Meet the PR firm behind top music tech companies
Photos provided by Rock Paper Scissors
Dmitri Vietze runs Rock Paper Scissors, one of the most respected music tech PR firms with clients from CD Baby and BandLab to LANDR and AmazeVR. At the same time, Dmitri is the founder of Music Tectonics, an annual music conference bringing together music, business, and tech. Composium talked to Vietze about how he manages both ventures, music innovation, and the art of storytelling.

Rock Paper Scissors was born out of Dmitri's love for global music – the entrepreneur started the company to focus entirely on that field and help global artists tell their stories in the US. Having worked in PR at an international record distributor, he already had established connections with different record labels, with whom he started scheduling meetings. To promote his business further, he attended music conferences like WOMEX, which was famous for helping international artists land festival bookings and build connections. Although it was mostly record labels hiring RPS at first, independent musicians soon followed. Eventually, festivals joined in as well.
In order to amplify artist presence in the media, Vietze created StoryAmp, a platform for connecting artists and journalists. "I knew that everything was becoming more automated and digitized," he says, explaining the platform which allows artists to do their own PR. By uploading albums and tour dates, artists automatically send relevant information out to journalists and writers.

The startup didn't blow up but led to RPS venturing into marketing for music tech companies. "I was working on StoryAmp and doing deals with other music innovation companies to get referrals to their artist base," Dmitri shares. "I came across the president of CD Baby at the time and we did a deal around StoryAmp but he thought they should be telling more about their own story too."

Although the first request came in over a decade ago, the firm decided to focus solely on music tech companies during the pandemic. The PR firm continued doing both global music and music tech simultaneously, but as Covid-19 unfolded, it became extremely hard to do any promotion for the artists as there was no touring and concerts. It turned out to be the right choice as it allowed for more storytelling opportunities. "Every month, we have another story to tell about the business: a launch, a new feature, a use case, a success story, a thought leadership op-ed – it has a longer trajectory and a cadence," Dmitri shares.
The key to a successful marketing strategy lies within the origin story. "A lot of the time companies come with some pre-existing, preconceived idea about what the story should be, but sometimes they come and they're not sure," Vietze tells me. So, he begins by asking questions about what the company does, its mission, and why it was started. "A lot of the time, we hear about what problem they're trying to solve. By asking that question, we understand the context: who their competitors are, what space they're playing in, and who is this going to affect," he adds.

After establishing the origin story, there are many ways to build out the storyline by utilizing use cases, success stories, and simply building expert conversations around the field you specialize in. For instance, RPS has worked with LANDR, which has created a mastering tool using AI that's faster and cheaper. Although it can be perceived as a threat to traditional mastering for producers and engineers, it has allowed producers to test out how the final track would sound depending on what type of mastering they do. Traditionally, it was a very laborious process to do AB testing with songs, but LANDR has opened up that possibility.
Dmitri gives another example with CD Baby. "When they reach X million dollars of payouts to artists, that's just a big story that people want to tell," Dmitri says. "We helped break the idea that the independent artists' world was growing and was a significant force in the industry earlier than others, because we could tell that story through CD Baby." Through that lens, the platform gets credited for being the onramp for many independent musicians into the music industry.

Interestingly enough, the Rock Paper Scissors PR firm markets itself through storytelling too. By opening up and leading discussions around music, tech, and innovation through its blog, podcast, and the annual Music Tectonics Conference, the company is already uniquely positioned for attracting clients in the space. "The fact that we specialize in music tech and innovation itself is a difference," the founder elaborates.

Music Tectonics was born with the intention of amplifying community and bringing people together to share ideas. Through being the facilitator of these meetings and inviting the top voices in the industry they work in, the team also positions itself to attract potential new clients. The first Music Tectonics Conference in 2019 gathered over 400 attendees, and the latest in 2022 garnered 550 people. The Fifth Annual Music Tectonics Conference will take place October 24-26, 2023 in Santa Monica, California. Tickets go on sale on April 24.
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