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46 I Keyana Kashfi, Spotify: High-End Virtual Event Production and the Power of Audio

  • June 2, 2021
  • 36:26

Keyana Kashfi (Global Director, Experiential & Content Production, Spotify) takes us behind the scenes of Spotify’s Stream On event to discuss the power of audio and producing a unique virtual experience.

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Top Takeaways

1

CRAFTING AN EXPERIENTIAL NARRATIVE VIRTUALLY: “Like any good piece of content or storytelling forum, having a really strong narrative is of the utmost importance. It could be really pretty, but if you're not saying much, what does it matter? And how we were going to really bring this multisensory storytelling moment to life that differentiates us from other brands. It looks and feels like Spotify. We thought through cameras, the lighting, what mood they're setting. What are the locations we're in saying about us? The graphics, are they to animate or are they not to animate? Sound effects, sound design, down to the smallest detail you can think of.”

2

THE CHANGING HYBRID EVENTS TEAM & SKILL SETS: “Having our events teams understand the more technical side of the production was really an opportunity for this year. And important because now they will not only be able to understand what it takes to do something onsite for an audience that might be in-person, but what is that extension? I think there are going to be virtual extensions of live events for a little while to come. So understanding what that looks like, what that requires and understanding how to also produce the content side of that. I think it also helped them understand how to produce a better experience to access the content. So what is the journey? That is also a new layer of thought and planning that the team had to consider when producing the actual piece of content.”

3

THE POWER OF AUDIO: “Audio has always been really powerful and I think it's only getting stronger. Folks have always needed a soundtrack to your life. You need a soundtrack to celebrate, you need music to reflect, to mourn. Anytime people gather audio is part of it. And I think that's not going to change. Just like food and sports, music and audio is the great unifier. So I think people will need to think through how they can leverage audio to take their event to the next level. As far as the future of events, people need to remember that great audio can really elevate the experience that you are putting together even virtually. And I also think it's an easy thing to have as a keepsake, sending an amazing playlist from an event you put on to the folks that attended that they can spin up when they want to go back to that moment, it's something really easy to do. And that will really take them back to that time that you spent with them or they spent at your brand's event.”

ABOUT Keyana Kashfi

Keyana Kashfi is the Global Director of Experiential & Content Production for Spotify where she acts as the Executive Producer, bringing Spotify’s brand to life through events and experiences across the globe. Keyana spearheads production for Spotify’s largest executions at industry events such as Cannes Lions and other global tentpoles, as well as major owned events like Stream On.

Keyana has spent her career in event production with a focus on media and entertainment brands, executing both B2B and B2C activations. Prior to joining Spotify, she served as a producer and led production and video content teams for organizations such as NBC, Vevo, Discovery Communications, and CNN.

Episode Transcript

Rachel Rappaport:

Hello, and welcome back to In-Person, brought to you by Bizzabo. In case we haven't already met, I'm Rachel Rappaport. And in each episode of In-Person, we explore the world's most daring events, and the people who make them happen.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Today we’re chatting with Keyana Kashfi, the Global Director of Experiential and Content Production at Spotify. You might be listening to this very podcast on their platform, Spotify is the most popular global audio streaming service with over 356m users as of March 31, 2021.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Keyana brings Spotify’s brand to life through events and experiences across the globe. She spearheads production for Spotify’s largest executions at industry events such as Cannes Lions and other global tentpoles, as well as major owned events like Stream On.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Keyana has spent her career in event production with a focus on media and entertainment brands, executing both B2B and B2C activations. Prior to joining Spotify, she served as a producer and led production and video content teams for organizations such as NBC, Vevo, Discovery Communications, and CNN. 

 

Rachel Rappaport:

In this episode, we get a look at how Keyana and her team at Spotify imagined and then produced Stream On, a virtual event that explored the power of audio creation. We talk about the changing events team structure and unique skill sets needed for the hybrid future of events. Finally, we dive into the power of audio and how you can lean into audio as part of your event strategy.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Let's get to it. Here's Keyana Kashfi, and our host Brandon Rafalson.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Keyana, welcome to IN-PERSON.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Now, before Spotify, you worked in PR, you worked in consumer marketing and integrated marketing at organizations that some folks might've heard of, like CNN and Discovery Communications, and Vivo. Could you walk us through the steps of your career and how they ultimately led to where you are today?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Yeah, so from my very early days, even in University in Montreal, because I'm a very proud Canadian, I was always part of teams or putting on events or producing things. So it's been something I've always done. And I really just love anything having to do with pop culture and entertainment. I was one of those kids who grew up on television, as an immigrant child too my mother perfected her English, watching daytime TV. So that was always part of my life and my world, when I saw things on TV or on the news, I wanted to be part of that vehicle that made things happen. That was part of the water cooler talk that made magic happen, made the unbelievable happen. That was always something that was important to me. I never envisioned myself being at a desk all day or writing papers or doing research.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Not that there isn't millions of other industries to be in, but that wasn't in my mind what I was going to do. So I really wanted to be in something that made an impact on the day-to-day lives of people. So in undergrad, as I said, I was involved in productions for concerts and tours and political speaking engagements for the university demographic. And then when I was producing those events, I also was promoting those events and I really thought I wanted to be in PR and that's what I wanted to do. But when I actually moved to New York, when I got into grad school and got a job at CNN, I was in the PR department and I really quickly realized I actually was really bad at it because I hate writing and I don't love pitching. And I realized that the hustle and making the thing happen that people talk about is more of my passion versus talking about the thing or promoting the thing.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

So even when I was in that PR department, I saw a gap and a gray space of being able to be the person who produced the events that were PR related. And so for example, I think the first event I ever did in New York and I ever produced in New York I was quite young, the book was Soledad Orion's book launch. And I think it took place in Russell Simmons apartment. So that was a very cool, to be a cool, New York experience and story. And it was all vegan, the catering was all vegan. That was important. It was very cool to be part of that mix. And then while I was in that department, I became the go-to person to produce those things and be a part of some of the bigger initiatives CNN's were doing as like a PA type role.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And I loved it. I loved that hustle. I loved that busy-ness, I loved the weird hours. I loved never having to be in one place too long. I loved not sitting behind a desk all day. So that really showed to me that that's the type of work I wanted to be doing. And then I moved to Discovery Communications, and that was really cool because I got to produce different things for all the different networks. So sometimes it was brand activating for our clients, being part of the integrated marketing team, sometimes that was producing their upfronts. Sometimes that was working on B2C executions. I have a lot of love for Shark Week and good memories of that, but I got to really learn a lot of stuff.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I was going to ask, but-

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Yeah, I mean, of course, iconic, still iconic. But I really got to see what different audiences responded to. I also met one of my heroes there Oprah Winfrey when she was launching the O Network. So that is to this day, one of the coolest things I think I've ever done maybe. But no matter where I was and what department or what company I was at, I was always on the production team or leading a production or on the content teams. I think a lot of my colleagues that are in-house producers have had this history of strange titles or strange teams because you sit almost everywhere when you're in production, but I was the arm, the production arm of whatever team I was in. So that was really cool. And that's always been the thing I've done and loved my entire career.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That's so interesting. There definitely is a pretty clear through line or at least there's a certain affinity, I guess, between PR and events, that they're both very much support roles. They're very much behind the scenes, making it happen. It would be a very interesting podcast just to bring on PR folks to talk about more.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I mean, yeah, they're truly are partners in storytelling, so like a lot of events and content is telling a brand story and most companies, their PR teams I know they're telling our story they're putting that out there. So it's really an organic marriage between the two.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

You got this experience over at CNN and over at Discovery, eventually you started to enter into the world of music and entertainment with Vivo a bit more.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Yeah. So Vivo was really where I cut my teeth on music and concert production and had a really global role there, which was really exciting. Really where I started working for artists, bringing their creative to life in events or in content. So that became my forage of more content production as well as music production. And honestly, every great event had a performance in it. So in my previous role, I had dabbled in it, but that was where I really started really working very closely with artists and trying to make sure that the environment we put them on, the stages we put them on was organic to them, looked and felt like them, and really brought to life what the message and the music that they wanted to bring to life. So I love that.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And then after that, I moved across the country for an opportunity at NBC. And that was really exciting. I was yet another Persian girl in LA, so that was interesting. And that was fun. And I'm a terrible driver so that was some life risking moments there. And I went back into broadcast, tip my hat back to my old Discovery days and then Spotify called and said fly back, to come back to the East Coast and do this, so I've been here since.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

And you've been doing some pretty cool things. I guess one of the main things that we're going to talk about today is Stream On, which was this huge Virtual event that explores the power of audio, the journey of creation and the opportunities it had for millions of creators and billions. Yes, billions of Spotify feds around world, of music fans around the world. I'm reading this here and it's just staggering that as of February 24th, so I'm sure that this has changed pretty significantly since, but the event garnered almost 200,000 views on YouTube and over 108,000 mentions across Twitter. That's just huge splash. So to back up, could you tell us a little bit about the impetus for Stream On and what were some of the outcomes that the Spotify team was looking to drive with it?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I'm very impressed with the numbers we got, it makes me really excited to see that because it was really first of its kind for Spotify. So Daniel our founder and CEO, he has said this in the past and he said it again recently on our Afforded Record podcast, that the opportunity in audio is massive and much bigger than I think anyone can imagine. And I think even during Stream On, he mentioned that audio is really having a renaissance. So we wanted to make sure that we were telling our story in our way. And this event gave us that opportunity to share why millions of creators and hundreds of millions of consumers should really be excited about the opportunities in audio and what's ahead in audio and audio streaming. And I think you can think of this event, you can think of Stream On as our invitation to join us on this journey as we altogether realize what the power of this medium is and the possibilities it represents.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And continuing to be laser-focused on our mission, which is to unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists, the opportunity to live off their art and a billion fans, the opportunity to enjoy it, be inspired by it, when we were speaking to the audience and when we want to put our message out there. But remaining authentic to Spotify down to our look and feel was really important when we were in development to produce this. And we wanted to make sure that we were inviting people on their journey and in a conversation with us and not, you might see more traditionally in some corporate announcements speaking at people. So that was really the kind of idea or goal of this. And then we were after that set out to how we were going to do that.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Yeah. It totally is an audio renaissance. I personally have been listening to more like podcasts and music often on Spotify. I mean, more than ever before. I know that speaking to my colleagues, just like in the general marketing space, everybody is turning to podcast. It's just another channel for engaging with their audiences. And the other side of that is I think even when it comes to events and conversations with other events professionals out there, something that comes up is in addition to offering that video content also offering potentially an audio option. So totally resonates with me this audio renaissance that we're in.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Totally. And it's really accessible. It's like the earliest form of entertainment in my mind. And I think that's why during and through Stream On, we wanted to make sure that we made clear that it's not going anywhere. It's only getting bigger and it's an exciting space. And we want to of course, establish Spotify as the platform for audio creators. And we were inspired by some other brands and platforms curating their own storytelling moments, but what is a very accessible and relatable medium, how do we also talk about it and present our story behind it in a very relatable and accessible way?

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Yeah. And the way that you did this, I know in our previous conversation, you almost likened it to a long form film. Could you tell us a little bit more about the ideation process behind the design of this experience and how you and your team introduced these different stories, these different thematic set pieces and these other elements all to really serve, to tie this narrative together?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I would say we definitely, in my mind, approached it like a long form film, like you're saying, and we really did go into development thinking through of course, the story and what we wanted to say, because like any good piece of content or storytelling forum, having a really strong narrative is of the utmost importance. It could be really pretty, but if you're not saying much, what does it matter? So that's of course, the utmost importance. But we also wanted to make it in this year of Zoom fatigue and everyone's watching things all the time and in front of screens all the time, appealing both to the eyes and of course, appealing the ears. And how we were going to really bring this multisensory storytelling moment to life that differentiates us from other brands. And again, speaks to folks. It looks and feels like Spotify.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

So every element we analyze and thought about when we were in development, we thought through cameras we're using, the lighting, what mood they're setting. And I'll talk about that a little bit more. Locations, what are the locations we're in saying about us? The graphics, are they to animate or are they not to animate? We don't want to distract the viewer. How are we going to bring that to life? Sound effects, sound design, down to the smallest detail you can think of. We analyzed and we wanted to bring the right players and ensure the right partners were in place to bring those elements to life, the Spotify way and to set a new standard and then layer on top of that all the COVID requirements and considerations that we wanted to make sure we kept at the forefront of our minds. Because everyone's safety was number one as we went through this, but thinking through things like cameras and lighting.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

So what we talked a lot about what cameras we want to use and what kind of cues we want, those visual moments and the environments we put our creators in, to say to the viewer. So when we thought about lighting, we thought about how are we going to set the mood with lighting to ensure that it is in a warm and inviting environment? That you felt like you were part of the conversation and people aren't speaking at you. We thought about some ways to bring this to life with a cinematic style. So we also landed on really trying to translate this authentic, warmth, this relatable feeling when you're watching something, again, being a part of it. And so I landed on using Arri Alexa, which is a camera type we use, which affords you a greater range of lenses and depth when you're shooting something.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And we shot in 23.98, if I recall correctly frames, which gives you that cinematic movie feel. So when you watch it, it feels a little bit more like a film. It feels a little bit deeper. Those cameras also afford you a higher image quality. Again, my big thing, and I think leadership's a big thing, was it needed to look and feel like Spotify. It was not a corporate keynote. It wasn't talking at people. So the angles we used when we used the camera to drive this point home subtly was really important too. So we also wanted to make sure that we created a consistent visual language, no matter where or what we were saying. So we shot in Stockholm and in New York and LA, but that visual grammar, that visual language, really needed to remain consistent to make sure the viewer didn't feel jarred or jolted when we were taking them from one environment to another.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And we did a lot of establishing this consistent visual grammar by our sets, of course, our color palette that we use, our lighting, but also a consistency of movement of the camera. So we used really smooth movements, really intimate camera work. If you saw it you felt up close and personal to our, in an inappropriate way, too far to our speakers. So we use really stabilized rigs, we really had a juxtaposition of the eye-line between passive and direct information. So when the viewer was being spoken to and given direct information, they were really looking down the lens and speaking to you, or there was graphics to support what they were saying. And whereas when they were given passive information, we conveyed that through using a more documentary style, verite style of shooting, where one felt like they were looking in on a moment. And this is different than what a lot of other companies are doing when they're releasing information into the world.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And again, all of this goes back to that really big goal of making sure it looked and felt like Spotify. And it felt like a conversation with the viewer. And we also wanted to make sure that we told our global story. So really thought through what our locations are. We considered everything. Do we bring people to a sound stage? And is it a green screen backdrop or is it XR? But we didn't feel like that was really authentic to the feeling that we wanted to articulate visually. So we chose actual locations, actual venues, and we wanted to use that formula, the formula that was consistent, all the locations you see our executive and leadership in, or in music or recording related environments, places that you can really see creativity happening, music being listened to, music being recorded. That was really important. A little tip of our hat to the core to what makes us Spotify.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

We also, again, like I was mentioning, we want to tell global story and get you from place to place in a consistent and seamless way. So Spotify is global and we everywhere. We have offices in many parts of the world, our users are everywhere. Our creators are everywhere. So we also wanted to communicate that visually. Unlike some other tech companies, we don't have one massive campus. We really are everywhere. So we brought that to life using a lot of aerial photography and graphic treatments. When you may have seen our executive or leadership speaking in Stockholm. And then we traveled through the set piece that we introduced, we called the portal-

 

Brandon Rafalson:

The portal.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And we traveled through that. Yeah, the portal, which was, we'll talk about that too, the portal, you traveled through the portal and you flew over the world and you then ended up back in New York and then you zoomed out of the portal and reoriented yourself to the next speaker or the next conversation. And that was our way to, as we flew over that world, you saw different hues of Spotify, green light up in people's homes to remind the viewer and express our global reach and how we really are in the homes of all of our users and creators. Because we span the globe truly. So that portal and our venue locations really was our anchor, it was that consistent set piece that really reoriented the viewer, that the show was one consistent show.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And we also used it as a way to focus them when we wanted to express information. So you saw some data sometimes popped up there when we were having a direct to the viewer a moment. And we also used it again, like our moment of transition to make sure it wasn't jolting and it wasn't just a fade out. It was truly an experience.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

This is staggering. I'm almost overwhelmed with the potential levers there are the pull to really shape an experience, hearing how you and your team approached it. But on the other hand, it's super exciting to think about how we can get really granular with the cameras we're using, the lenses we're using. And this is for in-person, but also virtual. And as we think about amplifying in-person events to a virtual audience, it seems like there is some growth potential to be even more deliberate about all of these different elements that you're talking about as we step into whatever comes next.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Yeah. And I think it's also an opportunity again, to just show your brand, look and feel and your creativity. We could do things everyone's doing, but how does that tell our story or feel like us even subtly?

 

Brandon Rafalson:

And I love the portal.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I'm glad you like it. It's one of those things you do. And you're like, it could be great or people might not get it. Let's hope they get it. So I'm glad people liked it.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

And it was consistent. You had it in all these different locations.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Yes, we had it in all of our main speaker locations, we had it, the lovely Justin Bieber liked the idea as well and he used it in his music performances as a transition to get from song to song. So it was a really great anchoring and transition piece. And we made it really clear to the viewer that we care that all of these pieces were produced for this moment and the show. It wasn't, we took an executive speech that was shot a year ago and cut it into this thing. We produced this, we hand picked this location and this set, we all directed it for this moment because we had something really important we wanted to say to our creators and our audience. And we wanted to say it in a way that was visually also as powerful as what we were trying to say audibly.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

It is an Orson Welles level of production, truly impressive. So the event was filmed in several different locations across the world, including sets in New York City, Los Angeles, Stockholm, and also several different locations across Africa. So what were some of the considerations that you and your team kept in mind from a logistical perspective when coordinating and creating this globe spanning production?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

The biggest and the most important thing was first understanding what the local rules and regulations were of each city that we wanted to shoot in and then establishing what the Spotify protocol was, to take that one step further and ensure that the safety of our crew and our talent was the most important thing. And the funny part was as we were producing this week to week, the protocol per city may change. So it was a lot of planning and re-planning and re-planning and reanalyzing what we are about to go into to make sure that we were the most up-to-date about what we were doing and being as compliant as possible. We also wanted to make sure that we were being culturally sensitive for the regions we were going into.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

So as we all know, not all protocol is the same, especially across globe, there's differences, even in New York and LA. So understanding what those were, ensuring that we were respectful about those. And then if we needed to add in extra layers that they weren't calling for just as a precaution, that we had the resources to do that. And of course, we couldn't be everywhere. Our main locations were New York, LA and Stockholm. And then we partnered with a lot of great filmmakers and local crews in other contents and other markets around the world to shoot and shoot in a safe way. So we weren't traveling people around the world. We were traveling people as minimally as possible.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

It is a lot of logistics to wrap your mind around, just hearing you talk about like the way that you and your team were putting together these different protocols reminds me of a conversation I recently had with Joey Graziano from the MBA and the way that he and his team had to construct the bubble similarly, as regulations are constantly shifting and there's new information surfacing, vaccinations and whatnot, how do you approach it? It's definitely no small feat.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I'll say to anyone listening out there that is planning for budgets, there's always this COVID tax we need to keep in mind nowadays. For things that we weren't accounting for before, for longer loading periods, given that you want to have smaller amounts of people in the room at one time, for things like having to swap out entire departments that might be working on something, just preparing for those contingencies is going to be important I think now, and for a little while to come.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Yeah. That is a super great point. Especially as more and more event teams begin to reintroduce in-person into their mix. And even frankly, as they continue to produce virtual events.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Totally. Yeah.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So Spotify, I mean, you mentioned this event was very much among other things about highlighting many of the creators that make up the Spotify community. And of course, this was front and center. You had interviews with podcasters and performance for a musical guests like Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber, who was a fan of the portal. Could you share with us a little bit more about how you and your team collaborated with this greater community?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Having the privilege of really speaking to the creators and using them as storytellers and hearing their story about how Spotify impacted them and what their Spotify journey was, was really interesting to hear. They all said it firsthand much better than I can, but hearing from them what the power of audio means to them and their ability to bring their music to their fans was really powerful to see, especially this year that in real life performances hasn't been able to happen. Many people have still been able to be creative and put out new music and their fans have been able to really enjoy it and interact that way. So I think that was huge. Speaking about Bieber specifically, it was really exciting to work with him and his creative team to bring the creative he wanted to, to life, the genesis of the idea, and then working through concepting and that creative, and then actually using an XR stage to bring that to life. And bridging his performances to make sure that one song, I think really was still shot in a style that we shot our executives.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And it had a real background in a real room. And then we moved to an XR for the other two songs that were really just his brain child, that we had the pleasure of working with alongside his creative team to bring to life and do really fun and different things. But making sure we involve creators in the conversation and try to help them on their journey and having them use Spotify as a tool to reach others is huge. And hearing their journey and their connection to their audience via their music was a pleasure to see and hear, even off camera when we heard anecdotal stories.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Speaking of Stream On this was one huge virtual event, but I know there are other different engagements that you and your team are working on and have worked on. Interested to hear your thoughts about just generally how you and your event team over this past year have collaborated to produce experiences and these novel mediums.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

It's been a little bit like being in a weird social experiment. So I think if people know what producers are like and what they do, we plan for a living, we play at all the outcomes. We think about all the things that could go wrong and we plan for living. And none of us could produce our way out of COVID and the pandemic of what it could mean and what would happen. So that was an interesting journey to see a lot of producers go on, where you know what the next week usually holds and no one knew what the next week would hold day-to-day. Also, taking production away from producers is a weird social experiment. People who are used to being on the road, onset, onsite, running around, not being in one place for too long, were immediately grounded with no warning, was really jolting. So there was a weird time at the beginning of like, what's going to happen. Is this long-term? How do we figure this out? How do we keep innovating and being creative?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

So my team went through that transition. And we went from also having to work harder to be connected because typically we would be on the road together and anyone who's in production knows what it's like, you're in the trances, even if everything is going wrong, at least you have each other, and you go out to celebrate after, you talk about it and you hash it out and then you have those bonding moments. So we not only had to be more conscious and myself as a leader, make sure I prioritize getting together, connecting as a team. We're a global team. We've never felt the space between us as much as we have this past year, because typically, we'd be traveling and seeing each other or meeting up on set. So that was really important.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

But then also we took this time to, I used my background and knowledge about content production to educate my experiential producers on that and what that means and what that looks like and how to produce remotely and how to produce with cameras and not plan for an audience. And layer in new skillsets that will just hopefully make them more well-rounded producers as they carry on the careers.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Yeah. No, that gets to another question I had for you, which is how have those skillsets changed for your teams and the teams you're working with. And I guess part two of that would be, do you anticipate those skill sets will continue to change and evolve as we go throughout 2021 and into 2022?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Being forced to being also content producers is adding a new layer of skillset. I mean, having them understand the more technical side of production I think was really an opportunity for this year. And important because now they will not only be able to understand what it takes to do something onsite for an audience that might be in-person, but what is that extension? So answering part two of that question, I think there is going be extensions or virtual extensions of live events for a little while to come. So understanding what that looks like, what that requires and understanding how to also produce the content side of that. So we might be going back to producing in real life events soon, hopefully, but also how are we capturing something on the ground to then push out to those who are not traveling yet or don't feel comfortable or aren't able to travel yet? And being able to scale your physical event that way.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I think it also helped them understand how to produce a better experience to access the content. So what is the journey? We all hated those things, that early pandemic, I think we were all invited to and you have to download this and download that and have this password. It's like, it's still a client or a consumer or an audience experience to get to your content. So that is also like a new added layer of thought and planning that the team had to consider when producing the actual piece of content, how are we getting people there? And is that journey seamless and enjoyable as well?

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So speaking of how you and your team are engaging the audiences that you're speaking to, what have been some other considerations that have come into mind specifically related to audio during this virtual period?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I think we were lucky in some ways with Spotify as our core business is audio and audio first. And that was always really powerful before the pandemic and has continued to grow during the pandemic. But I think also thinking through next steps about how we can further engage creators and consumers of the platform could be really interesting. And I think some really fun acquisitions like locker room soon to be greenroom will take that to the next level where there can be engagement and other exciting things that haven't happened on the platform today.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Speaking of, I know that at Stream On you also announced a couple of opportunities for brands to get more involved with audio only content. Can you share a bit more about that?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Yeah. There's some amazing tools that brands can use on Spotify. For example, the Spotify audience network, it's a tool where brands of all sizes can really connect to listeners and a broad range of content across Spotify originals and exclusive, and this tool offers them the ability to really reach and engage audiences in screenless moments at scale on and off Spotify actually. And they leverage easy to use tagging tools for the brands so they could reach the audiences that matter most to them, and even allow them to explore the advanced insights powered by the streaming ad insertion. So they really know who they're reaching and if it's working and if it's being effective. I also think there's also really big moments where brands could get involved. I know a little bit about Renegade Board in the USA, a podcast that features the amazing former President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen in conversation, they are some of the coolest dudes on earth, I think, and hilarious on that podcast too.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And they really talk about issues ranging from, every issue you can think of and what needs them and it's really authentic to who they are. And brands have gotten involved in that. I think the first season was sponsored by Dollar Shave Club and Comcast in the US. And so that was a really big way for two brands to get involved.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Any other predictions for the role that audio will play in the future of events?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I think audio has always been really powerful and I think it's only getting stronger. Folks have always needed a soundtrack to your life. You need a soundtrack to celebrate, you need music to reflect, to mourn. Anytime people gather audio is part of it. That goes from listening to a great speaker, you need great audio to do that. Great performance, a show that you're bringing folks together. And I think that's not going to change. I think that just like food and sports, music and audio is the great unifier. So I think people will need to think through how they can leverage audio to take their event to the next level. As far as future of events, I think people need to remember that really great audio can really elevate the experience that you are putting together even virtually. So just like smell, music can really tap into a level of emotion and memory for your audience. That very few other things can.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

So I think about audio and audio design and done well and people should keep this in the forefront of their mind as they are producing events, because done well, it can bring the brand closer to people's hearts. And it has a way of tugging at heartstrings if you could tap into someone's emotion or memory, that means something to them. That again, not much else can and they will then forever remember that moment and that experience when they hear that song again, or when they hear that tune again, moving forward. Keeping that in mind will help folks who use music or audio or amazing sound design to differentiate their experiences. And you can even do that when you're doing something virtually. And really bad sound design or bad audio can really ruin something. So don't let that happen to you.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And I also think it's an easy thing to have as a keepsake, sending an amazing playlist from an event you put on to the folks that attended that they can spin up when they want to go back to that moment, it's something really easy to do. And that will really take them back to that time that you spent with them or they spent at your brand's event.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Well, speaking of, what are you currently listening to on Spotify?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Oh, you're going to out me on this. Yeah, so I don't consider myself very cool. I consider myself very uncool and my team would tell you that that's probably true. So I like to keep a pulse on things of what's happening in the world now, in music. So I do frequent Spotify today's top hits playlist a lot, just to know what's going on and what I need to know about. I also have a small puppy, we lovingly call him a COVID baby because we adopted him in March and Spotify has pet playlist. So when we're trying to calm him down or put them to sleep, his pet playlist comes on and his go-to is classical music, because I heard it makes them smarter and it calms him down. So that.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And also your listeners might know this by now, but I speak pretty quickly. I move pretty quickly. I need to know what's going on pretty quickly. So NPRs News Now is always at the top of the list because it gives me that quick what's going on in the world and then I can keep moving on with my day. So those are my go tos. If you were to look at my Spotify profile right now.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I need to go get a playlist for my cats. Who's someone you look up to in events, marketing or business in general?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

So this is a really tough question and it's hard to pinpoint just one, but I think like a lady of my age, growing up watching women and women of color who specifically made waves or made changes in their fields or who I admire most. So I have my forever heroes like Oprah and people who aren't afraid to say something unpopular or do something that's ever been done before, or really people who I look up to. So I have Oprah in that category. I have RBG in that category of course, someone I recently find really inspiring is Chloé Zhao, first woman who won best director. So people who are leading the change in their industries and industries, especially centered in entertainment or production, I think are really folks I like to keep an eye on and root for. People who are making space for other women, because production is still a very male dominated industry.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And leading crews and teams of men and especially coming up as a young producer was always a really interesting challenge to navigate, but watching those leaders and those women be who they are and own who they are, really has inspired me to do the same and bring myself to set and to work as who I am and try to make space and lead the way for other women to follow.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That's amazing. And that makes me want to edit what I said earlier about the Orson Wells of production. You are the Chloé Zhao of production.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Oh my goodness. Both of those two things are very too flattering for me, but thank you.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

If you could give an earlier version of yourself, one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

I think I would say to a younger version of me, if I could go back in time, which yeah, I think make time for life and production too, it could take over, you're traveling a lot. You're away a lot. You're on set a lot. So you miss out on a lot of normal life things, so I think if there's way, if you can, because it's always really hard to say no to that next challenge or that next gig, especially if you're freelancing, try to make sure you're making some time for the real life stuff. And personal life things and goals. And that doesn't need to be traditional things, but anything that is important to you that you maybe don't want to miss out on, try to prioritize it because I think things happen so quickly and people are so busy and traveling so much in our industry that yours zip by and you just don't know what happened to them.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

And then never assume where a journey is going to take you. I mean, I think I didn't expect to only live in LA for under a year when I went over there for NBC, but I said yes to that journey. And that led me to something else which led me back to the East Coast and say yes to things that seem interesting, that all your other friends would never say yes to. Go forward if that's something that at the time thinks is right for you and do it and don't be bummed out if it doesn't work or it ends pretty quickly because you just never know where it's going to lead.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

The final question for you Keyana, is how can our listeners keep up with Spotify and all the great work that you and your team are doing?

 

Keyana Kashfi:

We have an amazing Spotify newsroom called For the Record. So definitely check that out. And they are doing a great job of making sure that everything that Spotify is up to around the world is up to date there. And our Spotify socials are always really fun and beautiful visually, beautiful to watch too. So those would be the two places I'd say.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Check it out, For the Record, Spotify socials. Keyana, thank you so much for being on the show today.

 

Keyana Kashfi:

Thank you for having me.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Thank you again to Keyana, for joining us, and thank you all for listening. If you enjoy listening to In-Person, there are several ways that you can show your support, subscribe, rate, leave us a review, and share the show with your colleagues and friends.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

If you'd like to share your feedback, please drop us a line at in-person@bizzabo.com. You can also find full transcripts of the show, along with key takeaways at in-person-podcast.com.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

In-person is a production of Bizzabo. Today's episode was hosted by Brandon Rafalson, co-produced by Brandon and myself, and edited by Brian Pake. Music by Ian O'Hara, until next time, I'm Rachel Rappaport, thanks for tuning in.