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How Indie Label Mom + Pop's Grasp On Digital Distribution Benefits Its Global Roster

Alice Merton
Ryan Muir

Merton performed at Mom + Pop’s 10th-anniversary concert at Brooklyn Steel last October.

When Mom + Pop Music formed in 2008, it was not an auspicious time to be launching an independent label: It was the start of the Great Recession, and declining album sales were dogging a music industry years away from digital salvation. But now owner-founder Michael Goldstone -- who founded the label with Q Prime owners Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch and has owned and ran it alongside Thaddeus Rudd since 2013 -- had just emerged from years of major-label experience (most recently at Sire, which he left in 2008) with a winning vision.

“We were living in the [360-deal] heyday,” he tells Billboard. Goldstone, who became sole owner of the label alongside Rudd in 2013, felt that most of the artists he was excited about were better suited for an indie that could offer the one thing those deals often couldn’t: flexibility. “Structuring most of our deals as partnerships -- that’s how we built the foundation.”

Now, over a decade in and with Hallie Anderson and Jessica Page as newly appointed co-GMs -- the first time women have held the positions of head of marketing and head of digital, respectively -- the indie finds itself navigating the most flexible market of all: streaming. Page sees the format as the label’s biggest growth opportunity, particularly in the voice and audio activations enabled by Amazon Alexa and Google Home. To bolster its presence on such platforms, Mom + Pop is working to promote its streaming catalogs in Asia. “Countries that traditionally didn’t monetize are starting to,” says Page. “In four years, we can place a solid bet they will be significant parts of our income.”

Mom + Pop’s roster has already made good in streaming. Producer Flume’s electro-R&B smash “Never Be Like You” (featuring Kai) helped him land at No. 10 on Billboard’s 2016 year-end Dance/Electronic Streaming chart. And in August 2017, Alice Merton’s streaming success with debut single “No Roots” secured her a deal with the label (it has now been streamed 77 million times, according to Nielsen Music). The tracks were also radio hits, peaking at No. 11 on Mainstream Top 40 in 2016 and No. 1 on Alternative in 2018, respectively. Says Page: “A lot of bigger companies have international teams, but with the way streaming is set up, especially for developing artists, they can now make a livable income [without one].”

Understanding that early on helped Mom + Pop get ahead. In 2017, the company shifted from digital distribution through Apple to digital self-distribution worldwide. It was an especially fitting move for a label whose roster is strikingly global: Courtney Barnett and Flume are from Australia, garage-rockers Hinds hail from Spain, jazzy multi-instrumentalist FKJ is from France, and Merton, as “No Roots” details, moved 12 times in 24 years throughout North America and Europe. “Music crosses borders and even artistic lanes because of the streaming reality,” says Rudd. “It’s essential to all of our campaigns.”

This article originally appeared in the April 27 issue of Billboard.

NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect the correct titles of Goldstone and Rudd


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