Jay Frank is currently the SVP of Music Strategy for Country Music Television, a division of MTV Networks. At CMT, he oversees the implementation of music across all platforms, including TV, web, mobile and VOD. The new synergy he is developing is changing the face of country music as he identifies future country hits through active monitoring of all platforms. This has lead to increased TV ratings, online video views, and record setting metrics for the 2008 CMT Music Awards. “Futurehit.DNA” is his first book.
Where did the seed for the idea for “Futurehit.DNA” come from?
The ideas behind “Futurehit.DNA” came about several years ago. I was watching certain songs and artists exploding faster than others. I was also seeing other songs having difficulty gaining traction. As I was pondering this, I started noticing some patterns between the successful songs. Most notable was the shorter introductions. When I started applying it, I found that it was more often than not a more accurate predictor of hit potential than previous ideas. From there, as I explored the “why” behind it, I stumbled upon other patterns.
From there, I discussed these rough ideas with several label executives, producers and songwriters. Everyone I discussed it with was blown away by the ideas and surprised they hadn’t thought of it. I then started the rough draft and the more I exposed it to industry players, the more they encouraged me on the importance of getting this book out to every musician, songwriter, producer and artist.
How long did it take to get the book published?
The book took 3 1/2 years to get from first outline to finished copy. It was completed a lot sooner than that, but my daily responsibilities at CMT and family time often meant I had to put tasks on hold briefly. Now that it’s out, I’m already thinking of what the second edition looks like. Right after I released the book, Google released their audio service. That by itself doesn’t really change the ideas in “Futurehit.DNA,” but it is a major new discovery tool that the book doesn’t take into account. So, I’ll explore these new technologies on my blog until I get enough changes to warrant a second edition.
Is your background strictly in music?
My background is largely in music, but also in broadcast media. I’ve been working with music videos for over 20 years now, and I’ve dabbled in management and label work. But overall, my experience has been synergizing the needs of the music world with that of broadcasting and digital environments. It’s difficult balancing the needs of all three areas, but I’ve found that they can be very complementary and help each other if looked at correctly.
I know of many musicians who use a mathematical approach to songwriting. Does that have anything to do with “FutureHit.DNA’s” method?
I do agree with some of the mathematical approaches to songwriting. However, I think this book deals more with the psychology of listening to music than the mathematics of it. Discovering music on the radio versus discovering music on a website are two different frames of mind. If the listener is not prepared to hear the music because of their surroundings and how they listen, then they may form negative opinions of the song.
For example, with radio, the difficulty of getting music heard was convincing a gatekeeper to play the song. Once you did that, it got added to a playlist and then multiple listens from the consumer were easy. It was just the first listen that was the hardest. Now that many discovery experiences are on demand, the easy part is getting someone to listen once. However, the world of discovery is so vast, how do you get them to listen a second time? People now feel they can hear a song, make an opinion, and unless they think it’s the best song ever, never listen again but still hold their opinion. It’s not a question of whether that’s right or wrong, it’s just what’s happening. So how can you get into the listener’s psyche to get to that second listen? That’s the key to making a song more likely a hit in the future.
Do you have any examples of artists that have found success using your method?
I do, but unfortunately I can’t mention them as they were adopting this confidentially during the time I wrote the book.
How long did it take to develop “Future Hit.DNA?”
The book took three-and-a-half years to develop and get out. The most surprising thing was how little things changed from when I began researching the book. I presumed technology would move too fast and that three years later the ideas would be outdated. The opposite happened. While the platforms and players have changed rapidly, the methodologies by which people are adopting hits has stayed the same. If anything, it’s been reinforced and the ideas in the book continually get more important by the day.
How has your work in music television affected “Future Hit.DNA?”
What’s most affected my work in the book has been working multiple platforms simultaneously. Seeing how music integrates with television, dot com, mobile, VOD and even terrestrial radio across CMT has been an immensely enriching experience. Most importantly, recognizing that today’s music video viewer is an on-demand one has changed the nature of how they watch pre-programmed videos on TV. By nature, this changes the videos people need to make to be successful. If this book helps develop music and videos that improve my audience at CMT, it’s a win-win for everyone.
You’ve used the internet in a very interesting way when promoting this book. How has the response been?
It’s been fun watching how different people react to the book. I’ve had a tremendous response to the free chapter available on www.futurehitdna.com. Allowing people to sample the book, much like they sample music, has certainly been a great way to get people into the ideas. Also, the book has been enormously successful on Amazon Kindle, recently becoming a #1 book in the Songwriting category. It doesn’t surprise me that the early adopters in music are also early adopters in other areas of technology. My big hope is that this book sparks enough ideas to bring the right economics back to the music business. We all need to help each other out, and I hope “Futurehit.DNA” gives people the tools to bring financial success back to this industry.