“We launched ItsNoRequests because we believe that streaming (and more specifically playlists) are the future of the music business.”
Headquartered 12 stories above downtown Burbank is ItsNoRequests. Launched in 2016 by Dallas native Austin Staubus, the new playlisting Company is starting to gain a Texas sized reputation, releasing projects for artists like Clinton Sparks, Slip-N-Slide Records, and Walshy Fire of Major Lazer. Championing the independent artist, ItsNoRequests is an adept new player in an ever evolving music space. If the general public is unaware of this agile new company, well, that’s by design. That all changes with an exclusive sit down with the Managing Director, who talks his background, ItsNoRequests, and the future of the streaming space.
GMAD: Tell us a little about your background and path to the music industry.
ItsNoRequests: I started in 2008 as the co-publisher of a website called FreshNewTracks.com, which catered to the college hip-hop and pop market. We competed with websites like GoodMusicAllDay.com and ThisSongIsSick.com, which was during the golden era of music blogging. Through the website I had the opportunity to work with Grammy nominated artists and producers like Play-N-Skillz and Clinton Sparks, and it snowballed from there.
GMAD: Would you say your path was non-traditional?
ItsNoRequests: Absolutely. My path wasn’t a normal one. I never had a job at a label. I never worked on a college radio station. I got my start through the blogosphere and through that opportunities presented themselves. I was hitting at a time when blogs were still influential. During the time, blogs were how artists and records were broken. Sadly, that’s all changed.
GMAD: Why has that changed?
ItsNoRequests: Streaming platforms like Spotify, Soundcloud, and Apple Music have changed the way people consume and discover music. Consumers no longer want to visit a website that loads slowly only to read an obvious press release followed by an embedded Soundcloud link to a song that may or may not be good. Curated playlists on Spotify and Apple Music are now the primary way listeners consume and discover music. The playlist is king.
GMAD: From your perspective, do blogs still have value?
ItsNoRequests: In terms of breaking records and driving plays, no. I have a client that had a recent Billboard.com premiere. The premiere only generated 800 plays. That’s the gold standard of music blogs. Blogs have been in slow decline. That said, I would argue that they have value from an optics perspective. For example, Spotify takes into account press surrounding a release when making a decision on a record. Blogs are still a (small) piece of the puzzle.
GMAD: You recently launched ItsNoRequests in Los Angeles, which helps artists and labels leverage playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. How do you accomplish that and why did you launch the company?
ItsNoRequests: We launched ItsNoRequests because we believe that streaming (and more specifically playlists) are the future of the music business. We maintain a large network highly engaged independent playlists that allow us to guarantee up to 500,000 streams for any artist or label. We’re bullish on independent playlists and their ability to deliver real value.
GMAD: It’s important to note that you provide a real money back guarantee.
ItsNoRequests: We think it’s only right. If a client hires us, it’s our responsibility to deliver for them. They’re putting their career in our hands. That’s a big responsibility that we don’t take lightly. Bottom line, we’re focused on delivering real measurable results for artists and labels and we know we’re well positioned to do that.
GMAD: Previous to ItsNoRequests, you worked with a programmatic advertising startup in Dallas. How does your ad tech experience translate into the streaming space?
ItsNoRequests: Great question. There’s an incredible amount of overlap between the streaming and advertising technology space. I’ve taken those skills I’ve gained in advertising technology and levered them for our clients across a variety of genres. Music is tech now. If you’re a label and you’re not adopting a data-driven strategy you’re playing a losing game.
GMAD: There’s an ongoing battle between services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal. How do you see that competition unfolding and who, in your opinion, will eventually win out?
ItsNoRequests: It’s a great question. By most accounts, Spotify has around 65,000,000 subscribers compared to Apple Music’s 30,000,000 subscribers. Tidal is lagging well behind. I don’t see how they realistically compete. That leaves Spotify and Apple Music to duke it out.
In Apple’s favor, they’re a much newer platform. They haven’t been around as long and have scaled rapidly. However, their playcounts are much lower compared to Spotify’s. Plus, their user interface isn’t as intuitive as Spotify’s. If I’m an artist in 2017, I want to be in the platform with the most eyeballs. That’s why we think Spotify will eventually win out.
GMAD: For many independent artists, Spotify is a confusing platform. They don’t know who to contact or how to get their music on playlists. Can you walk us through how the process works?
ItsNoRequests: That’s another reason why we’ve established ItsNoRequests. We want to serve as the much needed bridge between independent artists and the decision makers at Spotify. There’s a large amount of confusion and misinformation that exists surrounding playlisting. Every day, the decision makers at Spotify receive thousands of submissions from every artist, label, distributor, and manager under the sun. To make matters worse, there are only a few playlist editors that control popular playlists like “Rap Caviar” and “Mint”. It’s extremely competitive but by no means impossible to be included in large playlists.
When Spotify considers a record to playlist they look closely at the insights to glean information on how many times users have saved the song, how long they’re listening to the song, where they’re listening, and how many streams the song is garnering on a daily basis. Spotify is a data-driven platform that’s based largely on audience reaction. However, editorial matters as well. Spotify wants to know why the record matters and what the record will do for Spotify. Those are elements that are often overlooked when it comes to pitching. Spotify wants to reward records that are performing well on their own. The best records always rise to the top.
GMAD: What does ItsNoRequests look to accomplish moving forward?
ItsNoRequests: Ultimately, we’d like to compete with the Filter, Digmark, and Topsify’s of the world. They’re all competent companies backed by some of the biggest labels in the world. That said, there’s more than enough room in the streaming space for a new player, especially one that focuses on independent artists. We’re agile, equipped, and ready to deliver real value.
GMAD: Is it fair to say you’re making a bet on the streaming space?
ItsNoRequests: We’re betting on ourselves. That’s a bet we’ll make every single time.
GMAD: Thank you for taking the time to sit with us.
ItsNoRequests: It was our pleasure.