UnitedMasters launched it artist services platform this week with $70 million in funding from Google and Andreessen Horowitz; and a promise to "free musicians from dependencies on the old model while increasing their income tenfold". Using data to understand and monetize fan behavior is at the core of their plan to make this bold promise a reality. UnitedMasters Chief Product Officer Jack Krawczyk, the former VP of Product Management at Pandora, shares a look inside the theory and the potential that drives this promising startup.
By Jack Krawczyk, Chief Product Officer at UnitedMasters
As you heard today from our CEO, Steve Stoute: UnitedMasters is open for business!
We are excited to begin our journey to empower artists to own their future by building an artist services company that amplifies their independence. As we open up our first wave of products to the public today, we wanted to tell a bit of the story behind how we became inspired to take this journey.
Bridging the Gap
Music is one of the more perplexing information assets that exists: nearly everyone listens to it (93% to be exact) yet the method with which it has monetized has not kept up with its ubiquity. There is a gap that exists between how the information behind how people listen to music (via streaming and physical sales) and how they experience music in the real world (inside their social feeds, IRL at live concerts, merchandising, and other externalities that music generates). We call this gap the music data chasm.
Like most things in the media these days, the death of the music industry has been greatly exaggerated. Mostly in that the money is shifting in its consumer allocation. While global recorded music revenue declined by $5B from 2005 to 2015, concert ticket sales revenue increased by $4B in the same period… in North America alone!
While the past two decades have been spent vilifying the concept of “free streaming,” the fact of the matter is that there are over 1 billion people who stream globally… and only ~10% of them (112M, per IFPI) are willing to pay for a subscription.
Following Consumer Behavior vs Forcing an Unnatural Path
This leaves the recorded music industry with two options: devote all time and energy into obfuscating natural fan behavior, getting ~900 million people to pay for something that they have not expressed interest in paying for… or find a way to align with the fundamental way in which people naturally consume and experience music.
At UnitedMasters, we pull from our team’s experience on how the Internet works and opt for the latter.
Our product philosophy is that when artists connect directly with their fans, it amplifies their opportunities to grow their career.
Artists are our partners in building the future of music: they supply the artistic vision and we provide them with services and software that ensures they connect with the maximum number of fans possible.
These products from UnitedMasters begin by bridging the music data chasm by being smart with the breadcrumbs that are generated from music listening + fan behavior and then using machine learning to evaluate signals from that data to inform how to best route acquiring new fans.
Combining Technology with Culture and Storytelling
One of the greatest lessons that companies like Google and Facebook have taught the greater media landscape is that the footprint that data leaves behind in large clusters can lead to insights that can be applied in previously unforeseen ways. Whether it’s the ability to predict future outcomes or understanding you better than your spouse, the density of data generated digitally has opened the door to rethink how information routes for new applications. UnitedMasters is set to apply these lessons to crossing the music data chasm.
The frequency with which people listen to music, nearly four hours per day, is over 30% longer than we watch TV. The ubiquitous nature of audio gives insight into audiences that are indicative of understanding cultural identities, of political preferences, and even the types of food we buy. While these insights have been useful to monetizing advertising on streaming services, they have been hamstrung by a world where the data is being overlooked in favor of pushing people to pay for a subscription.
We believe there can be another way. UnitedMasters is an artist services company, which means we see music listening as one component of the bridge into influencing how fans engage with music in the real world across all forms of media. With 72% of Americans between the ages of 18–34 (music’s prime demographic) suggesting they prefer to buy an experience versus a good, the future must support artists finding ways to provide a meaningful experience for all fans.
UnitedMasters’ Core Product Beliefs
We believe that the music industry should be built by transparently connecting artists with their fans: understanding musical influences, cultural preferences and general listening behavior.
We believe that listening to fans that are based on how, when and where they engage with music tells us about the types of experiences they prefer. Building these insights into a profile that an artist and their team can easily understand can open up new doors to inform how to grow their career.
We believe the future of music is for the artist to have transparency into their fans’ data, where their promotional money is being spent, and to have a majority stake in the ownership of their recorded music.
We believe that the future of music is a mixture of machines that listen to behaviors and marketing teams who can translate those insights into creative direction with clear paths to maximizing the impact of their art. The products we build enable disparate data sets to come together in order to reach fans directly, publish insights, syndicate content and present new opportunities for monetization in building the future of an artist’s career.
We believe we have a long road ahead of us at UnitedMasters to achieve our vision. This will take more than great artists, business partners, and technologists. It will take the help of everyone in the music and technology community to band together to provide a future for music to transform into a media business.
We believe we need to hire the best and brightest across all disciplines to make this work.
Turning It Into a Thing
Today’s UnitedMasters product release is focused around amplifying your message as an artist across free streaming services and social media: learning more about who your fans are, receiving weekly personalized recommendations on how to grow them, and the early phases of what we call direct-to-fan messaging.
Paired with our editorial content, which opens the door to telling your story to a wider audience, we are excited to amplify independence for artists at all stages of their career.
Over the coming weeks, expect to see new features roll out that drive a deeper understanding of your fans and how to find more of them.
Join us in this endeavor. Sign up for a UnitedMasters account and begin to forge your artistic path on your own terms.
Together, building the bond between art and science, between technology, culture, and storytelling, between music and math nerds, we will cross the music data chasm together to amplify and connect the art + business of music.
We are actively hiring too! UnitedMasters is looking to build our product, design, engineering, and artist services teams out. Give us a shout if you’re interested in building the future.