The mar­riage of mu­sic and tech

IE Mu­sic’s mar­ket­ing man­ager Stephen O’Reilly talks to Niall Byrne about join­ing the dots

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

While Stephen O’Reilly’s work has al­ways been in the mu­sic in­dus­try, there has been a con­stant thread of tech­nol­ogy through­out his ca­reer. That back­line is in­ten­tional and came about when O’Reilly found him­self un­able to break into the Ir­ish mu­sic in­dus­try around 2009. The App store and the iPhone had been re­cently launched by Ap­ple, and O’Reilly saw a fu­ture in the com­bi­na­tion of mu­sic and tech.

“Ev­ery­thing about be­ing an artist these days in­volves tech­nol­ogy, out­side of song­writ­ing,” says O’Reilly. “It re­ally is how artists grow their busi­ness, com­mu­ni­cate and cre­ate the mu­sic. When you’re in the mu­sic busi­ness, you’re in the tech­nol­ogy busi­ness.”

He booked a one-way ticket to Lon­don for an in­ter­view in late 2009 and got the job with Mo­bileRoadie, a tech com­pany that made apps for mu­si­cians such as Madonna and Tay­lor Swift.

With the a hefty client list, O’Reilly found doors open­ing in ma­jor la­bels and he helped se­cure app deals with the likes of The Bea­tles, The Rolling Stones and Adele, while get­ting to know in­dus­try movers and shak­ers. “I made it my busi­ness to get on with all those peo­ple and un­der­stand them and serve their needs, be gen­er­ous with my time and in­tro­duce them to each other.”

Now head of mar­ket­ing with artist man­age­ment com­pany IE Mu­sic, which looks after Rob­bie Wil­liams, Lily Allen, Pas­sen­ger and Will Young among oth­ers, O’Reilly has a role that brings all of his ex­pe­ri­ence to­gether.

He says his Ir­ish back­ground is a strength that helped him stand out, but from an artist per­spec­tive, says that the trope of go­ing to Lon­don to “make it” should be dis­re­garded – the Lon­don mu­sic in­dus­try is watch­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in Ire­land and will come see them if the act is abuzz.

“Lon­don is a dif­fi­cult place to make it,” says O’Reilly. “There’s so many things go­ing on – hun­dreds of shows on ev­ery night. And there’s loads of great stuff hap­pen­ing now in the re­gions. You can crack the world from Ire­land in my opin­ion. I know A&R who are are look­ing be­yond Lon­don to what’s hap­pen­ing in Dublin, in Din­gle, in Derry and Done­gal.”

The longview

Most ca­reers don’t hap­pen overnight and artists are no dif­fer­ent. IE Mu­sic has been man­ag­ing Pas­sen­ger (aka Mike Rosen­berg) for 15 years. It took 10 years of that time for his song Let Her Go to make a break­through, and his first num­ber one al­bum only came last last year. O’Reilly sug­gests their job is to build his story over time so the artist’s ca­reer can be sus­tained. “We like to play the long game and if peo­ple don’t get on board for the first song, we be­lieve they will as we have faith in the mu­sic,” he says.

IE Mu­sic prefers to work with artists that li­cense their mu­sic for re­lease to la­bels for a set pe­riod of time, and re­tain own­er­ship of their record­ings and pub­lish­ing. This means artists can make sur­prise re­leases. Last week, Pas­sen­ger re­leased a sur­prise al­bum The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which was re­leased on Rosen­berg’s own la­bel in­de­pen­dently.

For O’Reilly and the IE Mu­sic team, that meant work­ing on all as­pects of the re­lease that a record la­bel tra­di­tion­ally looked after, in­clud­ing PR, stream­ing ser­vices (hav­ing ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships with the likes of Spo­tify and Ap­ple Mu­sic helps) and physical prod­uct shipped to fans through the Pas­sen­ger web­site.

“Mike is a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor so he can do a lot of get­ting his mes­sage out there through his so­cial me­dia, web­site, news­let­ter and livestreams on Youtube and Face­book. As a man­age­ment com­pany there are so many things we can do on our own that we couldn’t have done 10 years ago be­cause you needed physical in­fra­struc­ture.”

As an ex­am­ple, O’Reilly says their re­search sug­gests that UK fans would likely be Ama­zon Prime mem­bers, so Ama­zon could be also utilised to de­liver the al­bums phys­i­cally.

“It’s such a fric­tion­less, easy trans­ac­tion,” O’Reilly says. “The fans would get the al­bum the next day.”

IE Mu­sic’s in-house mar­ket­ing team are also well-versed in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, re-mar­ket­ing and re­tar­get­ing, which most artist-man­age­ment com­pa­nies wouldn’t have a team in place to look after. It speaks to the wider 360-trend in the in­dus­try where pro­mot­ers are fos­ter­ing new artists and la­bels look for a slice of the live pie.

The in­dus­try is al­ways shifting and tech­nol­ogy is at the cen­tre of all of this move­ment, so O’Reilly is well-placed to look for in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions and trends com­ing down the line. In daily terms, that means read­ing in­dus­try pub­li­ca­tions such as Bill­board and The Lef­setz Let­ter and mak­ing a note of suc­cess­ful cam­paigns else­where.

“With my job, you have to be a bit of a sponge from a learn­ing point of view,” says O’Reilly. “Is there an el­e­ment that you can take and adapt your­self or do you have to rein­vent the wheel on your own con­tin­u­ously? You have to be able to join the dots for your artists.”

You can crack the world from Ire­land in my opin­ion. I know A&R who are are look­ing be­yond Lon­don to what’s hap­pen­ing in Dublin, in Din­gle, in Derry and Done­gal

Stephen O’Reilly “With my job, you have to be a bit of a sponge from a learn­ing point of view”

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