true.
You’ve worked on both sides of teams—as the person who gets brought in and as the person who’s been with the artist the whole time. Why is having a team so important?
It’s everything. If someone—a manager or a creative director, whoever it is, isn’t pulling their weight, it can be detrimental. Having a team that’s pushing you can make all the difference. I think artists should play to their strengths and do as much as they can that comes naturally. Everything else, they should outsource.
For someone starting out, who is the first hire they should make? And why?
Definitely get a good lawyer first. If all of a sudden you find yourself on a Fresh Finds playlist and all the labels start contacting you, you’ll need someone who knows how to liaise with them. A lawyer is someone who can help navigate this and be in your court, making sure you’re not going to get ripped off and that you’re talking to the right people.
Who are some other indispensable team members?
I used to say a good manager was indispensable but then I started working with this band called Cub Sport from Australia and they’re incredible. They’re self-managed and they self-release. When I first met them I was like, “How is this going to go down?” It actually works brilliantly because the manager is the band and they obviously really care. One of them is great at finance, another one’s good at communicating and hyping people up, and another one is good at developing relationships. So together, they can accomplish what a manager does. But if you’re an independent artist or a single soloist, it would be very difficult to manage yourself and put out music at scale.
At some point, an artist will have to make a decision about what their relationship with their team will be. How do you establish the most productive dynamic?
Most artists who are happy in their relationships with team members view it as a partnership. They’re building something together like you would at a company. The artist works to create the music and the team works to build the artist’s profile, live touring business, and the licensing and merchandising of their brand. I haven’t worked with any artists who treat their teams as people who are just there to do things for them.
— Spotify for Artists