Having turned 25 just last year, global music and talent agency MN2S has a rich and varied history that has seen CEO Sharron Elkabas go from running events across London in the ‘90s to heading up one of the longest running independent music and talent agencies.
The agency now offers a multi-faceted platform that encompasses bookings, PR, programming, merchandising and social media management. A key part of the MN2S story is their move into label services and digital distribution, which enabled them to build a Label Services department that works with over 350+ imprints across a range of genres, focusing primarily on electronic music.
The journey towards setting up this arm of the business began in 1999, when MN2S launched their own label, MN2S Recordings. Inaugurated with the soulful house classic “Things We Used To Do”, the label went on to release over 150 records from a who’s-who of dance music’s finest, including DJ Spen, Robert Owens, Jon Cutler, Groove Assassin and Soul Central.
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As the label progressed and the business moved into music publishing, they began to act as publishers for a number of songwriters and producers, building up a network and a level of expertise that would later be applied to their work in distribution and label management. The culmination of this development was reached in 2008, when the MN2S Label Services department was officially founded. Working with independent labels across the international dance music scene, the department swiftly gained credibility and built a reputation as one of the most reliable distributors working in dance music.
Today, they work with a carefully curated roster of over 350 labels, assisting with digital distribution, licensing, rights management, social media and design services. Distribution Manager Chris James has been instrumental in the department’s growth – we spoke with Chris about the history of MN2S Label Services and where they see themselves headed in 2021.
Can You Give Us A Brief Recount Of The History Of MN2S Label Services – When Was It Formed, And Who Were Your First Clients?
MN2S Label Services was a natural evolution of the distribution network MN2S put in place for our own MN2S Recordings, and latterly 1trax. Dave Elkabas, began MN2S’s work with external labels in the late noughties and early clients were Leftroom Records, Hypercolour, NoFitState, and Lower East.
How Did You First Enter Into The Music Industry, What’s Your Background In Music? What Compelled You To Work In The Industry?
I changed careers at around age 30, and secured an internship at Gusto Records (the dance imprint of now-defunct Gut Records). This initially was so that I could make contacts in the commercial dance music industry, and also learn the ropes, in order to work as a producer.
What Services Does MN2S Provide For The Labels They Work With?
We provide support, advice, and recommendations across all aspects of running a label: scheduling a release; advising on product formation and exclusive store selection; suggesting, negotiating, and signing off remixes; pushing for feature placements on stores; researching copyright holders, contacting them, negotiating with them, and concluding sample clearance requests; issuing takedowns to stores for copyright infringement of our clients’ content; sourcing, advising on, negotiating, and signing off compilation requests; executing sync deals at the highest level, including with Universal Pictures and Pixar; invoicing and ensuring payment of monies owed; using label funds to cover label expenses; generating bi-annual artist royalty statements; this is just a selection of how we can help our clients.
What Makes MN2S Stand Out From Other Distributors – What Can You Offer Labels That Others May Not?
We are a boutique, dance-focussed distributor: with only around 350 client labels, this means we have appropriate time to provide to each; we have 20 years’ experience in working with dance music to use on behalf of our clients; and when we speak to retail and streaming sites our voice is heard as we promote only a small, select number of releases each week.
We also provide a very personable, flexible service, complemented by our easy-to-use online portal for release submissions and full analytics: we are aware that some competitors provide a fully-automated software-based interaction, and while this does have its pros, it can certainly have its cons in this industry, which is very much about personalities. We partner a very human service with the very best in automation for our clients
Finally, we secure excellent record of feature placements on stores: we achieve banners and features for our clients on a weekly basis.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
Delivering continued success for our hardest-working, most accomplished clients.
How Did You Respond And Adapt To The Challenges That You Faced During Covid-19?
While coronavirus has had a huge negative impact on live entertainment (that hopefully we are beginning to see ease), digital distribution was unaffected logistically, and we did see an industry-wide uplift in artists producing tracks, in large part due to restrictions in other aspects of their careers. This has seen our labels enjoy some of their busiest release schedules to date, with listeners often working from home, and engaging more than ever.
What Would Be Your Most Essential Advice To Anyone Running An Independent Label?
Release regularly and consistently, and keep your branding simple and striking.
What’s Coming Up For MN2S Label Services In 2021?
We have clients putting the finishing touches to new projects that we’re very excited about, and it’s great to see markets such as India, China, and Russia become more active for our labels.