Kwame Kwaten has spoken about the evolution of management and label services that led him to launch a new model to back emerging talent.
Kwaten has teamed with PR Elspeth Merry, founder of Artists’ Way, and Dave Rajan, director at promotions firm Got Your Back (formerly Never Say Die), on a new approach to artist campaigns christened the FAN Deal. The initiative allows them to take a chance on a new act by providing their expertise and a route to market.
Under the terms of the partnership, rather than charging for services to promote and release music, the three companies will take a deferred payment as a share of an artist’s single or album. The arrangement, similar to points on a record for a producer, will be limited to master recording revenue for an individual release.
“It’s a different type of deal among many deals – it gives an artist the choice,” said Kwaten. “It’s not replacing anything. The major label deal is still there and all hail to it, the indie deal and the label services deal are still there. But the FAN deal is now born.”
Kwaten described the approach as “part of the evolution” of the industry at a time when access to distribution has been “democratised”.
Managers are crucial in helping to elevate self-releasing acts.
“This is what majors have been saying for at least the last two or three years, you have to basically push the artistry to a level where they can’t ignore it,” said Kwaten, who’s also vice-chair of the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and the co-founder of non-profit organisation Cre8ing Vision.
As owner of artist management and consultancy company Ferocious Talent, Kwaten has a track record of helping to develop successful acts including Laura Mvula, Rumer and Shola Ama. The current Ferocious Talent roster includes Blue Lab Beats, Hak Baker and The Halfway Kid, who has become the first artist signed under the new model.
“This hasn’t really been done before in this way, but we do know that we love the act,” said Kwaten.
The British-Sudanese singer and songwriter, whose real name is Saeed Gadir, released his debut, If I Don’t Come Home (Go To My House And Burn My Things), earlier this year. Gadir has received support from BBC Radio 1, 6 Music and Radio X.
“I’m so happy to be a part of a stellar team like this breaking new ground,” said The Halfway Kid. “To have the project and label planning of Ferocious Talent, the PR expertise of Elspeth Merry and Artists’ Way, and the radio and music services of Dave Rajan and Got Your Back championing my music is a dream. I’m very excited that we’re doing things in a new way.”
“FAN is about longevity,” explained Merry. “It’s about believing in an artist and record from day one and working towards them standing the test of time.
“Individuals who believe in someone and want to invest time and expertise in them, should have the opportunity – not just labels and publishers. It’s an honour to be part of the extended team of an artist and support what they create.”
It’s a different type of deal among many deals – it gives an artist the choice
Merry won at the Music Week Awards 2023 for breakthrough act FLO’s PR Campaign.
“Elspeth is a particularly talented PR person who chooses the projects she works on, believes in them and goes for it,” said Kwaten. “Dave is the same, if he walks in [to a radio station] and says, ‘I really believe in this,’ people will listen.”
“Being involved with The Halfway Kid is a joy,” said Dave Rajan. “From the moment we heard his music we knew he had a sparkling future and meeting him made us fall in love with him.
“Being part of the FAN collective shows the true power of independence and how the models of promotion are shifting, as we move towards a future of artistic control.”
Kwaten said part of the reason for the emergence of the FAN model is the need for an alternative to label and artist services operations, which have become a growing area of recorded music.
“The label services end of the market is becoming quite congested,” he said. “You can’t just go and get a deal from Believe, The Orchard or AWAL any more, there’s an A&R process now.”
Ferocious Talent partners with AWAL for distribution of The Halfway Kid’s LP. Kwaten said that he expects other distributors to align with the management community on the approach.
“Being with the MMF, from the conversations that I’ve had, this idea is already out there [as a concept],” he told Music Week.
As well as the team’s role, Kwaten stressed that the artist also needs to be fully committed.
“You can’t do this without an artist scrapping every day, trying to push their message out and get their creativity to be heard,” he said. “If your artist has got that, then you stand a chance.”
The Halfway Kid is active online, with 18,000 followers and more than 150,000 likes on TikTok.
“Dylan-inspired soul-folk is not necessarily what you would expect to see beginning to spark numbers on TikTok, but he’s a young artist pushing on fronts that aren’t traditionally where his music would sit,” said Kwaten.
He anticipates the FAN Deal to be a model that becomes more widespread, at a time when managers are increasingly taking direct charge of release strategy and other areas of business.
“For a long time, managers were a lot more like deal brokers,” said Kwaten. “Now there are so many different income streams, you’ve got to be across them all.”
PHOTO: (L-R) Elspeth Merry, Kwame Kwaten, The Halfway Kid, Dave Rajan
PHOTO CREDIT: Jed Welland