Still, some country music has arrived, from Andress and more, including an unexpected hit from Zac Brown Band (whose The Owl Tour, which kicked off last fall, was supposed to extend through July). Two of Kobalt's Nashville writers, Ben Simonetti and Adam James, wrote a song that Brown recorded and debuted live on John Krasinski's web series, Some Good News, performing it as a couple virtually tied the knot. Since, Drew says the track, titled "The Man Who Loves You the Most," became an official single, shipped to country radio and reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Digital Song Sales chart, even scoring 25 ad opportunities (synchs are still a viable means for revenue, though production has understandably slowed). "We think it's going to be massive for him," says Drew.
For such songs that have been released -- and proven themselves hits -- Lewis predicts that "we're going to see an unprecedented amount of people going to shows when [the live industry] opens back up safely," citing Epic act Black Eyed Peas in particular. "Imagine the worldwide global opportunity that exists right now for them, given the success of 'RITMO' and 'Mamacita,'" he says. "Imagine the bottleneck of demand that’s being created by having these hit songs on the radio. When we come out of this, they can tour the world on those."
THE MORE THE MERRIER (AND PROFITABLE)
The key to keeping momentum until that time comes, especially for emerging acts like Epic's Tyla Yaweh -- who made his Hot 100 debut mid-pandemic with his Post Malone-featuring single "Tommy Lee," which reached No. 65 -- and U.K. rap duo Young T and Bugsey -- whose "Don't Rush" went viral on TikTok and received a remix from DaBaby -- is to “become part of the cultural consciousness through the internet," says Lewis. "Right now, the way to stay top of mind is to continue to put out good music, and because you have hit records in the marketplace, you will be much more likely to have more tour opportunities [waiting for you]."
Until then, A&R execs have been tasked with finding other revenue-generating lanes for their talent, leading to an increase in collaborations and features; Lewis says he's helped facilitate many, including securing YG (with whom Epic has a label deal) on Lil Loaded's "Gang Unit Remix" and landing DaBaby on Tyla Yaweh's "Stuntin' On You." Artists now have "the space to actually listen and go, 'Oh, I do like this kid, I'll give him a shot,'" says Lewis. Berkman agrees, adding that the additional time at home has not only increased artist-to-artist collaboration, but also "created an opening for younger developing artists that wouldn’t normally catch the eye of more established writers and producers whose schedules are usually filled for months in advance.” And it goes both ways, with developing writers and producers also having the chance to score time with a higher profile artist because, as Drew says, they’re all "stuck," -- and therefore more available to take chances (she says Kobalt writer Jennifer Decilveo, whose credits include Anne-Marie, Ben Platt and Caitlyn Smith, "has absolutely nailed it on Zoom").
Plus, the general acceptance -- born out of necessity -- to use Zoom or FaceTime for a session has also allowed for more collaboration on a global scale. "The barriers of geographic nature are down," says Kennard. "As we speak, we have writers and producers in London who are working on sessions for us in Nashville with no intention of coming here," he adds, noting that pre-pandemic "we would not have set this up."
THE RACE FOR RENEWALS
Ramping up collaborations isn’t the only revenue stream that A&Rs are tapping into, as publishing deals have become more important than ever in wake of canceled tours.