An Interview with Emily Blake, Data Journalist for Next Big Sound
You would be hard-pressed to find an artist that Emily Blake hasn’t heard of yet. Emily is a data journalist for Next Big Sound, and each week she curates three exciting charts - Pandora Predictions, Pandora Trendsetters, and Pandora Top Spins. Emily is at the forefront of what’s up-and-coming in the music industry, so we asked her to share her insights on discovering trends, best practices for artists using data, and her favorite features of Next Big Sound!
AMP: What are some trends/themes that you notice in artists appearing on NBS Trendsetters/Pandora Predictions?
EB: First and foremost, Hip hop dominates the Trendsetters Chart. On any given week, I would not be surprised if over half of the artists on Trendsetters are rappers. And within that, a lot of these newer kids are going by Lil something or Young/Yung something. The Lil’s are back!
Predictions: Genre-wise, I’ve been seeing a lot of dancehall artists, Grime acts, and K-pop. All these genres, of course, have their roots overseas, but all of them seem to making serious impacts in the States.
On Top Spins: Collaborations are everywhere. Last week, for example, more than a third of the songs on the Top Spins charts were collaborations, which is a huge increase from say, five or 10 years ago. And these collaborations are happening across genres, with pop singers recruiting rappers to be featured on their song. American singers linking up with Latin acts, and more traditional artists like Coldplay teaming up with super streaming-friendly acts like The Chainsmokers.
AMP: What trends in the music industry are you expecting to see in 2018? (ex. 2017 was a big year for the Latin-pop revival)
EB: I expect to see more and more collaborations on the charts. And I expect these collaborations to get more and more “weird” with time. For example, Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line come from wildly different musical worlds, but have a song in the top 10 on the Top Spins Chart. I think more and more unlikely collaborations like this will keep happening. And I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years, this cross-pollination - country artists working with rappers and EDM acts - starts to change the genres themselves.
AMP: When artists make it onto Trendsetters/Predictions, how can they capitalize on their chart position to generate the most buzz for their career?
EB: I really think Pandora’s Artist Audio Messages and Featured Tracks tools are really great ways to give an artist an extra boost. What better way to connect with your audience than to actually talk to them? Charting on Trendsetters is a good indication that the iron’s hot - so strike away.
AMP: Some artists can feel intimidated when they start to work with data. What advice would you give artists as they start to incorporate data into making career decisions?
EB: I think it’d be more intimidating to make career decisions without data than with it! Artists should always follow their intuition, but data is the best way to validate it. Through Next Big Sound, every artist on Pandora gets access to their spins count, audience demography and a number of the tools that make sense of how their songs are listened to on the platform. By knowing where their audience is, and which song they are reacting to the most, artists can use these signals to push the right content, to the right audience. For artists who have never worked with data before, they shouldn’t be intimidated in using Next Big Sound. NBS is for everyone, from data novice to experts. For the novices, we have notification emails that will let you know when something exciting is happening - no math or analysis needed! And once you get more comfortable with using data, we have an array of tools that allow you to do some deeper analysis.
AMP: What common themes have you seen among artists who have moved through the charts, from Predictions to Top Spins, as they developed?
EB: Most of the time when an artist is moving from Predictions to Trendsetters to Top Spins, they are also moving up and up in artist stages. Next Big Sound divides artists among five stages based on social and streaming reach: Undiscovered, Promising, Established, Mainstream, and Epic. How does this look in real life? A good visual is the closer the artist gets to Epic, the bigger the font they get in a festival lineup. See here.
AMP: In your opinion, what is the most unique feature available for artists on NBS?
EB: I think our artist notification emails are awesome and something you can’t really find anywhere else. One email alerts you of any notable streaming and social spikes for you or any of the artists you follow on NBS, along with context as to why these spikes may be happening. It’s a great way for artist who are too busy or too unfamiliar with data to get meaningful insights into what’s working for them.