Access to data and analytics has changed the game when it comes to the strategies involved in artist management. These days in order to bring an artist's vision to life, it's crucial to have a statistical understanding of an artist's audience: where they are, their interests outside of music, and how they engage with different platforms, from Spotify to social media. Sharell Jeffrey, founder of QLEEN Artist Relations, shares her path from social media maven to artist manager, and her data-driven approach to successfully working with artists.
Spotify for Artists: So, tell us about QLEEN, the artist management company that you founded.
Sharell Jeffrey: Four years ago, I started to notice that artists were posting links to their music on social. But there was no rhyme or rhythm to it. I was working in social media marketing, so I thought to merge my passion for music and my mastery of social to help artists. I started creating social campaigns, engagement strategies, and marketing rollouts for emerging artists to establish a voice and reach maximum results when trying to gain listeners and streams.
How do you begin to expand an artist’s audience reach?
When I first start working with an artist, I figure out their vision and who they think their audience is. From there, I do a deep dive into their social channels and audience data to begin to help the artist understand where their sound fits in. Once we establish their sound, I start pinpointing who’s listening to their type of music. Where do they live? How old are they? What platforms are they on? What are their interests outside of music? From there, I start looking at brands, corporations, influencers, and events that attract the audience that will naturally gravitate to my artist’s music. I use that information to develop a solid pitch, and then begin setting up those conversations.
You’re approaching artist management by leading with data and analytics first.
The industry is a numbers game. Labels, corporations, brands—they’re all looking at an artist’s follower count first. How many streams they’re getting, how many playlists they’re on. So as QLEEN revved up, I ended up naturally shifting from traditional artist management to strategizing around analytics and ad targeting, and audience data insights. And using those numbers to then inform visuals, aesthetics, and creative direction.
Corporations are really approaching looking at artists by looking at their data first? Tell us more about that.
When pitching to a company or brand, it's so much easier when you have numbers to bring to the table. When I’m able to show how any artist’s song has grown over a couple of months or prove that their audience hasn’t only been growing in size but in engagement, it makes negotiating partnerships and sponsorships so much easier.
Can you give an example of an artist you worked with who successfully built their audience on social?
My biggest success story was working with Kota the Friend. He would shoot these one-minute, simple music videos of him rapping. But they didn’t take off until he did a cover over Childish Gambino’s "Redbone." Facebook fan groups were popular at the time, so I posted his music video onto these Childish Gambino fan pages. And it gained a million views in six days. His audience completely elevated. He began posting one-minute videos to Instagram weekly, creating consistent, shareable content that continued to grow his audience organically. Within a few years, he solidified a loyal fan base of consumers that will stream his tracks, attend his shows, and buy his merch. And he doesn’t have to force anyone, they just do it because they’re invested.
In today’s age of algorithms and content saturation, how can an artist engage their audience on Instagram?
Always keep an eye out for opportunities to bump your content up a notch. That doesn’t mean needing an extravagant budget or even creating content, but for instance, utilizing new Instagram Story features or understanding how a new algorithm works. I’m always reading articles on how these social platforms are changing so I can get a head start on how to advise an artist on new ways to best engage with their audience.
What is your one key piece of advice to artists about finding and/or building their audience?
Don't try to reach the mass so fast. Figure out your core audience first, before trying to figure out how to go viral. Consistency is key to converting listeners into fans who will reach into their pockets and pull out money to support you. But once you establish that core audience, everything else will come.