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Kobalt expands into artist services and neighbouring rights

By | Published on Tuesday 24 January 2012

Kobalt Publishing

Music publishing company Kobalt yesterday announced the launch of not one but two new divisions, which will see it offer royalty administration services to recording artists and producers as well as their traditional customers, songwriters and composers, and also move into the label services space, partly via an acquisition of Sheffield-based digital distributor AWAL.

The new artist and label services division will look to offer a range of distribution, direct to fan, social media and analytics services, with AWAL continuing to offer digital distribution, marketing support and sync representation as a stand alone company under its existing management within the new strand of the Kobalt company. The new division will be headed up by Paul Hitchman, whose past music business ventures have included Playlouder, MHP and Consolidated Independent.

Commenting on the new label services division, Kobalt founder and CEO Willard Ahdritz told CMU: “The launch of Kobalt’s Artist And Label Services division and the acquisition of AWAL is a response to our clients’ needs, and to a major shift in where we see the market is heading”.

On his partners and new colleagues in the expansion, he added: “With an efficient platform, direct distribution channel, a successful track record and strong management, AWAL was built on similar core values of transparency and integrity as Kobalt was. This acquisition is a building block in Kobalt’s long-term strategy of creating a new kind of full music service alternative for rights holders including artists and labels. I am also very pleased to welcome Paul Hitchman to the company as MD of Kobalt Artist and Label Services division. Having known Paul for ten years, he has a wealth of experience and a successful track record as a pioneer and innovator in the digital music market”.

The other new business will be known as Kobalt Neighbouring Rights, and will provide royalty collection and administration services to artists and producers who earn from those music copyrights sometimes referred to as “neighbouring rights”, including broadcast and public performance royalties from sound recordings.

Kobalt reckons that its experience in administering publishing rights, coupled with the expertise in neighbouring rights brought to the new business by recruits Hans van Berkel, Sabine Jones and Matthew Seal, who all have backgrounds at neighbouring rights collecting societies and agencies, will mean the company can increase the royalties collected for artists and producers it represents by up to 25%.

Van Berkel will be Executive Chairman of the new division, and he told CMU: “Kobalt’s business model and corporate values of transparency, integrity and client service focus parallels the values that fuelled the success of [van Berkel’s previous venture] SENA to be one of the top neighbouring rights societies in the world. Therefore I am very excited about now working on a global level in a commercial environment focused on better servicing our clients and playing a leading role in the evolution of Kobalt’s neighbouring rights division”.