For Soy Kim, Music Marketing Is Cultural Storytelling
As a creator product marketer at Spotify, Soy Kim is the bridge between artist, product and the streaming service. Her role sits at the intersection of creator monetization, music marketing and tech strategy, ensuring that the relationship between the platform and its residents is beneficial to millions of artists.
Kim’s desire to better the lives of all artists stems from her time studying cello at a music conservatory. Even though she ultimately decided not to pursue a career in music performance, the years she spent playing alongside musicians of various backgrounds — which even led to her performing at Carnegie Hall — instilled a deep empathy for artists and their craft in her. “Our work is tangibly shaping the future of the business,” she says. “Our shared goal is to drive lasting impact that meaningfully supports artists at all stages of their careers.” Kim’s job consists of crafting go-to-market strategies, launching Spotify for Artists products and educating artists on the Spotify for Artists tools at their disposal — in short, helping them and their teams build their audiences. She also collaborates with cross-functional partners from different departments to ensure that Spotify’s product messaging is cohesive. “The products we launch impact the lives of millions of artists around the world,” she shares, “and product marketers are responsible for best representing their voices and needs in the product development process and beyond.”
On top of her role as a creator product marketer, Kim also leads SPACE, Spotify’s Asian & Pacific Islander belonging group of over 600 employees. She works on strategic programs and partnerships to drive Asian & Pacific Islander inclusion, awareness and community — an important cause for Kim, who is bicultural and bilingual. Raised in the States with a bachelor’s from Harvard University and MBA from Yale, Kim relocated to Seoul, South Korea where she had opportunities in a major media conglomerate, broadcast network and independent record label; she specifies her stint at the entertainment company CJ ENM as the job that gave her experience in the co-productions between the US and Korea in film and music. She eventually returned to the States and served as a digital marketing director at Columbia Records, where she oversaw digital marketing for almost two dozen artists including Baby Keem and BTS. “After growing up in the US, working in Seoul was initially challenging,” she admits. “But I am grateful, as I gained bilingual business fluency in reading, writing and speaking Korean.”
“Our shared goal is to drive lasting impact that meaningfully supports artists at all stages of their careers.”
In three words each, how would you describe your job to someone who isn’t familiar with the music industry?
Empowering the future.
Can you run us through a day in your work life?
No two days are the same. Some days involve observing user testing or analyzing A/B data to ensure product-market fit; other days involve proactively brainstorming the next iteration or phase of a product; still other days may involve flying out to moderate an industry conference and share best practices with artists and their teams.
What would you say are the biggest advantages of having worked in both the South Korean and American music industries?
Learning that there is no singular way to operate a business, and observing the interconnectedness of the music industry first hand. The American music industry is more established; the South Korean business moves at a quicker pace, as it is comparatively younger and evolving in real time. There is equally something to gain from learning how incumbents have succeeded and built a global legacy, as well as how newer arrivals on the scene are creatively disintermediating.
How do you hope the relations between the Asian and American music industries will flourish in the near future?
I hope to see more innovative, first-in-market partnerships between the two industries. Both sides of the world produce innovative content loved by fans, and I’d love to see more strategic collaborations. For a long time, the Asian music and content market was seen as “foreign” or “far away,” but the breakthrough of Asian content on the global scale is very exciting. Consumers no longer find subtitles to be an insurmountable wall, nor do they find content in a different language to be unrelatable. I’m excited for a future where more cross-cultural, “glocal” projects can come to life, while also continuing to foster a pipeline of content from APAC (and other regions) without the need to change that content to cater to another market’s tastes.
“Consumers no longer find subtitles to be an insurmountable wall, nor do they find content in a different language to be unrelatable.”
Did you always know you wanted to have the career you do now, and did school play any part in inspiring you to this path?
No, I did not. I’m grateful for the people who gave me a chance, as I did not enter the music business through “traditional” means. In college, I studied Sociology and Screenwriting, which are essentially two different forms of storytelling. The former puts a lens on why and how societies form; the latter puts a lens on telling a visual story through the written word. Both form the foundation for my work as a marketer, where it is critical to understand customer needs and how to build products and narratives that match those needs. I do not see an MBA as necessary for working in music, but I valued my program’s impact-oriented mission. My favorite courses were in non-market forces, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship through acquisition – and a seminar where we had the privilege of hearing from a different CMO each week.
What are the necessary first steps someone should take to enter a career in music marketing?
I don’t believe there is one pathway to becoming a music marketer. Studying the cadences around artists’ release rollouts can be a great way to learn the basics of music marketing – you start to see patterns and what resonates. Also, join in on the conversation around the artists and music you enjoy. You learn from understanding the cultural relevance of an artist or release. Music marketing is cultural storytelling.
Is there a secret to career longevity in this industry?
Be a forever student, have a sense of humor, and have knowledge of self that’s independant from your work. When your only passion is your work, it can be hard to divorce yourself from the lows. And pay it forward.
“Music marketing is cultural storytelling.”
What are some habits you follow regularly to always maintain a good headspace for work?
Exercising, calling close friends, receiving and giving mentorship, and spending time pursuing hobbies unrelated to work. I avidly follow a few sports leagues and am learning a new language (Italian)!
What does a day off look like for you?
Time outdoors in nature, calling family, catching up on a TV show, going to art galleries or just grabbing coffee with a friend.
How do you see your job evolving with the music industry in the next five years?
The digitalization of our business will only accelerate and the music business will continue to grow increasingly global yet local – we see this already in the top streamed artists in the world: many do not perform songs in English and I think that’s super exciting! Rather than seeing these changes as a threat to the status quo, I think it’s wise to have a healthy curiosity and openness, while also working to implement these changes in a way that continues to champion creators and support artist expression.
If not working in music, what would you be doing?
Writing books. Or something that brings delight and connects people: probably in sports or back to the world of film and TV.
Stay tuned for more features with music industry professionals — from managers to sound engineers, stagehands and others; the people who make the music world go round without standing behind a microphone.
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