Kelsey Byrne, better known as Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Vérité, has come a long way since her days as a waitress at the Applebee's in Manhattan's Times Square. But though she's built up a team around her in the last few years -- management via New Torch Entertainment, publishing via Kobalt, digital distribution via Kobalt-owned AWAL -- some habits die hard.
"I've always been very intent on being aware and involved in the business aspect [of my career], because from the beginning everything was self-funded," she tells Billboard over the phone. "If I'm not informed, I'm more likely to make a bad decision and ultimately lose that money. So from the beginning I've always been hyper-aware and vigilant."
Byrne is hardly alone these days; as streaming has exploded and become the leading source of revenue in the global recorded-music industry, artists at every level of their careers have embraced independence by using data gleaned from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music to determine where their fans are and adjust their business initiatives -- touring, marketing, promotion, etc. -- appropriately. But that data can be dense, fractured and, at times, difficult to attain -- or even decipher at all.
That's the pain point that AWAL has spent the past year trying to soothe, and this morning (March 28) the company publicly unveiled a new app for its 20,000-odd independent artist and label partners, designed to collect and display a slew of data gleaned from each artist's presence on the two leading streaming services in the business, Spotify and Apple Music. With the app, artists, labels or managers would be able to delve into which songs and albums of theirs were being played and engaged with the most, which playlists their songs were being added to on each service, demographic information -- gender, location, age range, even time of day broken out by service -- about listening habits, and even a real time chart that tallies up their to-date royalties from streams on each platform, all in one place.
"What's true today is that the opportunity for independent artists to make a living off streaming is growing. We want to speed that up," Kobalt founder/CEO Willard Ahdritz, whose company bought AWAL in 2012, said in a statement accompanying the app's launch. "The first step is helping independent artists de-mystify their streaming data. Today's artists need to understand the signals that drive future success and be able to act quickly. The AWAL App puts the power of data into the hands of independent artists to help them build a sustainable career from streaming."
While the initial version of the app only pulls in data from Spotify and Apple Music -- other features, including additional services, are in the pipeline and will be added later, Kobalt reps said -- its one-touch functionality and hub of data consolidated in one place make the information that much more immediately accessible. (Billboard reviewed a beta version of the app last week.) And short, automatically-generated "insights" that point out trends in engagement, listening habits and growing or declining statistics help artists navigate the numbers and develop a plan based on the results.
"For instance, the insights tool says that while I have many more listeners on Spotify, I have a higher retention rate on Apple Music," Byrne says when asked for an example of how she's used the app already. "That piece of information tells me that while there's a smaller amount of people listening on Apple Music, those people are a much more specific snapshot of who my core fans are. So that location information for me seems more specific."
Byrne, who has had the app in beta for the past few weeks, checks it daily for the latest update on Vérité's listeners, even if it's to check in on her expected royalties when deciding on budgets for music videos or remixes, for example. "I tend to be busy; if I have time on my hands I can search for the information," she says about the online hubs and portals that usually host artist data from streamers. "But the fact that I can be walking down the street and have it all makes my life a lot easier."