Soul artist Allen Stone laid substantial career groundwork before signing with Capitol. In 2011 he self-released Allen Stone, which broke into the Top 10 of Billboard’s Heatseekers Album chart as well as the Top 5 on iTunes’ R&B/Soul chart. He also landed spots on The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan and Jimmy Kimmel Live! Over the past three years Stone has averaged 200 shows annually. This is precisely the kind of self-starting action that labels find irresistible.
Following his independent success, there was a surge of label interest. “Back in 2011, Allen Stone was making moves and selling relatively well,” Stone recalls. “A few different labels started coming after me: Atlantic, Capitol, ATO and Verve. I showcased for Michael Howe and [label head] Dan McCarroll at Capitol but I think they were in limbo then because they were coming under Universal ownership. I ended up signing a license deal with ATO.”
“You have to prove you can sell records on your own.”
Later, Stone found that he yearned for a label with greater reach and Universal’s ownership of Capitol had settled. “Capitol seemed like a good place for me,” he says. “ATO was great, but I wanted to try my hand at a bigger machine. There were no hard feelings.
“Thirty or 40 years ago,” he continues, “[labels] could base their signing decisions on what they believed would sell. Now there’s not much leeway for that. You have to prove you can sell records on your own.”
Like many contemporary success stories, having a popular video online had much to do with Stone’s rising fortunes. “I recorded the video for ‘Unaware’ and it started to get some viral looks.” he says. “That snowballed into TV appearances, the deal with ATO and my manager, who I met when I was 19.”
Stone’s forthcoming album––as yet untitled––is slated for release sometime this year with a view toward summer. Meanwhile, he’s hitting dates throughout the country and across the world. “Unaware” has had nearly three million views on YouTube. It seems that the self-starter isn’t stopping anytime soon. – Rob Putnam