An Insider's Take on Streaming with Ben Farber
Ben Farber, Senior Director of Streaming & Revenue at Warner Records, and Xposure Music’s Sydney Hubbard sat down for a video chat spanning the do’s and don’ts of streaming, breaking country newcomer Zach Bryan, and spending time with Neil Young. We laughed, we cried (we didn't), and we debunked a few streaming myths along the way!
Ben grew up on punk rock music, particularly Blink 182 (his self-proclaimed favorite band of all time–forever!), Jimmy Eat World, and Green Day. “I was really into skateboarding, skate culture, and watching skate videos. That got me really into punk rock music,” Ben shares.
Ben started his career in the music business with an internship in the marketing department at Interscope Records. He then moved to Los Angeles after graduation to continue working in the music industry. Ben spent over four years at Pandora and is going on his fifth year with Warner.
Now a 16-year industry veteran, having graduated from streaming service to a major label's streaming department, Ben shares that a day in his life is much like that of a sales executive. Ben says, “My main focus is on streaming algorithms, how to set up products, how to maximize their visibility across all of these platforms, and educating all of our internal teams that we work with on how streaming can be implemented into our marketing plans.”
It’s powerful to have someone like Ben Farber on your side as an artist, so what is talent to do without "a Ben" in their court these days?
“Being part of a major label, a very established independent label, or distributor has some serious value for making those connections. At the same time, these DSPs value independent artists just as much as they value signed artists,” says Ben.
Ben suggests that independent artists focus on growing their own community and taking advantage of the tools provided by streaming platforms. He recommends submitting songs four to six weeks before release through distributors like Distro Kid or TuneCore and optimizing profiles, including filling out the section for Spotify for Artists.
“There's a section in Spotify for Artists for more about the artist, and the number of independent artists I've seen just leave that blank…fill it out!”
Ben clarifies that while a song may spend a brief period of time on a notable playlist, it’s ultimately a short-term gain. Ben recommends artists allocate their funds toward creating quality content and advertising on social media, rather than ever spending it on playlist spots. When asked what not to do as an artist looking to ramp up their streaming numbers, Ben is emphatic (as so many industry veterans are): don't pay for playlisting.
“I'm not a proponent of paying for playlisting. An independent artist's dollars can go further when spent on other forms of promotion.”
Ben also explains that one of the biggest misconceptions about DSPs is that “they’re these scary gatekeepers that you don't have access to, and that they are these people who don't care about music and are out to scam you. That’s not true. I think that all of these companies have great people behind them that are passionate about music and want to help move the music culture forward.”
Ben certainly knows, having worked with several notable artists, including Zach Bryan and Neil Young. Zach Bryan, who was the first country artist on the Spotify RADAR program (Spotify's emerging artist program), has been on an explosive trajectory over the past few years. When Spotify launched RADAR in the US, Zach clinched the title of their inaugural U.S. artist and their first rising star from the country genre. Ben advises not to miss Zach in stadiums across the U.S. this summer.
Working with Neil Young has been another incredible experience for Ben. Neil has been signed to Warner for his entire career. The Zane Lowe interview with Neil was not only a special moment for both Zane and Ben, it was a staple promotion for Neil Young's 41st (yes, 41st) studio album titled Barn.
“We worked very closely with Apple Music and his management to ultimately make it happen and figure out how to do it. It was a pinch me moment because I mean hello, it's f***** Neil Young,”
Spending time with artists at all stages of their career has given Ben deep insight into what’s matters for artist growth these days. Ben believes that it's essential to figure out exactly where your fans exist online and that artists should focus on not only finding their true fans, but having discussions with them. Ben mentions Discord servers as one method of bringing all of the super fans together in one chat space.
Outside of his main role at Warner, Ben is a creator in his own right. He ran a Podcast titled “How the F Do I?” and founded Under the Radar, a curated showcase series in Los Angeles. Follow along with Ben’s adventures and projects on Instagram @blfarber and book time to chat with him on Xposure Music.