The Artist As A Startup & Label As A Venture Fund
Is A New Model Emerging?
During the panel that I was a part of at yesterday's New Music Seminar, we briefly floated the idea of the artist as a start-up company. Not only is there value in thinking of an artist's career (or any career for that matter) as a business and embracing an entrepreneurial spirit, but perhaps artist and record funding should become more start-up like as well.
Instead of the old label model where a large advance is given at the start of the relationship in exchange for the majority of any future profits, funding could come in waves as it does in Silicon Valley. Early stage or seed funding to launch is followed by a successive series of rounds for expansion based on performance and a company's (or artist's) current valuation. Along the way, the founders/artists work to hold on to as large a percentage of ownership as they can.
It's not a perfect analogy, but it seems to be a useful one as the music industry continues to search for new ways to fund successful music projects. And there are signs that some are already embracing similar models.
Radiohead manager Brian Message, Nettwork's Terry McBride and the UK's MAMA Group are launching a venture like music funding source dubbed Polyphonic. They have $20 million to invest a few hundred thousand dollars at a time on new artists not signed to record deals. According to the New York Times, the company will then guide musicians and their business manager (who will function something a CEO) to outsourced providers like Topspin and Tunecore.
Former ArtistDirect founder Marc Geiger is planning a similar service at booking agency William Morris Endeavor. Details are slim, but "Self Serve" would reportedly provide tools and financing for artists to create businesses independent of the major recording labels.
The band Metric, whose ultra-sharp manager Matt Drouin was also a part of the panel hosted by Topspin's Ian Rogers that I was on at The New Music Seminar, self-funded their own release with the help of a Canadian government grant. Like most smart start-ups, Metric outsourced almost of the functions of their multi-faceted global campaign which has already old-sold it's precious label sponsored efforts.
But maintaining control of your destiny and more of your future profits is not easy. "When I get up at 6 a.m. the British are e-mailing me. When I go to bed at 2 in the morning the Australians are e-mailing me. It’s an extremely empowering position, but one hell of an undertaking,” admits Drouin.