One of the most common refrains in the music industry is that only superstars earn serious bank from streaming — how many artists have, quite understandably, have vented publicly about receiving royalty checks in the double, single, or decimal digits?
But advocates have long emphasized that with the right deal, streaming can pay handsomely — and while it declined to provide details, AWAL, the recorded-music division of Kobalt, announced that “hundreds” of artists working with the company earned more than $100,000 in annual streaming revenue — a growth of more than 40% over last year. Music Business Worldwide estimated that somewhere between 90 and 286 AWAL-signed artists earned more than $100,000 in the surveyed year — and Kobalt Music Group founder/chairman Willard Ahdritz tells Variety, “We believe we can have 100,000 artists on this level by 2025.”
The key to that concept is “the right deal” — for many acts, AWAL is essentially an expanded artist-services company: Artists retain ownership and creative control of their music, while the company provides distribution, radio promotion, A&R and/or other functions for a percentage of the income.
Still, the news is welcome in a climate that has seen touring, the primary revenue generator for an overwhelming number of the world’s musicians, come to an almost complete — and indefinite — standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“My vision for a vibrant, high-volume of artists making good money from streaming — including a long-overlooked middle-tier — is coming into picture with our AWAL artist focus and execution,” Ahdritz said in a statement. “Once artists reach this threshold, they are effectively creating million-dollar catalogs.
“Hundreds of AWAL artists have made this $100,000 annual revenue earning very quickly with us, while dozens have rocketed right through to million-dollar annual streaming payouts,” he continued. “Lucrative streaming royalty payouts and catalog values no longer favor a select few as this pie is rapidly growing for artists, provided the artist has an AWAL-like deal in place. This is further validation the recorded music industry is in full transformation.”
The company points to a March 2018 initiative in which parent Kobalt Music Group boosted AWAL’s resources in an effort to strengthen both the company and the model in which it works. The company has seen success in recent years with releases by Lauv, Finneas, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Little Simz, Steve Lacy, Gerry Cinnamon, R3HAB, and others.
Lonny Olinick, CEO of AWAL, said, “As we set out to create a completely new industry model and better global music company for artists, this data and the success of our roster validates what we have been saying since day one. Our community of AWAL artists have been emboldened by our approach and chose to bet on themselves. And they are being rewarded handsomely for taking charge of their creativity and putting out the art that they believe in versus censoring themselves based on anything other than their artistic sensibilities and audience reaction.”
Olinick added, “The structure we have built allows for artists to add gasoline to their fire. The data shows us it’s clearly paying off for many AWAL artists, with many going from tens of thousands in streaming revenue to hundreds of thousands or millions, in just one year with us. Artists are demonstrating they can both stay independent and build a global, successful career with our support in marketing, creative, synch, funding, audience development, radio promotion and more. This is only the beginning. Our unique model is causing a ripple-like effect across the industry as artists, managers and lawyers see our roster’s success. Artists no longer have to make tradeoffs for their future financial security to reach their full potential.”