Sat | May 25, 2019

Audiomack looks out for ‘Now Trending’ in the streets of Kingston

Published:Thursday | May 16, 2019 | 12:13 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
From left: Taylor Guttenberg (or TGUT), international record producer, stands with dancehall deejays I Wata and Intence during a meet-and-greet with Audiomack’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, David Ponte.

The ‘Now Trending’ chart on the Audiomack streaming service’s home page remains one of the most active and frequently updated charts in the digital realm – on-the-hour updates to be exact. The chart is created from a diverse list of artistes, both established and emerging, and shares music from all genres. This, according to its co-founder and chief marketing officer (CMO) David Ponte, has positioned Jamaica’s artistes at the fore for its target markets, which include the United States, Africa and the United Kingdom.

Ponte, along with his Audiomack team, which includes creative director, New York-based record producer, disc jockey and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Guttenberg, recently crossed the Atlantic to get a first-hand taste of Jamaica’s musical smorgasbord.

“This is where the dope music is being created!” Ponte exclaimed, speaking to The Gleaner.

Their traverse of the island included stops at several recording studios and the communities of a few artistes, because, they wanted to be right at the centre of the mecca of noteworthy talent. “We wanted a greater understanding of the culture to better provide users with an authentic musical discovery experience,” Ponte explained.

TAGGING FEATURE

The seven-year-old streaming and audio distribution platform is currently tying up loose ends before its introduction of a new tagging feature related to the specific sub-genres of reggae – dancehall, roots reggae, lovers rock and soca – that will make it easier to unearth new and old music.

The music ecosystem, as the animated CMO likes to call it, still consists of gaps where artistes are not being served. Still lacking is the availability of a completely free audio service for artistes to share music and for their listeners to be able to take music offline for free. Audiomack was one of the first to test the concept when it acted as a platform for disc jockeys to share music mixtapes, prior to its transformation to an underground streaming service.

The platform has been in overdrive since last year, with the number of users quadrupled from 400,000 per day to almost two million. From that total Ponte notes that Jamaica’s music, reggae and dancehall, is doing well, with an estimated 11 per cent of the local population having the mobile application downloaded on their smartphones.

Currently, Ishawna, Jahmiel, Shane O, RDX and Maestro Don are listed in the ‘Now Trending’, amongst bigger names such as Diplo, Sizzla and Walshy Fire. According to Ponte, all this will probably change “by the time the newspaper reader turns to the next page”.

EXPANDING THE FOCUS

Ponte’s idea to place the chart on the main page was to regulate the music that is placed in direct view of the users, thus expanding the focus beyond hiphop and R&B to reggae, dancehall, Latin or reggaeton, and the fast-rising Afrobeat genre.

MORE ATTENTION

“Streaming services need to pay more attention and make a more concerted effort to highlight music that is bubbling in the music scenes across the regions, and that is why Audiomack is here in Kingston,” Ponte said.

In the next five years, he predicts that barriers preventing artistes’ music from being discovered on a large scale will gradually disappear.

This trip was the team’s first time on the ground (in Jamaica) since it officially started its operation in 2012, but aside from the needed cultural exchange, Ponte learned, “Jamaica’s music industry, like that of many other countries worldwide, lacks knowledge that can be applied to make improvements in the way the people use streaming services. That encompasses bringing album artwork into play, the marketing rollout strategies and creating playlists. These are all areas for improvement.”

Although Ponte did not reveal his picks for promising or ‘now trending’ talent, having familiarised himself with a few established as well as emerging artistes, he advised, “Music needs to be tagged with correct artwork, and, once partnered with Audiomack, the links must be properly shared on all other social networks; but more significantly, the artistes should be social on the platform and equally engaging with playlists and comment feedback” in order to earn in decent range from Audiomack’s services.