Recently we caught up with Digital Radio Tracker (DRT) founder Michael Matthews for an HCM exclusive. Mr. Matthews gave us an in-depth look at how his company has paved the way as an alternative for artists and labels seeking a means to track their progression via internet radio. He also gives us a little insight into how DRT is beneficial to new and developing artists and labels, as well as some of the hurdles he’s faced over the years creating this platform. Take a look below to find out more about the man behind the successful tracking platform known as Digital Radio Tracker.
Michael Matthews Interview
HCM. First, briefly tell us about yourself and how you got started in digital media?
Michael Matthews. My name is Michael Matthews. I started off in the music industry as an artist manager. I did professional artist management for 25 years. During that time, I built a lot of relationships and decided to launch a marketing company called Dominion Global Marketing. After retiring from artist management, I focused on radio promotion for a while. As I saw technology changing the music industry, I went on to create the internet radio campaign taking the same model from Commercial FM promotion. A couple years later I was led to form the music monitoring company, DigitalRadioTracker. DigitalRadioTracker.com Inc. also known as DRT is a leading global internet radio monitoring company that tracks radio airplay of songs played on over 5000+ radio stations around the globe. These stations (major to independent) are comprised of an array of FM Terrestrial, Satellite, and College as well as thousands of digital streaming radio stations.
HCM. How did you come up with the concept for Digital Radio Tracker?
Michael Matthews. It all started one day as I was talking to an associate. We started to notice that more and more of the songs that we were promoting were being played on digital radio. At the time, it was referred to as Internet Radio. As we began our research, we discovered that no one was really monitoring the activity of songs on digital streaming radio. As a record promoter, you always want to know what is going on with the songs you are promoting and be able to illustrate to your clients that you are working for them. In talking to some of the main monitoring companies, we found out that they were not interested in monitoring airplay on digital radio as well as some small-market FM stations. These stations are known to support new and developing artists and are much easier to garner airplay from. Being that this was a void in the music industry, we thought if no one wants to do it, maybe we should try and develop something. What started off as an internal software to show our clients that their song was being played at various levels of radio, has now turned into a global monitoring company – DigitalRadioTracker.
HCM. What is unique about Digital Radio Tracker (DRT)?
Michael Matthews. DigitalRadioTracker is the only company in the world to provide a FREE artist/song/broadcaster searchable database to our users which contains over 45 million song titles. This has been an invaluable resource tool for independent artists. Other monitoring companies charge to access their database. DigitalRadioTracker is also the only monitoring company in the world that does not require any special encoding or fingerprinting. By using its proprietary software, DRT can track songs from the first time it is played! Other monitoring sources cannot monitor a song unless someone sends the song to them to be encoded first. This is especially important as spins are often missed on songs which can affect promotional strategies and royalties on a project. One of the unique things about DRT is that we also track different versions of a song such as a feature or a remix. Other monitoring companies simply merge the song detections under one file. DRT has simplified the process of getting a song tracked. Get your song played at least one-time on any of the 5000+ stations that DRT monitors and a DRT file will be created on that song.
HCM. How are your companies service beneficial to an up-and-coming artist or label?
Michael Matthews. DRT is utilized by artists, publicists, managers, promoters, radio station programmers, DJs, music industry executives, and more! The global airplay data that DRT collects is very useful to artists and record labels because they can use the information to book shows and tours, set-up interviews, sell merchandise or promote their songs to other radio stations to secure more airplay. Artists and record labels can also use the airplay information to assist in collecting royalties on their music and increase their fan base. Or they can use the data to develop promotional strategies and learn which markets to further promote and market their music. Before now, there was no other monitoring source providing this level of analytics for new independent artists and record labels to be able to monetize their brand.
HCM. Is DRT geared to one style of music or is it open to all genres?
Michael Matthews. DRT specializes in monitoring radio airplay by broadcasters of the following genres: Contemporary Hit Radio/Pop (Top 40), Urban-Hip-Hop-Rap/R&B, Country/Americana, Rock/Alternative, Gospel/Christian/Inspirational, Adult Contemporary, and some Blues/Jazz.
HCM. Does DRT have a charting system? If so, where can one find it?
Michael Matthews. Yes, DRT Airplay Charts can be found on our website http://www.DigitalRadioTracker.com. DigitalRadioTracker compiles data to produce nine weekly song charts. These charts are DRT Global Top 200, Top 150 Independent, Top 25 International as well as Top 50 Pop, R&B/Hip-Hop, Country, Gospel/Inspirational, Adult Contemporary, and Rock. We have published these charts consistently for the last 9 years. The DRT Charts is a great measuring tool on the amount of airplay exposure a song is receiving on a global level. Unlike other industry charts that simply focus on airplay in the U.S., DRT is compiling data globally and from all different classifications of radio stations. Although we mainly focus on digital streaming radio, we also monitor a vast array of Commercial FM, Satellite, and College Radio stations around the world. This has enabled us to give independent artists and labels a louder voice as they are receiving global airplay and representation on DRT Charts.
HCM. What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced while creating your brand and how were you able to overcome them?
Michael Matthews. One of the biggest obstacles, in the beginning, was finding believers. I had so many people tell me, “No one is paying attention to internet radio, there is no value there, no one is listening!” It was very discouraging to hear. I think when you are a forward thinker and a visionary you are going to get a lot of that. Not everyone can see your vision. It was extremely hard to get help, acceptance, and financial partners. In some ways, it is still that way to this day. The music industry as we all know is exceedingly difficult to break into. And when you are disrupting a space, no one is going to just jump on the bandwagon. A big part of overcoming it is simply time. It was difficult, but I was determined to stick it out. Over the years, as technology evolved DRT has seen more and more individuals embracing digital streaming radio. Through this and perseverance we were able to convince the industry of our viability and that there is a lot of value in what DRT offers. Like anything, you must find those initial believers and grow your brand to becoming a credible source.
HCM. If any, is there any advice you would like to give to an artist or label trying to establish a footprint in today’s industry?
Michael Matthews. The best advice I could give to anyone looking to pursue music is, stay true to your artistic craft. Focus on building your brand by any means necessary. Do not allow anyone to tell you that you will not be successful because you do not have this or that. And most importantly do not allow the politics of this industry to interfere with your success. An incredibly wise person once told me, “When you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do!”
HCM. Tell us about your DRT Certified Plaques.
Michael Matthews. Our DRT Certified Plaques are some of the highest quality in the music industry. They are made using 100% Italian solid wood frame, superior quality printing on plexiglass and 3D raised inserts. DRT is the only company in the music industry to use Augmented Reality technology in our plaques. This feature allows you to scan your plaque with your phone or tablet and it will play the artist’s music video! To qualify, an artist must have a single charted on any of the official DRT Charts for a minimum of one week. This can be at any chart position from 2014 to present. We are excited that artists can have an accolade to display their success and enjoy a lifetime of memories with a DRT Certified Plaque!
HCM. Lastly, is there anyone you would like to acknowledge as a contributor to your company’s success?
Michael Matthews. DRT has a strong team of loyal believers and our moto from day one is, “there is no I in team”. Having these loyal believers by my side, trusting me and believing in the vision has held me up and taken this company to where it is today. Our desire is to continue to make a difference in the music industry and give a voice to independent artists and radio stations around the world. With these loyal believers standing with me I know DRT’s future is limitless.