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50 Most Powerful Quotes of 2017 for Independent Artists


Earlier this year, Kobalt Founder & CEO and AWAL Executive Chairman Willard Ahdritz proclaimed, “There has never been a more exciting time to be in the music industry.” Indeed, 2017 has been a memorable year as the independent market share is on the rise and independentartists are now a billion-dollar business. It seems like the possibilities for an artist committed to controlling and growing their own career are more bountiful than ever.

To bid farewell to this fruitful year, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite quotes from around the music biz — from artists to managers to industry influencers — numbered, not ranked, because they’re all equally epic. Use them to reflect on your own experiences in 2017 and get excited for what’s coming up next year!

1. “[AWAL is] enabling artists to disrupt the old models of the music industry. Today, artists you’ve never heard of are making a living off of streaming revenue…. In the next couple of years, the number of artists that make a living off of these services will grow from 5,000 to 100,000 artists, right along with the growth of streaming.” — Willard Ahdritz, Kobalt Founder & CEO and AWAL Executive Chairman

Willard Ahdritz, Kobalt Founder & CEO and AWAL Executive Chairman

2. “We have the biggest distribution system in the world for streaming music so why not use that to help young artists.” — Troy Carter, Spotify’s global head of creator services

3. “It’s been an amazing career, I had no female mentors, but I do intend to be that for the young women coming up.” — Sas Metcalfe, Chief Creative Officer of Kobalt, during Music Week’s International Woman of the Year acceptance speech

Sas Metcalfe, Chief Creative Officer of Kobalt, during Music Week’s International Woman of the Year acceptance speech

4. “I think the state of Indies is very, very strong right now. I think labels and artists are feeling more and more empowered. There are more options for Indies. We have dozens of distributors with all kind of variegated business models that you can choose from. From being a sole proprietor indie label all the way to being a label like Beggars with 150 employees or more, the options are there. And the options are there to hang on to more of the money you make.” — RichardBurgess, CEO of A2IM

5. “You don’t need a record label. As long as you have heart and play with patience, you’ll get what’s coming to you.” — Frank Carter, artist

Frank Carter, artist

6. “As YouTube expands and turns its focus to music, it’s becoming more imperative that artists pay attention…. It’s bigger than any other streaming platform in terms of the number of people who use it. In terms of exposure and wanting to get your music out to people, YouTube is a massive destination.” — Mark Newman, Senior Product Manager at AWAL

7. “You have to innovate to be successful now.” — Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day

8. “It speaks volumes for the tenacity, passion and entrepreneurship of independent labels, and the public’s desire for musical diversity, that even in these times of global dominance by major corporations, almost four out of every 10 dollars spent on music goes to the independent sector.” — Martin Mills, Beggars Group Founder & Vice President of WIN

9. “I am hugely focused and driven, and, with that, sometimes comes a lack of knowing when to allow yourself to take a break and a moment to look at what you’ve achieved and pat yourself on the back. We are always having to look forward, but recognizing where you have come from is so important, too. So, balance — that’s the big one for me.” — Anna Pancaldi, AWAL artist

Anna Pancaldi, AWAL artist

10. “If you have to point at an enemy, our greatest enemy is apathy. We’d be able to achieve fantastic results if we were not trapped by the idea that nothing can be changed.” — Nadya Tolokonnikova, Pussy Riot member and AWAL artist

11. “That’s why artists will choose an independent publisher — we work hard to get them these [synch] opportunities.” — Jeannette Perez, SVP and Head of Global Synch and Brand Partnerships on Kobalt coming in second for the most synch placements in 2017 Super Bowl commercials

12. “As an artist, you have to understand, when you’re ready for something, you’ll know and you’ll take it and when you’re not, your gut will tell you. I feel like it’s really important to listen to what your spirit says because it’s never gonna steer you wrong.” — Jordan Mackampa, AWAL artist, at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

13. “Knowledge is power. As the music industry keeps evolving, we want everyone to have access to as many resources as possible.” — Jen Masset, Head of Independent Label Services, Spotify North America

14. “As a band, we have grown with confidence in our sound and have become sensitive to each other’s strengths, so we draw on the best bits of all of us to make music. It’s like wearing in a new pair of shoes until they feel right. Where those shoes take us, who knows, but we’re 100% focused and ready for the journey.” — Sea Girls, AWAL artist

15. “Thanks to AWAL, my face is today the cover of Indie Mixtape on Spotify  — six months ago less than 10 people had heard my demo. I can’t really believe that. Thanks, Ben. Thanks, AWAL.” — AngieMcMahon, AWAL artist

Angie McMahon, AWAL artist

16. “If you make art that is honest, you can never fail because your goal is to make art. And you decide when that art is created and you can decide when you are successful. As soon as you start making things to be successful on a more materialistic level, you are allowing yourself to fail because if it’s not successful, then you have no art and you have no success, you have nothing. I think all you can ever do is be honest and make art.” — Bruno Major, AWAL artist, at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

17. “There are six billion people in the world, and actually, I guarantee you more people listen to radio than listen to Spotify. It’s just that the people who listen to Spotify are paying for it, and they’re all really engaged. If someone hears you on the radio, it doesn’t mean they’re going to buy your track.” — Matt Riley, Senior Director, Creative, Kobalt Music Recordings (AWAL)

18. “We’re pretty optimistic about the future. I think we’re at the cusp of what I would call the Golden Age [of the music industry] here [at Amazon Music]…. We think long-term here… We’re not saying tomorrow it’s going to magically shoot up, but when we look at the long-term prospects of the music industry, we’re incredibly bullish.” — Steve Boom, Vice President, Amazon Music

19. “There are moments and time periods where I’m just fucking crushing it…and then it plateaus. I’ve never had a moment like that where I didn’t come out the other end with a laser-focused vision of this what we’re doing and this how we’re going to make it work. I guess I’m just really good at banging my head against a wall and breaking it down…. That’s the characteristic you need to continue and build as an independent artist.” — VÉRITÉ, independent artist and Kobalt client

VÉRITÉ, independent artist and Kobalt client

20. “I was told by a mother in the USA who lost both of her sons to the Iraq war that she was about to commit suicide but after listening to my song ‘Catalyst’ she wrote to me and said it changed her mind. She sent shivers down my spine and showed me the power of music.” — Alonestar, AWAL artist

21. “I just feel like I’m more of use writing for other people. I can help them say what they want to say when they just can’t find the words. When I’m working with artists, I just want to be of service to their vision. It’s really rewarding.” — Amy Kuney, songwriter and Kobalt client

22. “It’s scary to do things differently, but I’m one for the weirdos.” — Steve Lacy, AWAL artist

23. “The number-one thing is don’t give up. Persistence is really important. You made a start. If it didn’t totally catch, so you move on and you keep going. You learn but you keep going.” — Paul Hitchman, President of AWAL, at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

24. “If I did a tiny, tiny change and if we all do that, I would be so happy. That’s what feels like my mission is — just let people speak from their hearts for a second.” — J.Views, AWAL artist

25. “Music is not what we do, it’s who we are. This is the first time in history you don’t need permission to have a music career.” — AriHerstand, Founder, Ari’s Take

26. “I have realised that I shouldn’t restrict myself to one genre, so being experimental and free with music is very rewarding but at the same time hard as you have to break the barriers of music to find where you lie musically. Training vigorously everyday to improve my craft can be hard sometimes, but is very rewarding when you take a step back and see what you have built up from scratch.” — Rika, AWAL artist

27. “If there’s a single subject being talked about and thought about right now it’s the ‘V’ word: value.” — Tim Ingham, Music Business UK

28. “It’s really important to connect with what you represent as an artist and to figure out your story. It’s so important to really succeed in not just making great music, but understanding the business of it and understanding what you represent and what you want to say. Knowing who you are, it helps you to get your point across a lot cleaner. It also makes for a more interesting output as a whole.” — Michael Brun, AWAL artist

Michael Brun, AWAL artist

29. “The future will only lead to more empowerment for artists along with more sustainable ways to build their careers. Streaming, for example, will only get bigger and better — and Kobalt will be on the other side refining its tech infrastructure to make sure artists are receiving the royalties and support they deserve.” — WillardAhdritz, Kobalt Founder & CEO and AWAL Executive Chairman

30. “Good music and creative thinking, creative campaigns, all these things can be put together without having hugely deep pockets.” — Simon Wheeler, Beggars Group

31. “If you’re not making music that you feel is right for you, and you’re just trying to make something that you think other people might like, it probably, nine times out of 10, probably isn’t going to work as well as you think it will.” — Miller Williams, Kobalt Sr. VP of Creative, at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

32. “More and more, what I am hoping we can offer as a platform and as an industry is looking at ways that artists can be receiving as much strength and power in their careers, and how that can help the entire ecosystem be led by not just the major gatekeepers that currently exist but also the artists themselves.” — Molly Neuman, former Head of Music at Kickstarter

33. “I teach and believe in the Kobalt Holy Grail: transparency, creativity, client control, and accurate accounting. There are no boundaries at Kobalt and I urge clients to push it. They will be supported creatively and our world creative team is amazing.” — Al McLean, Senior Vice President of Creative, Kobalt

Senior Vice President of Creative, Kobalt

34. “Playlists are not static, they’re living, breathing organisms that are constantly evolving and changing. In one of those moments you can easily go and alter [something] as soon as you realize it. That’s probably why people like them so much; it’s like a pencil with a eraser on it.” — Tuma Basa, curator of Spotify’s RapCaviar playlist

35. “According to the Music Business Association, there’s about 31 percent of streams that are actually coming from playlists, and this is across all demographics. It shows that not only young people are listening to playlists, but it’s really across everyone. Just on Spotify, they announced really recently that they have about 1 billion streams per week generating from playlists. I think just that shows that playlists are really, really key right now, and really important.” — Amelie Bonvalot, AWAL Director, Digital Accounts, at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

36. “We’ve always invested in partners whether in music or other things to try and help enable new ways of storytelling, engagement and improve the exciting video that’s available, live or VR or whatever.” — David Mogendorff, artists relations manager at YouTube

37. “When you’re working with a young artist, it sometimes feels like you’re banging your head against a glass wall. When you get to that stage [where social numbers are growing], it’s as simple as looking at a graph, and seeing that it’s only been going up. We’re very fortunate where it initially has only gone up in numbers and for him, that’s been a huge confidence boost.” — Charlie Murdoch, manager of AWAL artist Jordan Mackampa

38. “When artists own their own rights or they’re doing equitable deals with their labels, they see the bulk of streaming money coming through.   And what’s interesting is this also helps them connect and engage with their fans better than ever before on all elements of their global business from recorded to live.” — Annabella Coldrick, Chief Executive, Music Managers Forum at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

39. “Through Technology there is a better way of getting money into the pockets of artists and these people that work tirelessly for them.” — Mark Meharry, CEO of Music Glue

40. “It’s really a ray of light. Just to be able to go there and see friends come in that you haven’t heard from or been in communication with, like, it’s such a relief to know you’re okay, and you’re here and you have a place with food. If I hadn’t gone to El Local this last week, I would be super, super hungry, and probably super depressed. It’s not only about the food and meeting people, it’s having that little space where it’s comfortable, and we take our instruments, and we jam out, and we play board games, and we have conversations, and we hug each other. It’s much more than a community kitchen; it’s making the whole corillo [Spanish for ‘community of friends’] feel better about the whole situation.” — Shanti Lalita, Puerto Rican cellist and composer on the Puerto Rican music scene post-Hurricane Maria

41. “The dream is free and the hustle is sold separately. No one wants to hear about the hustle but find me a musician who says it’s a dream all the time… [being an independent artist] is about having perseverance.”  — Ariana and the Rose, AWAL artist  

42. “If you decide you want your life to be about music, you just have to decide that you will not give up ever. Everything else will change a million times, go up and down, but no matter what, you will continue on your journey. Accept that you have no control of anything except for your actions. It is always a journey.” — LAUV, AWAL/Kobalt artist

LAUV, AWAL/Kobalt artist

43. “I think that informing the songwriter community and the artist community, is just as important as doing a good job on our end, because it’s arming them to the ability to thrive and survive in this new climate as well. If they’re doing good, we’re doing good. It doesn’t benefit us to keep them in the dark about their money, about how the processes go. We want to take them along for the ride and we want them to grow along with how the industry is growing.” — Sara Jackson, Vice President of US Publishing Administration, Kobalt

44. “One of the things that’s interesting about the ‘new music industry’ is there’s no one way of doing it. There’s no one way to define success.” — Paul Hitchman, President of AWAL, at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify

45. “It’s about upward mobility. If we see something happening, we can give you funding the next day. You want to put gasoline on the fire, we can do that for you.” — Lonny Olinick, Kobalt Chief Strategy Officer

46. “Hip-hop was built by very ­progressive artists — they are always going to take the most advanced lane. But a lot of it had to do with Apple Music’s push into hip-hop. That doesn’t mean that we ­created something. We saw it coming.” — Jimmy Iovine, Apple Music chief

47. “I have always been greatly inspired by the attitude and energy of punk rock and the D.I.Y. ethos that comes along with it. Part of the punk spirit that has always resonated with me is the feeling to unabashedly do whatever you want. That is exactly what I do when I make NVDES music on my laptop and I feel like this all comes together when I play live.” — NVDES, AWAL artist

NVDES, AWAL artist

48. “Latin is a culture, not a genre. We’re looking to expand the audience that we have in place because we still don’t have all the Latinos around the world. And non-Latinos because we want both. We’re not doing this only for Latin people. So hopefully this is just a platform for everyone who likes Latin music. It’s for Latin music lovers.” — Rocio Guerrero, Head of Global Culture, Spotify on the rise of the Viva Latino playlist

49. “It’s not just about music–it’s about every form of entertainment. You don’t really have to own anything anymore, because for $10 a month you can do this: You can have everything.”  — David Bakula, ‎Senior Vice President Analytics & Client Development, Nielsen

50. “…Streaming can be used intelligently to engage fans because it is not constrained by old world limits such as shelf space and physical distribution considerations. In the old model, artists could go years between album releases, leaving fans hanging, while touring would often be a loss-leading effort to help sell the album. The roles are now reversed.” — Mark Mulligan, industry analyst


As these quotes bookend 2017’s accomplishments and important moments, we’re so excited to see what 2018 has in store. At AWAL, we’re looking forward to continuing to help independent artists grow their careers while staying true to their own vision. As our own Willard Ahdritz said at BBC Music Introducing presents Amplify, “The future will only lead to more empowerment for artists along with more sustainable ways to build their careers.” We can’t wait to see what’s next!


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