Exclusive: Lyor Cohen's 300 Unveils New Direction, Content, Artists
When a tombstone appeared on the Twitter feed and website of Lyor Cohen's 300 Entertainment, along with the words "R.I.P." and "He is not busy being born / is busy dying" and the hashtag #ItsANewDay -- all dropping the same day as the launch of MADE Music -- everyone thought the former Warner Music Group chief's maverick "content company" was done for.
"We anticipated it," Cohen tells Billboard over the phone, laughing. "We thought that's probably the likely scenario, that people would think we were something else -- it was just fun. A couple of A&R people got a couple of phone calls but we explained it had to do with the site, not the company."
But 300 -- which Cohen launched with ex-Warner Music colleagues Todd Moscowitz and Kevin Liles with an estimated $15 million in financial backing from high-profile companies including Google and Rhapsody stakeholder Columbus Nova, and a distribution deal with Atlantic in May of 2013 -- is re-vamping more than just its website. The company has hired 16 staff members for A&R, marketing, promotion, business affairs, and art; they've even enlisted Scout Willis to design their new offices on 29th and Madison.
It's all part of a new artist- and content-focused initiative, starting today (Oct. 21), which includes an Instagram reality video series "Signs of the Times" featuring Los Angeles-based up-and-comer Javier Matias. "The original site didn't have any artists, it just had us," says Cohen. "Even though it was a site a lot of people admired, it was time for us to blow it up, put the artists in front of us, and have the site be a platform for new content as well."
Since signing rising Voice star Jacquie Lee, Grammy Award-winning songwriter Eric Bellinger, and baseball player-turned-rapper Mike Stud, the Warner Music-distributed 300 has quietly brought on over 20 artists for deals ranging from strictly licensing (Panama) to recording agreements (Mainland, ASTR, and Alex Winston, among others), pressing and distribution partnerships with specific artists (like Shy Glizzy and Mad Decent's Riff Raff) and labels (the Atlanta collective Quality Control Music, which involves Migos, Rich the Kid, Skippa, and Cinco).
"We wanted it to be a platform not just for artists, but also entrepreneurs that want to take advantage of our personnel and our distribution to retain ownership and have the opportunity to continue developing their artists in a more bespoke way," explains Cohen, who says label's 360 deals and recording contracts vary depending on what the artist needs and wants. "There's no set rule or way."
That also goes for 300's partnership with Twitter, announced at Cohen's Midem keynote in Cannes, France this past February. "They're great partners and smart people," says Cohen. "I hope we extend, and continue helping them develop products for the creative community to use and feel strongly about." Though 300 hasn't yet signed any artists from the social media platform, Cohen believes in its utility for A&R, especially following Twitter's Oct. 16 announcement that the audio card feature would enable in-app music streaming.
"It's completely amazing for the consumer," says Cohen, who predicts 300 will sign an act from Twitter soon and has also lent his support to a possible Soundcloud acquisition. "It's seamless and easy to access. The artist community should absolutely embrace what Twitter is doing and all the new products and innovation they have and are committed to."
In the newfound spirit of transparency, Cohen will engage in a Reddit AMA tonight (Oct. 21) at 6pm EST.