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STOUTE'S NEW PLAN: MUSIC, ADS, NO LABELS

Former Interscope Records urban music chief Steve Stoute has secured $70m to launch UnitedMasters, a company that will bring together advertising and music. The goal is to circumvent record labels.

Google parent Alphabet, 21st Century Fox and Andreessen Horowitz are among the investors in the start-up based in San Francisco.

UnitedMasters' plan is to get the music of young unknowns onto streaming platforms and use online tools to determine the music’s audience. Through that data, they can then create targeted plans to take to potential advertisers.

The landing page of the website proclaims its pitch to artists: “Your future has no labels.”

It continues: “By uniting technology, storytelling, and culture, we empower you as an artist to take control of your career to get smart, get fans, get paid.”

Stoute told the Wall Street Journal, “We want to build a business that helps musicians, which is my passion, and also helps brands find a much more specific way of investing their money in the category of music.”

Stoute is the CEO of Translation, an ad agency he founded in 2004, three years after he left Interscope. Stoute told the Journal the company is building a staff of 40, is already working with 1,000 musicians, and is scouring SoundCloud and YouTube for more artists.

It has a pay to play element: Musicians pay UnitedMasters; UnitedMasters then pay the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora. UnitedMasters, which is customizing its deals, will share in royalties and, in some cases, ticket and merch sales; artists retain ownership of their masters.

In a blog post on Medium, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz announced he had joined UnitedMasters’ board and spelled out the logic of the company.

“[The] 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.

“To build such a platform, the company had to be world class in three distinctly different disciplines: music, advertising, and technology. Steve already had the expertise in music and advertising, but technology was the key and that’s when he called me. Together, we recruited a phenomenal technology team with members from distinguished companies such as Facebook, Dropbox and Pandora. I think that the UnitedMasters engineering team is one of the best in the technology industry, but you can judge for yourself.”

The company has started a “Introducing UnitedStories” video series on YouTube.

 

ARETHA FRANKLIN,
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