‘Major labels have best-in-class structures – but they also have a mass of repertoire.’

Mi Casa, signed to Universal/Afroforce1, are a Motion Agency international client

In an era where hits and stars can come from anywhere, and break anywhere, Motion Agency’s mission is to make sure none fall through the cracks.

Those cracks have always been there, of course, caused by territories prioritising locally-signed repertoire and fundamental logistical limitations, which are exacerbated by the fact that in the modern era there is just So. Much. Music.

Motion provides PR, marketing and more across Europe, Australia and South-East Asia, whilst eliminating the need to hire multiple agencies to cover multiple territories (and send in multiple invoices).

Its clients include Universal Music Group, BMG and Concord, in addition to a range of smaller independents.

Founder and CEO Paolo d’Alessandro has a suitably eclectic background, with a 25-year career that has seen him work for Italian independent labels, a Dutch rock/metal label, Roadrunner, BMG Publishing and a stint running Universal’s Italian division.

In 2008 he founded an agency called International Solutions, which has evolved into Motion Agency. Along the way, it has built a team of eight, spread across four offices (London, Belgium, Australia and Amsterdam), who between them speak seven languages.

Heading up the UK and Ireland for Motion Agency is Mike Bartlett who, over two decades, has worked at Warner, Sony and Universal – as well as a stint independent distributor, Proper.

Here the two execs explain how a wide-ranging menu of services can lend muscle and expertise to an emerging artist, or do the hard yards for major labels unable to commit serious internal resource to an international artist – until, of course, Motion delivers a great big hit, at which point, as d’Alessandro points out, “we gladly step aside, hand it over to the locals and move on to the next.”

What makes Motion Agency different to other agencies in terms of what you bring to a campaign?

Mike Bartlett: We bring a unique mix of skill sets and experience – which means we can give independent clients the kind of perspective that they might get from a label, and it means we’re comfortable operating at any level of the industry.

Whether it’s a frontline global campaign for a major artist with lots of moving parts to keep track of, or something more boutique for a developing artist doing it on their own, we try to add value wherever it’s required.

Are labels thinking more globally these days? And if so how does that play to Motion Agency’s strengths?

Paolo d’Alessandro: Labels have always wanted a global support system for PR and marketing but, for one reason or another, international is always a conundrum to sort out.

For some it’s a financial issue: ‘If I need to hire five PR teams in five different countries, my budgets are going to take quite a hit before we even start the ball rolling.’

“Labels have always wanted a global support system for PR and Marketing but for one reason or another International is always a conundrum to sort out.”

Paolo d’Alessandro, Motion Agency

For others – major labels and the larger independents – it’s a priority issue: how do I get those five local affiliates to invest their resources on my artist?

In both cases we are the perfect fit: one PR team covering all territories, one marketing team planning and executing local campaigns in different countries.

MB: Everyone has a dashboard of some kind now, and can see at a glance how their artist’s releases are performing – whether that’s streaming consumption, social interaction or physical sales – and they can see where in the world their release is having an impact.

We make an assessment with clients early on about how much information they are accessing and guide them on how to make decisions based upon it.

Sometimes that means pivoting in the middle of a campaign to add emphasis in a territory we weren’t covering initially – and our initial guidance about which markets to cover is also based on data.

Having said that, some campaigns come with pre-determined goals – e.g. navigating the radio landscape in Germany – and we’re comfortable executing on that basis too.

Can you tell us about the type of companies you work with?

PA: Majors and Independents, big and small. We run campaigns for the likes of Universal, RCA and Concord, to Marshall Records, Alcopop and Distiller, to independent artists wanting to navigate the DIY model.

MB: We’re comfortable at every level of the industry and at every stage of an artist’s journey. At any given moment we might be working a dance single, a ‘heritage’ project, a classical album and a jazz singer. I love that variety.

Can you give us some detail from a couple of recent campaigns?

MB: We’re working a fantastic South African band called Mi Casa, who are a Universal signing in South Africa, with [Universal JV label] Afroforce1 in Germany.

The A&R team have found something really special in this band and we’re spreading the message beyond their home markets. Radio and press in the UK is starting to pick up and it’s great to see an African band get this kind of traction in Europe.

There’s such a lot of great music coming out of Africa and it feels we’re at a tipping point where artists can attract mainstream attention.

At the other end of the spectrum we’ve had a great year with the Finnish metal band Lost Society – who we worked with across Europe on the launch of their album, covering all bases from PR/media, marketing and social media, through to physical and digital distribution via our sister company MTX Music.

You work with most of the majors – what is the advantage for them of working through you rather than utilising their own infrastructure?

PA: Majors have a priority issue, coupled with a massive repertoire and only 24 hours in a day. Local affiliates have to choose where to put their resources when it comes to international repertoire. Your domestic repertoire comes first – rightly so – and then you have to allocate limited resources to ‘everything else’, quite literally.

Rep owners have come to see us as an addition to their team, buying our services for the local affiliates, so that they have promotion in their markets without using local resources. When a project becomes big enough, successful enough, hence financially viable for a local affiliate to invest in, we gladly step aside, hand it over to the locals and move on to the next.

“by the time [a major label] record which was signed in the US reaches Spain or Italy and you’re looking for media support, there isn’t necessarily a team in house who can give you priority.”

Mike Bartlett, Motion Agency

MB: Major labels have best-in-class structures, which allow the biggest releases to rise to the top and become successful on a global basis. They have commercial and media leverage – and scale – to do that job in a phenomenally successful way.

They also have a mass of repertoire. With that comes an internal market which is as competitive as the battle for consumer support, and by the time your record which was signed in the US reaches Spain or Italy and you’re looking for media support, there isn’t necessarily a team in house who can give you priority.

That’s one of the places we come in – and a barometer of our success in that situation is when the major label picks the record back up and turns it into a hit.

What is your counter to the argument that campaigns are better conceived and executed by a network of different, dedicated local agencies rather than a multi-territory agency?

PA: There isn’t one! You hire a local agency for their knowledge of language and culture, for their connections to the local media landscape and for the ability to understand how far a marketing dollar (or pound or Euro) can go in that market.

We built a team that does just that, except you don’t need five or more of them.

Can you tell us about any campaigns you have lined up for the last few months of the year?

MB: A brief list of projects we’re involved with through to the end of this year includes Kylie Minogue, Roisin Murphy, Faithless, Jorge Blanco, Mi Casa, Jonathan Antoine, Caroline Jones, Connie Talbot and Cindy Blackman Santana.

What are your ambitions for expanding Motion Agency over the next couple of years?

PA: We want to continue to build this amazing team of diverse nationalities, languages and skillsets to consolidate every aspect of promotion and marketing for an in-house team to be able to handle. Technology is a big part of that, but it’s all about our people.

“The lines are blurring with every passing day between media, content, marketing activity and everything else you need to do to release a record.”

MB: I see two key areas for our development in the short to medium term: servicing the independent artist community effectively, providing structure where it’s needed; and developing a service which larger repertoire owners can tap into as they require it.

The lines are blurring with every passing day between media, content, marketing activity and everything else you need to do to release a record. We’re excited by this convergence and our team is thriving on the new challenges it throws up.Music Business Worldwide