“It is vitally essential to have really impartial distribution in music. However let me make this clear: only a few folks truly care in regards to the possession of their distributor. What they care about is nice service, nice info, nice expertise, and a secure associate they’ll depend on for the long run.”
Attempt as we would, Kenny Gates isn’t biting.
The CEO and co-founder of [PIAS] is explaining to MBW why his firm has simply determined to re-brand and re-categorize its distribution and services business – a long-time associate of indie mainstays like Beggars Group, Domino, Partisan, Chrysalis, Secretly Group and Fats Cat – as [Integral].
We’re anticipating an impassioned rant about what “actual” independence means on this planet of distribution. We’re even hopeful Gates may wheel out the outdated “majors eat every part; f**ok the majors” indie label trope.
As a substitute, he wrong-foots us with two traces of argument.
The primary is to specific why he feels [Integral] can strongly compete with any rival on the market, major-owned or in any other case, significantly on account of its worldwide community (with 10 owned workplaces worldwide plus eight associate workplaces), and the expertise that runs its B2B Portal.
The second? Gates suggests the “large dangerous wolves” of the main document firms are, in his eyes, much less of a menace to the well being of the fashionable impartial music market than a separate set of firms – ones he calls “wolves in sheep’s clothes”.
Gates says that [Integral] represents each an funding in, and a clarification of, [PIAS]’s providers and distribution providing.
He admits that, as [PIAS]’s personal repertoire enterprise has grown (accelerated by the acquisition and acceleration of Co-Op in 2012), some within the market have develop into confused over the agency’s twin technique: part-in-house document label operation, part-distribution and providers associate to the impartial group.
Now, that distinction is far clearer: the [PIAS] Label Group stays the house of the corporate’s personal recorded music exercise, which is at the moment having fun with notable international success with the likes of Arlo Parks (in partnership along with her label, Transgressive Information).
“The launch of [Integral] offers each side of our enterprise extra focus, extra readability, and outlined management.”
Kenny Gates, [PIAS]
In contrast, [Integral] – led by it UK-based MD, Adrian Pope – focuses solely on bodily and digital distribution, plus an elective menu of extra providers, for impartial artist and label companions worldwide.
These extra providers cowl every part from sync licensing to radio and streaming promotion, in addition to the manufacturing of vinyl.
“Our providing wanted readability,” says Gates of the launch of [Integral]. “This transfer offers each side of our enterprise extra focus, extra readability, and outlined management.”
He provides: “It’s in our DNA to serve the impartial group, and it’s in our DNA to assist our fellow labels to achieve the market in the easiest way attainable.
“It reveals our absolute dedication to distribution – and our absolute dedication to impartial distribution – worldwide.”
However within the wake of AWAL’s sale to Sony, what even is impartial distribution?
For years, the main document firms’ in-house indie distribution arms – Caroline at Universal, The Orchard at Sony, and ADA at Warner – have attracted jibes and brickbats from the impartial group for being “fake” independents. In different phrases, being owned by multinational firms who haven’t all the time had the most effective pursuits of indie labels at coronary heart.
Gates fortunately admits he’s personally caught this criticism to the majors a number of occasions through the near-40 12 months historical past of [PIAS].
Nevertheless, in current occasions, his major concern has shifted considerably in the direction of these “wolves in sheep’s clothes” – ostensibly “impartial” distribution and providers firms who’re being bankrolled by Enterprise Capital funding.
“A number of greed has come into the market – lots of people are investing and anticipating some huge cash again sooner fairly than later.”
Kenny GateS, [PIAS]
He says: “I’m very cynical about a few of those that outline what they do as ‘impartial’ distribution. They may name themselves independents, however they’re funded by enterprise capitalists who’re extra desperate to get a short-term return on their funding than any so-called “main” firm on this enterprise.
“My fear is that these [VC-backed] firms can afford to take a loss-leading, aggressive method to the market with none long-term technique. That distorts the market, and it’s harmful to the long run ecosystem of the impartial group.”
Gates, who runs [PIAS] as a self-financing indie, provides. “Ten years in the past, the worth of music within the monetary group, whether or not banks or the funding group, was principally zero. Streaming has modified that radically, to the opposite excessive. Now quite a lot of greed has come into the market – lots of people are investing and anticipating some huge cash again sooner fairly than later.”
A key argument from [Integral] to its indie label companions, then, is that it’s been doing distribution for over 30 years already, and that it intends to be right here for an additional 30-plus years.
Gates additionally makes the purpose that, in addition to investing closely into the digital facet of its enterprise – [PIAS makes the majority of its revenue from streaming – [Integral] is a proud and knowledgeable investor in bodily music distribution, and the ability of impartial retail to assist break an act.
Says Gates: “It’s my perception that only a few actors on this market can provide true high quality service when it comes to working the bodily market on a world degree. [Integral] can, and we recognize how essential bodily music stays not solely to breaking artists, however to constructing passionate fan-bases.
“we recognize how essential bodily music stays not solely to breaking artists, however to constructing passionate fan-bases.”
Kenny Gates, [PIAS]
“Ten years in the past, I noticed the proprietor of 1 distributor come on stage at a convention and say, ‘Bodily is lifeless. In a number of years there gained’t be bodily anymore.’ I didn’t imagine it then, I don’t imagine it now, and I’m glad to say the numbers appear to be on my facet.”
Gates’ level: regardless of shops being shuttered all through the pandemic hit 2020, annual US retail gross sales of vinyl hit $619.6 million final 12 months, up $140 million year-on-year.
At that fee of development, vinyl might develop into a billion-dollar annual enterprise within the States by 2025.
Gates claims that [Integral] is “unrivalled” as an organization “with providers and distribution at supply within the markets, whether or not bodily and digital, in every single place on this planet”.
He additionally makes the purpose that with [Integral] now servicing [PIAS]’s personal information, if the previous agency’s expertise, self-discipline and “high quality of service” ever wasn’t gold-standard, it could be letting down its personal sister firm – one thing Gates says he gained’t let occur on his watch.
“The issue with bodily for some [VC-backed] distributors is that it’s not predictable; it may be a ache within the arse! It’s labour intensive, it requires quite a lot of funding, experience, time, and headcount. We’re pleased to offer it that useful resource, as a result of the rewards for our shoppers might be big.”
“This, for me, is about love – an actual love for the impartial group doing effectively, breaking artists, and rising their companies.”
Kenny Gates, [PIAS]
Nevertheless, he in the end argues that [Integral]’s standout high quality entails “the intangible issues”.
[Integral] now counts round 100 employees worldwide, whom Gates says are steeped in “a DNA of music tradition” that cash can not purchase.
“It truly is about consideration and care,” he says. “I’ll say it: this, for me, is about love – an actual love for the impartial group doing effectively, breaking artists, and rising their companies.
“That may be a large distinction between that and corporations whose solely objective is a enterprise case and to please their shareholders.
“We put soul and humanity into what we do daily. Lots of people don’t perceive that – however, to me, it’s essential.”Music Enterprise Worldwide