With the acquisition of AWAL and Platoon, FRTYFVE, backed by Tencent, becomes a leading independent player in artist services

“We don’t care what genre you work in, or what ‘industry experts’ might think of the music you make.”

This is not the typical talk from a record company to an artist. But FRTYFVE isn’t your typical record label – in fact, it shudders slightly to be described that way.

Conrad Withey, the British founder of the “Artists Growth Society” (FRTYFVE Is endorse this description) says his firm signs about three deeds every month — and turns down many more every week.

Yet, interestingly, FRTYFVE never rejects an artist based on their musical taste.

“What matters to us in the signing process is whether or not we think we can realistically get you to 10 million streams per month,” Withey says. “Because once you reach that point, it means you live music.”

We talk about the accelerator effect of FRTYFVE on the careers of independent artists. The Tencent-backed company – specializing in social marketing, streaming promotion, artist funding and brand partnerships – racked up more than a billion streams in the first ten months of 2022.

FRTYFVE’s biggest artist accomplishments to date include the likes of SadBoyProlific (2.5 million monthly Spotify listeners) and New York pop artist Rachel Grae (1.9 million), while its fastest growing acts include non-binary “interdisciplinary” artists Rio Romeo (646,000 monthly Spotify listeners).

FRTYFVE cites data showing that artists like these have seen a significant increase in social and streaming activity since signing with the company. Rachel Graefor example, saw a 801% increase in monthly Spotify listeners since first release with FRTYFVE, while social following more than tripled in 2022; another artist FRTYFVE, Jessica Bayo (787,000 monthly Spotify listeners) saw their Spotify plays rebound by almost 1000% This year; Rio Romeo the lead single, Butch 4 Butch, topped 25 millions Spotify is playing.

On average, according to FRTYFVE’s label manager, Emma Banks, its artists grow their streaming business by 463% in their first year after signing with the company.

FRTYFVE isn’t bothered if you haven’t heard of any of the aforementioned artists – in fact, that’s its sweet spot: artists who aren’t about to trouble the Billboard Hot 100, but are building a solid following. which plays their music millions of times a month. FRTYFVE is however very selective in terms of the artists it is willing to work with.

The key to its roster’s steady growth in popularity, Banks says, is a pact between FRTYFVE and its artists — with accountability on both sides.

“What matters to us in the signing process is whether we think we can realistically get you to 10 million streams per month.”

Conrad Withey, FRTYFVE

In 2021, FRTYFVE launched its “12 Months to Do It” plan, a step-by-step program for independent artists on its books to help them quickly grow their audience online.

For its part, FRTYFVE is committed to taking each act through a process of investment, promotion and marketing that has already paid off for acts that now earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from their streaming revenue each year. .

FRTYFVE artists, however, must follow a ten-point list of tips – “The Fundamentals”. The company believes these are the cornerstones for rapidly expanding audiences on music streaming services and social sites in 2022. And here they are:


  1. Be musically prolific and “social first” (including Spotify).
  2. Build a strong visual identity.
  3. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.
  4. Re-version relentlessly.
  5. Think global from day one.
  6. Own your fan base.
  7. Let the data guide you.
  8. Don’t try to guess the moves.
  9. Go big on Viral Moments.
  10. Convert online moments to offline.

Perhaps the two most controversial rules in the above list – or at least, the least conventional rules – are the numbers (1) and (8): Essentially, release as much music as you’re comfortably able to do, and let your fans – rather than “industry experts” – tell you what they like most.

Point (1) here – release as much music as you can – has shades of an infamous quote from Spotify founder Daniel Ek from 2020, in which he said, “You can’t record music one times every three to four years and thinking that’s going to be enough. Today’s artists who do it realize that it’s about creating an ongoing engagement with their fans. It’s about putting the work into place, to tell stories around the [music]and maintain an ongoing dialogue with your fans.

Conrad Withey – an international ex-president of Warner Music Entertainment – ​​unabashedly agrees with the Spotify founder.

“I went to a live agent the other month and told him that an artist we both work with releases a track every two weeks with us,” Withey explains. “He almost fell out of his chair and said, ‘Every two weeks?! We have artists in the studio right now struggling to decide what music to release.

“It got me thinking: how can an artist know what music the market wants…without asking the market?”

FRTYFVE’s answer: Keep fueling the market until you hit the dirt. Withey says that, at a minimum, FRTYFVE’s “12 Months To Make It” issues should release at least 12 pieces of music over a year.

“It’s about focusing on what matters – which for 90% of artists is purely social and streaming, and removing whatever clutters their days,” says Withey. “This challenge becomes more intense as an artist’s popularity increases, but that’s why he has to rely on an expert team.”

“Guess what? Streaming algorithms really love fans who share music, record music, and keep streaming.

Conrad Withey, FRTYFVE

Withey adds, “The beauty of streaming for independent artists is that you can get to a place where you’re making $3,000 to $5,000 a month without investing a lot. All that matters is growing an audience that loves you, converting it into a stream, which then turns into predictable income. No influencer is required in this process. And guess what? Streaming algorithms really love fans who share music, record music, and keep streaming.

“I get frustrated when the streaming economy is bemoaned by artists who don’t have a real fan base. They might think they do, because some cutting-edge radio station is playing their music, or they sold a couple thousand albums ten years ago and got an advance But if you take all that out, if your music is on streaming services today and you’re not getting a lot of plays – and therefore not a lot of money as a result – it’s because you don’t have a real fan base.

The average FRTYFVE contract includes an advance and an exclusive 12-month recording contract. The artist retains all rights to said recordings, but music released through FRTYFVE then remains on his books for a five-year licensing period, during which he splits the profits 50/50 with the act.

FRTYFVE advances to artists range from approximately $12,000 at $1.2 million, said Withey. The company invests part $4 million or more on artist advances every six months. That capital is in turn drawn from FRTYFVE’s parent company, Instrumental – in which investors include Tencent Music Entertainment and UK fintech venture capital builder Blenheim Chalcot.

Instrumental, which launched in London in 2014, was initially built on an AI engine that scouted emerging talent online through streaming and social analytics. (This engine was first to spot the likes of Lil Nas X and Tones & I, among others.)

“When we meet an artist for the first time, we really look for what is your objective? To buy a house? Alright, so let’s aim for that, and see where we end up.

Emma Banks, FRTYFVE

In its early years, Instrumental allowed the use of its talent detection AI (compared by the FinancialTimes to the magic behind “Moneyball” in baseball) to music industry giants such as Republic Records and Live Nation. But then, following Tencent’s investment in 2020, a realization hit Withey and his team: They could reclaim exclusive use of their technology to discover and sign artists to their own label — sorry, ” growth of artists” – which became FRTYFVE.

“Since we soft-launched FRTYFVE, we’ve seen products like AWAL and Platoon sold to big companies. [Sony Music and Apple, respectively]says Withey. “We believe this leaves room in the market for a truly independent company like ours to partner with high-potential artists and help them grow their music business.”

Instrumental continues to develop other products and technology solutions for independent artists outside of FRTYFVE, Withey notes, with launches to come in the coming months. But for now, his company’s main goal is to build FRTYFVE, which he says has doubled its revenue every year since Tencent’s investment in 2020, and recently became profitable.

Emma Banks of FRTYFVE adds: “We offer artists this flagship program – ’12 months to do it’ – but that in itself raises some interesting questions about what ‘doing it’ means. When we meet an artist for the first time, we really dig into that idea. What is your purpose? To buy a house? Alright, so let’s aim for that, and see where we end up.

“We’re not distracted by artists who don’t want to work our way. When we sign artists, we sit down up front and agree, together, on measures of success that are a bit over the top, but are also achievable and very measurable. Then we get to work.The music industry around the world

About Michael Terry

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