This is big.
Record labels are obsolete. They haven’t kept up as music evolved from selling CDs to streaming songs to promoting concert tickets and merchandise. Labels were meant to help artists generate albums, fame, and money. But now anyone can record themselves and no one “buys” music. So today that requires being a technology company, combining analytics with hyper-targeted advertising. And the old labels don’t have the engineering talent for it.
That’s why last year, the former president of Interscope Records Steve Stoute secretly raised $70 million from Google’s corporate umbrella Alphabet, prestigious venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, and entertainment giant 20th Century Fox.
Today, his startup UnitedMasters emerges from stealth.
UnitedMasters is ready to give musicians an alternative to exploitative record label deals. Artists pay UnitedMasters a competitive rate to distribute their music across the internet from Spotify to YouTube to SoundCloud, and they split the royalties while the artist retains the rights to the master recordings. Then UnitedMasters sucks back in all the analytics, identifies the listeners, builds artists a CRM tool, and helps them retarget their top fans with pinpointed ads for tickets and merch.
Stoute explains that the plan is to “Look at music like gaming. You monetize the game to all the people who are most engaged. I wanted to bring that theory and thinking to music.” It’s off those whales, those super fans, where musicians make a lot of their money. And finally someone built a way to deliver ads for what artists do sell to people who’ve listened to their album 50 times for almost nothing.