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Industry Insider: Meet Emmanuel Zunz, Founder of ONErpm

If you're an indie artist, Zunz has some great advice.

Industry Insider: Meet Emmanuel Zunz, Founder of ONErpm
Emmanuel Zunz; Photo credit: Gregg Roth

For any aspiring singer, the biggest challenge is finding a way to get their music heard. That’s why distribution companies are such a crucial link between artist and audience. Few people have been more successful in that competitive world that ONErpm founder Emmanuel Zunz. With offices all over the world, ONErpm is a unique company that includes both an innovative record label and a thriving distribution company.

Serving more than 300,000 artists, music labels and video creators around the globe, the company offers distribution, marketing and advanced technology that connects creative personalities with listeners/viewers who are hungry for what they have to offer.

“I really don’t see a big difference between what a distribution company does and what a record label does,” Zunz tells Sounds Like Nashville. “The difference is what are you going to do to help make a project successful? What resources are you bringing to the table? How are you going to maximize the value of someone’s music? Distribution is one way to do that, but then there are marketing components. There is reporting. There is technology. There are payments, so a distribution company really handles delivery and payments. You collect payments and it redistributes back so the companies that are really good at doing that are going to grow.”

Emmanuel Zunz, Verge Records artist Jay Allen, and COO of Verge Records Mickey Jack Cones; Courtesy of ONErpm / Verge Records

A native of Charlottesville, Va., Zunz grew up in the same community that gave rise to the Dave Matthews Band, and for a time he entertained thoughts of becoming a musician. “I went to school and studied music and I wasn’t a very good musician. I was alright, but not good enough,” he confesses. “I got disillusioned with being an artist. I went to grad school and got a graduate degree in economics from John Hopkins University. I went into business consulting in Boston and then I realized I wasn’t happy there. I wanted to get back to music. I created my own job because I couldn’t find a job. Nobody would hire me in the music industry because I didn’t have any music industry background. So I just decided to create my own job and be an entrepreneur. I’ve never looked back since. I always kind of followed that path.”

Prior to launching ONErpm, Zunz started his career by building Verge Records. “It was a social enterprise model, a socially conscious record label. The idea was we would find artists in under privileged communities, release their music and use a portion of the project to reinvest into music education programs for those communities,” Zunz explains. “When I had the idea I was living in Boston. I moved to New York in September 2005 to launch that project. I entered the business plan competition at NYU and ended up winning that competition in 2006 and then got my first funding, $50,000 from NYU, and they gave me some office space.”

As he worked to grow his company, it became obvious that technology would be key. “I started thinking about how do I transfer Verge Records to a digital company or a distribution company. I just wanted to do more and so immediately I started working on this technology, but it took me three years to get it right. By 2010, I did get it right and the domain name VergeRecords.com was taken, so I ended up changing the name to ONErpm, so ONErpm became more of a distribution company and today it’s everything. It’s distribution. It’s licensing. It’s label services, a record label.”

Mickey Jack Cones and Emmanuel Zunz; Photo credit: Gregg Roth

 Today ONErpm has offices and studios in New York City, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Mexico City, Madrid, Moscow, Lagos and Kingston. ONErpm boasts more than 5,000 YouTube channels that collectively generate over 8 billion views a month making ONErpm one of the world’s largest YouTube Multi Channel Networks (MCN) specializing in music.

Artists who are looking for distribution need only go to their website to find out how they can engage the company’s services, and there are different levels of support ONErpm will provide. “We average close to a thousand new artists who sign up per day for the distribution service using our platform to deliver their music,” Zunz says. “Then the second level that we have is for artists that are developing or emerging. We provide marketing services, licensing and distribution, and distribution with some marketing services on top of that. Depending on what they need, we structure a deal. It’s more custom. The third level of service is whole label support, taking artists and doing longer term deals with the label and then we also have Verge, which has a brand of it’s own.”

Verge has an office in Nashville, headed by veteran songwriter/producer Mickey Jack Cones. Trace Adkins signed with the label in March and just released a video for his single “Better Off.” The Verge roster also includes Jay Allen, Kid Politics and Scott Stevens.

FeFe Dobson, Yelawolf, Emmanuel Zunz, Janell Scheffer, Jim Jonsin and Ken Madson; Photo credit: Evan Jones

In talking to Zunz, it’s easy to see he’s motivated by a passion for music and a desire to help artists succeed. ONErpm recently sent out a message to their artist community, advising them how to navigate their creative life during these difficult times. They were encouraged to follow three steps: First—create and produce; second—engage; and third—release new music. Artists were urged to create and release lyric videos, pitch their music for editorial consideration, conduct targeted ad campaigns on social media, work with their publicists to reach journalists and other employ other initiatives to move their careers forward.

“We have a blog and we want to make sure we have a much more active voice,” Zunz says. “The first one we did was ‘Fewer Streams Doesn’t Mean Less Revenue in the COVID Crisis’ and we were right. Even though streams dropped, the revenue didn’t do the same. We wrote this about six weeks ago and also had some other tips. There’s a newsletter and a blog going out on mental health during the COVID crisis for artists because obviously a lot of them are going through a hard time because they can’t tour. It’s something that we just feel we need to talk about a little bit. It’s such a difficult moment in the world right now that we’re seeing it as an obligation for us to have a voice. We have so many artists and we just feel we need to be there and support them, not just make sure they have money and get paid on time, which a lot of people don’t even do that. There are a lot of companies out there that delay payment to artists just because they use that money for other things. We just pay every month on time. As soon as we get paid, we pay our artists.”

Ken Madson (ONErpm GM Nashville) Emmanuel Zunz (Founder ONErpm) and Mickey Jack Cones (COO Verge Records); Courtesy of ONErpm / Verge Records

Zunz also encourages artists to utilize YouTube. “You can monetize on YouTube. It’s hard to monetize on Instagram or other places,” Zunz says. “People can donate. We’re going to add a donate button on our platform for our artists on our new website in June when we launch so people will be able to do just a donation, but YouTube already has that feature. So you can be performing live and people can be giving you tips in real time. We had an artist who did a two-hour live and made $10,000. We’ve had massive success on YouTube. YouTube is doing a lot to help artists monetize their content, so my recommendation is you should be doing your live [performances] not on Instagram but on YouTube and people should definitely be activating the ‘Donate’ feature on YouTube.”

Zunz is excited about ONErpm’s future and their potential to help independent artists’ grow their careers. “We are a label and we are a distribution company and that’s why we call ourselves more of a music solutions provider,” he says. “My goal here in the U.S. is for people to better understand our business. There are companies who provide solutions and the companies that provide the best solutions are the ones who will win and grow.”