With a presence in nearly 7000 cities and in over 100 countries across the globe, the Danish start-up WARM is the world’s first airplay radio monitor allowing artists and labels to track where and when their song is being played on the radio. Boasting a deep background in the music industry as label owner and manager, Jesper Skibsby, WARM’s founder and CEO, developed the idea for WARM out of a personal frustration when he realised he had no way of tracking the radio airplays for his own tracks.
#DenmarkInNY caught up with the founder and CEO to learn about the incentive behind WARM and what challenges and possibilities the start-up is facing.
DNY: Give us the WARM elevator pitch: what is WARM and why do we need it?
JS: WARM is a new platform that allows artists, bands, record labels and managements to track and monitor any song on radio stations around the world. Until now, the only services existing focused on large commercial and national radios in specific markets which only is useful and affordable to big record labels, publishers and collection societies. WARM, on the other hand, specialises in monitoring as many radio stations everywhere allowing the industry to know, in real time, whenever, wherever a song is being played on the radio.
WARM is a completely new data set for the music industry. By knowing, in real time, when your music is being played you have a new tool to help you locate your emerging markets and fanbase. Radio is by far the format with most listeners. According to the last UNESCO report, 94% of the world’s population listens to the radio on a weekly basis. We have seen a tendency that for example genre specific and college radios are playing a lot of independent music and not necessarily the commercial top hits like the commercial and public service radios. By knowing when and where you are being played on radio, you can use this information to improve tour booking, controlling of radio promotion and in general establish a better insight on where your listeners and fans are.
How did you first come up with the idea for WARM? What was your inspiration?
The idea came out of personal frustration. I have a background in the music industry as a manager and record label owner. I found out that there was no place where I globally could track radio airplays on my artists. This somehow became an obsession and a dream to try and solve this. It’s fantastic to look back on 3–4 years of talking with investors and writing, re-writing business plans, and now be up and running with a platform and app that gives a complete new data set to the music industry.
Looking at the global music industry why was there a need for something like WARM? What makes it unique?
The only systems that existed before WARM were made for the collection societies and big music companies. They only covered the biggest stations that paid the biggest amounts of money to the collection societies. The problems with this are many.
When only large commercial and national radios are monitored, its basically only the companies and artists/creators here who receive payments from the exploitation, which is mainly the biggest artists and labels. When the collection societies don’t monitor the smaller stations but still collect money from them, they have to distribute the royalties based on sample tests, estimates or marketshare. And this creates an opposite Robin Hood effect, where the independent and/or upcoming long tail of the music industry loses and the big ones are getting even more.
For far to long the “value” of the long tail of radio stations has been neglected by the industry, especially because it hasn’t been monitored. Now there is full transparency on all stations, regardless of size. This opens up for upcoming artists and bands, to actually see that they are being played on radios around the world.
In today’s globalized music industry it’s crucial that you know and discover your fanbase and emerging markets wherever they must be. If you’re an Icelandic Indie Rock band it’s very important to know you are being played on a college radio in Washington. With college radios you get a very unique demographic compared to if you have been added to a playlist on a streaming service.
Do you think the American music industry is ready for WARM and the transparency it brings? And how is WARM doing on the U.S. market so far?
I strongly believe the timing is perfect for transparency in the music industry in general and especially in the US. I have met a lot of important people in the music industry in the last 6 months and what they all have in common is the interest and expectation for a better and more transparent music industry. Many new technologies are on the verge of breaking through in the music industry like Blockchain, AI, machine learning and content recognition. These technologies open up a new world of opportunities on a more transparent and fair music industry.
On that note, what are some of the biggest challenges facing the music industry and, of course, radio?
The biggest challenges in the music industry today are getting the PROs working together and sharing data. In general, we need a centralised databank where PROs and labels/publishers can tap into instead of everyone having their own database without the willingness to share data and metadata.
Also, there is a big part of the music industry talking about data and how important it is for artists and labels to collect and use data. But I think the industry would need to focus a lot more on what data is useful and how you could use it. The music industry is very complex, and everything — from publishing, mechanical royalties and neighbouring rights and how PROs work — is extremely difficult to understand for an average musician who just wants to make music and go on tour. I think we would need to see more initiatives explaining how the industry actually works, and I hope we will be better to help each other to understand the many different aspects and revenue streams.
What does the future hold for WARM?
We are working on several exciting projects which could benefit the music industry.
For example, we are working on a radio plugging system (WARM RPS) which could allow you to send music curated by genre detection and song profile directly to the radio stations that match the song. It can be quite difficult to get your music on radio if you cannot afford a professional radio promoter or if you do not have a big record label behind you.
We are also working on new radio charts. For example, we are currently building a college radio chart system in the US and Canada. At the moment we cover about 750 college radios in North America. As the world’s biggest covering service we have a lot of opportunities in building tools that will help everyone to get much more detailed information and this will especially help the independent and long tail of the music industry.
Nathalie Sira Sidibe Jakobsen, Press and Communications Intern at Denmark In NY.