What do Major Lazer, Lindsey Stirling, Lauv and Marshmello all have in common?
Each of these artists has achieved independent US radio success without a major record label, and each has managed to do so by working with New York-born radio promotion specialist, In2une Music.
In2une provides multi-format radio promotion to independent labels and artists, in addition to other services including social and digital strategy and campus promotion.
Founded in 2007 by Dale Connone (pictured), a former SVP of Promotions at Warner Music, the company has successfully promoted hundreds of songs from the likes of the artists mentioned above, as well as The Lumineers, Cheat Codes, Calvin Harris and others.
In June 2018, In2une was acquired by Kobalt’s recorded music division AWAL, with Kobalt Founder and CEO Willard Ahdritz stating at the time that, following a decade of independently successful radio campaigns, “In2une was the perfect addition” to his company.
Connone tells MBW that one particular case study that stands out for him in terms of In2une’s capabilities at US radio is AWAL artist Lauv, who, having achieved over 3 billion streams to date, also happens to be a key case study for Kobalt.
“[Lauv single] I Like Me Better was an unprecedented 60-week climb to the top of the charts on both pop, hot AC and AC,” explains Connone. “That record recently turned two years old and has over 40 million in audience in the US. It’s pretty amazing.”
Connone argues that the “length of the climb” for I Like Me Better was responsible for the length of the time that it’s been around at radio. “As far as airplay, it’s still on every radio station as a recurrent,” he says. “It just won’t go away. If it was [on] a major label, it wouldn’t have the longevity that it has.”
“Every one of those labels said, you’ll never have a No.1 record on the radio without a major label’ and sure enough, we took [Lean on] all the way to No.1.”
Two other artists whose single campaigns stand out for Connone are Major Lazer with Lean On and Secondhand Serenade’s Fall For You.
The latter was sent to him by Daniel Glass when both In2une and Glassnote were just getting started in 2007 and became the first artist that In2une successfully plugged at radio, which Connone says was proof of concept.
“We were nine months in and took that record Top 10,” says Connone. “That put us on the map at a time when there were very few independent artists at pop radio.”
Major Lazer, following various meetings with major labels and In2une, ultimately decided to work with Connone’s company on their single Lean On, which proceeded to be a No.1 US Radio hit.
“Every one of those labels said [to Major Lazer], ‘You’ll never have a hit without a major; you’ll never have a No.1 record on the radio without a major label’ and sure enough, we took it all the way to No.1,” recalls Connone.
Here, In2une’s founder tells us about the company’s history, successes, global expansion plans now that it’s a part of Kobalt, and how it has established a leading reputation for being able to break independent artists at US radio…
You were SVP of promotions at Warner. Did you start In2une straight after leaving that role?
I had the idea about six months before leaving. Major artists were leaving labels to focus on tour revenues and MySpace at the time was breaking down the barriers of entry for new artists. It was clear [indie artists] needed an infrastructure and muscle similar to that of a major label.
My goal was to put together a promotion staff and just start working some of the right records. I wanted to start one [record] at a time and get one through the system for proof of concept. So 2007 was when we launched, and Daniel Glass called and he was like, ‘Hey, I heard you’re starting a company. I’m starting one too.’ He sent me over Secondhand Serenade [single Fall For You] and I was like, ‘This sounds like a smash.’ And sure enough, it worked.
Then every year there was some independent record that we could hang our hat on. Maybe it was Ingrid Michaelson, then another year it was Lumineers, then Calvin Harris.
Unlike today, 2007 was still an immature market for independent successes.
Back then there were challenges finding good music that was independent. There weren’t independent records on the chart at that time. There were some with alternative [radio], but in pop especially – it was a major label world. Those were the biggest challenges; finding credible projects and breaking through the mentality of radio at the time.
As we grew, we constantly evolved with better employees. With more credible people came more credible records. It was important when we started that we weren’t viewed as an independent promotion company. I was very adamant about defining us as an infrastructure for independent artists. That was and still is an extremely important narrative of the company.
Pre-launch, we spoke with all the radio chains and said, ‘We are not independent promotion. We are here to give independent artists an infrastructure similar to that of a record label, so that they have a fair chance at success’.
That really set us apart. One of the things I’m the most proud of is our staff and how we built the company. When a great rock person became available, we hired that person, and that’s when we started the rock and alternative division. When a great, hot A/C person became available, we started that department. Everything in this company has been built on people – and the right people with the right cultural fit.
Although most of the team has major label experience, they’re a little different. They’re forward thinking and they’re passionate about music and changing the industry. They have to have that attitude and not be locked into the set ways of a label.
You mentioned breaking the mentality of radio. Could you explain what that mentality was and how it’s evolved since then?
In 2007, there weren’t really any independent records on the charts. It was really tough. Radio had to feel confident that an independent record could have enough muscle behind it to go the distance.
Secondhand Serenade [Fall For You] was one of those first records to really break through. It was fun working with Daniel [Glass] on that – and we still work together today, as he’s part of the AWAL family now.
After that, the walls started to break down. Now there are times where we have four or five records on the chart. It took a while, but now we are perceived to be as credible as any major label.
Would you agree that there’s a common perception that you need to be on a major label to break as an artist on US radio?
That was the mentality. There was this moment with Major Lazer, management and mtheory where they had to decide whether to keep Lean On independent or sign to one of the many major labels
So in that week, our whole team went on the road, visiting radio and got Z100 / New York KIIS / LA and 15 other major market radio stations. After that, the decision was made to stay independent.
Taking Lean On to No.1 was that watershed moment, where we were viewed as a disruptor by some of the majors. For us, it was validation that we could take a record all the way.
What was the thinking behind selling In2une to AWAL?
After the Major Lazer moment, we had interest from some majors about coming in-house, and about bringing our model to different places. At the same time, we started a consultancy with AWAL for radio promotion.
As we worked together, it just became obvious that our values were the same. We were both very big on transparency. The philosophies just all lined up nicely.
We brought something that they didn’t have, and complemented their model. Plus, it gave us the best of both worlds. We retained our autonomy as a standalone company, yet with the backing of a larger company that shares the same vision and mission with independent artists.
I always admired what Willard Ahdritz (pictured inset) was building and his vision of putting creators first. I’ve known Ron Cerrito, who’s the president of AWAL North America and then got to know Lonny Olinick [AWAL’s CEO]. To me, they’re two of the most forward thinking executives in the business. So it just made sense on so many levels. It’s been amazing.
What has changed since being acquired by AWAL?
What’s really changed with AWAL is we have the resources to build out our staff more in the US and work on our global footprint.
And they have a pipeline of amazing artists. Then, there’s the data, which is pretty amazing.
Who are some of your key team members?
Ken Lucek (Managing Partner/ GM) is a force of nature and epitomizes promotion. I’ve said it a million times, he has taken this company to another level and is involved in all aspects of the company.
Lori Rischer heads up our Campus Division and is a key radio executive who started our hot ac and ac division.
Dave Lombardi came from Caroline and is responsible for building out one of the best Rock/ Alt /AAA departments for independent artists. Jessica Johnson and Kevin Young round out that department.
Brian Mandler oversees Digital, Creative Services and is building out our global infrastructure.
Jamice Jennings oversees our growing Nashville division.
Cat Collins and Elana Riggle round out our executive staff – supporting our nationals and our six amazing Regionals.
Can you tell us anything about any global expansion plans?
My vision would be to work with existing teams around the world and have a global network of promotion teams that can interact with each other, exchanging music and being on the forefront of new music and creating an environment where anyone in the network can globally quarterback a record.
We can also take a different approach to breaking records. For example, maybe a [certain type of] promotion plan initially is Triple J in Australia, BBC Radio 1 in the UK and Alt Nation in the US.
What are the biggest challenges in terms of breaking an artist on radio in the US today?
The biggest challenges are timing and data. Every record is different – but as a rule, you don’t want to go to radio first or in a vacuum. Nowadays with so much consumption data, there are more records that deserve to go to radio, however there may still be only 25-30 slots on any given radio playlist.
So timing and the culture you build around the artist are important in the mix as well. Although the criteria may be different, it’s usually important to build a foundation before going to radio.
Has the data that you get from streaming made your job easier because you can target specific genres, radio stations and states?
Yes. Compared to most territories, the US has over 1,000 stations divided amongst 8-10 formats. So we have the ability to start records at AAA, Top 40, Alternative, Rhythm, country, etc…so there are different points of entry for records.
The business is also very data driven so the streaming data can give you real proof that a record deserves to be on the radio. But once again, there are a lot of records out there with stories, and radio has a limited inventory at the end of the day.
Broadly speaking, what are your hopes over the next five years?
The global radio network [idea] is really exciting to me. That’s a huge challenge, because nobody’s really doing it on this level independently.
We also want to build out [our] rhythm and urban divisions within the next year. That’s what I hope to do more than ever – and obviously keep having continued success at radio, and keep the credibility going.Music Business Worldwide