Experts in the Industry #1 – Toolroom

Experts in the Industry is a series of casual conversations with FATdrop clients, garnering insight into the secrets of their success when it comes to digital music promotion. Who better to kick things off than Chris Barleycorn, digital manager at leading dance label Toolroom.

FATdrop: Tell us a bit about Toolroom

Chris Barleycorn: Toolroom Records is an independent dance label based in the UK. The label was set-up in 2003, in a tool shed (hence the name), and has grown from a two-man operation to a team of 20 people over the past decade. The label has carved out a distinct musical identity through the work of label boss Mark Knight, and past artists that have included Underworld and Faithless. Toolroom also played a part in establishing the careers of Fedde le Grand, Funkagenda, D.Ramirez and a whole lot more.

FD: Why and how did you get into music promotion?

CB: Personally, my route into music promotion was a bit by chance – the ‘right place, right time’ situation, but I think if you talk to most people in the industry, it is a case of getting your foot in the door and just making the most of that opportunity. As well as studying music production at university, I also focused just as much on the business side too, which inevitably helped me in getting a job at the label. That was four years ago now, and I’ve never looked back.

FD: What social media platforms do you use / recommend, and what are your main rules for using them effectively?

CB: It’s important to separate the platforms, as they are suited to a particular piece of the promotional jigsaw – We see Facebook and Twitter as the place to interact  with fans, update them with news, provide fresh, engaging content that doesn’t even have to be related to the label as such. We don’t want to bombard people with ‘Buy, Buy, Buy’ posts, as—think about it—no one really goes on to Facebook looking for something to buy, they are there to find out what their friends are up to, or find an interesting article, video etc. So this is where other platforms come in. Something we are really focused on is looking after our communities within the likes of YouTube and Spotify. These are where people are consuming your music, and you can interact with them at the same time. The trick is to find a way to combine the place where fans consume your music, and the place where fans consume content, so simple things like creating a playlist on YouTube then sharing it on Facebook, let people know it will be updated daily, giving them a reason to jump between being a Facebook fan and subscribing to your YouTube channel.

FD: How do you use FATdrop as a successful way to promote your music?

CB: FATdrop plays a key role in promoting our music to the industry, to tastemaker DJs, radio DJs and the press. In particular, receiving feedback and confirmation of support from DJs on each mail-out is crucial, as the root to success of any record still begins on the dancefloor. DJs receive so much music everyday, so it is important to ensure you are not spamming them with every release you put out. We want DJs to be excited when they receive a Toolroom promo, so segregating lists based on genres, then refining even more when you come to mailing out is key if you want to ensure DJs open the promo in the first place.

FD: The digital revolution has seen a shift in the way feedback is gathered, and success is now measured, at least in part, by the amount of shares and feedback a release receives. How do you feel this has impacted music promotion and how do you stimulate customers to buy new music?

CB: You’re right, its not as simple as saying, “That track charted in the Beatport Top 10, therefore it is a successful record”. It goes way beyond that now. There’s YouTube views, Spotify streams, digital downloads, radio airplay, Facebook shares… the list goes on! To really determine the success of a record, you need to consider all of the above, as something might only get 100 downloads on Beatport, but 10,000 streams on Spotify: when you think about it, that’s 10,100 people that have consumed that track overall, which 5 years would have been unheard of for a real underground track, but is commonplace now. So when it comes to stimulating customers to buy music, it’s about making sure your music is available across as many platforms as possible. Then, be creative with the way you sell it. Create a Spotify playlist with your track at number one, then share the whole playlist with your fans, or giveaway a free mini-mix on your Soundcloud with your track in it, and provide a buy link to the new track in the description.

FD: Anything else you would like to tell us about?

CB: We just want to thank everyone for their support in what has undoubtedly been one of our biggest years to date, and wish everyone a merry Christmas and all the best for 2014!


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