Bringing together 25 combined years of experience in the music marketing and promotion industry, Anto Dotcom and Raffi Keuhnelian are set to redefine the future of how musicians will interact and operate in the wild world of rhymes, tribes, and stages.
Tapping into the immense power of artificial intelligence and its vast potential within music, Virtual Publicist is the first music marketing tool where you can find, segment, and directly message every member of the industry without exception to a niche.
Speaking to Earmilk, co-founders Raffi and Anto delve into the features of Virtual Publicist, the development process, the role of AI in music and the future of their platform, among other things.
Tell us a bit about the Virtual/AI publicist you’re about to launch.
Raffi Keuhnelian: Virtual Publicist is the world's first all-in-one AI and digital office made for artists anywhere and everywhere. It combines an extensive industry database, with a tried and true AI, that segments and suggests the best course of action for a recording artist to take. With a centralized portal to manage their careers, Virtual Publicist becomes the first place an artist goes to find their next influencer or media outlet.
Anto Dotcom: Giving access to the industry and what we are convinced is expert advice, we wanted to give artists everywhere equal opportunity when they step into the arena. Having an actual Virtual Publicist that can guide you, a dashboard where you can centralize your music enterprise and a select-n-send database from every corner of the industry. Which is basically everything you need as an artist that has taken on the DIY path for their marketing.
Where did the idea/inspiration for this come from? What was the process of developing it?
Anto Dotcom: Virtual Publicist is the brainchild of Raffi and my experiences in the last 15 years in the music PR and marketing industry. Music marketing is continuously evolving and artists are dependent on multiple digital platforms, the biggest issue is not knowing where to start.
Raffi: We tried to find services that put all these elements together and realized that all the products are just dropping the artist in another algorithm and forcing them into a new marketing stream that they just don't have time for. Artists are here to make art, not market themselves through digital labyrinths of hashtags. It's not like the majority of the market has 15 thousand dollars to spend on professional PR.
So one conversation led to another, and we started compiling industry triggers to train this AI algorithm in recognizing value vectors for artists. Once we added the industry roster the rest became simple to put together. We probably spent more time debating about the branding and user experience than the tech, which we felt was a no-brainer in the new age of music.
In a nutshell, what are the features of this tool that would be most useful for artists? Why should an artist looking for a publicist check out this tool?
Anto: All of the features we have plugged in, fundamentally revolve around the issue of time. Time-saving, time efficiency, time profitability, time management, every moment an artist spends not creating, be it music or content, is an opportunity lost.
Raffi: In all our years we identified that one of the biggest problems artists have, beyond funding, is their communications with promotional outlets from media, to radio, magazines… An artist does not have the time to identify, speculate, plan, where they should be sending their music. Virtual Publicist streamlines this process and gives the artist a copywriter to make sure the email is on point. Users will get the right suggestions based on their objectives, and the right career path to follow to achieve resounding success.Pretty turn-key product if you ask me.
What role do AI/virtual tools play in music today? How can such tools help an artist increase their reach?
Anto Dotcom: The immaculate viral video is almost a myth in today's environment. Every type of content is obliged to go through a marketing vector to be properly exposed to its audience. The role of SAAS, AI, and digital tools for productivity is over a 100 billion dollar market and there's not much else to say about that.
For the music industry, these tools are usually catered to the media professionals and marketing teams to maximize discovery, content management, automation etc… everything else is nuzzled in the digital production space which has increasingly gotten accessible for the creator industry over the years.
Raffi Keuhnelian: The artist, as the unfortunate “resource” of the industry, is always handed either pay-for promo marketplaces or credit-based submission platforms. They are never really taught how they should be used. Virtual Publicist acts as an ed-tech to empower, AI to direct choices, and SAAS to execute tasks. We believe that the artist will finally get a fighting chance to increase their reach, in a transparent and self-perpetuated way.
Do you think these kinds of tools could be helpful to others in the music industry – say publicists or managers etc?
Anto: Absolutely. Despite our artist-centric mission, this platform can increase any agency’s productivity by helping them create smart lists, and visualizing their promo campaigns. Just the database alone saves thousands of hours a year for PR professionals who need to expand their black books. Ask any artist and they will confirm how difficult it is to find new and innovative influencers, reach out to radios internationally, joining collaborators or content creators. All of these essentials have become like looking for a needle in a haystack. Most of the good info is trapped in some pretty pricey directories that don’t necessarily give you the whole picture. The rest is buried underneath algorithms and paid advertising.
Raffi: It’s funny you mention managers because today’s indie manager is handling a lot more than just bookings. A manager with multiple up-and-coming artists under their belt will have a huge amount of promo to manage, as well as help close deals with a whole slew of industry tiers. That entire process will take them a few SAAS products, and a lot of discipline to begin to scratch the surface of effective management. With Virtual Publicist, they have the best possible team by their side, that doesn’t miss a beat, can automatically reply, and feeds the exact type of contacts you need to create long-term hype.
Many may be of the opinion that these tools would take away PR jobs in the music industry, what’s your take on that?
Anto: As an agency, I feel as if this is going to remove a lot of parasitic business practices rather than replace quality jobs. PR will come back to its roots as a creativity and crisis-driven practice, rather than a bazaar of outlet brokers working on volume rather than quality.
Without taking away from the work the PR industry does, the robotic mass emails, and the age of pseudo-spam marketing needs to end. Niche marketing is what matters most, and this requires a personalized approach for the artist. Anyway, you look at it, good PR has been reserved for those with the capital to invest. Affordable PR is not a thing in the market, because PR involves a holistic approach to promo, everything else is just content creation.
Raffi: The practice of content syndication, mass playlisting, and bot streams has been a black hole for a lot of creators that spend hard-earned cash on promotional campaigns in an ad-hock way. Despite giving momentary elevation to their career, the vast majority of these services advertised as a singular instance in the “PR workflow” do not generate the type of momentum they need to have lasting exposure. So they come back for more until they are either tapped out of cash on quick wins or have decided to get a 360 campaign with an agency that will still cost them a huge part of the budget.
What’s the future of the tool you’re about to launch? Are there any specific features or elements you’d love to roll out in the future to make the tool even more helpful?
Anto: We see this tool as instigating 3 types of industry change.
The first is the connectivity between talent, technique, and outreach professionals in the creator economy be it in music, film, or any kind of digital art. Talent directories that encompass the totality of the needs of the market will now have a curation engine to simplify collaboration.
The second is the democratization of AI, by creating an accessible and personalized virtual assistant. Adapted to each individual artist and their unique career path once again based on their personal objectives and not a subjective perspective of success.
The third is quite ambitious. As we begin to onboard the social elements and community development features, we see Virtual Publicist acting as the world's first decentralized label and licensing marketplace, where artists, music professionals, technicians, bookers, and everyone in between will be able to collaborate and work in full security and transparency without an umbrella corporation acting as a toll booth for their success.
Raffi: As far as tools and features are concerned, our objective is to onboard our users prudently. We provide them tools they can use with the shortest possible learning curve and the fastest access to stardom.