Aviator built its business and made its name by uniting the many strands of legacy artists’ audio/visual history and then exploiting them in ways that were beneficial to the artists and respectful to their legacies.
In parallel, it it is a diligent searcher and enforcer when it comes to AV rights and remuneration.
Last year, the Hamburg-based company celebrated 10 years working in both areas, with clients including Mark Knopfler, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Cliff Richard, Elvis Costello, King Crimson, plus legendary events such as Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8.
The celebrations didn’t last long, however, and any hangover was chased away by the first strong coffee of Year No. 11.
In the subsequent 12 months, Aviator has not only signed up a host of impressive new additions to its core business, it’s also launched a management company and re-launched its record label.
Here, Aviator founder and CEO Alexander Seidl, along with COO, Lindsay Jones, bring MBW up to speed with their company’s ongoing progress…
It’s been a year since we last caught up with Aviator, can you start by giving us some of the highlights of 2019, including details of how you expanded your roster of legacy artists, and some of your biggest projects?
AS: Firstly, we are extremely grateful to every artist we have the privilege to work with.
In 2019 we’ve been very lucky to sign many more deals with some of the world’s most iconic artists including Scorpions, Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Jake Bugg, Gloria Gaynor, Jefferson Airplane, Edwyn Collins, While She Sleeps to name a few.
In many cases we were recommended by some of our current artists and their teams as well as friends from our incredible network in the UK and the US.
What’s the key to continuing to attract artists such as the ones you’ve signed in 2019?
LJ: Credibility, knowledge, results and great content.
Of course you value all your artists with equally high regard – but on a more personal level, how exciting and how much of an honor is it to be working with the Bob Marley estate? Can you talk about any specific plans for his catalog/ legacy?
AS: We are extremely honoured and proud that Bob Marley’s estate has given us their trust. Here’s an example of a rare live performance that we located in the German TV archive ZDF (below). We sourced the broadcast master and completely restored video and audio. We still have a few surprises up our sleeve for next year.
You’ve talked previously about the importance of your relationships with the majors, how has that developed in the last 12 months and what sort of activities have they involved?
AS: We’ve always enjoyed great relationships with the majors which we have continued to develop very positively in 2019.
They often ask us for advice with regards to YouTube and AV projects. They have also been very helpful by correcting claiming issues on YouTube to ensure that our artists’ rights are protected.
This year we have co-operated with them on many projects, including Cat Stevens, Cliff Richard, Falco and Jethro Tull to name just a few.
Why have you decided to expand into artist management?
LJ: We are very lucky to be working with some of the world’s greatest artist managers who have supported and inspired us over the years. We see great potential in supporting other managers by offering them co-management relationships for Europe, as well as helping to develop promising new artists.
Is there a certain type of artist you’re looking to sign? Legacy artists rather than emerging talent?
AS: Our approach is very different. Firstly, we take a good look at how an artist’s profile and catalog looks on YouTube, the biggest music platform in the world.
Secondly, the artist needs to be a great live act. If these two elements are strong, we would be very interested, irrelevant of whether they are legacy or unsigned artists.
What would your pitch be to artists, to persuade them to sign to you?
LJ: We have been working in all areas of the music business for many years and have an intimate understanding of the artist and their creativity.
Our business philosophy has always been extremely artist driven and we understand the digital world inside out. We are therefore able to offer artists the support that they need to thrive in the industry today and into the future.
When will you be announcing your first clients and what size roster are you looking to build?
LJ: Our first clients will be announced in the first quarter of 2020. Our focus will be on co-management for Europe as well as signing a selection of unsigned artists.
Can you tell us about Bahar Tozman and why she‘s the right person to head up the management division?
AS: A lot of people don’t know that Bahar, in her capacity as Vice President A&R at EMI Publishing, was the very first executive to sign Lana Del Rey to a worldwide exclusive publishing agreement.
She has discovered and signed many German artists at very early stages in their careers and accompanied them to top chart success. She has an incredible talent for recognising potential in emerging artists.
In 2013, after 17 years at a major company she decided to become an independent artist manager to put this talent to work worldwide in all areas of her artists’ careers.
You’ve decided to revive the Aviator record label. What’s the history of the label and why have you decided to bring it back now?
LJ: The original Aviator-Entertainment label was founded in 2005, mainly to release music and family entertainment DVDs. The label grew to become one of the top five independent DVD labels in the GSA region. However, as the DVD market declined we moved our focus to audio-visual music products on YouTube.
“we’re reviving the label is to create a platform for the enormous stock of audio rights we have amassed.”
The reason we’re reviving the label is to create a platform for the enormous stock of audio rights we have amassed. Additionally, we believe there is a need and want to offer a home to legacy artists’ catalogue as well as their new releases. Using our years of expertise in AV catalogue work on YouTube our approach will be fresh and innovative.
Will you handle all label functions yourself or work with a network of partners, possibly one of the majors’ label services divisions?
AS: We are currently in talks with a number of potential partners in order to ensure that we can offer the very best environment for our artists.
Which type of artists are you looking to sign? When will we hear about that? And, again, how big a roster are you looking to build?
LJ: Our focus will be on legacy artists. We will announce the first signings in Q1 of 2020. We currently have more than 100 artists signed to our YouTube division and will be looking at a similar number for the label.
What are your headline ambitions for 2020?
AS: We will continue to expand our roster and develop our services for the YouTube business. However, our main focus for the first half of 2020 will be to set up our new management and label divisions.
We absolutely love what we’re doing and can honestly say that we have the greatest job in the music business!
[Pictured, main image, L-R: Joel Phillips, Alexander Seidl, Bahar Tozman and Lindsay Jones]Music Business Worldwide