The Great Music-Tech Migration: How The Worlds Of Music And Tech Are Bleeding Into One
Snoop Dogg brought out his latest album, Bush, the other week. But if you were keeping an eye out for it in the kinds of places album releases are usually trumpeted, you’d have been forgiven for missing it.
Because Snoop didn’t go for the traditional music outlets. Instead, he posted it on Product Hunt, a young site traditionally reserved for discovering and upvoting tech products, and took to the comments board to field questions from his fans.
This might seem like a surprising forum in which to find a world-famous artist launching a major record — but in reality it’s not. Musicians venturing into the world of tech — and vice versa — is becoming the norm. The boundary between the two industries is being slowly eroded as music goes digital and tech becomes cool.
When you hear the name Linkin Park, you probably think this:
You probably don’t think this. That’s right — 15 years after the glory days of blasting overdrive from the tops of pixellated statues, Linkin Park have launched a VC fund. They’ve already made three investments. And they’re not even considering investing in music — this is a pure tech play.
And they’re not the only ones. Justin Bieber led a million-dollar investment round in Shots, a selfie app, and has put money into a handful of other tech products including Spotify. Justin Timberlake took a large stake in the $35 million MySpace buyout. Snoop Dogg started a fund to invest solely in weed startups. And Jay-Z famously recently bought the streaming service Tidal outright for $56 million.
Why the sudden rush of A-list musicians getting in on tech investments? In short, because they’ve realised there’s a whole load of money to be made. Bono’s private equity firm made $1.5 billion investing in Facebook — which is almost twice as much as U2 were worth at the time. And he didn’t even have to get up from his couch as the money rolled in, let alone embark on a world tour.
Exhibit B: Tech entrepreneurs are the new rock stars
Pick up any popular magazine from the nearest newsstand and you’re as likely to see a tech entrepreneur gracing the front cover as you are a musician. They’re holding star-studded parties, dating pop stars and being portrayed in sitcoms. A few years ago, a film about the founding of a websitegrossed $225 million and starred Justin Timberlake.
Why have today’s entrepreneurs become celebrities? Gadi Shamia, president of Bizzy.com, puts it pretty well:
“Every industry that can turn a 20-something into a millionaire will create rock stars.”
Exhibit C: Musicians joining tech companies
There was a time when a role like Director of Creative Innovation would be filled by someone with a PhD in Creative Innovation. These days? Intel give the job to Will.i.am.
His motivation for this, and for diving headfirst into the world of tech in general?
“I hope none of the kids I send to school only want to do music. The world doesn’t need another musician. They need another Bill Gates.”
And he’s not the only one who’s keen to get his hands dirty in the world of tech.
Dr. Dre had been making music for a living for 14 years before he co-founded Beats Electronics. 8 years later, he sold the company to Apple for $3BN, in what is to date their largest ever acquisition.
He’s an incredibly obvious example of a musician becoming a tech pioneer. But it’s not just in founding companies that musicians are leading the way in tech.
Take Snoop Dogg. He’d been a keen user of Product Hunt for a while before he launched Bush on the site. In fact, more and more musicians are jumping on new tech products early, experimenting with them, becoming some of the biggest-name users of platforms like Twitter. The reason for this is pretty clear — as a musician, you never know what the next big platform is going to be, so why not hedge your bets and amass a bunch of followers early on in a product’s history? That way, when it gets big, you’ve added a huge number of potential listeners to your audience.
Or, if you’re Dr. Dre, just build the product from scratch.
The cross-pollination between the worlds of music and tech makes complete sense, as the two industries get more and more similar. Both are fundamentally creative; both attract innovators; both have a famously high failure rate, but offer the tantalising promise of huge riches and overnight stardom. The only question is when it will swing the other way — when will Ev Williams get around to releasing that album he’s been planning. It can’t be long now.