Recording companies invested $4.5 billion globally in 2016 in artist scouting, development, and marketing to promote artists and their music. Marketing departments or agencies have their hands full with social media posting for each one of those signed artists — often monitoring hundreds or thousands of accounts.
Cultivate makes this easier by merging artificial intelligence and music marketing under one solution to help both independent bands and record labels generate custom marketing plans with only a few inputs — saving time and money. CEO Joe Bell, who found his way into the music industry from academia, began to delve into marketing trends following a project on best practices for using social media in research survey recruitment.
“Music has always been a passion of mine,” says Bell. “I took some of these principles that we developed for research purposes and started helping market concerts on the weekends for some local venues. I caught the attention of someone in the music industry who was producing concerts in the area and they asked me to go work for them. I took the plunge, left academia, and started working in the music industry.”
During his time at a music marketing agency, part of his role was preparing monthly reports for clients on how effective their marketing efforts were, from ticket sales to music streams. The data download process proved time-consuming and he started working on ways to automate the task. However, after speaking to several music and marketing leaders, Bell and COO Mike Hayes started thinking how this technology could help the rest of the music marketing industry.
“We started approaching it as an external facing tool and less of an internal thing. We roped in some advisors and they challenged us to think a lot bigger. Since we had all of the data from social media and music profiles that we were downloading, we realized we could take that information and make inferences about marketing practices,” says Bell.
Cultivate allows bands with substantial followings, as well as marketing agencies, to create targeted marketing campaigns with only a few inputs. The SaaS platform uses AI and predictive analytics to identify the right content and posting times. It then generates the posts with suggested dates and times depending on the music release schedule.
“Anytime you’re marketing something, there’s generally an underlying recipe for how to do it. Since we originally limited it to music, it’s fairly simple,” says Bell. “When there’s a concert, you essentially need to target people that live in an area, announce ticket sales, and remind people and then input from users to adapt it to their personal needs.”
The band or agency can manage all posts from one dashboard, monitor engagement, and easily share reports. The schedule takes into account the date that they need to go out, the times for maximum exposure, and then tracks all of the steps in the marketing recipe.
“The software acts as a marketing agency in a box,” says Bell. “If an artist has a tour or album coming out, they can market this themselves. They can tell the software when the single is coming out and, after a few simple inputs, we could instantly construct a month-long marketing campaign. It would take them five minutes to do, but it would generate all of the attention that they needed to funnel those impressions into sales and tickets sales.”
The Cultivate platform can help a musician that has 100,000 followers on Facebook, averaging about one percent views on posts, increase that by 10 percent, says Bell.
While initially bootstrapped, North Carolina-based Cultivate raised pre-seed funding to build the product and now is working on raising a seed round to expand and scale once it launches. In the meantime they’re working on case studies with current clients, such as DJ Wolfgang Gartner. So far, Bell shares, they have increased his social media engagement tenfold.
The startup is backed by Luke Lewis, former CEO of Universal Music Group in Nashville. “He saw the opportunity and the necessity of a solution for digital marketing that would bring these old processes into the modern age,” says Bell.
Cultivate is in paid beta with plans to launch their commercial product on April 1.