In Part 1 of our interview with JOWST, we learned about the artist and his experiences within the music industry.
Part 1 touched on leveraging your opportunities to your advantage, not relying on previous success and scratched the surface of how platforms like Spotify work behind the scenes. If you haven't already, you can check out Part 1 Here.
Part 2 of our interview provides even more insights for aspiring musicians as JOWST shares his thoughts on working with labels, dives deeper into streaming platforms, the the importance of collaborations and what to do as an artist just starting out.
*If you’re short on time here are some of the major gems that JOWST provided throughout Part 2 of the interview:
- Working with a label is a double edged sword and the question of “if you should” depends on everyone's unique situation. Releasing music as an independent can be great but it also comes with its own set of challenges as the responsibility lands on you to get the type of reach you are hoping for.
- Record labels for the most part only promote “New Music” and if the song doesn’t get traction right away they move on to the next thing. Rarely do they ever come back to promote older music unless they have a really good reason to do so.
- Certain placements will be next to impossible to obtain unless you have the right connections and label support.
- The main difference with a major label is that they have the ability to leverage more resources, have more direct communication with platforms, and access to a wider network than the average artist could obtain on their own.
- As an independent artist, you still have tools at your disposal like SubmitHub for example, to help you get exposure without having the support of a label.
- Collaboration is very important and can help shorten your learning curve and open more doors than you could on your own.
We hope you enjoy Part 2 of the interview and if you haven't already be sure to check out JOWST here on Spotify!
“Do you feel that having label support was essential or do you feel like you prefer doing stuff on your own? To me, it seems like you still had success both ways so do you feel like having that label push helps?”
I do feel it helps. It helps a lot, but you also have to keep in mind that the first song (Grab The Moment) didn't do well because of the label, it did well because of Eurovision.
Before Eurovision, there were at least three weeks where the song was available for people, and it didn't do that well at all, because it was only being pushed by the label. Then we had that Norwegian contest that made the song do so well, but before that it was three weeks where the song was available for everyone, and the only reason why people would check it out was because they were really interested in Eurovision.
They would see that the song was supposed to be on the show and then they would check it out. That was just a few people, but other than that, it was only the label promotion at the time.
Within those first three weeks, the song had about 30,000 streams. Keep in mind that this was a major label releasing a new song by a new artist that nobody had heard about and within the first three weeks it got 30,000 streams.
That's not a lot when you compare it to other major label artists but it's a lot if you compare it to a new artist that is self-releasing their first song ever on Spotify.
That said, there is a little bit more action in the major labels. At the end of the day, the process of getting your music on platforms like Spotify isn't all that different than the labels.
However, the main difference with a major label is that they have the ability to leverage more resources, have more direct communication with platforms, and access to a wider network than the average artist could obtain on their own.
This label support helps push the success of a song in most cases.
As much as there's an algorithm, there are other things at play, at the end of the day, too.
The thing with the Spotify algorithm is that it kicks in a week or two after the actual release day because on the day of the release, there's no algorithm to analyze for your new song.
One interesting thing about the covers on Spotify, like a New Music Friday for example, is that those are photos that are not on Spotify already. That's a new photo that neither the artist or the label or somebody else has uploaded to Spotify.
When I release music independently now, there's no way for me to send Spotify a new photo like that. I can only place a new photo inside my Spotify Artists page. In most cases, you see new photos and they get shown on the covers of New Music Friday and you realize that this was a plan all along.
However I also know for sure that the artist doesn't exactly know when they are getting featured on those things. They don't know until maybe one hour before it happens. all this information is kind of not for sure. It's not the official information from the Spotify page but this is just what I've learned.
I guess the most interesting thing that happened in my streaming career was when I released a song called “Roller Coaster Ride.” which was released by my own label.
I was really surprised when the song was released as it was Friday night and I checked New Music Friday to see if it was on there but it wasn’t.
Then I checked a few other places, but it wasn’t there either, like, the type of playlists that would usually have my songs, from the first three releases. Then I found this thing called, spot on track, that's like a Spotify analysis tool that you can use in order to see what kind of playlists you're on.
It breaks down how many streams those playlists are generating, how many followers they have, when songs were placed, what kind of spot they were in, and you can see a history of different spots your tracks were in. Then I noticed that the song wasn’t on any playlists at all as Spotify hadn't placed the song in any playlists. And I was thinking, “Oh, there must have been a mistake.”
I even contacted Spotify and told them, “there's a mistake here. My new song is not on any playlist. What happened?”
What if all artists did that? But I really thought that there was a mistake, because there was only one playlist it was on, and that was a Spotify editorial playlist in Spain.
It seemed like those two people who decided this at Spotify didn't really check out the song and notice that it was going to be released. But then they answered me and they said no, we got it and we checked it out and everything is as it should be.
From then on I knew I had to think differently. I had to make sure that this song got on playlists on my own. I had to do some new research and then I found this thing called SubmitHub.
It’s a page where there's a lot of private bloggers and creators who have their information and playlists available, and you can submit songs to them, and it costs like $1 for each submission.
So, I tried that, and that was very successful, actually. I spent like two days pitching the song on my own to different kinds of playlists on SubmitHub and stuff and it was the most added song on SubmitHub that month.
It got on maybe 25 playlists through SubmitHub alone which was nice and people liked it and It seemed like people would listen again. I could see that in the analytics, that it wasn't only new people who checked out the song.
For instance, on my song called “Happier,” it was mainly people listening to it once, or maybe twice, because it's only on a playlist but It's not on their private playlists. But with my song called “Rollercoaster Ride,” that song, among all my songs, has been placed on the most private playlists.
It's been repeatedly played by the same people. So, not looking at the amount of streams but how the streams are working on that song. From looking at the numbers, then that's the song that people like the most, among all of my songs and it only has like 400,000 streams, but it has 400,000 good streams.
That's a few people listening to it all the time and I found that really strange, because that's the song that normal people like the most, but the song that Spotify seems to like the least. I say this because it didn't land on the New Music Friday or anything at the beginning of the release, which I believe means that the numbers aren’t big enough for Spotify to understand if it's a good song or not.
If you release a song without telling people, and then you only tell your good friends and people in your family, then after a while, that song might have 50 streams for example. Now maybe all those 20 people have listened to it three times. So now it might be at 60 streams.
Then all those people press the like button, then they add it to their private playlists and all those people decide to share it, then you could say that the song has a hundred percent awesome streams.
Those are the best type of streams you can get. People both adding it to their playlist and sharing it and listening to it three times all the way through without stopping or escaping or anything like that. That should be the best algorithm for Spotify. But it seems like that's not a big enough number for Spotify to make decisions.
So getting into New Music Friday is a big deal for any artist, because it seems like that's a thing that makes Spotify either take it to the next level.
If you don't get into New Music Friday or anything at the beginning, then it seems like you don't get a chance to have a successful song at Spotify. You’ll have to do a big amount of work on your own in order to get the song on different playlists, or pay someone to do that for you.
While that might work the reality is that the song has to be good. Like, better than all the other songs on New Music Friday for that week and not just good, it has to be really good.
“From an artist's perspective who's just starting out. What would you say their focus should be?”
Well, I would focus on finishing. Like finishing a project. Pretend that it's supposed to be a big hit and a big hit, to me, could be a bit different for someone else. For instance, let's say that you are a producer that creates techno, or if you're just a rapper. Then just pretend that you have a major label who is not doing any work for you.
You have to do everything on your own and pretend that you're going to release a song many months later, but try to make it finished as soon as possible. Everybody understands that in order to release music, you have to create music, so everybody is creating music all the time, including myself.
I create way too much music. I have so many songs in my Dropbox folder that are not ever going to be released, not because it's bad, but because it hasn't been finished. In finishing a song, I mean, making sure that you get it down to as close of a final version as possible, bounce it, then you play that for your friends and then you play that for random people.
I think it's important when starting out that you play your music for random people that don't know you. Your mom for example, will always say that whatever you do is great, so you need to get the opinions of your honest friends and you don't need to base their feedback too much on what they’re saying.
You should base it more on how their body looks when they're listening. If they're moving the way you want people to move. Movement is also really important in creating music. Like, I used to focus on a lot of cool sounds and a big variation of beats within songs but I've come to figure out that the songs that really do well, both live and on radio, have the right type of movement all the way through.
You know, when you put on the song and you're supposed to dance to that song. Then you have to make sure that people are able to dance throughout the whole song. You can't have strange breaks within the song with no drums, or people will lose the rhythm.
Now in showing it to your friends, and you see what they're doing then you begin to understand what to do next to improve the song. Then after making those adjustments, then you show that to people again, then maybe you have to continue making new versions. Until finally, when you're at version 16 or 25 and it’s finished.
When you're ready with that, then you try to find someone who can create the perfect cover art for your song, based on both the song and your vision. If you want to market yourself, you have to make sure that there's something visual that people would look at and remember, and then when they see that again, they will know what that is.
It's hard to understand what to do at the beginning when you’re starting out. So, at the beginning, you just have to do anything and that becomes you. If you continue on with that, then people will begin to know about you and who you are.
When you have your finished song and cover art in hand, then you have to make a pitch, because you have to pitch this song to Spotify, radio and anywhere else you can think of.
So, whenever you write, you're essentially trying to brag about yourself in a way that makes you sound like an awesome person that everybody wants to check out and that's what you should be sending out.
“What are your thoughts on collaboration?”
I think that this is really important to do, because if you do everything on your own, then the path is so much longer. The road to the release is so much longer because you only have yourself to talk to regarding the song.
If you work with another artist, then you have a way smaller role in terms of effort to reach your goals, because you have a person to lean on for support in making the song and promoting it.
Everybody likes songs from bands or songs that are a result of collaboration because a big part of music is communicating. So, whenever a band is playing live, they're not only playing for the audience, they are also playing alongside each other. They're looking at each other and they're basing their intensity of play on how much noise the audience is making for example.
Not to mention, people like to hear dialogues rather than monologues. It can be really boring to listen to a podcast that has only one person talking. It's more engaging to hear a podcast that has two people talking.
It's the same thing with music. I think that collaboration is great, and people should definitely do them. Keep in mind that the song doesn't necessarily have to be released, but you should at least try to do collaborations and see what happens.
It might just be a thing that you do in order to learn stuff about yourself and music but you’ll experience a much better learning curve than just working on your own.
“Now I have to ask where did the whole concept of the mask come from?”
Well, the idea behind the mask was at least two things. Maybe three, and one of the things was that I've always liked artists that have masks. Like, you have Daft Punk, where there's no personality there. It's only music and the personality comes through the music.
So, you feel like you kind of know Daft Punk based on their music, not based on their face. Then you have bands like Slipknot that have those zombie masks and stuff, and I also found that interesting. Or you have deadmau5 with a big helmet that looks like Mickey Mouse, playing DJ sets. So I thought that this could be something that I could do as well.
I also knew that I was supposed to do the Eurovision thing, and in Norway alone I knew that roughly 1 million people would be watching live. I had never played live before with that kind of music. I've only played guitar in some really small scenes.
I felt like having a mask would help me be comfortable going on stage as and at the same time as the local Eurovision thing was supposed to happen, I was expecting a child, and we knew that on about the same day, the baby was gonna arrive.
I thought to myself, “if there's a mask there, and we plan to do the show, then I can have someone else step in with the same mask, if my baby happens to come at the same time.” So, that was also a thing that made me choose a mask.
I also knew that when people do the Eurovision thing, they usually get a little bit famous around that time, like locally, in the country they're from. I really didn’t want to be famous just because I was on that show.
So that also worked in my favour, because now my mask is kind of famous in my country, but my face is not. Even though I would post pictures of myself and do interviews without it. So when I go to a store or something like that and I talk, people will turn around and say “I know you from somewhere.” and I’m still able to brush it off if I need to. So people think they know me, but they don't understand where they know me from.
“Do you have stuff that you're working on right now?”
I'm releasing a new song tomorrow (August 28th, 2020). I'm releasing that song with the same guy who did Eurovision with me.
So we're releasing a song that sounds a little bit like that but it's not the same. But it's inspired by that track and it's called “Into the Wild”
You can also click Here to read the Key Takeaways from Part 2 of the interview listed above.