kei henderson

Traditional music industry boundaries continue to blur, particularly around artist development. We’ve moved from an era where labels developed artists and publishers developed songwriters through a time when managers started to shoulder more of the burden in the early years.

Now we’re in a world where Apple owns an artist-development company (Platoon); where Spotify’s ‘Fresh Finds’ playlists have been expanded into an artist development program; where Tencent Music and NetEase Cloud Music have thriving emerging-artist initiatives; and where TikTok is hiring A&Rs.

Let’s not forget SoundCloud though. In February, the company launched a joint venture with QC Media Holdings, the corporate vehicle for the founders of hip-hop label Quality Control. It promised “custom A&R programs” for artists with development sitting alongside distribution, marketing and artist services. Now it has announced a second, similar deal.

This time the partner is Atlanta-based Third & Hayden, which combines label, publishing and management, and whose founder Kei Henderson played a key role in the breakthrough success of artist 21 Savage. The JV will focus on A&R, marketing, PR, distribution and other services, and is described as being part of SoundCloud’s “roster business”.

Streaming services with rosters? That’s where we are now, even if SoundCloud’s two partnerships so far are carefully limited in their scope: essentially providing additional heft to independent companies who were already developing artists. “We’re being intentional on ground up development,” said Henderson.

The same could be said of SoundCloud’s approach to this aspect of its business, sitting alongside its recent-years pivot back towards artist tools and services, rather than trying to go toe-to-toe with the biggest streaming services in the consumer-subscriptions market.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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