Talking Data, Digital Strategy At Republic Records With Elliott Althoff
A powerful subsidiary of Universal Music Group, Republic Records is home to major names like Ariana Grande, Drake, and Taylor Swift. Here, their Associate Manager of Digital Strategy, Elliott Althoff discusses the creative ways in which the label uses a broad swath of data to market its artists.
Guest post by Rutger Ansley Rosenborg of Chartmetric
Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, has become one of the big players in the music industry today, and part of that comes down to the label’s forward-thinking team, which has consistently leveraged data to stay ahead of the curve.
If you don’t know Republic, you can be sure you know plenty of their artists. Named Label of the Year by Billboard in December, Republic’s artist roster boasts releases from Ariana Grande, Drake, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and many more of today’s biggest names.
Elliott Althoff, Associate Manager of Digital Strategy at Republic, is a relatively new addition to the label, but throughout his career in the music industry, which has included digital marketing and digital strategy positions at Cinematic Music Group and Mom + Pop Music, in addition to indie artist management gigs, business data has played a part in some form or another.
As “the perfect combination of right- and left-brained,” Elliott has a knack for picking up on creative uses of data, from an email- and phone-driven album release campaign for Courtney Barnett to the dynamic merchandise bundling keeping The Weeknd at the top of the charts.
Right when I got to Mom + Pop we were diving into the Courtney Barnett campaign, the “Tell Me How You Really Feel” campaign. That was probably one of the coolest uses of data and email captures…. She basically started out her campaign with a splash page on her website that was just like, “Tell me how you really feel”…. Some people would write, “I feel sad today, or I feel happy” … but then some people would go super in-depth and write paragraphs…. Afterwards, we took all of that data, we took all of those emails and all of the responses and built our campaign around those responses.
Elliott also has a really unique insight into the differences between the DIY, indie, and major label environments and how those differences affect the relationships of each with DSPs.
At a label you have way more resources to lean on…. On the management side, it’s still a lot of cold emailing and building out your own plan, until someone takes notice of it, and just continuing to push that agenda and push the narrative and build the story with the artist…. From a label perspective … whenever an emerging artist comes onto a label and they’ve already had something that reacted, the label can take that and leverage it with their partners to leverage bigger things out of it…. Once you put a band in that structure, and you have things to leverage to partners, you can really make the most out of that opportunity.
So, while it may be comforting to know that the DSP environment isn’t purely algorithmic based, relationships and resources are still important when it comes to leveraging any initial success that an artist might have. And that’s where things can get complicated.
From the DSP perspective, everyone wants their platform to be the biggest platform, and they want everything to be driving to their platform … so it’s this crazy game of keeping everyone happy. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and it can get kind of messy, but I think one of the biggest things throughout a campaign is just making sure that you’re touching on each platform and driving to each platform equally and having an equal voice across every single DSP, and that kind of keeps everyone happy…. And it’s more interesting from a major perspective too…. You’re like, “Here, I’ll toss you this Drake single and also make sure you put this person on here, too.” I think there’s a little more leverage when it comes to a major rather than an indie.
Throughout the course of our conversation with Elliott, we dig more into the indie-major divide and what the future of the music industry might look like from the digital perspective — not to mention his obsession with Chance the Rapper.
Hopefully, you glean some important insights from our conversation, but most importantly, we hope we’re making your shelter-in-place just a bit more manageable, whether you’re working from home or not.
Listen to the full interview below and subscribe to the How Music Charts podcast on your favorite listening platform for more.
Elliott Althoff is originally from Iowa, but he graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Marketing, Art, and Finance (and a minor in Business). While in college, Elliott managed local bands and juggled two internships, including a Los Angeles-based management company and the Global Citizen Music Festival. That’s where he began to hone his analytical skills, “developing weekly reports based on social media and website data,” which he then presented to the marketing team to tailor new campaigns.
In 2016, he moved to New York City, where he landed a digital marketing job at Cinematic Music Group while he continued to manage local rappers on the side. From there, he hopped to digital strategy at Mom + Pop Music, this time on the Indie Rock and Indie Pop side of things. Throughout this early career growth, Elliott’s mission was to establish himself at the forefront of the digital and creative future of the music industry in order to successfully push this sort of culture forward.
Fast forward four years, and Elliott’s taken on a new role as Associate Manager of Digital Strategy at Republic Records — a crucial component of the Universal Music Group family and a match made in heaven for someone who describes himself as “the perfect combination of right- and left-brained.”