In the digital age, the way in which beats are made, bought, and sold in the music business has changed in recent years. One company capitalizing on this is the startup BeatStars, a digital marketplace founded by Abe Batshon.
Guest post by Ogden Payne on Forbes
Bryson Tiller admitted that he found and purchased the instrumental portion of his Billboard-topping, platinum-selling single “Don’t” online. Desiigner’s “Panda” beat was found on YouTube, purchased for $200 and became the No. 1 song in the country in 2016.
In the hip-hop world, one could argue that the days of artists spending extensive hours in a posh recording studio, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to work with an in-demand record producer are over.
In similar vein, beat makers no longer need to wait for an industry connection to submit their production to an artist. As is the case for many millennial entrepreneurs, music creators with savvy internet skills and decent social media chops have been able to connect, collaborate and cash-in on their art.
One company taking advantage of the music business’ digital existence is BeatStars. The Austin-based company, founded by Abe Batshon, exists as a digital marketplace for producers to license their works to artists across the world.
With over 450,000 registered users generating over $3 million through BeatStars’ e-commerce site in 2016 (Batshon expects to more than double that figure in 2017), beat makers no longer need to wait for quarterly royalty statements or leave their basement.
Ogden Payne: How did BeatStars come about?
Batshon: I’ve always had the ambition to become an entrepreneur. I’ve always wanted to be someone who made life easy for songwriters, music producers and independent artists in general. So, I set out to build BeatStars in 2008 while I was working at [digital distribution company,] INgrooves. I ended up getting a few friends like Grammy Award-winning producer Focus and multi-platinum producer !llmind on the site, and they loved the idea of selling beats online. They thought I really had something, especially when I sold them on the idea of a non-exclusive license. I told them that they would still own their content, but they can sell the same beat over and over [through BeatStars] to as many artists as possible. When a producer limits themselves to licensing a beat to just one artist, who knows what’s really going to happen. A lot of times labels shelve artists, or some artists don’t have the marketing chops to turn a hit song into a song that resonates across the globe.
Payne: You’ve stated in the past that producers are the last to get paid. Why do you think that is?
Batshon: I think there’s a lot of misrepresentation for the producer in the industry as a whole. When you think about some of the biggest songs in the world, you have so many parties involved that all have a stake in the song. Normally, in the hip-hop world, the producer is always the person with the least amount of stake in a song. If any producer is going to generate any real revenue in the traditional model of the industry, they’ll have to crank out thousands of songs, and those songs have to be distributed properly and published properly. It’s a nightmare for a producer to make a living with that model. Producing a number one record is like hitting the lottery.
Payne: What should producers be doing differently to ensure that they are getting their proper credit and compensation?
Batshon: Producers need to start thinking like a company or an entrepreneur. They need to get out of the mindset of being a background guy. People are more in love with beats these days than the actual lyrics of the song. Producers need to brand themselves, kind of like what Metro Boomin is doing, and the guys at 808 Mafia. They’re teaming up, getting managers, performing their beats and becoming artists. When you put yourself out there as a brand, put out commercial releases and do all the things that artists and labels do, you’re going to see so much success for yourself. You won’t have to rely on someone else to cut you a check for your work.
Payne: Why did you choose Indiegogo to fund BeatStars?
Batshon: We had unsuccessfully tried to land any meetings with venture capitalists, or anybody that would lead an investment seed or a Series A round because everyone’s so frightful of [the music business] in general. So, I set my eyes on alternative ways to fund the company. [In 2016] Indiegogo announced that they were going to get into equity crowdfunding. Basically, in exchange for money, investors are going to get equity in the company. I blind emailed [Indiegogo founder] Slava Rubin and asked him when they’re going to launch the equity crowdfunding campaign. He emailed back and said they were launching it in two weeks, and wanted us to be their launch partner. I thought that Indiegogo would be the best thing because I always dreamt about allowing our members who have been down with us since day one to have ownership in our company.
Payne: In 2016, BeatStars generated $3 million in revenue, and you're looking to bring in nearly $7 million in 2017. What can you attribute your growth to?
Batshon: Being a bootstrapped company, you have to make a lot of good decisions. For us to continue to grow, we have to tap into every resource that we can. I use a lot of my label and artist contacts, and we [work with] some artists like E-40 and Joe Budden to tap into their world. [For example,] we'll do remix contests where the artists will give our members an acapella version of their latest single, and our community will create a new instrumental for the acapella in exchange for cash prizes or gear. I also attribute [our growth] to the savviness of young kids utilizing social media to build up an audience for themselves and sell product. Young artists aren’t waiting around to discover beats from their labels because they’re going online and finding the type of sound that they’re looking for.
Payne: What’s next?
Batshon: We want to build out a friendlier user experience, and continue doing partnerships with companies like Soundcloud; we have over 14,000 of our users monetizing their streams on that platform. Within the next year, we want to help sign artists and producers and be more strategic in the success of their careers. We want to help them get the right deals, navigate the industry and gain some more recognition. Also, I want BeatStars to be responsible for some of the biggest hit records to come out of music.