Google Play Music, Milk Partner for Series on Emerging Artists

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Lorely Rodriguez of Empress Of performs on stage at the Moog/ Switched on showcase at Elysium during the SXSW festival on March 15, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

It isn’t enough to merely offer a robust music library these days. In the heated battle for subscribers, streaming services are curating playlists, customizing experiences and marbling-in unique content in the name of bringing fans closer to the artists they’re passionate about. 

In the latest move, Google Play Music is teaming with media studio Milk for a series aimed at cultivating emerging artists. The partners will pluck a limited number of acts, provide them access to Milk’s NY facilities and sourced talent for a day, and host a performance at Milk’s JamRoom. Select audio and visual elements -- ranging from short clips to performance footage to day in the life-style docs -- will be available on GPM, Milk’s website, artist sites, YouTube, Vevo and other channels.

“We’re very interested in investing in artists at an early stage in their career and sticking with them to create meaningful partnerships they and our users can benefit from,” says Eric Davich, global content marketing lead for Google Play Music. 

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First up is XL Recordings’ electro-pop artist Empress Of, who will spend Thursday at Milk working with director Phil Pinto. West Coast rapper Kyle, whose sophomore album Smyle was released on Indie Pop in October, is on deck and four additional acts will swing by Milk Studios for an immersion between now and June, Davich tells Billboard.

Although it’s a child of the digital age, the GPM-Milk partnership came about in the most old school of circumstances, and has an old-school vibe running through in its veins. Google and Milk are located across the street from each other near the Meatpacking District, and execs literally have been bumping into each other and reminiscing about their visceral musical connections in days gone by.

“This conversation started out about a year ago, about how we miss walking down St. Mark’s Place and buying tapes from live performances, and how important those tapes were,” says Milk chief Mazdack Rassi. “Our goal is to capture that kind of performance. We never really did that properly in the past. If it was done, it was just done on the fly. I’m really excited to reintroduce that analog feel into the digital world.”

Already a tastemaker in the fashion, photography and film arenas, Milk has been elevating its music profile of late. Its film division recently directed and produced the Weeknd’s music video for In The Night, for one, but Rassi is not interested in amplifying the studio’s music activity too quickly.

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“The idea is not to scale it, we’re not looking to do more,” he says. “We were very careful with who we partnered with and we felt like this was the right opportunity. There’s a lot of trust between us. We treat it a little like a school, and now we’re building a curriculum around music, which is really wonderful for us because we are so passionate about it.”

With Google Play Music’s 35 million-song library, “Our mission is to deliver the right music at the right time by however you want to listen to it,” says Davich. “By investing in emerging artists we are able to do that in an impactful way that promotes discovery, which our users want, and also gives the artists really great exposure.” 

Davich says GPM may look to branch into other verticals “in some way, shape or form” in the future, but nothing concrete has been set. “Our product itself is very lifestyle-oriented. The concierge feature that is in the Google Play Music subscription app is very contextual in nature. We’ve left it open a little bit for potential collaborations for something beyond the standard offering we are doing.”

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Davich says Empress Of, the solo project of LA-based singer/songwriter, Lorely Rodriguez, was a natural first selection for GPM and Milk. “We are big fans of Empress Of and have a great partnership with their label, the Beggars Group and XL Recordings,” Davich says. 

Rodriguez, who just released a bonus track, "Woman Is a Word," from her debut album Me, is jazzed about the reach of the Google platform and the opportunity to spend time at Milk.

“I always like to find different ways to discover an artist,” she says. “It helps a lot if there is more than just, like, typing in someone’s name and pressing play.” As for what she’s planning for her immersion day, she says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know it’s going to be dope.”