Ultra Music Launches Pop & Folk Focused Joint Venture With Indie Label Color Study

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The longstanding dance music label is partnering with the indie imprint to promote artists including Charli Adams, whose new video "Backseat" is premiering exclusively on Billboard.

A new joint venture will add a different tune to Ultra Music's EDM-focused ventures.

Ultra is partnering with artist manager Spencer Kelley and his label Color Study, an indie imprint that is home to folk and pop singer-songwriters include Charli Adams, whose new video "Backseat" is premiering exclusively below; Henry Jamison; as well as Haux and Rosie Carney, who've teamed up for a new single, "Eight," that will be released on Dec. 6. Adams will release her debut EP, At Being Young, on Jan. 31, while Haux has a debut album slated and Jamison and Carney both have EPs planned for the first half of 2020.

"In some ways it's a really unlikely pairing, at least in terms of genre," Kelley tells Billboard of the collaboration. "But [Ultra has] been super supportive of everything I've brought forward so far, which has been really exciting. I feel very lucky to be at a place where we're signing the artists together and they're giving me a long enough leash, so to speak, and aren’t interfering and just kind of letting the artists be and letting our process continue." The benefit, Kelley notes, is resources, from distribution to video production and "just having more teams and other people to bounce ideas off of."

Ultra founder Patrick Moxey said in a statement: "We've always had a love for songwriting and its mastery. It's been the foundation of many of our most successful releases. With Color Study, we get to explore more into the craft while at the same time work with Spencer on utilizing all our resources, starting with our creative department on doing some amazing content. To me this is magic."

Kelley's relationship with Ultra began via Haux, the Massachusetts singer-songwriter whose ambient-styled music the label saw as a potential crossover addition to its roster in 2016. Haux released two EPs with Ultra, amassing more than 200 million streams and selling more than 50,000 singles.

"As that relationship built we were just talking more about some of the artists I was managing," Kelley says. "In the case of someone like Henry or Rosie, there's less of that electronic underpinning. It was very clear they wouldn't fit in that [Ultra] brand or that world, so we started talking about building something new, which I'd been interested in doing for awhile. We realized we had similar values even if our Venn diagram of what musical artists we listen to wasn't overlapping in a ton of areas."

Kelley, who named Color Study after Wassily Kandinsky's painting Color Study: Squares With Concentric Circles, says he was also impressed with Ultra's stability -- "Across three years with Haux we didn't lose a single key player," he notes -- as well as the company's "willingness and interest in taking risks around content." That included a self-directed five-minute short film, Something to Remember, that accompanied Haux's EP of the same name. "Ultra provided him with the budget to buy the equipment he needed and all of that," Kelley says. "I've never gotten a sense from them that they need X number of streams and then they'll talk about doing a music video or anything like that. They're just interested in creating."

Kelley is grateful that his clients are continuing with him in Color Study -- something he did not take for granted when he hatched the deal with Ultra. "I'm really thankful they're trusting in the process and excited about what they're doing," he says. "We started talking to each of them about what their needs were, and it's come together in this really cohesive roster and brand." Kelley is also hoping that Color Study's artists will also find a way to become part of the larger Ultra universe as the new venture settles in.

"One of the things I've really enjoyed from looking at the electronic world a little closer is I love the collaborations and the features," he says. "We're at a really unique time where an artist can just connect with another artist on Instagram or something and suddenly they're sending songs back and forth and a few weeks later it comes out. And why not? Rosie and Haux really connected on ['Eight'], and that's definitely going to be something I want to encourage, in a way that fits this world and this genre."

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