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How Brent Faiyaz’s Team Spent Seven Years Building Up to the Success of ‘Wasteland’

"We all are aiming to turn the ship to make the market share tip toward independent companies that aren't owned by majors."

Generally speaking, the upper echelons of major Billboard charts are populated by artists with the backing of a major label: currently, the top five of the Billboard 200 includes Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Tí (Rimas, distributed by Sony-owned The Orchard); aespa’s Girls: The 2nd Mini Album (SM/Warner); Harry StylesHarry’s House (Erskine/Columbia); and Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album (Big Loud/Republic).

But this week, the usual major-label parade was disrupted by a totally independent newcomer to the top tier: Brent Faiyaz, whose Wasteland album — released on his own Lost Kids label, with distribution from indies Stem and Venice — soared in at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums with 88,000 equivalent album units in its first week, a staggering number for an artist doing things on his own.

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It’s also validation for Faiyaz and his team, who worked for seven years to build up the R&B singer’s career and following to get to this point, with a long-term plan that eschewed the help of the majors in exchange for creative control and ultimate flexibility. And now, the strategy has paid off: Faiyaz’s Wasteland is one of the more compelling artist/business stories of the year so far, and the success of that plan helps earn his manager and Colture co-founder and Faiyaz’s manager Ty Baisden the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.

Here, Baisden explains that seven-year plan and how the team methodically cultivated a fan base for the singer, the album’s big debut even without a breakout single or viral marketing and where everything could go from here. “We are zeroed in on breaking the perceived glass ceilings around being independent,” Baisden says. “What is about to happen now is that all eyes will be on all platforms that support major label artists more than independent artists. The support needs to reflect the market. We hope to be the seed that has been planted to prove that you can compete outside of the system.”

This week, Brent Faiyaz’s album Wasteland debuted at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums and No. 2 on the Billboard 200. What key decisions did you make to help make that happen?

We worked hard for seven years building a fan base and culture around Brent. We took the time to learn and ask the right questions. After not having a project from him in two and a half years, we knew his fans would explode. One big decision for this project was release date. We originally were set on June 24, but got word that we could get more support on July 8 and that there weren’t any other big artists releasing that day. It also gave us more lead time for marketing.

I internally projected that we would do 75,000 units based off of forecasting from past streams and projections. I also researched how the top five album sales were performing for debuts on Billboard 200, then matched it to our projections. We made the final decision and started working towards that date. Then, we loaded our bets with all existing partners we have on the marketing end — not to mention the music is Fye!

The seven years prior leading up to this album is important to mention because having those years of resistance, learning and growth, we keyed in, allowing us to handcraft a long-term plan that we hope will continue to work release after release for us moving forward. Lastly, we aligned strong strategic marketing partnerships with Venice, Stem and Graduation. This was the launch of the plan. We still have nine more months of activations and campaigning toward our Grammy year baby!

You put this album out independently through your Lost Kids label, with distribution by Venice and Stem. Why did you decide to go that way? And what support did they provide?

I wanted to use this moment to showcase that — when done properly with the right team — two indie distro companies can partner to help grow the indie sector of the music industry. I feel that more independent distribution companies should partner more on artists. We all are aiming to turn the ship to make the market share tip toward independent companies that aren’t owned by majors. Stem is flawless when it comes to making sure that our collaborators get paid on time and that is very important to us. Venice has always been a long-term partner for us, but with this project they came in to help with strategy around high-level marketing opportunities.

What does that independence allow you and Brent to do that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise?

Be innovative with how we want to use our intellectual property in the market. It allows us to be open to partner with any company. We control the yes or no, so we can get as creative and be as flexible as we want.

You also made this huge debut without a major viral single, which even the biggest pop stars in the world aim for before releasing their albums. How did you set this album up to maximize its impact in its first week?

Historically, it has been about a song with big artists. But truthfully, with Brent, it is about a deep relationship with his fan base and the culture built around him. His albums will always do better than his singles because we are storytellers. Everyone loves to hear a great story.

It’s been two years and a pandemic since his last project, F—k The World. How has the industry changed and how have you adapted to that?

The industry didn’t change. Really, what the fans wanted changed. We know what that is, but the rest of the industry has to figure it out for themselves.

Where do you go from here with Brent to build on this success?

We are zeroed in on breaking the perceived glass ceilings around being independent. What is about to happen now is that all eyes will be on all platforms that support major label artists more than independent artists. The support needs to reflect the market. We hope to be the seed that has been planted to prove that you can compete outside of the system.