As a marketing product creator at Spotify, Soy Kim is the bridge between artist, product and streaming service. His role sits at the intersection of creator monetization, music marketing and technology strategy, ensuring that the relationship between the platform and its residents benefits millions of artists.
Kim’s desire to improve the lives of all artists stems from her cello studies at a music conservatory. Although she ultimately decided not to pursue a career in musical performance, her years of playing alongside musicians from diverse backgrounds — which even led her to perform at Carnegie Hall — instilled in her a deep empathy for artists and their craft. “Our work really shapes the future of the company,” she says. “Our shared goal is to generate lasting impact that meaningfully supports artists at all stages of their careers.” Kim’s job is to develop go-to-market strategies, launch Spotify for Artists products, and educate artists on the Spotify for Artists tools available to them – in short, to help them and their teams grow their following. She also collaborates with cross-functional partners from different departments to ensure that Spotify’s product messaging is consistent. “The products we launch impact the lives of millions of artists around the world,” she shares, “and marketers are tasked with best representing their voices and needs in the product development process and beyond.”
In addition to her role as a marketing product designer, Kim also leads SPACE, Spotify’s home group for Asia and the Pacific Islands which has over 600 employees. She works on programs and strategic partnerships to foster inclusion, awareness and community for Asian and Pacific Islanders – an important cause for Kim, who is bicultural and bilingual. Raised in the United States with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and an MBA from Yale, Kim moved to Seoul, South Korea, where she had opportunities at a major media conglomerate, broadcast network and independent record label. she clarifies that her stint at entertainment company CJ ENM is the job that gave her experience in U.S.-Korean co-productions in film and music. She eventually returned to the United States and served as Director of Digital Marketing at Columbia Records, where she oversaw digital marketing for nearly two dozen artists, including Baby Keem and BTS. “After growing up in the United States, working in Seoul was a challenge at first,” she admits. “But I’m grateful, because I gained bilingual business fluency by reading, writing, and speaking Korean.”
“Our shared goal is to generate 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 doesn’t know the music industry?
Empower the future.
Can you tell us about a day in your professional life?
No two days are the same. Some days involve observing user tests or analyzing A/B data to ensure product suitability for the market; other days involve proactive brainstorming on the next iteration or phase of a product; still other days may involve flying to host an industry conference and sharing best practices with artists and their teams.
What do you think are the biggest benefits of having worked in both the South Korean and American music industry?
Learn that there is no one way to run a business and observe firsthand the interdependence of the music industry. The American music industry is more established; the South Korean company is changing at a faster pace because it is relatively younger and changing in real time. There’s also something to be gained from learning how the incumbents have succeeded and built global legacies, as well as how newcomers to the scene are creatively disintermediating.
How do you hope the relationship between the Asian and American music industries will blossom in the near future?
I hope to see more innovative, first-to-market partnerships between the two industries. Both sides of the world are producing innovative fan-favourite content, and I would love to see more strategic collaborations. For a long time, the Asian music and content market has been considered ‘foreign’ or ‘distant’, but the breakthrough of Asian content on a global scale is very exciting. Consumers no longer find subtitles an insurmountable wall, nor content in a different language as unrelated. I’m excited for a future where more cross-cultural and “glocal” projects can come to life, while still fostering a pipeline of content from APAC (and other regions) without the need to modify that content to suit the tastes of another market.
“Consumers no longer find subtitles an insurmountable wall, or content in a different language unrelated.”
Did you always know you wanted to have the career you do now, and did school play a role in inspiring you to do so?
No I didn’t. I’m grateful to the people who gave me a chance, because I didn’t enter the music world through ‘traditional’ means. In college, I studied sociology and screenwriting, which are basically two different forms of storytelling. The first puts a focus on why and how societies are formed; the latter emphasizes telling a visual story through the written word. Both form the basis of my work as a marketer, where understanding customer needs and creating products and stories that match those needs is key. I don’t consider an MBA necessary to work in music, but I enjoyed the impact-oriented mission of my program. My favorite classes were non-market forces, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship through acquisition – and a seminar where we had the privilege of hearing from a different CMO every week.
What are the necessary first steps a person must take to enter a career in music marketing?
I don’t believe there is just one path to becoming a music marketer. Studying the cadences around artist release rollouts can be a great way to learn the basics of music marketing – you start to see patterns and what resonates. Also join the conversation around the artists and music you love. You learn by understanding the cultural relevance of an artist or release. Music marketing is cultural storytelling.
Is there a secret to career longevity in this industry?
To be an eternal student, to have a sense of humor and to have self-knowledge independent of one’s work. When your only passion is your job, it can be hard to part with the bottoms. And pay it forward.
“Music marketing is cultural storytelling.”
What habits do you regularly follow to always keep a good headspace for work?
Exercising, calling close friends, receiving and giving mentorship, and spending time pursuing hobbies unrelated to work. I avidly follow some sports leagues and I’m learning a new language (Italian)!
What does a rest day look like to you?
Spend time outdoors in nature, call your family, watch a TV show, go to art galleries, or just grab a coffee with a friend.
How do you see your work evolving with the music industry in the next five years?
The digitization of our business will only accelerate and the music industry will continue to develop more and more on a global but local scale – we are already seeing it in the top streamed artists in the world: many don’t 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 working to implement these changes in a way that continues to champion creators and support artist expression.
If you weren’t working in music, what would you be doing?
Write books. Or something that gives pleasure and connects people: probably in sports or in the world of cinema and television.
Stay tuned for more features with music industry professionals – from managers to recording engineers, stagehands and more; the people who make the world of music go round without standing behind a microphone.