As Ministry Of Sound’s resident digital expert, Negla Abdela spearheaded the major’s groundbreaking use of tech to fuel viral hits for Saint Jhn, Doja Cat and more. Here, the general manager talks about her label’s ever-growing platform obsession…
How do you keep up with new tech platforms?
“The most interesting and fun ones are those you find when you stumble across a conversation on Twitter and it’s like, ‘Oh, why is that trending?’ The things that people around you are discovering and using are more interesting: if the people around me in my industry, friendship circle or peer group are using these things, they’re probably things that my audiences and consumers are more likely to adopt. Whereas if it’s a big tech thing that’s come out of Silicon Valley and trade press are all raving about it, it doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily be excited by it or bring it into my campaigns. I lean more towards grassroots discovery.”
How can tech and digital help Ministry Of Sound best?
“It’s different things at different times. There are sometimes clear opportunities where a platform will benefit us from a music point of view, but other times we’re looking at platforms that we’ll be able to do cool things with. It’s not always about direct drivers to streaming or buying music. Most of the stuff that gets us excited is where we can do something cool or creative, something outside of the norm of what the artist has done before. That can be really small things, all the way up to the big tech partnerships. Artists appearing and having concerts in video games, those things are at the top end of the spectrum, but there are so many opportunities at the lower end that are easy and accessible for us to deliver and for fans. So we look at the broad spectrum.”
How has the label been able to use tech so successfully?
“The main thing is that we are able to be reactive. We’re able to spot things happening or bubbling under and we move quickly to build on them or capitalise on certain moments. We are early adopters, but we don’t jump on everything, we tend to have a really good view of what’s happening in the space, but not everything is going to work for every campaign. So we’re not like, ‘Oh, that’s working for this artist, so let’s copy and paste it to this campaign.’ It’s almost like having it saved in the arsenal, so that when the right opportunity comes we can be reactive and have the conversations; we’ve built the relationships with the companies and then can strike quite quickly. We’re always keeping an eye on things, regardless of whether it’s something we’re going to bring into our campaigns the next day. Everyone might be talking about something as if it’s the coolest thing ever, but if we can’t use it right now then we won’t. Then, when it makes sense for us to bring it into a campaign or put it in front of an artist, it will most of the time be approved and moved forward because we’ve put thought behind it.”
Now you’ve moved up to general manager, how excited are you about Ministry’s digital future?
“It’s really exciting. You can never get to that point of security where you’re like, ‘I know what I’m doing and everything is tried and tested and I know exactly what’s going to work for everything.’ We constantly have to push the boundaries and move with the times and adapt our strategy. A campaign strategy that might have worked really well for an artist a year ago, we wouldn’t adopt the same strategy now for a similar artist because it’s out of date. We’re always pushing ourselves to try new things and do more, not just settle.”
What’s your message to anyone starting a tech company?
“If you have an idea and you can identify a genuine need for it and you can see that it brings value to artists or to labels, streaming, consumption or whatever it is, just do it. Start small, get proof of concept and build up from there. If someone pitches me something new, I always want to test it first, it’s not enough even if you’ve tested it on other people and there are stats on how it’s worked, I want to test it. I want to see for myself that it works, helps me or alleviates an issue.”
QUOTE PHOTO: Louise Haywood-Schiefer