CmdShft Disrupts Distribution Norm With No Terms, Low Splits: “We Aren’t Anti Label, We Are Just Pro Artists”

Tanner Adell sprung into the mainstream when Beyonce included her on her Cowboy Carter album this spring. Adell was a hot commodity at Stagecoach, and national media outlets clamored for her attention. She is booked on various festivals this summer, has accumulated millions of streams, and recently made headlines when she signed with Atlanta-based label and management company LVRN. Adell is among the artists leading a new group of Black country music artists, and CmdShft helped her get there.

When bonafide country hitmaker Jake Owen parted ways with his high-profile label Big Loud, the “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” singer turned to CmdShft for support. The boutique company, founded by Jarrod Cooper and Sonny Findley, recently helped Owen celebrate more than 2 billion streams on Pandora with his Billionaire Club plaque.

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CmdShft CMO: “We Aren’t Anti Label, We are Just Pro Artists”

“We often say we aren’t anti label, we are just pro artists,” said CmdShft’s Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Mills. “We aren’t anti-deal, just anti bad deal.” 

Cooper and Findley started CmdShft in 2018 as a solution to the lengthy and oppressive deals being presented by labels and distributors. Since then, the company has blossomed into an invite-only distribution, technology, and label services company. The group pioneered revolutionary tech to prioritize both artists and labels. CmdShft’s executives take pride in providing clients with a detailed reporting system, which includes payment splits, an industry-first automated expense recoupment tool, and a robust marketing team reshaping the music industry standard for distribution.

“We believe in absolute independence, and the foundation of our business is centered on honesty and transparency,” Cooper said. “Being a small yet mighty label services company, we don’t take on everyone so it allows us to really dedicate our time and efforts to the clients that we do work with.”

CmdShft’s offerings include no term agreements, a 90/10 split on streaming and downloads, an 85/15 split on YouTube, which is one of the lowest splits in the space. They also provide DSP editorial pitching on priority releases, release strategy and marketing campaign consulting and more.

The company typically works with three types of clients: pre-label, no-label, and post-label. Artists who are pre-label team with CmdShft and stay independent long enough to build momentum for success, allowing them to command better deal offers. The company frequently upstreams artists into major label deals—10 within the last 12 months.

“A lot of them worked with us for a good amount of time to try to get that leverage and use our technology to say to in these conversations, ‘Here’s the proof. This is where I’ve come from. This is what I’m currently doing—this is where I’m projected to go,'” Mills said. “Hopefully, the information gets them better deal points.'”

Artists Can Be Their Own CEOs

Some successful singers may choose to forgo major label deals because they want to be their own CEOs, handpick their support teams, and grow at their own pace.

Many post-label artists, like Owen, are asking to be released from their record deals to release music how and when they want.

“Even recently, you had to have a label deal, and when you came off of it, it was kind of a kiss of death,” Mills said. “These days, a lot of our partners don’t care about label deals. They care about fan bases. I think that’s been the great equalizer. You’re able to run a successful business without giving everything that you’ve built away. The stigma of coming off a label has gone away. The artists haven’t skipped a beat when it comes to success.”

CmdShft also teams with publishing companies, management companies, booking agencies and small, independent record labels to distribute their artists’ music with the integrity and transparency for which they’re known.

“Several publishing companies in Nashville have shifted away from solely upstreaming their artists to major labels and have become more proactive in artist development,” Mills said, explaining that Universal Publishing and Warner Chappell are both partners.

Mills said CmdShft thrives because it chooses entrepreneurial-minded employees, similarly motivated teams, and artists to align with.

“That’ll Never Work”

“It’s not always about the numbers,” she said. “It’s the ones we can see that have the work ethic and the ones that we can strategize with and have the team surrounding them to help push them and motivate them to get to the next level.”

Cooper remembers sitting down with other executives when he and Findley founded CmdShft to explain their business plan.

“They all laughed at us and said, ‘That’ll never work,'” he said. “They said, ‘You’re never going to be able to sustain a business with no contracts.’ Now we compete against them. Here we are five years later, they’re changing their business models to mimic what we are doing.”

Featured Image via CmdShft

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