Black Box, a new service company for artists, labels and publishers, is launching in the United States. The brainchild of industry veteran Livia Tortella, Black Box is focused on developing artists and their audience through digital branding, strategy and partnerships.
Tortella, a former Warner Bros. Records/Atlantic Records executive, says her goal is to provide artist managers and labels with ways to develop artists brands, and grow monetisation through fan engagement. The company’s focus is on building audiences by converting followers into fans who will deliver revenue.
“We’ve been operating in beta for 18 months,” she tells Music Week. “It was a deliberate strategy. We are providing a new kind of services company and we wanted to build a great product. It took us 18 months during which we focused on our clients and tweaked our offerings.”
Based in Los Angeles and New York City, Black Box will rely on Tortella’s marketing savvy and on the digital expertise of former Warner Bros./Nettwerk executive Brian Popowitz. “Between Brian and I, we have experience in running labels and we’ve seen a lot of development stories, and we understand the hard work, and what needs to be in place for big push.”
She adds, “Our focus in on audiences, growing audiences and marketing to audiences. We are building a platform for artists who are interested in long tail development. The technology makes it even more possible and robust.”
Black Box has already secured various clients such as Bill Silva Entertainment (Jason Mraz, Brooke Candy) and Zeitgeist Artist Management (Death Cab For Cutie, Best Coast). “Artist management gravitates towards our concept,” says Tortella, “they need a brand-centric strategy but it can also apply to labels, especially those who have 360 models, and also publishers to help delivering extra value.”
She adds: “We pride ourselves on having a great knowledge of platforms. We use various internal digital resource tools that value artist positions in specific genres. We can show clients how much they need to grow and the money the leave on the table. Clients like it: they know how they need to grow their Instagram, for example, or how they need to expand their Facebook reach.”
Such strategies were put in place during the beta period with such artists as Warner Bros. signing Andra Day to establish the artist brand, acquire an audience, and mature fan affinity and eventually she ended up with a social network audience of over over a million fans. For rapper Brooke Candy, signed to RCA, Black Box mapped an approach built on relevancy, visibility, and continued engagement to re-engineer a career that started with momentum but then stalled. For singer/songwriter Christina Perri, signed to Atlantic, the goal was to find ways to get the audience more engaged in transactions with with hyper-targeted communication and a product offer fitted to the allure of the fans.
“Black Box has been integral in driving value for our company and for our artists,” said Bill Silva of Bill Silva Entertainment. “They work with us on everything from strategy to execution, and have also been critical in our efforts to identify new opportunities that include A&R, film and TV, social and digital marketing, imaging & creative. They are a valuable collaborative extension to my team.”
Tortella says Black Box will initially concentrate on the US market and will look at developing its international network in a couple of years. However, she says she is eager to work with British labels and or management companies “to help maximise the potential of their artists in the US market.”
She elaborates: “An artist like Sam Smith has had such a huge push [from the outset] but for many artists and managers, to develop their artist brand early on without having the push form a big label is more complicated if they want to keep the momentum going. Our approach is one of building a brand by starting early on from ground zero and some management companies can certainly relate to that. It’s artist development, it still exists, but it just looks different now, with all the tools like Soundcloud or YouTube and learning what works and constantly build from it. I like these things.”