Affordable radio airplay monitoring platform WARM has the potential to boost DIY artists, indie labels, promoters, marketers and more using the power knowledge. Jesper Skibsby, CEO & Founder, explains more about the opportunities it presents10 October 2017 - Editorial
Like many a great idea, the bones of World Airplay Radio Monitor were borne out of frustration. After releasing a track with his manager hat on, WARM founder Jesper Skibsby discovered that monitoring sales and streams were relatively easy, whilst doing the same for radio play was expensive and cumbersome, especially at an indie level. And thus, the three-and-a-half-year WARM journey from inception to launch kicked off.
With an idiot-proof interface and an exceptionally affordable pricing plan, WARM is quickly proving itself to be a popular tool with DIY musicians and industry professionals, recently being recognised at a TechPitch 4.5 event and receiving glowing praise from Mixmag. By simply uploading the MP3 you wish to monitor, the audio fingerprint technology will start producing radio airplay reports within 15-60 seconds, in real-time, from over 23,000 stations worldwide. Pricing is per track at €5 a month or €36 for a year. “Initially my dream was to monitor songs on radio for €1 a month, we didn’t quite get there, but we’re pretty close”, Skibsby quips. Once a track is entered into the database it will continue to monitor even if a subscription isn’t renewed and, if it’s renewed at a later date, historical data will be available instantly.
Perhaps unusually for a music tech start-up, the six months since WARM’s official launch this April have been wholly positive. “It’s a fairly easy to understand product and it’s something everyone can use, I think it’s quite difficult to hate on“, Skibsby tells us. “It’s been an amazing journey for me personally and the team. We have learnt a lot; how to handle investors, which events to attend and not to attend, as well as testing the platform, listening to the customers and handling early adopters.”
As with any new product, the feedback from early adopters has been crucial to not only learning how to adapt the offering but also understanding its strengths, weaknesses and position in the market. There’s an obvious place for WARM in a marketing plan, being used in a similar vein to Spotify Insights, but it’s also shown itself to have huge potential in other areas too, widening its user base to all corners of the industry.
The ease of use and low price makes it accessible to all levels, from a DIY band with a few releases but no team, to a marketing agency working on several campaigns. There’s also a clear benefit of use to managers, “the ones who run the show”, which has led the start-up joining the MMF’s associate programme. “If a manager has the kind of data that WARM provides they can contact a booking agent and suggest target areas”, Skibsby says. “I would say 99 times out of 100 you, as a manager with a WARM report, would be able to see a lot more data than the radio promoter that you’ve hired.”
However, far from cutting out the pluggers, Skibsby has plans to make them more effective with his tool. He explains: “We’re already beginning to work on a product that will connect the radio stations with individual radio promoters. The way radio plugging works now is, in my opinion, perhaps not the most effective or intelligent way of doing things. It’s very based on finding the right radio plugger and you hire them for a specific country. We think that there is an argument for grouping maybe regions (such as northern Europe, southern Europe etc) and then have pluggers targeting specific genre stations with their music. From a major’s perspective, I can see why it works for them to work in different territories but from an independent artists’ perspective I think it could be a lot smarter.” Furthermore, there is also an argument for pluggers to be able to more accurately prove their effectiveness with reports produced via WARM.
A glaring opportunity for WARM reports is for the purpose of collecting royalties, however, it’s an area Skibsby is cautious to promote. “There are so many different rules in all the countries, there could be 100 ways to collect what you are owed. I think artists could use the reports to help gather their royalties but I don’t want to focus too much on that aspect because I know it’s a very delicate and complicated situation across the globe” he explains. “I’m not seeing the collection agencies as an enemy in any way but I think the way things are done in them could be a lot better. If we could work together in some way, then I think it would be very beneficial.” A man actioning his word, Skibsby tells us that there are some independent organisations and some rights organisations that the company is talking to and that they have “closed some interesting agreements that will be activated over the next couple of months.”
There’s a curious twist to WARM: there’s no need to own the song(s) you monitor. At a time when copyright and copyright law is finding itself in European courts, is it a problem that you can track something you don’t own? “Everyone can monitor anything, it’s public. It would be the same as installing 20,000 radio stations in your house and you listened to them all at the same time and wrote it all down” Skibsby argues. “I think it’s very interesting and unique and actually a benefit. Let’s say you’re an upcoming band, you can monitor a similar style of song and see where it’s popular then exploit the data and find out which stations to target. You can also see trends in particular countries or cities. I’m still waiting for someone to say we can’t do it but, so far, we haven’t experienced any copyright infringement problems.”
It’s so far so good for the team of three in Copenhagen, who expect to breakeven in terms of running costs in the next four to eight months. Skibsby closes: “Knowledge is empowering and if you have more knowledge, you can make more money at an earlier stage. You can do more things and work more independently; you don’t have to commit to something you might not want to because you need funding. I’m not against majors, I just want a product that can be used by everyone and is fair for everyone.”