Latin Grammys 2018

Sony/ATV Enters Deal With Social-Powered Label Heard Well: Exclusive

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Heard Well's three co-founders handpick influencers to compile and promote their favorite tunes.

Heard Well, the label that employs social media tastemakers to compile their favorite tunes, is celebrating its second anniversary by joining forces with Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

The partnership will give new resources and scale to the company, which has been hand-picking online influencers to gather their favorite artists and tracks by scouring music blogs, YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud, bundling their top choices into albums and selling both physical and digital versions. Influencers have included YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley, Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, sketch comedy duo The Dolan Twins, a Filipino brother-sister dance duo and a 16-year-old, six-year YouTube video-maker veteran Amanda Steele. The artists and their labels receive royalties on sales while the influencers split additional earnings with Heard Well.

Heard Well has released more than 15 compilations, many of which have reached the Top 10 on the Billboard and iTunes charts. Artists they have supported include Odesza, Gallant, Anderson .Paak, Daya and Betty Who, and while there is no proven connection between their featuring unsigned artists and those artists landing their first label signing, it's happened more than once, the co-founders say. Earlier this year, Heard Well also partnered with TuneIn to create the first 24/7 radio station powered by influencers.  

"The bigger plan is to build Heard Well from a compilation business into a music media company," says Jeremy Wineberg, one of Heard Well's co-founders.

"[We want to] umbrella all these smaller companies underneath [us in order to] find an artist, use our creators' distribution channels to promote them, use the radio platform to give the artist the opportunity to play to another whole set of listeners, and then our Sony/ATV family [will help us] sign, distribute and publish all under one roof."

Sony/ATV sees the partnership as an A&R weapon.

"We looked at Heard Well and their network of influencers as a great source for uncovering new artists at the earliest stage," says Sony/ATV Co-President, U.S., Danny Strick. "In many cases even before research and data and analytics have appeared. The enthusiasm for music discovery that emanates from their management team is very exciting for us and we view their skills as a unique A&R tool that is a great supplementary source to our first-class A&R team."

Heard Well was launched by Wineberg, YouTuber Connor Franta and talent manager Andrew Graham.

While the platform and its young creators and social media followers fall squarely in the Millennial box, 24-year-old Franta nixed the term "disruptive" early on in the game when "Disrupt the Charts" was suggested as a company title.

"That's where my expertise came in and I shut [Wineberg] down in two seconds," laughs Franta, who liked to compile lists of his favorite music for friends as a hobby in his earlier years as a burgeoning entrepreneur. "I'm in that [Millennial] group and all the business ventures I've been pursuing have unintentionally fallen into that category, but it didn't start with, 'We need to get in touch with the Millennials,' with devil horns over our heads; we were already on that path. Now, with the Sony partnership, we're going into more of an old school record label direction."

Under the partnership, Sony/ATV will work with Heard Well's influencers and curators with the goal of signing emerging artists they have discovered, while Heard Well will provide a platform for Sony/ATV's own new songwriting talent via compilation albums the label releases. "We've moved close to 100K albums over the last couple of years," says Wineberg. "That's really big for artists because streams add up slowly but not as much as an album sale. There's something there that is monetizable and that makes artists happy."