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Industry Insights: A Conversation with Next Big Sound’s Alex White – Part 1

A little over a month ago, I was fortunate to have a phone conversation with Alex White, co-founder and CEO of Next Big Sound.

Next Big Sound is one of the best analytics tools available to musicians because it gives detailed insight into fan awareness and engagement data, something that any up-and-coming band needs to know about in order to grow their fanbase.  Over the next two days, I’ll publish our conversation. Then, on Thursday and Friday I’ll take an in-depth look at what Next Big Sound has to offer.

In Part 1 of our interview, Alex talks about Next Big Sound’s origins and how musicians are using the tool in its present form:

Go Forth Music: Next Big Sound started off as a totally different site. How has it evolved into its current form?

Alex: Good question. The original site let anyone play the role of a record mogul.  It was their own fantasy label and they’d have a limited number of spots to sign bands they thought were going to blow up…it’s still a really cool idea.

How the site has changed: [Instead of] creating yet ANOTHER streaming music destination site where bands have to create another profile and users have to build another network, we decided to just start tracking where people were already listening and engaging with music all across the web.  These actions are happening millions of times of day across every site from MySpace and Facebook to Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Wikipedia. The same high-level questions of how a band becomes famous were still really interesting to us, and that was kind of the catalyst for the new site:  “Let’s track the activity happening all across the web at the places where it’s already occurring.” [We have] the same team and the same passionate music listeners behind it.  We changed the approach, and this one has been much better received.  And a much more practical business…

Go Forth Music: Next Big Sound has some really powerful features.  How do you see independent artists using the site?

Alex: Well the biggest thing right off the bat is that there’s more data everyday [that bands can use]. There are more sites that bands are “supposed to be” on than ever before, and it’s constantly changing.  I know this firsthand because I was working with a band…building out all of their [social network] profiles.

When there was just MySpace, it was pretty easy to just log in to the dashboard and keep track of your stats.  But when you’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all these other sites, it gets out of hand.  We’re creating a centralized dashboard to see all of this stuff in one place for the purpose of using this data to make decisions about which marketing campaigns, ideas, and promotional events are actually increasing…moving the needle, and which ones aren’t.

Seeing all this data and signing up for free weekly email reports every week is kind of like a new version of SoundScan. However, instead of selling physical CDs and getting that report, you’re looking at all the social media numbers. In the early stages of a band’s career, sales are still vital, but awareness and engagement are the two main goals.

Go Forth Music: And Next Big Sound does an awesome job of honing in on those stats and giving bands detailed information on fan awareness and engagement. I’ve been looking for a tool like this like forever and was immediately impressed by the amount of information you all provide to your users.  That’s why I want to introduce a lot of other people to it.  Do you all have any type of index or or chart to rank artists, similar to Billboard?

Alex: We’ve done charts for South by Southwest where we put in the 2,000 bands that played and charted the fastest accelerating artists in our system over the period of the festival.   Also, we have our Next Big Sound chart, a weekly ranking of the 25 fastest rising artists.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my conversation with Alex. He talks about where Next Big Sound is going, including their new Premier service.

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