AWAL interview: How to succeed as a new artist

AWAL’s Phil Loutsis gives us his top tips for emerging acts looking to break through…


For new artists, there are more ways than ever to kick start their careers and release their sonic creations. 

Increasingly, acts are foregoing the traditional label route and doing it themselves which is where AWAL comes in. The company is part of Kobalt and offers unsigned artists a comprehensive service including everything from global distribution, marketing to release management. A&R and much, much more. 

As a result, they're well placed to give their advice to new acts and musicians. The company's senior director of Label Management, Phil Loutsis, visited ICMP earlier in the year for our Careers Day and offered us his essential tips in our new interview...  

What does AWAL offer new artists?

Personally, my focus, here has been in developing projects where we concentrate on the delivery of releases, pitching to stores for play-listing and then support using the analytics, app and accounting tools we use.

I started in the industry as a musician and remember well how challenging that was. As a community we help artists achieve more while they get to call the shots.

Many of our students are emerging artists - what’s the best piece of advice you can give them when starting out?

There are so many things to focus on at the beginning of your career that a catch-all soundbite is tricky. I’d say that the dullest advice is often the best.

Think really clearly about what you want to do with the music you’re making and focus only on things that move you in that direction.”

For example, it’s common to see people investing lots of energy in making music videos because they think they need to. But if you hate music videos and they don’t suit what you do, then do something else.

In 2018, it seems that there’s more music and more content to wade through than ever before – what do new artists need to do to cut through?

There are two sides to this. Firstly, you have to make music that moves you. Doing it to move someone else is rarely going to work but it might follow if you start from the right place.

Secondly, be pragmatic and professional.

Delivering good quality assets, at the right time to the right people is a huge part of the business and is over looked by lots of labels. Planning is crucial.”  

For example, when we work with artists to schedule a campaign we advise them on the exact deadline for delivering the single if they need it pitching to Spotify in the US. We tell them when the curators at VEVO pick the videos they want to support in the coming weeks. We tell them exactly when we need all their marketing information sent over. And so on.

Then the label has to deliver this content. If your timings are off and you deliver the content the week before release date then the stores won’t have time to get behind you. It’s that simple. The same is true with radio, press and and any of the people who are working to discover the your music. 

Are there any common mistakes that you see new acts continually making?

A common mistake with first releases is procrastination. It’s a hugely personal thing making music and after bleeding over your first few tunes, it’s hard to commit to putting them out into the world. Once people have decided to take the plunge they then rush in to the process and don’t give the tracks the best possible chance.

The next mistake follows directly after. It’s rare that the first track explodes for artists.

At the beginning of your project you’re looking for any wins. You then use these to leverage more support on the next record. Don’t be deflated by a lukewarm response to the debut. Keep at it and celebrate every success along the way." 

What are the most disruptive new technologies/innovations which you think may shape the future of the music industry?

I’m a Spotify user and increasingly impressed by the personalised playlists they build. I’m on there all the time. I’m not sure they’re disruptive yet but they have a huge amount of power over the way the industry might develop.

Getting the balance of developing artist versus established artists right while also deciding what level of curation it includes is so important. There’s a risk that relying on playlists like this as a source for new music could potentially mean we only ever get served “more of the same”. On the other hand, careful curation can be a powerful driver for new trends in music. I’m sure this is going to be a regular topic of conversation for music lovers for a good few years to come.

Who are you tipping for future success? 

I saw Arctic Lake last week at O’Meara’s and they absolutely smashed it. They’re their own thing but I saw some cool glimpses of The XX in there.  Best live noise I’ve heard in London this year.

I’m also really excited about Kovic’s album that’s dropping late August. His last track ‘Drown’ was remixed by Hight is a great summer tune.

And Swedish act Violet Days who played at the AWAL House at SXSW this year. Exactly my kind of pop this and they’ve been getting great support so far. 'Just  A Little' came out in May.

Visit for more information.  

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by Jim Ottewill
July 27, 2018
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