Groover is a platform that gained traction in the last five years as one of the major places where artists can have people to listen to their tracks, with the possibility of receiving online promotion. As arguably the most significant competitor to SubmitHub, they’ve carved out a sizable space for themselves in the music promotion sphere. I had a chance to speak with one of their co-founders, Dorian Perron, about how the company came about, how they’ve grown and what their goals are.

– Hi Dorian. Thanks for jumping on a call with me. Can you tell me about your background prior to Groover and how the company came together?

Sure. Prior to starting Groover, I was studying business in Paris and doing internships with companies like La Tribune and BPI France. The final part of my studies involved taking an entrepreneurship program at UC Berkeley in California, which is where I met my co-founders, Romain Palmieri and Rafael Cohen. We started Groover in 2017 during our last four months in the program and built a minimum viable product that consisted of a WordPress site with a Paypal button and a Google Form for submitting music. Then we launched the company in 2018 after returning to Paris.

As a brief explanation, Groover allows artists to promote their music to curators who give feedback on the track, and if they want to, will showcase the music on a blog, a playlist, a radio station or release it on their label. We also offer partners for artists to work with, as well as coaches who can give them advice. As of today, over 4 million pieces of feedback have been given on Groover and at least 1000 tracks have been signed to record labels.

– Prior to running a tech company, you had your own music blog, correct? 

Yes, I started a blog in 2013 called Indeflagration. Back then, I would visit music stores to pick out the CDs with nice artwork, scan the barcode and listen to 30-second samples. Then I’d buy the two or three albums I liked most and write about the music everyday on my blog. My friends eventually joined me and we’d soon be reviewing concerts and festivals, followed by producing live shows at my place, which we called Studio Flagrant. I didn’t know much about the music industry, but the process of running the blog made me discover how things worked, and by the time we started Groover, each founder had their own sphere of experience: Romain had produced an EP and launched a label with his father, but was struggling to get the music heard; I was receiving hundreds of emails per day from artists who wanted write-ups on Indeflagration, but I didn’t have time to even open them. Rafael was making videos for the French rap scene and understood what indie artists wanted, so Groover was born from those experiences. Today, I manage the business and music operations, Romain handles overall strategy, hiring and funding, with Rafael handling product strategy.

– Now that Groover has become successful, do you still run Indeflagration?

Yes, I do, but I don’t write much anymore since Groover takes up most of my time. We still create playlists and we’ve had some live shows in the last few years, but things aren’t very active beyond that, though I’d like to find time to reignite things. I’m also starting to DJ in bars and venues in Paris, which serves as a better connection to my passion as a music curator.

– In order to get Groover off the ground, you and your co-founders went through the TechStars Paris program. What was that like?

It was great. We applied to Techstars Paris towards the end of 2018 and got in. Thanks to them, we had our own free offices for a semester and they also invested money in Groover, which enabled us to hire interns and full-time employees. They also helped us define our value proposition and pitch our projects, plus they introduced us to investors. All of that helped us raise our first €1.3 million pre-seed in the summer of 2019. Our second funding round in 2021 was for €6 million, and we secured both rounds ourselves, with Techstars acting as an enabler and providing us with credibility.

– How were you able to raise so much capital considering that Groover is one of many companies in this space? Isn’t the world of music promotion a crowded arena?

Competition is actually a good thing since it means there’s a market for your product, but our domain isn’t really overcrowded – areas like distribution, sample packs and music plugins are saturated, but not music promotion. Big companies like Believe and Downtown don’t really address that, so there’s space for smaller players like us to grow.

Most of the companies addressing music promotion aren’t that relevant, or they only offer social media services, which isn’t what Groover does. The only other truly relevant player with a similar model to ours is SubmitHub. However, when we spoke to European artists, most of them didn’t know about SubmitHub, and the ones who did were disappointed that it wasn’t adapted to their genres of music. SubmitHub was mostly US-focused at the time, and most of their competitors failed because they didn’t prioritize developing a community of curators. Most of them just created a basic website and invited SubmitHub’s curators to join, despite there being no upside for doing so. They also didn’t have the energy to meet with people and tell them why they should use their platform, which is what Groover did, and I believe it played a big part in setting us apart from the competition. Also, if you compare SubmitHub and Groover, there’s only a small overlap of curators, partly because we started by focusing on France, which pushed all the artists in this region towards us. So if you’re a media outlet in France who’s interested in new French music, you wouldn’t find that on SubmitHub, whereas you’d find it on Groover. We then continued that strategy to grow our communities in Quebec, Brazil, Italy, the UK, Germany, Latin America, and the US.

– One of Groover’s primary value adds is offering artists the chance to be featured on third-party playlists. In what ways can this help an artist?

Spotify’s editorial playlists are hard to get on unless you already have traction, and the algorithmic ones generate more traction since they’re efficient in identifying what listeners want to hear. But the algorithmic ones only pick a track if it has organic traction, which is something third-party playlists can help with. There’s an index that only Spotify and its distributors have access to called the Popularity Index. According to that, you maximize your chances of being added to Discover Weekly if your track reaches 10,000 streams in its first 28 days of release, and that’s where independent playlists can help you reach that number.

What are Groovers’ thoughts on running ads to boost streams? Do you ever get involved with that?

We run ads on Meta for some of our artists and it works quite well if the ad includes a video and a Spotify smartlink. We do YouTube ads too, which is useful since traction on YouTube leads to activity on other platforms. You can certainly generate traction by running ads, but it’s usually expensive and requires a budget.

– You’ve said in the past that most independent artists can’t afford to buy PR, so how does Groover help on the PR side unless your curators can offer coverage in the high-profile outlets?

Firstly, I don’t think you should overlook the role of smaller blogs. Indeflagration received 100 emails per day and I didn’t answer any of them, so it’s hard to get noticed by smaller outlets too, and it’s precisely why a lot of artists use Groover. We’re able to help because we provide a venue where someone will at least listen to your track, and if the music is good, it has a higher likelihood to be shared, which is why we have a 25% share rate. But to answer your question, we do have curators who work for bigger platforms, like journalists from Rolling Stone. We have three of their main editors from Latin America, but the top curators are also pickier with what they review, so the best strategy is to contact a mix of different curators.

– In 2019, Groover’s user base was mainly in France, Belgium, and Canada. Has that changed over the years, and what kind of feedback have you gotten from your American users about the platform?

We have about 40% of our user base in the US, 18% in France, and 10% in the UK. There’s also a variety of countries like Canada, Germany, Germany, Italy and Brazil that have 5% each.

Many of our US competitors only focus on the US, whereas Groover is more global, and it’s what our American users tell us they love the most. As an example, we had no American curators when we launched, but we did have American users contacting curators in France. A lot of US artists aren’t necessarily producing for their market, and they want to see if their music works around the world, which is why 50% of their outreach is to curators abroad, and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve grown in the US.

– How did you build up your curator network? Was there a specific strategy for that?

Our initial focus was on building a good base in France. Following that,  we took a country-by-country approach of recruiting Ambassadors in different regions. I handled France and Quebec, Pietro Calletti handled Italy, Thiago Cyrino handled Brazil, and Luis Ruiz handled Spain and Latin America. All of us were on the ground building relationships with new curators. Cléa Stoykov ended up taking over France and Quebec from me, and these operations are now led by our Head of Music Curators, Thomas Dwarswaard and Thiago.

We also have a lot of curators who sign up on their own since Groover is growing and gets discovered by more people. Our user acquisition is now 50% from  ambassador outreach and 50% from inbound sign-ups. On the curator side, we’re very selective about who we accept, and we turn down 90% of applicants.

– Groover has several thousands of curators from different parts of the music industry. If I mention a few of the main categories, could you give some examples of the most notable names you’ve onboarded?

Record Labels: We have Ba Da Bing Records, an indie label from New York, as well as Electro Posé, the biggest chill electronic channel on YouTube. We have College Music, which is a label on Lofi Music, and Tomorrowland Music, a label linked to the festival. We have Freshly Squeezed, a cool jazz label in the UK, and smaller labels like Friendsome Records who focus on indie dance and italo-disco, as well as Chinese Man Records, an electronic label.

Radio stations: We have Tsugi, one of the biggest electronic magazines with their own station. We also have an FM station called Radio NEO, among others.

Media Outlets: We have three journalists from Rolling Stone Mexico, Argentina and Colombia: Pablo Monroy, Daniel Flores and Riccardo Duran, respectively. We also have DJ Mag France, as well as Ear Milk and Obscure Sounds in the US. Kyle Stevens is a really good journalist in the US and he uses Groover for curation. We generally try to onboard Chief Editors or owners of an outlet, like Alex Rainbird, or the guys from Indie Folk Central.

Live Booking Agents: We have a partnership with SoFar Sounds in Paris and Newcastle where they use Groover to find artists to book. We also organize courses where people can apply to play at Breaking Sound in the US, as well as different French festivals. There’s booking agents who’ve signed some of our users, and we produced over 50 shows in 2023 where our users played live.

– Groover has a number of partners in the music tech space. Who are some of your biggest ones?

We have partnerships with the likes of CD Baby, Tunecore, United Masters, Amuse, Distrokid, Bandzoogle, as well as PROs like SACEM and Gema. Their users get discounts to use Groover and we in turn offer discounts for their services. As an example, Soundcloud gave us access to their APIs, so when you sign up to Groover through Soundcloud, it imports your tracks directly to your account, which saves you time.

– You launched an artist accelerator in 2021 called Groover Obsessions, which has had over 200 artists go through. You also have something called Groover Club, which offers coaching to artists. How are these endeavors going?

Obsessions is actually growing and we aim to help our artists get more visibility on streaming and media outlets. We also organize shows for them in the US, UK and France, as well as introduce them to partnerships. We’re very selective with the artists on Groover Obsessions, and it consists only of 0.1% of the top performing artists on the platform.

Groover Club is more about mentorship, and is for artists who need support in building their career strategies. The Club has about 400 artists and works on a monthly subscription model where we offer sessions with dedicated coaches who talk to them about their projects. There’s also a community component since we put Club members in touch with each other, and they participate in events, workshops ,and open mics.

– Wrapping up, are there any artist success stories on Groover that come to mind?

We’ve had artists who found their managers on Groover. I was at a festival called Bars en Trans, which is one of the biggest music festivals in France, and I spoke with three different artists at the Spotify for Artists space. Each one had created important relationships through Groover: the first one found their booker, the second found their publisher and the third one found their manager. So platforms like ours help you create a network when you don’t have one, which you wouldn’t be able to do without going to certain parties or events.

– Thanks for talking to me, Dorian. It’s been great to learn about Groover. What’s next for you guys in 2024?

We intend to grow a lot in the US and will have more people joining our New York office. If you talk to artists in France, 90% of them will have heard of us, whereas it’s the opposite in the US, despite 40% of our users being there, which shows what a huge market it is. We also want to grow the Artist Services that are linked to Obsessions and Groover Club, such as writing artist bios and helping them with their visual materials, and we’re also exploring ways to run ads for artists more efficiently. Additionally, with Groover being six years old, we have a two-year plan to become profitable. The current market conditions demand that music tech companies strive for efficiency and sustainable growth, so that’s what we intend to do.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here