Apple leans into the A&R business

Or does social media now drive the music business?

In 2016 Saul Klein and Denzyl Feigelson, in the UK, founded the start-up “Platoon” intended as a platform for new artists. Feigelson used to be an Apple executive at iTunes Music and founded the direct-to-consumer record sales company called Artists Without A Label.

Platoon has been operating as an indie label funding unsigned acts, it has its own recording studios in London, developing and marketing them. ( See ) The Platoon website promotes videos by a variety of new artists and displays a sales opportunity of a 7” Vinyl of the song “Evergreen” by Yebba.

Apple have now acquired Platoon in an effort to find and develop exclusive artists for Apple Music, and compete with Spotify. Apple needs growth in subscription services like Apple Music to compensate for the present-day drop in the sales of its iPhones.

“Just Kids” (by Mila Smith) performed by Skyscrapers Band South Africa an official video being promoted by Platoon. Performed by Mila Smith (voice), Leo Letschert (keys) and Dan Buchalter (drums). Remixed by Raiven Hansmann, and directed by Laurissa Vergottini. The video is featured prominently on the home page of along with five other musical artists.

Platoon has worked with successful artists including Jacob Banks (now with Interscope), Rex Orange County, Stefflon Don (who has signed a seven-figure deal with Universal/Polydor), Jorja Smith (signed a distribution deal with Sony’s The Orchard for her debut album, subsequently released in June 2018), Billie Elish (signed to Interscope in 2017), Mr Eazi, and Yebba, with many signing with major record labels. Interestingly Platoon integrates its online presence with Instagram, Youtube, Spotify, iTunes and Medium but interestingly not with facebook.

It is reported that Feigelson will stay in charge of the 12-person company from their headquarters and recording studios in London. And Platoon promises to continue to work with new artists providing tour support, content development, and marketing on social media. Presently their sales platform is Shopify and lists just the one vinyl release on its home page.

Present day competitors to Platoon in the music social media space include reverbnation,, Dubsmash, facebook, Drooble, Periscope, Soundcloud, sonicbids, bandcamp, and loudup. Given technology’s rapid state of change any one of these could vanish or become acquired and absorbed at any moment. Does anyone remember MySpace? Most of these music-focused social media sites (with the exception of YouTube) are populated by musicians reaching out to other musicians, rather than appealing to and converting non-musicians (i.e. the audience) into fans and supporters.

The Platoon acquisition definitely represents Apple’s strategic move against Spotify’s audience of over 75 million paid subscribers (and more counting their free ad-based audience) as against Apple’s audience of only 50 million. Platoon could conceivably be folded into Apple’s Up-Next platform aimed at working with lesser-known and unsigned artists. Will this be an eternal struggle of the two competing platforms like Microsoft and Apple? – or will one dinosaur become extinct? – it’s still too early to predict. According to Ingrid Lunden at TechCrunch musicians only made 12 percent of the $43 billion generated by the music industry in 2017. The explosion of web-based artist development sites and music applications may increase that percentage by intercepting the financial relationship between the major record labels and the music-buying consumer – eventually!

– Conrad W.