Kobalt acquires AWAL, launches Label Services division

Kobalt Music Group has acquired digitial distribution platform AWAL, which carries the recorded music of more than 5,000 independent artists and labels.This buyout will fuel the launch of Kobalt’s new Label Services division.

Kobalt and AWAL clients will be offered a wide range of digital retail, subscription, D2C and social media services, and benefit from advanced data analytics.

Through the acquisition Kobalt obtains access to AWAL’s worldwide distribution network of more than 200 digital retail partners, including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, eMusic, Rhapsody, 7Digital, Beatport, Deezer, Nokia and 247 among others. AWAL, which will remain a standalone company within Kobalt Music Group, additionally offers clients digital retail sales and premium marketing services, aggregated sales reporting from digital sales, an online client dashboard, a synch licensing platform and BuzzDeck data analytics.

“Our expansion and launch of Kobalt’s Label Services division and the acquisition of AWAL is a response to our clients’ needs and to a major shift in where we see the market is heading,” said Willard Ahdritz, CEO and Founder of Kobalt Music Group, “With an efficient platform, direct distribution channel, a successful track record and strong management, AWAL was built on similar core values of transparency and integrity as Kobalt was. This acquisition is a building block in Kobalt’s long-term strategy of creating a new kind of full music service alternative for rights holders including artists and labels.”

As part of the launch, Ahdritz announced the appointment of Paul Hitchman as Managing Director of Kobalt Label Services. Hitchman has been co-founder of three of Europe’s most innovative and progressive digital music companies, Playlouder, MSP and CI. Playlouder was one of the first legal download services in the U.K. and launched ground-breaking, download-only releases with major artists and web streaming of live events, including Glastonbury and Reading Festivals.

“I am very pleased to welcome Paul Hitchman to the company as Managing Director of Kobalt Label Services division. Having known Paul for 10 years, he has a wealth of experience and a successful track record as a pioneer and innovator in the digital music market.

“He brings to Kobalt broad expertise and will be a tremendous asset to our new division as we roll out new Kobalt services and build upon the existing AWAL operations.”

In 2003 Hitchman co-founded Consolidated Independent (CI), a leading provider of digital supply chain services to many of the world’s premier indie music companies including Beggars Group, PIAS, RedEye Distribution, Naĩve, Because Music, Razor & Tie, Windup Records and Demon Music Group.

Media Service Provider (MSP) is an award-winning white label consumer music platform that powers digital music subscription services for ISPs, mobile operators and other network operators. Prior to founding Playlouder in 2000, Paul worked in A&R at Warner Music UK and was A&R/marketing consultant to Arista/BMG UK, where he also had a label deal for his label, Sugar Records.

AWAL’s management team of Kevin Bacon, Jonathan Quarmby, Denzyl Feigelson and Paul Bower will remain intact reporting to Paul Hitchman.

AWAL will continue to operate independently from its London and Sheffield offices. Commented Bacon and Quarmby, AWAL Co-Founders: “Becoming a part of the Kobalt Music Group is a natural fit and strategic move for the long term future of AWAL, our clients and employees. Kobalt has a history of innovation, growth and solid leadership and has made a firm commitment to investing in expansion of our global infrastructure and service offerings which will further benefit our existing clients.”

“Kobalt is a unique merger of rights management, innovative distribution and marketing, which is exactly the culmination of AWAL’s original vision,” said Denzyl Feigelson, who founded and launched AWAL in 1996 and serves as AWAL ambassador. “It’s exciting for our team and our roster to be part of a full service company that will serve artists and labels in the most pristine and fluid way. This collaboration allows artists to focus on their craft whilst having the support of appropriate, customised tools and services. Our community is now in the best position to be in control, artistically free with the direct conduit to fans and consumers.”

AWAL client and Absolute MD, Henry Semmence said: “Having been a strategic partner with AWAL for the several years now, the new tie up between AWAL and Kobalt is very exciting news for all of us. The label management skills and delivery access points to the market that we can offer as a combined force offers huge potential to a wide range of acts across all genres – exciting times ahead.”

Music Business Worldwide

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