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Label Look: Preach Records’ Long-Term Strategy Revolves Around Short-Term Deals

The recently-launched label hopes to woo artists by offering tailor-made deals spanning anywhere from five to eight songs.

When Jay Cohen founded management company OTG in his native Chicago in 2012, he never planned on growing the venture into a label. “For those initial years, it was really focused in the management space entirely,” he says. “And then just seeing the shift in the industry — the transition to fully being in the streaming world, the majors during that same time losing a little bit of their power — that’s where the idea started creeping in of starting up an independent label and not being the solution but a piece of that puzzle.”

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The idea was accelerated when, years later, Cohen met Daniel Baldock, founder of German-based promotion and marketing firm Preach Media Group. By 2019, the two merged their respective companies to become Preach Media, which in 2021 launched independent label Preach Records (in partnership with Ingrooves and beatBread) with Cohen as CEO and Baldock as CMO. This month, Preach announced its latest hire in Steve Higgs, who will head A&R, along with the label’s latest partnership with Warner Records UK/Darco Recordings on one of Berlin’s brightest rising stars. As Cohen says: “For a [major label] to recognize the system we built, see the value and want to do a deal is super exciting not only for Preach, but for the industry as a whole.”

BACKGROUND

Soon after launching OTG, Cohen relocated to Los Angeles, where he quickly fell into an “unpaid, unplanned successful campaign” that brought him and Baldock together in 2015. At the time, his management client Sir the Baptist’s debut single “Raise Hell” had yet to take off, despite being released months prior. But when an OTG staffer from Hanover, Germany shared the track with German influencer and Preach Media co-founder Luisa Eckhard, who in turn shared it with her followers, it quickly climbed to the No. 1 spot on Spotify’s Viral 50 global chart. Within a few months, Sir the Baptist scored a record deal with Atlantic. “They had that marketing and branding background in Germany and we had the music operations in the states, and those were the initial thoughts of what eventually, over the course of the next two years or so, [became Preach Records],” says Cohen. Adds Baldock: “It was a very pivotal moment.”

THE ARTISTS

Since launching Preach Records in 2021, the label has vowed to remain selective and hands-on, or as Baldock describes it: “globally lean.” He says, “To have artists from all over the world breaking in other parts of the world is something that we would love to be known for now and in the future.” Preach is off to a strong start in 2022, with two new signings out of Los Angeles: hip-hop artist Charlie Jay and pop singer-songwriter Riley Biederer. The label also signed Berlin-based hip-hop artist and songwriter Muntu, who, according to Preach, has written three of the top 15 songs currently on German radio and is the label’s first signee in partnership with Warner Records UK/Darco. Higgs assures that “it’s incredibly important to stay ahead of the curve and not chase the current trend, especially in the TikTok world that we live in,” adding that he views his job as connecting the Preach roster with “the best fitting producers and songwriters for their personality and sound — and pushing those same people to look within versus what’s hot right now.”

KEY STATS

Arguably the most important stat from Preach is also what sets it apart from more traditional labels, as the company prioritizes short-term deals. “In negotiating for artists when I had the management hat on, sure, the money is important. Yes, the percentages and the revenue splits are important, but a lot of times the thing that ended up making a deal not come to fruition was the length,” says Cohen. He says most of the deals Preach offers are for anywhere from five to eight songs, saying it allows both the label and the artist to decide, “‘Is this the partnership we had hoped for?’” Cohen continues, “You as a manager have many opportunities to find success and put up wins on the scoreboard, an artist only has a few — and that’s something that I’m always conscious of [as a label head]. They don’t have 10 label deals ahead of them if the first nine don’t work.”

WHAT’S NEXT

As for the label’s immediate next steps, Baldock stresses the importance of focusing on the live space as the world opens up. Just before the label launched, he and Eckhard started an activation in Germany called Preach Sessions (an extension of Preach Media), through which an artist performs in front of an intimate audience made up mostly of influencers. “After they performed live, they saw an uptick in their streams,” says Baldock. “The goal is to give an artist a platform to perform in front of these influencers who they couldn’t afford in a campaign. All of a sudden, we had alcohol partners coming on and bigger venues and it was moving.” Now, he’s eager to host more of these sessions for Preach Records’ roster in particular, calling it an “in-house smoking gun that we haven’t [yet] been able to leverage.”