JuliansPromos: A look into the man behind soca's biggest platform
Not too long ago, unless you had a ton of money to spend behind promoting your music, was in the ‘in-crowd’ of the soca giants to endorse your music, or had a collab with one of those said giants, as an emerging artist it may have been a struggle to get recognition and your music played.
That was before the age of JuliansPromos.
Julian Hackett is the man behind JuliansPromos and, along with his small team, has built a massive platform that has allowed artists from all over the Caribbean to not only showcase their music but also bring soca to the world.
In today's digital age of soca, the platform allows for more of an equal playing field where there are no gatekeepers, no partiality that is well known in the radio world, and where emerging and established artists alike can have their music heard and reach millions.
Although JuliansPromos has just under 7000,000 YouTube subscribers and millions of video views, you might be surprised to learn that the team that pushes the brand is quite small.
The team of three is comprised of the owner and co-founder Julian, Vivaa, who started the brand with him and also serves as media correspondent, and Chandy, who manages their PR and is also a media correspondent.
Loop reached out to Julian, where he gave us a bit of a deep dive into the brand and how it has become critical in connecting the region and diaspora and placing a more international spotlight on the genre.
What prompted you to start JuliansPromos and how did you start?
I started off in music around 2007 as a big fan of soca, I loved the music and the culture that was associated with it but I found myself finding many songs online that were poorly showcased. I began uploading music on an old social media music platform called Imeem where I had two channels; I was on there for about three years until it was bought out by another old social media platform called MySpace. When Imeem closed down in 2009, I was contacted by Islandmix.com to help their music section where I drew huge crowds because I always showcased soca.
I would message artists and ask them if I could upload their content and most would agree because they would get a lot of exposure, so much that they were now requesting for me to post their material.
In 2010, I met my best friend Vivaa and we got into doing entertainment media; she wanted to interview soca artists and I decided to be her videographer with no background in video, but I learned as I went along. In a way, you can say I got into this by accident and it rapidly grew from there.
In 2011, I left Island Mix to branch off completely as JuliansPromos and that’s when I took to YouTube to build a network. We got into media coverage in addition to marketing music, interviewing soca artists all over the world.
When we began it was hard because we really had no finances, we were travelling to carnivals, sourcing wardrobe and getting event access all on our own.
What would you say is the formula that has contributed to the brand’s growth over the years?
I’m very open-minded when it comes to marketing and promoting music. I’m constantly reading and keeping up with the direction of social media as well as the way people take in music.
Understanding the music climate helps me to understand how to market various things. Before the start of the following year I always reevaluate everything I’ve done and think about how I can do this better, how can I help artists, what new social media change can I take advantage of to better the brand. The stronger our following is the easier it is for us to help artists.
Some people have argued that your model doesn’t make sense because artists pay you to have videos shared on YouTube--something they can do on their own platforms for free. What would you say to this?
I would say if they can do it on their own for free, why don’t they? We don’t have nearly 700,000 subscribers just because we upload music, there is a unique way to how our channel is presented and maintained and it shows in all our work.
When we first began, detailed descriptions for soca songs on social media was nonexistent, good artwork in videos was rare, high quality wasn’t the norm.
We take the time to make sure most of our uploads are at a high standard. Everyone is free to promote their own music themselves, but once you are requesting someone else do it for you, now it becomes a service.
Building a brand not only takes time, drive and dedication but it also takes money: annual costs for programmes, editing software, ads, website costs, outfits, travel, etc.
What many don’t know is we do way more than just upload music. We do artist consultation and social media management; we monitor, provide and upload stats; listen to hundreds of songs daily; manage playlists; song placement; video optimizations; work with management teams; producer collaborations; co-manage artists and their schedules; event advertising...all in addition to maintaining our own social media pages and website.
When hundreds of artists are demanding a service to be provided that person should not be dedicating their daily life to help many artists for free or with no type of compensation. We aren’t a radio station, we aren’t working on a weekly salary while doing music. At one point, artists would demand their song to be posted as though it was mandatory, requests grew from four times a week to now sometimes over 200 times a week. It’s a job and no one should work for free.
How would you say the platform has helped to connect and promote the region and diaspora?
Many people watch our network from major record labels, are major festival promoters, and are people from regions around the world are big fans of soca like Belgium, Japan, Sweden, Norway, all over.
We currently have the largest platform on YouTube for soca and I feel this brings everyone in the diaspora into one place. Numbers matter, and when people see how large of a following soca music has, it brings awareness to the genre, as well as shows everyone who’s either now being introduced to the music or has doubted its reach exactly how powerful the sound is once it's presented right.
What’s next for the team?
We’re planning to integrate digital music distribution into our brand which is something I wanted to do for a while. There are a lot of great distribution platforms for soca artists to use to ensure their music isn’t only just playing on the radio in their island or YouTube but is showcased to the entire world on every platform possible.
This is the number one complaint we get from listeners, we debut so much exclusive material at a rapid pace but most of the songs aren’t for sale yet, most of the songs aren’t on Spotify and other platforms in a reasonable amount of time for fans to listen to. I want to sync my fast method of debuting exclusive songs on our YouTube channel, along with having material up on streaming platforms nearly just as fast for listeners.
Not only is this better for fans who have accounts on other services, but it also helps artists and producers collect revenue on their songs faster and by using our major channel to drive traffic. We've already have been helping artists build their own YouTube, Spotify and Instagram pages, provided knowledge to a lot of emerging soca artists on how algorithms work and how to have a better online presence to ensure they don’t get lost with all the changes on social media. So, this is a next step toward growing the brand into more than just another YouTube channel by transitioning into a distribution label.
I’m also planning to make a return to media in the far future, maybe for just a year covering carnivals and events and interviewing artists. There’s a lot of new artists out that we would love to interview. I just must find the right timing to start this, our 10-year anniversary is coming up in a few years so this would be a great tie into where we began.