The Surprise Startup That Could Upend The Music Industry


By Ryan Velez

TechCrunch describes the music industry as a lumbering dinosaur. “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.” The site mentions how one former record exec is taking this on, secretly putting together a startup that could change how musicians start their careers.

The former president of Interscope Records Steve Stoute secretly raised a $70 million Series A led by Google’s corporate umbrella Alphabet and joined by prestigious venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley investors Floodgate, and entertainment giant 20th Century Fox. His project is called United Masters. According to Techcrunch, “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.”

The concept is already getting some high-profile fans, like Ben Horowitz. “Steve thought: What if there were a platform that instantly enabled musical artists to market themselves globally as effectively as the top technology companies market to their customers?” Horowitz wrote in a now-published blog post shared with TechCrunch. “Such a platform would free musicians from dependencies on the old model while increasing their income tenfold. It would create unprecedented intimacy between artists and fans, while making artists truly independent.”

At the moment, the company is actively recruiting both tech talent in product, design, and engineering; and its first wave of independent musicians.