Chris Welz has been promoted to COO at Secretly Distribution, the company tells Billboard. He was previously managing director.
In his role as COO, Welz will continue leading Secretly’s global digital and physical operations, building on his numerous successes as managing director. During his time in that position, he built a team of over 60 sales, marketing and operations staff, including divisions for DSP account strategy, digital operations and label services for the company’s artist and management clients. Under his leadership, Secretly also installed project management and digital marketing teams in the U.K. and Europe, while in just the past year the company expanded staff in all departments, invested in new technology and infrastructure for record label partners and ramped up neighboring rights collection, among other feats — all while shepherding releases from indie stars like Japanese Breakfast, Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers and Bon Iver.
The company says it’s seen double-digit revenue growth over the last 10 years and that revenues have since surpassed $80 million annually.
“Being able to take on this title and take that next step is extremely important to me, but the goals remain the same,” says Welz. “We still want to be the premier independent distributor. We’re always going to remain a very focused and deliberate distribution partner.” He adds that the company is set on being “the HBO of independent music distribution… where we have some of the some of the biggest things that you will experience across the year but we’re also going to have those very niche projects that people love.”
Welz has been with the company for nearly two decades, having joined as shipping manager in 2003. In 2005, he was promoted to label manager for Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar, and later became the company’s first head of digital, which saw him form direct relationships with DSPs. His ascent continued from there — to general manager in 2009 and then managing director in 2013.
“They hired me when I was out of college, I was working at a record store,” says Welz of his climb up the ranks. “So many of our early employees were working at the college radio station or the record store or promoting shows in Bloomington, where we grew out of and are headquartered, and [the founders] gave people like that a chance. And even as we’re a successful global company now…we still are committed to making sure that we develop careers from inside.”
In a statement, Secretly Distribution co-CEO Darius Van Arman said, “Chris Welz’s leadership has cemented Secretly Distribution as one of the most successful, truly independent global music distribution platforms in the world. Secretly Distribution wouldn’t be what it is without Chris, and we are so very proud and excited that, as COO, he will continue to contribute his intelligence, work ethic and extraordinary team leadership skills to the Secretly Distribution community for many years to come.”
In addition to Welz’s promotion, Secretly has also announced the in-person return of its annual Label Summit, which is slated to take place at the Bloomington Convention Center — located near the company’s Bloomington, Indiana headquarters — from Aug. 1-4. Launched in 2005, the summit this year will once again include international, domestic and digital Secretly Distribution teams as well as label partners and guests including Apple, Cargo UK, PIAS, Republic of Music, Rocket, Spotify and YouTube. In addition to the usual presentations, panels, roundtable sessions and one-on-one meetings, attendees will get the opportunity to participate in smaller workshops on topics including metadata, analytics and international marketing strategies.