We talked to Zach Miller-Frankel, CEO and co-founder of Andrson, about music discovery, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Zach Miller-Frankel: Well, thanks. It’s been a tough time for everyone, but we’re getting through it and are all safe! And working remotely, we haven’t driven each other (too) crazy yet!
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Andrson.
Zach Miller-Frankel: My background is in artist management. As an artist manager, me and my business partner Neil Dunne built and co-founded Andrson to solve our own A&R challenges. I am also the founder & co-director of ThinkTank Music Management – a boutique firm based in New York City and now Dublin. I’ve been working in the music industry and artist management for about a decade now, and have worked with artists such as Philip Glass, The National, and The Antlers. I’ve also co-managed global tours, overseen record deals, and delivered keynotes at industry conferences. When I expanded ThinkTank to Ireland, I decided to do a Masters at Trinity College Dublin, and that’s where I met Neil.
It was here that we created Andrson to solve an industry problem – making the artist discovery process much easier with the help of audio analysis and automation. We were experiencing our own pain points when searching for talent to sign to our roster and then developed the idea of Andrson – where new music discovery can be reimagined, combining the simplicity of automation with human discovery. And most importantly, that discovery is fuelled by what matters most — the music — rather than velocity or social metrics.
The platform is very easy to use. From an artist’s perspective, you can simply set up an account and upload your music whereby it will be analyzed, added to our database, and be delivered to key music industry personnel. From a music industry perspective, execs on the hunt for new musical talent can use the platform to discover a particular type of artist they are looking for using an audio-based search. For example, if a record label exec wants to find a female musician aged between 26-35-years-old, is located within fifty miles of London, and sounds 65 percent like Jorja Smith, then Andrson provides that solution.
What the technology does is use machine learning to listen, analyze and assess the music being uploaded by new artists up against the ever-expanding collection of commercial artist recordings. It then offers the end-user percentage-based artist recommendations based on these findings. Results are provided within seconds.
How does Andrson innovate?
Zach Miller-Frankel: We’re currently the only market solution that offers searches based on artist likeness, and are constantly striving to evolve the platform. We have a Head of Audio Analysis, Cárthach O Nuanain, who leads the research effort of Andrson’s core technology. He has over a decade of experience working within the industry and academia and is also a music maker and engineer. Holding a Ph.D. in Computer Music, Cárthach works with the team to identify opportunities to develop our product so that our end users are experiencing the best music discovery platform out there. We have a brand new feature out called ReWrapped which we are excited about and it showcases how we are continuing to make the discovery journey as exciting as possible.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business and how are you coping?
Zach Miller-Frankel: It’s been a bit paradoxical, actually. Covid has decimated the live music industry, so new music discovery has been impacted by the cancellation of live events. But labels, publishers, and the like are still looking for new talent, and have been forced out of necessity to look digital more than ever before. This is where Andrson has been helping the industry: the fact that we use predictive analytics and audio A.I. to link emerging talent with music industry professionals means the discovery process is as natural, bespoke, and organic as possible.
We have already been helping clients including industry executives spanning every sector of the industry, from sync to major labels, through to booking agents – in most major music sectors of the world. For artists, it has been a tough time with tours canceled. We’ve tried to help this community of upcoming artists by providing free access to our platform, as we understand how difficult it is for everyone at the moment. With our platform, they have been able to connect and collaborate with each other but also become “discoverable” to industry professionals looking for talent.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Zach Miller-Frankel: We definitely have. Firstly, the decision to not charge artists wasn’t a difficult one to make — how could we ask an already-struggling sector to part with money they’re not recouping — but it was a tough one to justify to our board. Cutting off a major revenue stream in a pandemic seems like you’d be shooting yourself in the foot, but ironically I think it instilled a lot of faith in us with our artists.
In general, as the heads of a startup, Neil and I make difficult decisions every day, mostly around the business development side of things. But we always bring it back to: does this fit in with our core offering, does it convey the message we want to send, and ultimately, will this decision be beneficial for our customers on both sides of the equation.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Zach Miller-Frankel: Not well enough, especially now! In the Before Times™, I played rugby and was a pretty avid cyclist. Now, it’s a lot of tea and reading books whose subjects put into perspective the fact that our problems are minor compared to so many truly important issues worldwide. And watching Kath & Kim on repeat.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Zach Miller-Frankel: As mentioned before we are always innovating our product. Our state-of-the-art and patented audio analysis engines ensure we are leading the field in new music discovery. There are platforms out there that aid the music discovery process but we believe we are unique in that our search is audio-based, rather than incorporating other factors such as social metrics, playlist streams, or anything else – which some of the major streaming platforms are based on. Andrson is music first and tech second. Our product is built by the industry, for the industry.
Your final thoughts?
Zach Miller-Frankel: I think what’s important to remember about us is that we’re trying to bring a little bit of the fun and the passion back into digital music discovery — most people don’t get into the industry to look at convoluted charts and graphs all day, they do it for the love of music, and tech engine or not, that’s ultimately what fuels Andrson.
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