Who Says Major Labels Own Radio? Kobalt’s AWAL Acquires in2une (Updated)

Major Lazer's 'Lean On,' just one of many In2une successes.
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Major Lazer's 'Lean On,' just one of many In2une successes.
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Major Lazer’s ‘Lean On,’ just one of many in2une successes.

Kobalt CEO Willard Ahdritz loves to take shots at major labels.  Now, he’s hitting them where it really hurts.

Update (Friday 2:45 pm PT): In our coverage Thursday, we called Chance the Rapper a ‘marquee client’ of in2une.  But Chance is not an active client of in2une (or AWAL) — rather, in2une ran a successful campaign with the rapper last year.  More details below.  

Once upon a time, the major recording labels owned the promotional pipeline to big radio.  They used that pipeline to pump their rosters sky-high, and make themselves the only game in town.

Now, Kobalt Music Group is hoping to further smash that empire.  Just this morning, the company’s AWAL recording unit acquired In2une Music, which has achieved considerable success with independent radio promotion.  Interestingly, In2une was started by Dale Connone, an ex-major label promotions guy, more than ten years ago.

Connone has translated the discipline to challenge his old bosses.  The result?  Over the past ten years, In2une has scored big radio successes involving artists like Chance the Rapper, Diplo, Lauv, Marshmello, The Lumineers, Calvin Harris, Lindsey Stirling, Capital Cities and Major Lazer.

As for Major Lazer, In2une played a serious role in the breakout smash, ‘Lean On’.  But perhaps Chance the Rapper, the most celebrated unsigned artist in the world, is In2une’s marquee client — especially for AWAL.

Updated: Chance the Rapper is not an active client of in2une currently, as we’d previously reported.  He has used in2une in the past, however.  “In2une — as an independent radio promotion company — serviced Chance’s record ‘All Night,’ from February 2017 to June of 2017,” noted Peter Lewit of Davis Shapiro, who is Chance the Rapper’s attorney.  “During that period, Chance was a client.” 

Separately, in2une founder/CEO Dale Cannone has confirmed this to DMN.  AWAL further noted that Chance the Rapper is not one of their clients.

Now, Kobalt’s AWAL will employ the entire In2une machine for its clients.  The result is a beef-up of  global marketing and promotion capabilities’ for AWAL, and a huge market differentiator in the fast-evolving label and distribution space.

It’s also a direct shot at the existing label system — major or otherwise. “With in2une’s unparalleled track record in radio promotion, we took an important step forward in cementing AWAL as a comprehensive alternative to the label system,” AWAL chief executive Lonny Olinick “The in2une team will be stronger than ever to serve existing and future clients. And AWAL artists will now have all the key services at their disposal to reach new fans around the globe, across different platforms, while owning their music and career.”

AWAL doesn’t function like a traditional label, just like Kobalt doesn’t function like a traditional publisher.  Instead, AWAL lets artists keep their copyrights, while offering services across areas like sync, distribution, and streaming.  On the marketing side, AWAL’s services are suddenly more powerful.

Looks like Connone & Co. structured a pretty favorable deal for themselves.

Under AWAL, Connone and managing partner Ken Lucek will continue to court their own clientele, regardless of whether they’re AWAL clients.  Of course, AWAL gets perfect exposure to in2une’s high-dollar clients, with Kobalt also getting a powerful soft sell.

“AWAL is committed to providing the best services for our artists and this was a natural next step to bolster AWAL’s global marketing and promotion capabilities,” Ahdritz said.  “In2une was the perfect addition.”