Reverse Engineer Your Career (Part 1) by Sebastien Lintz.

Maximizing Artist Exposure with Matthew Engelman (Atlantic Records/BIG BEAT/Warner)

During my visit to New York last week, I sat down with Matthew to ask his view on some music industry topics. My goal is to expose how music industry leaders think so you can reverse engineer your own (music) career or company.

In brief:
Matthew is signing tracks based on quality, and most importantly, originality. His biggest advice for aspiring producers is to consistently release quality content and ensure that people see your name on different platforms to maximize exposure and brand recognition. Matthew is also a big fan of scouting artists using Spotify.

On what basis have you been signing artists and how has that process been successful?

“I would say there are two things I look for:

1) Original sound — so something that sounds different than all the other stuff.

2) A fantastic song or its potential to become a hit.

Most artists have built some kind of story. The artist with nothing going on is very hard to find super early. With artists like Galantis, each member of the duo had a history of creating hit records and each was already a successful pop producer. So we figured there would be more potential if you combined them together. We were friendly with their lawyer and knew the duo from their track on A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold Records. When we heard their new music, we were blown away. I remember hearing ‘Smile’, ‘You’, and ‘Gold Dust’.”

So major labels usually don’t want invest in early careers?

“There was a very big artist — which I can’t mention. We were very early in the process of offering him a deal. He didn’t accept it because of how early it was. He ended up signing to a different major, and ever since then we regret not signing him. A&R is not about hindsight, you can’t look back at what you could’ve signed and feel regret. It’s very easy to say, “Oh, I was all over that. I knew it was going to be a hit.” If you knew it was going to be a hit, you should have signed it.”

A&R is not about hindsight, you can’t look back at what you could’ve signed and feel regret.

Which tracks did you know would be big before you signed them?

“Probably Martin Solveig’s Hello. We signed him in the US. It was very early in the life of his record but we knew it would be a big hit. It just sounded so good. I also knew the Icona Pop one would be an instant hit.”

What’s your biggest advice to new artists who want to break through the noise and make a living through music?

“I think Avicii did a fantastic job of putting himself out there very early. Basically putting out tracks every week — good tracks. Make sure your tracks are all good, otherwise you can’t build followers. Avicii did a very good job putting out records consistently. Today, you have to constantly be doing things so everybody can see your name on different places. Whether it’s blogs, 1001Tracklists.com, or DJ sets. If your name starts popping up, people will say, “Oh, that’s that guy” or “Oh, Martin Garrix is playing all his tracks.” If you start seeing the name everywhere, that becomes sticky.

Also put out other content, not just audio but also videos. Be active on social media (for better or for worse). That’s becoming the most important thing. Talk to other DJ’s. Using all your platforms is super important. You can’t survive without that.

It’s a combination of hard work and luck, but also you have to network. The most important thing is to network. Meet other people, share your music. Be aggressive at getting your music in the hands of big DJ’s that might support it. Just one play by a superstar DJ can change your life!

Still, avoid being over aggressive. Finding the right balance without harassing DJ’s and their management is important. Don’t push it too much. You have to be in control of your own career, nobody will do it for you.”

Today, you have to constantly be doing things so everybody can see your name on different places.

I noticed you were looking up new artists first on Spotify instead of SoundCloud.

“I definitely think Spotify has surpassed SoundCloud in the electronic space. I feel like Spotify is now more important. It’s so easy to use, you can copy paste everything, all the music is global. Make sure your Spotify profile is in shape. I’m currently looking at the most popular section on the artist pages to sample music. Make sure your music is tagged properly. At Atlantic, we just started tagging remixes to maximize exposure. We tag remixers as the main artist. For example, for Ed Sheeran we tag Galantis as the main artist so it’s discoverable in their top tracks. It’s smart marketing. By tagging Galantis, it also helps Ed Sheeran get more plays and expand his reach.”

At Atlantic, we just started tagging remixes to maximize exposure. We tag remixers as the main artist.
Matthew Engelman (Vice President of Sales/Streaming for Atlantic/BIG BEAT/Warner)

About Matthew Engelman:

Matthew is Vice President of sales and streaming for Atlantic Records. He has over 15 years’ experience managing sales for hundreds of artists, and is an active A&R contributor for the company’s sub-label, Big Beat Records. His key signings include Icona Pop, Martin Solveig, and Bingo Players. Matthew also specializes in managing digital sales and playlist strategies for platforms such as Spotify and iTunes.