“We think there’s an opportunity to create a new kind of partner for artists,” says co-founder and executive chairman Nat Zilkha.
Maggie Rogers performs in support of her “Surrender” release at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on March 5, 2023 in San Francisco, Calif.
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
For the past 17 months, Firebird Music Holdings has quietly been investing in some of music’s top management companies and independent labels specializing in developing artists. The vision, says co-founder and executive chairman Nat Zilkha, is to “participate across a much broader range of all the activities artists participate in by having a horizontal relationship with them so that we can be more forward leaning in terms of how we invest in artists’ careers.”
This do-it-all approach, Zilkha says, “optimizes the investment behind an artist’s career” by breaking down “silos” with a focus on “how intentional, coordinated, thoughtful marketing and brand building behind an artist can be optimized, which allows us to invest heavily in any one area that might benefit the whole ecosystem.” Put plainly, with a hand in everything, Zilkha believes the company can invest in what may be a riskier business for any one artist such as recorded music, for example, knowing it will profit from touring and merch sales.
In its brief existence, the enterprise — with access to over $1 billion in equity and backed by institutional investors including the Raine Group and KKR Partners — has spent a “several hundred million dollars,” according to Zilkha, acquiring stakes in companies in an approach it describes as “holistic” in nature, “where the individual components mean more together than they would apart.”
Here are five takeaways from Zilkha’s Billboard Pro interview and read the full story here.
The list of companies Firebird has acquired stakes in is long… and growing. It includes (but is not limited to) such music firms as Mick Management, which works with Maggie Rogers; Transgressive Records, home of Alvvays and Arlo Parks; Tommy Mottola’s Latin company Ntertain; and perhaps most notably, Coran Capshaw’s Red Light Management, with its stacked roster that includes Dave Matthews Band, Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile. “We’re like-minded in focusing on the success of artists over the long run of their careers,” says Capshaw. “There was a need for more artist-friendly options out there, and our partnership with Firebird is helping to fill that need.”
What is Firebird looking for in a partner? Zilkha believes that with more and more artists shying away from traditional label structures, his firm should align with companies that also help acts tap into other income streams, like branding and live events. “We think there’s an opportunity to create a new kind of partner for artists, one that is fully aligned across everything they do,” he says. “One that has sophisticated capabilities to create content and provide access to capital. What we are doing is long-term and isn’t oriented toward worrying about a near term return on investment.”
How does Firebird plan on differentiating itself from The Orchards and BMGs of the biz? “Most of the music industry is stuck in silos where you’re an artist’s label, or you’re their manager, or you’re their publisher, or you’re their agent or you’re their merch partner,” Zilkha says. “That under optimizes the investment behind an artist’s career.”
Why Firebird gravitated to a company like Ntertain, which gives it a Latin component. “They’re doing it for music, film, and television. They just wrapped up a [Latin music competition] show La Firma… They’ve got a management company; they’ve got recorded music; they have publishing, and they’re doing really interesting things around film and TV. In many ways, it’s already the Firebird model focused on Latin music and Latin culture.”
Why do some deals work out while others don’t? Zilkha mentions that every deal it has made includes Firebird stock as part of the partnership (“We want people who believe in what we’re doing”) but that if a company is “just about dollars” then it should look to a more traditional private equity firm.
Read the full interview here.
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