Face To Face with Eric Fritschi, founder of Ansatz Music Group
In this new episode of Face to Face, set up in Believe’s Parisian HQ, we’re meeting with the founder artist-centric music marketing and strategy company Ansatz Music Group.
You may never have heard of Eric Fritschi before today, but you've probably heard of some of the bands and artists he's worked with: Milky Chance, Petit Biscuit, Major Lazer... and if you have, it's partly thanks to Eric Fritschi's incredible talent and hard work.
Eric has been working in the music industry for over 20 years and has devoted much of his career to artist development through strategy and marketing. After working in various music marketing groups such as mtheory and Netwerk, he founded Ansatz Music Group in 2021 in Los Angeles, to help artists boost their careers through long-term strategic plans.
To conduct the interview and face up to this impressive track record, we called on Romain Becker, Believe's Label & Artist Solutions President and subsequently one of our best in-house marketing experts.
Romain Becker: Hi Eric! We thought it would be good to have a discussion with you, to understand better what you do and what is your job as a manager. Could you first introduce yourself?
Eric Fritschi: Sure, I'm Eric Fritschi, I'm the founder of Ansatz Music Group, and we do global marketing and career strategy for artists like Milky Chance, Petit Biscuit, SuperHigh, and NeonDreams.
R.B: You have been working with many artists during these past years, could you tell us like what has been the biggest evolution on the market that have had impact on your work and in the day you develop an artist?
E.F: The biggest evolution has been the transformation of streaming over the last eight years or so.
That has meant more from a focus of purchasing and getting consumers to buy something from you, to more of a passive market share, being part of somebody's life, emotional resonance, creating memories together, things like this.
So, it's a huge opportunity for our artists, but it's been challenging because you need to be always on, always trying to get into people's conversations. But it's also mean being more global.
R.B : I have the feeling that artists like Petit Biscuit, who started in France, or also Milky Chance, who started in Germany, have really benefited from this evolution to the digital world. Could you explain to us what has been the story behind those artists, and how did you leverage digital to develop them?
E.F : Let’s start with Petit Biscuit example. **Before, traditional business would have usually been confined to one or two countries. That's how we did it. You would market in the one country and if it had huge success and start to think of some others. But at the beginning of working France, the playlists were able to move Petit Biscuit music all around the world at the same time. Even if the marketing was similar in the beginning, you immediately saw audiences in the Americas, across Europe, Australia, Asia.
It created a lot more opportunities, with fewer gatekeepers. And just like social media, it was a direct connection with fans and a way to talk to them. So there were playlists in the early days, like on global radio stations, that he was able to get on. There are playlists for literally every genre, so you don't have to fit into a particular radio format, but you can fit into playlist formats and find fans all around the world.
For Milky Chance, they happened just before streaming. Well, it first did start on YouTube and they sort of got a buzz going, and then it turned into a big mainstream record. It’s been fun to work on getting that back into streaming.
R.B: So, rather than developing the artist country by country, you've started to develop it more globally at the same time. This means you have a very different way of organizing your strategy, and you're trying to see it as a very global thing rather than a step-by-step development.
E.F: Yes, if you think about it, in the streaming world, you have to succeed in just one country... Well, you could work in the one country that makes it very difficult. Or you could work multiple countries and let them work together. Because, if you're in France, you might listen to French playlist, but you might listen to playlist from Africa or from the US or from Australia or something like this.
If you have things happening in other places, it creates more paths to success, and we all love that. You could become bigger in France by having it all work together. So it was the first thing to do. Even if your goal is to be popular or breakthrough in one country, you can work multiples, so you can have traction iand opportunities in other countries. Doing this, we saw that the artist could immediately start traveling, doing more PR, touring in other countries.
R.B: We had many discussions about data and how it’s part of your work signature.
Could you tell us about how you’re using data to develop artists, and how do you use our technology DataMusic to make your decisions and establish your data strategy?
E.F: You know, as streaming has evolved, it has really become about algorithms. Which can be quite scary for some people in the creative community, because it sounds like something not human is picking hits. And we don't feel like that's the right way.
There are recommendation engines and what they're doing is harnessing fan behavior. From our perspective, this is a great opportunity for artists. It gives you the freedom to really focus on the fans you have, instead of thinking about the fans you don't have. And to delight fans you do have, because if you do delight the fans that you already have, the recommendation engines notice this and start defining fans as such..
So it's a strange way of thinking that allows you to grow by looking inwards rather than outwards. We've had this work over dozens of artists.
R.B: Do you have an example of the use of data in an operation where you focused on a small community of fans, and how this had an effect on the creation of larger communities?
E.F: From a more traditional point of view, when we release a song, we look at the data to see where there's a reaction. We're already working in several countries, looking for fans in all areas, rather than just one place and one way. So, data can help us geographically,
It can help us benchmarking against our previous releases, to see if this is a more reactive record that we should lean into; or a little bit less reactive we should let unfold more organically.
When we joined the Milky Chance team, we saw that the fans really loved a cover songs, remixes, live versions, acoustic versions.. and the band wasn't doing a lot of that officially. There was a lot of unofficial content, but not official content. We were able to use this data to discuss with the group to inform their creative decisions and see what they felt comfortable exploring, which led to the idea of the "Trip Tape".
They released a few mixtapes with covers, new demos, remixes, a bit more freedom, and it really paid off. All of a sudden, the fans were very enthusiastic. We could see where and what songs they were responding to. We were able to put more effort into marketing and content.
R.B: One of the recent changes in the way we develop our artists is the arrival of all the short-form video platforms, such as TikTok, Shorts, Reels, which have created new opportunities for artists to find their audience. What has been your perspective on the birth and evolution of these short-form video platforms, and how have you used them for your artist roster?
E.F: Traditionally, if you create a community around your artist, you know that people respond well to stories. It allows the artist to tell what they want to tell, in the way they want to tell it, directly to the fans, without going through press outlets or other things we used to work with. For the artist, it's a real opportunity.
But what's changed the most, of course, is that it has created a whole community, a community of creators, who can participate in the music, and that's the most fun of all. So now we're delighting fans. One of the things we used to delight fans is to give them the tools to interact with the music.
That could be an instrumental version, a weird remix, a new cover version or something like this that they can lean into and create on top of it. So, while our artists are not creating their own trends, they provide the tools for fans and then use their creativity to drive songs and storytelling further.
R.B: That’s very inspiring! One of the thing we’re are really focusing on at Believe is how we can drive more artist discover through algorithm based recommendation. We've been pioneer in using technology like Spotify’s Discovery Mode and we have built more technology on top of this to make sure that we managed to leverage it as much as possible. What has been your perspective on this tool, and how have your artists benefited from it?
E.F: Well, in a couple of ways. For one thing, in streaming, when you're trying to delight fans, it doesn't matter when and where the fan is coming in, if it's coming in through the first song you ever put out or the song you put out last week. What we need is flexibility and autonomy to allow the band to delight fans. A lot of times, traditional relationships create rules of what you can and can't do, or how quickly you can react. So Believe has been a great partner for us, allowing and facilitating that flexibility to lean into these kinds of things. Then we're trying to get into these algorithms and we need new tools, so Believe's experiments with Discovery Mode have been very powerful for us, because it's another to find new fans, and bring them deeper in the artists universe. It’s clearly had a great impact on exploration
R.B: Another thing in which Believe has also been investing a lot is coordinating international initiatives to develop an artist. We’ve created the ITL program, where another few artists have beneficiated. Could you tell us what the key learnings and benefits have been from implementing these programs internationally with our EMP teams?
E.F: Well, first we need help reading the record and seeing where the tractions coming from internationally, so the international teams are helping us to read them and to talk to partners locally. Believe has built an incredible local presence in many regions around the world. Local teams help us read the data records and feedback to the global strategic team. And of course, to take what's happening in one region to move and moving it to the next one. It is the easiest for us to expand our musical reach.
R.B: It's good to hear that, thanks to good coordination and an international presence, we've been able to capitalize on all the efforts and great ideas you've developed with the artist. Eric, we wanted to know how you and Believe build the strategy behind an album release. When do we commit? And how do we organize cooperation during the album's release?
E.F: The first phase of a new release actually starts with the catalog. In a recommendation engine, if you're an established artist, you're going to be your one refer. Hopefully, we're going to start a couple months before the first new single comes out. At that point, we talk to the Believe team, trying to engage on the pre-release plan: how do we build momentum going into the first single, how do we use the single to launch into the EP or album. DSPs work earlier and earlier now, so if you’re looking for big stuff from them, you have to get them as soon as possible to give them time to think about the content release plan around your album. The minute we know that the artist is getting close to finishing the music, we're in with the Believe distribution team to start that planning process. So hopefully that's six months ahead, nine months ahead.
R.B: Before we conclude this chat, we’re curious to know what has been the most satisfying moments in career development of Milky Chance?
E.F: When we met with them and we talked them through how we thought the industry was working, it was quite different. It was all about getting back to the fans, focusing on what we have and not what we don't, etc. he band trusted the team and really embraced it. And now it has infiltrated every part of their business, so you can feel the creativity they have, the flexibility, the fact that there's no rules and that it’s really about finding what's authentic and you and how fans can connect to it.
We've seen their live show stepping up. We think that they've just turned in the best album of their career. There is just a playfulness that their autonomy and freedom has brought them. It's been really fun to watch.