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In 2006, Allen Kovac, CEO of management and marketing company 10th Street Entertainment, launched the label Eleven Seven, later signing Sixx:A.M., Hellyeah, Buckcherry and Dirty Heads. After 13 years, he consolidated the label’s three imprints — hard-rock-focused Eleven Seven Music, alt-leaning Five Seven Music and genre catch-all Better Noise Records — rebranding in late 2019 as Better Noise Music.
“Allen noticed that major labels were giving up on rock, so we brought in established artists who had been dropped [like Mötley Crüe and Papa Roach] and started building up a catalog,” says COO Steve Kline, who has been with 10th Street since 2004. Adds Kovac, “The old days of having different label identities for different genres are over.” Says Kline, “For the past couple years, we have arguably been the biggest rock label in the world, certainly in [streaming and consumption] market share in America,” says Kline. Now, BNM plans to dominate the alternative realm with a string of new signings — and break into the country market, too.
Kovac’s five-decade-long résumé includes stints as a promoter and manager of Meat Loaf, the Bee Gees, Duran Duran, The Cranberries and Mötley Crüe. After launching Eleven Seven, he founded Five Seven Music in 2009 and Better Noise Records in 2015. Soon after, he enlisted Kline, a 20-year radio promotions vet (Lava, Geffen), to boost Better Noise’s A&R and artist development. Their partnership has helped the company’s rapid expansion: Better Noise Music’s staff has tripled in size since 2015, adding half a dozen international heads to the nearly 50 full-timers in New York and Los Angeles.
Following new distribution deals in 2019 with AMPED, Membran and Netherlands-based digital distributor FUGA, BNM plans to release 15 to 20 projects in 2020, including albums from core hard-rock acts Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach, as well as a follow-up to the breakout success of Mongolian rock band The Hu. New alternative signees AWOLNation and Atlas Genius have already released songs this year about the fires in California and Australia, respectively. “That builds something bigger,” says Kovac. “It becomes a real relationship because they’re sharing experiences.”
While BNM’s Nashville office is focusing on new signing Cory Marks, whose “Outlaws & Outsiders” — featuring members of Mötley Crüe and Five Finger Death Punch — hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock Digital Song Sales and Country Digital Song Sales charts in November 2019, breaking into alternative remains the label’s priority. “Alternative is becoming more and more formulaic pop music that’s manufactured to cross over,” says Kovac. “We brought diversity to the rock format, and we’re bringing nonmanufactured alternative music back.”
Netflix’s 2019 Mötley Crüe biopic, The Dirt, led to a 329% boost in the band’s streams, according to Nielsen Music. Kline hopes to replicate those numbers with a 2020 touring musical of Nikki Sixx’s Heroin Diaries memoir. The label is also curating a soundtrack to the upcoming film Sno Babies, while Better Noise Films will soon release horror flick The Retaliators, featuring members of Five Finger Death Punch, Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee and Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix. “You can’t just rely on CD sales and streaming anymore,” says Kovac. “Amazon has TV, film, streams music and sells merchandise. Why would we limit ourselves?”
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.
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