Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Record labels are irrelevant because they’ve been disrupted by a venture-funded technology start-up. The major labels exploit artists, who can now distribute their music directly to consumers online, plus get the data they need to make money playing concerts, selling merch or doing sponsorships. Sound familiar?
It’s an old joke — on creators.
The latest telling involves UnitedMasters, a startup run by Steve Stoute, CEO of the marketing company Translation, and funded with $70 million by Google parent company Alphabet, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and 21st Century Fox. UnitedMasters will distribute artists’ music online, apparently without requiring them to sign over copyright. It will use the data it gathers to better target consumers with ads, while artists can use it to better target fans with offers for tickets or t-shirts.
It’s a great story. An old business gets disrupted, a new company is built and artists grow more empowered. Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitztold the Journal that the idea came together at a “Google Camp” event in Italy. And why not? Google co-founder Larry Page “has a deep sensitivity for the artist,” as Stoute told TechCrunch. Artists worried about how little YouTube pays will be happy to hear this.
It’s hard to tell what, exactly, is new here.