Exclusive | Interview with Alexandre Kirchhoff at the helm of Capitol Music, the new streaming empire in France

Capitol Records, which was the first West Coast label created in 1942, now belongs to Universal Music Group (world number 1 in music) since the acquisition of EMI in 2011.

The label has crossed fashions and eras, from the Beatles and Franck Sinatra to Sam Smith, Katy Perry or rapper Lil Baby (+ big seller in the United States in 2020 before Taylor Swift). The French branch is no exception and now positions itself as the largest generalist label with an artist catalog that is as diverse as it is attractive.

Directed by Alexandre Kirchhoff, 42, this son of an entrepreneur grew up on the outskirts of Paris until he was 19. He left for Los Angeles to finish his studies working in the international department of Interscope Records (Eminem, Dre, Marilyn Manson …) and then founded 15 years later the hard rap label Millenium at Universal Music France where he developed the careers of rappers who they became youth icons such as Gradur, Niska or Vald. As discreet in the media as in his life as a father, this adrenaline-pumping gastronomy and sports enthusiast is obsessed with the hits of urban music he produces or co-produces with his many partners.

After 22 years of career at Universal, the Capitol label, which he has been leading for nearly 6 years, has become number 1 in market share on Spotify’s biggest rap streaming playlists and on Skyrock (1st Hip Hop radio in Europe). This young leader becomes the most influential personality in French rap in early 2022 (via a BooskaP site ranking) between a Victoire de la Musique of the same year with pop singer Barbara Pravi (female revelation) and her 5 awards given to the last NRJ Music Awards thanks to much more popular hits: DJ Snake, Dadju, Vitaa & Slimane.

What is the principle and how does the CAPITOL label work?

Alexander Kirchhoff: My label belongs to the Universal Music France group led by Olivier Nusse, its president, with whom I have worked since my beginnings in the company. Capitol is a music label who counts among its French artists, Florent Pagny, Slimane or DJ Snake but a large part of his income comes from urban music with artists such as Booba, Niska, Koba La D or Dadju …

Consumption occurs through CD sales, streaming, direct sales to fans (D2C), NFT, branding and live. The label also hosts labels from independent hip hop producers. I have always favored small, more flexible teams with a strong cultural mix symbolized by our employees or partners. As for me, I embody the culture of etiquette with the values ​​of work, passion and righteousness. Every artist, every producer or manager must find with us an interlocutor with the same codes and who speaks the “same language”. Our artists’ primary audience are 13-25 year olds, but in recent months we have diversified with famous artists targeting a wider audience. And more adult.

How did the idea for this structure come about?

Jobs related to the music industry have evolved hand in hand with technology. Today, a retired music lover could see the rise of vinyl, the arrival of CDs and then the CD crisis, the Internet revolution. And piracy until the emergence of streaming platforms where most of the revenue is now made through subscription. It is essential that the labels, at the center of the reactor of these professions, adapt to the way of consuming and the way of producing. I started on Capitol at the beginning of the streaming era And of the new golden age of French rap.

I’ve always wanted to focus on the music that young people like and therefore nowadays, urban. I approached the biggest independent producers with whom we created entities: with Anne Cibron, manager of Booba, Oumardino co-founder of Def Jam France, Tefa & Sofiane (rapper, actor, comedian) then Julien Kertudo (founder of the label independent Musicast who had signed Jul and PNL). Nobody crosses, cultures are different and the musical style is unique for everyone. After building a solid catalog, a partnership with Indifference Prod was born, which represents for me the excellence of popular music.We conclude the work on the Vitaa & Slimane project with them and accompany them in the careers of artists such as Slimane, Amel Bent or Dadju. It is essential that the structure evolve over time. I like young people and new trends. This is how the label feels closer to the audience of our artists.

Alexander Kirchhoff: The label generated nearly 10 billion plays / streams for all artists last year in addition to synchronized revenue, brand partnerships, CD sales or NFTs.

What are your short-term goals?

We are the meeting point between artists, platforms and fans. My main goal is to continue, thanks to my teams And those of Universal Music France to attract the talents I want to work with. Those in whom I believe and who, listening to their music, continue to “give me goosebumps”. For S.To do this, it is our duty to show that we will always and at all times need women and men to continue supporting the greatest careers of artists.

The biggest stars in the world continue to work with labels and disintermediation cannot take the lead in the creative professions. We are friends, allies, coaches, business partners, artistic consultants of our artists. Success also depends on the quality of an artist’s human relationships with those around him.. To create value and make hits, the artist must work calmly to be able to concentrate on his texts and on her production, trusting his entourage and his label who, under her control, work on the marketing and promotional strategies of the her plans. We have to make successes, more successes and accompany the artists who want it and who are capable of it on the road to success.

What is the business model?

Over 90% of Capitol France’s revenue comes from French manufacturing. More than 50% of the income derives from the exploitation of our catalog worked and signed less than 8 years ago. Our signature typology mainly generates paid (subscription) streaming revenue. The greatest hits we have claimed (Networks by Niska, Used to by Dosseh, Luna Mwaka by Kallash & Damso, DKR by Booba, Do not come back de Gradur) continue to be heard millions of times every year.

These last few weeks, Encounter by Disiz Damso o Filtered by Timal Gazo, both # 1 of the summit stay at the top of the charts. The label generated nearly 10 billion plays / streams for all artists last year, in addition to synchronized revenues, brand partnerships, CD or NFT sales. This editorial line is in line with the current state of the music market in France, where rap and urban music represent 61% of the top 200 streaming. Streaming platforms remain prescribers of musical discoveries for 94% of 16/24 year olds (source SNEP annual report)

What relationship do you have with the media / new business partners?

We benefit from commercial agreements between the parent company and the various digital players: platforms such as Spotify Deezer or Apple but also new entries such as Contraction or TiKTok. I speak directly to the radio directors who play an important role in creating a hit today. Radio success doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with streaming success and the remuneration channel is different, but these approaches are complementary. My actions run parallel to those of the press officers and the promotion team. I do the same with platforms with Universal’s cross teams we work hand in hand with. The weekly results show that this method of operation is the right one.

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How does Capitol position itself with respect to new trends and trendy music trends?

I define the trend as a way of consuming. As a leader, we must be the first label to support talent on the French market, as we did last summer with hits on MHD’s Tik Tok, Marwa Loud, Bolemvn or 1pliké, currently number 1 in the top 50 in France for 7 weeks. We also worked with twitch over a year ago on artist Dinos’ penultimate project.

As far as musical trends are concerned, it is the responsibility of the labels to highlight, thanks to the different media vehicles, the new musical genres of fashion. The right label must have the best artists in each genre : must be the first to put them in contact with the right producer-composers if necessary. In an ultra competitive bubble market, we strive to be the best. The creation of value and our economy depend on it: signing those who believe in it and proving to be the ideal partner. Being first on new genres by coming to deals before others is also one of the keys.

What is the future of rap in France and streaming in general?

Within the same genus, variations and currents see their lifespan vary according to styles. Hip hop music in the broadest sense, in my opinion, will continue for many years to come. The young people of the generations to come will not stop listening to rap or urban pop by tomorrow, this style will evolve as it did for rock or electro: look for example at HyperPop at the moment Japan or the influence of 2step & Jersey drill in France. But in our country hard rap is less and less consumed, certainly even more diluted because the profile of stream consumers is aging and geographically expanding (exponential growth in Lyon for example).

With more musical diversity in a broad sense, there are also more melodies, more lyrics and new generations of artists are emerging thanks to Twitter or the return of Soundcloud. Development in Africa can also affect music, as is the case in South Africa or Nigeria: I initially worked on Fela Kuti’s 46 albums (co-managed at the time by a Frenchman) then I saw the Afrotrap phenomenon grow 40 years later thanks to my friend and great artist MHD; another example is the influence of Wizkid and Burna Boy lately. Either way, streaming is doing well and the penetration rate of streaming subscriptions confirms a more than encouraging room for progress for the global industry. Not to mention the exponential growth of physical media sales to super fans (D2C) And the lightning-fast return of vinyl.

Alexander Kirchhoff: CEO of the Capitol label, a label of Universal Music France – (Photo credit: Dominique Gau)

Elected the most influential personality in French rap in 2022 : https://www.booska-p.com/personality/alexandre-kirchhoff/

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