Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Fresh Voices, Unique Perspectives – In Conversation with Khan FM, Spotify Pakistan’s Artist and Label Partnerships Manager

Spotify’s introduction to Pakistan has truly been a game-changer for artists and listeners alike. This point was comprehensively highlighted by Khan FM, Spotify’s Artist and Label Partnerships Manager for Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh when he sat down recently for a fireside chat at Karachi Slush’D, an event that brought together innovators, entrepreneurs, and music enthusiasts.

We now further explore with Khan FM, the dynamic world of music and how Spotify has played a pivotal role in reshaping the landscape.

Q1. Please tell us something about your role at Spotify.

A: Officially, my title at Spotify is Artist & Label Partnerships Manager for Pakistan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka. Essentially, I work as a catalyst behind every single, album, collaboration and partnership that you see out front when it comes to music. I work very closely with artists & label reps to ensure they get the most out of their music. Historically in Pakistan, artists never had this kind of guidance. They didn’t have access to world class tools such as ‘Spotify For Artists’. Majority of Pakistani artists had to face various obstacles, even from people who had no place in the music landscape. We’re changing that. Artists can reach out to myself and our specialist teams to discuss their music releases and how to best pitch them on Spotify playlists. We’re here to spread awareness about the fact that singing & music can now be considered a practical career choice due to the income that is generated via music streams. Furthermore, we’re slowly changing the Pakistani music landscape. Where once no labels existed, we’re helping in creating that space for investment & opportunity. It’s changing and allows us to live in an exciting time for music.

Q2. Could you share some insights on how Spotify’s partnership with Coke Studio has helped Coke Studio amplify its reach globally?

A: Certainly! Spotify’s partnership with Coke Studio, starting with Season 14 in 2022, marked a significant collaboration between two major players in the local music scene. This dynamic partnership has been instrumental in amplifying Coke Studio’s global reach.

Just to give you a hint of reach amplification, consider this: in terms of song reach, regardless of the language – whether it’s Balochi, Punjabi, Sindhi, or Urdu – the impact has been remarkable. In the past, seasons 12 and 13 combined garnered around 14 million streams. However, with the Season 14 collaboration with Spotify being the official audio streaming service, we witnessed an astonishing surge to approximately 390 million streams for the season.

This exponential increase in streaming numbers underscores the profound impact of our partnership. It signifies not only the diversity and richness of Coke Studio’s music but also the global audience’s eagerness to embrace and enjoy it. The collaboration has effectively transcended linguistic and cultural boundaries, making Coke Studio’s music accessible and appreciated by a much wider audience worldwide. Another key example would be the amount of new fans all over the world who had access to songs like Pasoori, Peechay Hutt and Tu Jhoom. Thanks for our global reach, we were even able to see Coke Studio music charting in various markets outside of Pakistan.

The success of this partnership underscores the power of music to unite and transcend borders, and we’re excited to continue fostering this musical journey with Coke Studio.

Q3. You mentioned during the fireside chat that approx. 350 artists have been featured on your ‘Fresh Finds’ program but there are more artists waiting to be explored and to be educated about the platform. How do you plan to approach them?

A: To reach more undiscovered talents, we’ve initiated a proactive approach. Spotify has conducted two Masterclass sessions in Pakistan over the past year, and we plan to continue this valuable initiative. These sessions serve as a platform for artists to learn about the immense opportunities Spotify offers for their careers. We deep dive into tools like ‘Spotify For Artists’ that are vital for artists to understand and use to market their music & understand their fans all over the world.

Through these Masterclasses, we educate artists on how to effectively leverage Spotify’s features, from creating standout artist profiles to optimizing their music’s discoverability. We also provide insights on playlist pitching, data analytics, and audience engagement strategies. Our goal is to empower emerging artists with the knowledge they need to thrive on our platform, ensuring that the music ecosystem continues to evolve and welcome fresh talent.

The beauty of the Masterclass is that it’s always evolving, just like artists – so both go hand in hand. All artists, new or old are invited to attend these sessions and we’re always there for Q&A as well so we can educate artists to the best of our abilities & help them maximize their reach.

Fresh Finds is a discovery platform that showcases the majority of unheard or very new artists, Infact, I won’t be surprised if we see some Fresh Finds alumni get featured in future programs of Coke Studio and beyond.

Q4. You have also, quite enthusiastically, discussed RADAR. Can you tell us more about this program and what it does for emerging artists in the country?

A: RADAR is a global artist development program that was also introduced in Pakistan last year. With RADAR, we put the spotlight on emerging artists. Take for example a new indie artist, who is on social media and has done a couple of gigs, released some music, but he is not able to break out without industry support and connections. This is where we activate RADAR to make sure that that emerging talent is discovered all over the world.

With Spotify and its unique offerings like RADAR, the next major artist can come from anywhere. Recently, we had Taha G, we had Maanu and numerous others that emerged as major contenders on the scene thanks to RADAR. What we do as part of this initiative is really interesting. As part of the program, these artists don’t just become part of a dedicated playlist but we help develop a deeply personal connection between the emerging talent and their respective fans. We create documentaries which are a deep dive into the life of that artist.

This is not a music video, it’s not a song. It’s very personal. You get to hear about their career from their families, from their friends and all those who can reflect extensively on what the artist’s journey has been so far. The goal is for these artists to show up on the Radars of the wider music industry, who’s to say which RADAR Pakistan artist may get signed up by a major label – that would just be the beginning. Moreover, with RADAR Pakistan turning 1 soon, we’ve got some exciting plans up our sleeve.

Q5. Pakistan’s music industry has seen a disconnect between artists and labels/distributors. How does ‘Spotify For Artists’ give artists the charge to overcome that gap?

A: It is a known fact that there is a current staunch scarcity of major music labels in Pakistan. For an emerging artist, it is not always possible to grab the attention of these labels to promote their music, even if an artist has a considerable following. In order to address this situation, we made ‘Spotify For Artists’ available in the country.

This tool opens up a world of possibilities for artists in the country, especially those who are beginning to make their mark in the scene. S4A allows musicians to manage their profile, get deeper music and audience data, pitch their new music to playlists, and highlight key songs, concerts and playlists with Artist Pick. In essence, they have access to a comprehensive dashboard with real-time, data-backed insights that allow them to judge where their listeners are, the type of music that they are enjoying and where potential opportunities for growth lie.

Spotify puts the power with the artists to excel and showcase their musical prowess on a global stage.

This way when major labels want to discover artists, they’ll be able to source them on Spotify & learn more about the artists as well.

Q6. Coke Studio Season 15 is just around the corner. What are your plans for leveraging this partnership in the coming days?

A: We’re always talking. We’ve been exchanging plans for Season 15 before Season 14 ended and there are some exciting things planned at both our ends. For now, all I can say is that the partnership between Spotify & Coke Studio is still in its early stages so I’d like to leave it for the listeners to gauge on what comes next. In the end, we all need to celebrate our artists, culture & music together.

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