A2IM Featured Executive is a series that spotlights independent music industry executives who are making moves in their fields. To submit yourself or a colleague for consideration, fill in this form.
In his time at Nettwerk, Sameer Sadhu has built a roster that has amassed over 1 billion streams globally, including revered acts like Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness and Miami Horror, cult favorites like Miya Folick, Tim Atlas, and Vacations, indie darlings such as altopalo, cehryl, Elliot Moss, Harmless, and Wild Rivers, and LOREM sweet-hearts Abby Sage and Danny Dwyer. Additionally, Sameer is a partner at Secret Signals, a label services and publicity firm strategically based in Singapore working with artists from all over the globe on business development and public relations in Asia.
Tell us about how you got your start in the music industry, and how it lead to the work you do today.
To an extent, I had a very atypical journey in the music industry — but to another extent, I didn’t. Like many, I grew up playing in bands, going to DIY shows from the age of 14, buying CDs, reading every line of the liner notes, and being part of the local music community. It was also at 14 that I learned what an A&R is, and I knew I wanted to be that. But as someone who grew up in Singapore, and as an Indian citizen, the music industry was always something that felt a world away.
My first job was at a record store selling CDs; to some, the true front line of the music industry. I always enjoyed sharing bands people hadn’t heard of, and detested when they sold out and went to a major label (yes, I’m from that generation). The store was also part of a record label/management company called Wake Me Up Music. They were the first organizing committee of Singapore’s biggest and first alternative music festival called Baybeats which started in 2001. They brought down artists such as Copeland, Brandtson, Last Days of April — it was a rare treat for Singapore at that point, and it was through there I met Chad and Rory from The Militia Group — and I went on to intern there in 2008 (Mikey B at M is for Montreal, thanks for the internship!).
Through a sequence of events, and after uni, I was about to move back to Singapore in 2011 as I knew it was almost impossible to get a work visa in the United States with an entry-level job. That’s when Eric Tobin and Louis Posen tapped me on my shoulder at a Limousines set at SXSW at the much beloved Purevolume house. They had recently learned that I grew up in Singapore, and for the first time, YouTube data had shown growth in markets in South East Asia, and they were looking for someone to help them understand the marketplace.
After 3 months of due diligence and planning, I ended up moving back to Singapore in 2011 and launched Hopeless Records in South East Asia while working at Grey Digital doing Social Media for the likes of Microsoft (another life). As Hopeless grew in South East Asia, I started getting more inbounds from other managers and artists and I quickly realized there was a gap in the market. In 2012, I co-founded a boutique label services firm (and at this time, the term label services was truly in its infancy) named Secret Signals that I am still a partner in. I left the ad world, focused on Secret Signals, and also had a small stint working under Tommy Chan at Love Da Records in Hong Kong. Through this, and another mutual friend, Dan Gordon, I met Tom Gates and Mark Jowett at Nettwerk (and side note, I remember the week I met Tom in 2012, telling my girlfriend at that time that I had a feeling one day I’ll work at Nettwerk — no idea how or why. She said “sure” and probably rolled her eyes).
Fast forward to 2014, Tom Gates emailed me on Oct 30th and asked if I was interested in being his and Ryan Chisholm’s day-to-day at Nettwerk. I instantly said yes — and fortunately, with what I had built at Secret Signals, my incredible attorney Michael Wildes, was able to secure a O1 visa for me, and I joined Nettwerk in March 2015. I spent 3 years as their day-to-day working with Mike Posner (this was during “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” journey, which was such an incredibly steep learning curve), Christina Perri, Madi Diaz, Good Old War, and a few more.
But honestly, I was probably the worst day-to-day ever, and will forever be grateful for the patience & grace Tom and Ryan showed me. Terry then asked me to join the A&R team in 2018, and under his tutelage, I built a roster that I enjoy working with.
Is there a success story or career milestone that you are most proud of?
I’m not someone that looks to the past or too much into the future. I try to be as present as possible. 2022 saw my roster amass over 1 billion streams globally and 1 Platinum record and 3 Gold records in the US, Canada and Australia, and we hope to build on that next year. As an A&R, my job is to be a creative sounding board to the artists’ creative vision and allow them the space to be the most comfortable they can be in their creative endeavours. To me, artist development truly starts with human development — sometimes we forget what being 22 is, let alone being 22 and being an artist while the world is expecting you to have it all together. I’m most fulfilled when artists feel their creative endeavours are fulfilled and when the world is allowed to connect with the art. I’m very privileged to work with the artists, and the teams I get to work with, and to be let into artists’ creative spaces.
Additionally, as incredibly rudimentary as this sounds, seeing artists actually being able to make a solid and consistent living from the art they create is crucial.
Are there any projects you’re working on or company updates that you’re most excited about?
Vacations to me is a very interesting story. In a day and age where TikTok can drive career moments, as an industry, we are scratching our heads on how to truly cement these moments and create longevity. I think the team has done that with Vacations in the past 18 months.
Here we had an Australian indie band that were doing about 100k streams a day, driven by “Young” on TikTok in the height of the pandemic — it was August 2020. Our team put the pedal down and kept building on it. We set step by step goals — our next goal was 150k a day, then 250k, then 500k then 750k — now we are at 1.6m a day, with the band selling over 40,000 tickets in the US and going from playing a sold out show at the Roxy (500 cap) in LA in March 2022, to a sold out show at The Fonda (1250) in November 2022 and their first major US festival appearance at Austin City Limits.
My favourite part has been seeing the fans interact live with the band. It was phenomenal to hear kids say this is their first ever show in their lives — and it’s just as beautiful to see the band seeing their music connect with fans globally too.
We are excited to build on this momentum. They have new music coming out next year which the team is very excited to work and build on their current success. “Young” is slated to go Platinum this month in the US and “Telephones” to go gold. As I said, this band has cemented a place where it isn’t just one song or a viral trend — the data shows there’s something really long term building here.
In the past 8 years I’ve been at Nettwerk, it’s been incredible to see this company’s continuous desire and act on its desire to grow. Terry describes us as a custodian of the art and music, and I think that’s the best way to describe our record label.
I’m truly content with the diversity of my roster at Nettwerk, which ranges from the likes of Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness & Miami Horror, to cult favourites Miya Folick, Tim Atlas, & Vacations, indie darlings altopalo, cehryl, Elliot Moss, Axel Flovent, Harmless, and Wild Rivers, and buzz acts such as Abby Sage and Danny Dwyer. I also recently signed a rapper named Hudi. In a sense it’s a reflection of the wide range of music I enjoy, and a result of my upbringing. I grew up in an international school which allowed me to understand how universal music truly is, and today I work with a team who values that. The A&R is only as good as the strength of the team — and this team is nimble, persistent, quizzical and ambitious. Our team constantly brings value to the partnerships we have with our artists.
At Secret Signals, I am constantly in awe that we created something that is going from strength to strength, and carries a strong reputation for our work. The most humbling part is knowing people’s livelihood is in the hands of the company. And for a company that I started at 24, where my only compass of building a music company was as a fan, it’s nice to see it has worked so far.
Outside of your work in music, do you have any other hobbies/ particular areas of expertise/interest etc.?
I am a very simple man. I value just being with my wife. She’s my gravity and my muse, and the ability to share a world with her is something I do not take for granted. My first love before music will always be football (saw-ker for the Americans). 90% of my time is truly just watching football, listening to football podcasts, playing FIFA, and/or playing football in the park.
Anything else to add?
We are already thinking of 2024 for some of our projects, but we do have new albums coming in 2023 from Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Miya Folick, Elliot Moss, Miami Horror and new projects from the likes of Hudi, Vacations, Lullanas, Abby Sage, Wild Rivers, Axel Flovent, Danny Dwyer and more.
Be at peace with yourself, and your decisions — the only thing you can ever control is yourself.