'We're building things our own way': AWAL targets more success after Music Week Awards win

'We're building things our own way': AWAL targets more success after Music Week Awards win

AWAL's UK MD Matt Riley has told Music Week that the company is carving its own path in the music industry. 

AWAL, which was acquired by Sony in 2022, triumphed in the Label/Artist Services category at the Music Week Awards, following a bumper year that saw success for the likes of Tom Misch, Little Simz, Jungle and more.

“We’re feeling pretty happy, it’s brilliant!” Riley (above, holding award) told Music Week. “We’ve been doing this for a while and it’s the first time to get this recognition.”

In our interview Riley, who has been with AWAL for a decade and is part of the UK leadership team under COO Paul Hitchman alongside SVPs Sam Potts and Vic Needs, suggested that AWAL does things differently from the competition. 

Responding to the question of peer-voted success bringing extra weight or respect to the company’s name he said: “We’re not here for that. We work really hard every day, we’re really proud of what we’re doing and the artists we work with.” 

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“Because the artists retain their rights and we are backing them to be the best they can be there is no cynicism and ultimately the art they come up with is incredible and we are very proud to work on that,” he added. “What other people think is up to them really. We’re just building things our own way by doing the same things every day.”

Riley also reflected on a golden period for AWAL, which saw the business score five BRIT nominations in 2024.

“We work very hard, our artists have had an incredible year and we put out records that matter to people,” he stated. “We’re so proud of long term AWAL artists like Tom Misch and Little Simz who have been on a real journey in the last year, and artists like Djo, Jungle, CMAT… There are so many. With the BRIT nominations we had this year, we’ve not really been in that position before. Every day there’s something new happening at AWAL, it’s a really exciting place to be.”

Riley also commented on life under Sony, making the point that the day-to-day running of the business has not changed. 

“We didn’t know what to expect but it’s been incredible,” said Riley. “I think Sony has just backed us and empowered us to do what we’d been doing before. They brought us in because of what we’d been doing and they haven’t messed with us, they’ve really empowered us. With Lonny [Olinick] our CEO leading the ship in America and with Paul Hitchman and the team in London, it’s been [great]… Nothing has changed apart from having a really confident company behind us.”

Because the artists retain their rights and we are backing them to be the best they can be there is no cynicism

Matt Riley, AWAL

Riley’s comments echo those made by COO Paul Hitchman in an interview with Music Week in April.

“We definitely have a very distinct culture at AWAL and part of that has been how we’ve grown our leadership team, we haven’t really brought outside people in to run the business,” Hitchman said. “Lonny has been the CEO for eight years and I’ve been here since Kobalt first acquired AWAL back in 2012. And if you look at the UK team, Matt Riley [MD] has been at the company for 10 years and has grown as an executive through that time. He was joined last year by Sam Potts and Vic Needs, who both have major label backgrounds but joined the AWAL mission. Growing the leadership team from within has enabled us to retain that culture and means that anyone who joins the AWAL team buys into the AWAL mission.”

Hitchman said that the Sony acquisition has solidified AWAL’s connection with its artists. 

“I think being part of Sony has given artists – and maybe managers, more so – the confidence that there’s nothing they can’t achieve with AWAL because there’s no resource or expertise that we can’t tap into,” he explained. “Where maybe historically some artists would have gone on to sign a major deal, we’re now seeing artists remain – so if anything, it’s strengthened our proposition. They retain that same level of creative and commercial control, so there’s been no downside from an artist perspective, but definitely an upside.” 

In terms of how the wider business perceives AWAL, Hitchman said he believes its identity is stronger than ever.

“As far as the industry sees us, I think we’ve always been known for finding and developing artists that may be a little bit more alternative in whichever genre they’re in,” he said. “But we’ve helped those left-of-centre artists achieve global success. With Laufey and Lovejoy, for example, you can see the next generation of artists coming through behind Little Simz, Bruno Major and Tom Misch.”

Subscribers can read the full interview with Hitchman online here.

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