January 26, 2016
This Michigan native earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biopsychology and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Michigan, a background which has served her well in her various positions at Nielsen. She joined the company 15 years ago and worked her way up the corporate ladder, from working with data suppliers to her current post as GM for Music. It's a position that satisfies her desire to understand why a consumer acts the way they do is backed by an influx of Music Connect data, from a combination of streaming services, physical and digital sales, social media, airplay spins and audience, combined into a single source. Having just released their year-end Nielsen Music U.S. Report - which trumpets, among other things a 15.2% rise in total album consumption (including track equivalent and streaming equivalent numbers), fueled by a whopping 92.8% rise in total audio/video streams. Crawford remains amazed by Adele's phenomenal year-end performance, an outlier that demonstrates the potential of a single artist to galvanize its audience as she continues to convince corporate America of popular music artists' ability to help market their brands.
What would you take away as the most important statistic from the recent Nielsen Music U.S. Report for 2015?
The growth of streaming, along with its impact on the music business and the consumption chart we launched a year ago. Its effect on some of the titles on that chart has been huge. Getting more granular information around that streaming is important to where this business is headed. From all indications, it will continue to be a vital part of the industry.
How has the evolution from physical sales to digital streaming affected Nielsen's task?
We've been measuring digital sales since 2004 and streaming data since 2005. That information started out compartmentalized, but now it's about bringing the data together, and telling a story of overall consumption. It's about the connected display and insights.
What does this data tell us about the music consumer?
It allows us a daily view, because that's how we're collecting this information. It gives us a really quick view as to what's happening in the marketplace, say, the day after David Bowie died. Being able to monitor things in near real time and be responsive to it is important to what we do. It helps us provide color on consumer behavior, but it still doesn't provide knowledge of the "who." The streaming data is inherently anonymous in the way we collect and report it. So there's a whole part of our business that centers on consumer demographics and the rich insights behind it. Behaviorally, we can see which genres are popping in various areas, and which skipped right over digital downloads from physical buying straight to streaming. For example, the Latin Music consumer skipped right over digital purchases straight to mobile streaming.
Does your data predict a time when physical product will fade away completely?
I see a role for physical product in the near-future. Look at Adele: 83% of her first-week sales were physical albums. There is an audience out there for physical product. We've seen 10 years of growth with vinyl.
Does the data tell you anything about how Adele's album not being available on streaming services affected those physical sales and paid digital downloads?
The data doesn't offer a clear-cut answer to that. The promotional value of streaming helps certain artists. We did survey Adele buyers as to whether their purchase was influenced by the fact it wasn't available for free streaming, and they overwhelmingly said they would have bought the album regardless.
How did the Adele album turn into such a phenomenon? Was it simply a perfect storm?
There were a couple of motivating factors for consumers. One was the success of the last album, "21." And two, they'd been waiting a long time for this one. There wasn't saturation, which helped. There was just one single. There was a 55+ age group that only buys one album every few years. It was an upscale, well-heeled audience with no financial barriers.
Will Nielsen continue to release the daily figures like you did in tracking Adele's historic sales?
Absolutely. It's on our road map to create that business-to-business product on a day-to-day fashion. We have been releasing building sales charts during the week, so people can get an early read. We absolutely want to get the daily data embedded in our core products, and expect to do so this year.
How did the change in the global release date last July 10th from Tuesday to Friday affect Nielsen Music's task?
It was a challenge in several regards, especially the fact it was going to happen on a specific date. That gave us a window of just several months to change our entire methodology, the way retailers had reported to us and we'd been processing the data for nearly 20 years. To go to the hundreds of indie stores we tracked, and get them to change their reporting cycle was quite a task for us. It managed to derail some of our own plans, staying close to the industry in delivering what they demanded. I think we did an excellent job in avoiding the inherent risks involved in doing that. It's a seven-day work week now. We were able to leverage Nielsen's globalized operations to get things done in different time zones, but we have a really dedicated group of people looking at these charts over the weekend and making sense of what's happening.
In an increasingly transparent world of big data, what is the value of Nielsen Music for its industry clients?
We're an independent data aggregator which creates fairness and integrity on its charts. We just re-launched our Music Connect initiative late last year, with new functionality rolling out every six weeks. Our goals right now are to be able to break things down even more, such as tracking ad-supported and free streaming separately.
How important is social media in gauging popularity?
It's all about engagement between the consumer and artist. Brands are increasingly partnering with artists to reach an audience. Nielsen has great relationships with many of the major CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brands, with teams of people working on site at some of those companies. When we start talking about some of the capabilities and innovations of our Nielsen Music group, they understand our language, they're familiar with the roots of our methodology. Many of these brands have been investing in lifestyle and cultural marketing, including music, for a long time, without being called to measure the ROI (Return On Investment), which is why they're turning to us. 7-UP did some work with us to measure their investment in EDM, and we helped them judge the effectiveness of that ongoing campaign, not just in ROI, but in distinguishing them from their competition. Those first results led them to feature their brand more centrally in the spots, which turned out to make the campaign even more successful moving forward.
How are your relationships with the major record labels at this point?
I would characterize them as strong and evolving. People are looking for more granular data -- It's about creating an interface and mechanism to access that level of information with speed and insights. Nobody wants a data dump; there has to be an insight that comes out of it. There are full-time Nielsen people embedded at our clients' companies to provide that context.
What is the industry's biggest misconception about Nielsen Music?
That we're just SoundScan sales data. Nielsen Music has a great many capabilities, from tracking the quarter-hour audience of an artist appearance on a late-night talk show and how that performance was amplified by measuring how many Tweets mentioned that performer to what brands are typically in the grocery shopping basket of a Spotify subscriber. We know how Spanish-dominant consumers discover new music. We know what festivals Democrat-leaning music fans attend.
Why the move to Nashville after almost two decades in L.A.?
I wanted to get closer to the record labels, and this is the place to do it. It's been a lot of fun learning the Country scene here. I think it's a good place to raise a family. It's closer to my Midwestern childhood. My kids just had their first snow.