It’s a Wednesday in August, backstage at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., and Fetty Wap can’t believe he’s here to kick off a monthlong arena tour, opening for Chris Brown. “It still feels like November to me,” says the 25-year-old, shaking his blonde dreadlocks in wonder.
November 2014 was before the Paterson, N.J., rapper had four singles simultaneously occupying the Billboard Hot 100, and before his drug-ballad “Trap Queen” hit No. 2 on that chart. It was before the three Warner Music veterans backstage with Fetty — Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles and Todd Moscowitz — proved their data-driven label with partner Roger Gold, 300 Entertainment, could turn a SoundCloud track into a smash.
Founded in 2013, 300 was formed around the idea of having “the muscle of a major” while staying “nimble like an independent,” as Liles puts it. Their now-winning strategy? Tackle the listener from every angle, forgoing exclusivity in favor of saturation: YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, Beats — name a streaming service and they’re analyzing it, studying it and looking to use it to monetize music from their up-and-coming roster.
“We spend a lot of time with Pandora, a lot of time with Shazam,” says Moscowitz. “They’re incredible indicators of what’s going on.” Atlanta rap trio Migos, one of 300’s earliest signees, is the second-most-popular artist on Pandora with an average of 40 million streams per month — ahead of Taylor Swift.
As 300 prepares for a big fall — with a Young Thug release on Aug. 28, Fetty Wap’s debut album due Sept. 25 and growing excitement about recent Australian signee Meg Mac — the label isn’t abandoning its singles-centric approach. For viral stars like T-Wayne (whose “Nasty Freestyle” went top 10 on the Hot 100 from a Vine craze), it’s a simple matter of feeding algorithms more content by releasing new songs. “In a search bar on any of these [streaming] platforms,” says Moscowitz, “multiple things come up. So we give them multiple things.”
“I never wanted to be the biggest,” explains Cohen about his label goals. “I want to be the most dangerous.”