Az Cohen has allowed his passion for music to guide his industry career. Mostly recently named a Billboard hip-hop power player for 2021, Cohen began his foray into music as a jazz player, studying music theory in college. That track would eventually lead Cohen into artist management and production, working with acts like Post Malone and the late 6 Dogs. Eventually, an internship at 300 led to Cohen building 300’s A&R research department. “Now, almost seven years later, I continue to oversee that department,” Cohen expresses, “as well as a handful of incredible artists that I have had the good fortune to sign and be able to work with!”
The success of 300 as a label is undeniable, with their roster including Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug, and Gunna, among more hip-hop household names. The future is equally bright. With the label’s launch of Sparta Distribution, Cohen is stepping into a crowded arena with a market disruptor: “We do not charge any upfront fee, nor any recurring fee to keep music on the DSPs like some competitors. I feel confident entering a crowded space knowing that we are committed to the art and the artist first and foremost and are bringing a product that is powered by a company with deep experience in the space and best-in-market technology to serve our artists best.”
While distro deals sometimes get messy and complicated, keeping artists’ hands tied and restricting their ability to share their music with the world, Sparta’s ethos follows its parent company: to create space for creatives to truly change their lives. “We are not necessarily a distributor for every artist, but if you have aspirations to be the biggest artist in the world and want to do things differently, we are the perfect place for that,” Cohen says. “We want to empower creatives, executives, and labels all over the world by giving them more than just a comprehensive platform to share their gift with the world.”
“We believe deeply in our approach and methodologies at 300,” Cohen concludes. “Through Sparta, we can share them with more artists and deepen our roots in the independent community by making the best technology more widely accessible. Sparta provides a low-touch alternative to 300’s more high touch deals while still allowing us to empower the artists we work with by providing the tools, resources, and information needed to help them maximize their efforts in making their art and building a global brand.”
With the success of 300 as a label, why venture into the distribution space?
We felt it was important to find new ways to better engage with, nurture, and serve the independent community. 300 is always ringing the bell that independence is a viable alternative to build a career, and we’ve learned over the years that being independent doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. We want to help more artists realize that and distribution is the perfect channel to do so.
What issues in the market did you all see, and how do you intend to fix them with Sparta Distribution?
As a research A&R, I’m always hearing about artists, managers, and labels who feel they’ve been sold a false bill of goods from their distributor. They have a hard time getting someone on the phone, to respond to an email, or even worse, that the distribution tech simply doesn’t work as promised.
With Sparta, we’ve built a product that works as advertised. We wanted to provide a more human touch to the client support side of things while also being one of, if not the fastest, distributors in terms of delivery to the marketplace. Many distribution companies are run by tech-first people—which is not necessarily an issue—but we felt that there had to be an opportunity for us, as real music and artist-first people, to approach the game from a different perspective.
Sparta is filling the holes in distribution models and sharing the same ethos that powers 300 with a broader spectrum of the independent artist community.
How does being in the nitty-gritty on the label side make the team uniquely capable in launching a distro service?
Being music people, we know how important it is to be confident that when you upload your track [for distribution], it will end up on the right profiles, at the right time, in the way that you configured it. With Sparta, we guarantee that trust to our artists because we built our platform in partnership with AudioSalad, who, frankly, have built a best-in-class suite of technology. That confidence in the technology underpinning Sparta allows them to focus on much more important aspects of their career: the music, marketing, and development. We have also built an extremely robust analytics suite that provides artists a thorough understanding of track and catalog performance, giving them access to the same type of information that we rely on when working projects at 300.
What education elements, if any, does Sparta bring to the table to help keep artists smart about their careers?
Outside of the full suite of powerful analytics tools, we are building out a knowledge base to address some of the most common questions we receive in terms of best practices with DSP protocol, pitching, music video optimization, creative, and other aspects of being a successful independent artist/manager/executive/label to maximize releases by artists on the platform.
Distribution is a very crowded space. What will Sparta bring to the proverbial table in terms of know-how, but also, what other aspects of your model will differentiate you from a DistroKid, for instance?
We want Sparta to be more than just a distribution service with the best technology and speed to market. Sparta has a love and respect for what it takes to make the art, and our user-friendly platform provides all the necessary tools to build brands and understand the process, not just press a button. We have set the bar high for what comes out of Sparta. Our curated approach ensures that when our partners see we distribute a specific independent artist, there will be an ensured level of quality and thoughtfulness.
Over time, that will create more opportunities for the artists going through the pipes. There is always room for someone who has incredible tech, alongside a desire to provide a better, more human service, to compete in the distribution space.
Lastly, who is Sparta for? What type of artist would distro through you guys?
Sparta is for anyone who knows there are no shortcuts. We want to help artists who truly want to work hard towards their vision and dreams of being great. We exist to power entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and anyone with a passion for building businesses differently. Whether they are making hip-hop or indie rock, in a bedroom or commercial studio, if they aspire to be great, we are here to make sure they have the tools to do so. We exist to super-serve the independent community and are excited to continue to grow our reputation of quality, speed, transparency, and education.