Startups in the music industry face many hurdles to turn a profit, but can score successes with new tech
According to Bruno Guez, founder and CEO of Revelator, up to half of all royalties aren’t going to their rightful owners due to antiquated tracking and payment practices. “Global rights information is too siloed currently and difficult to process in any automated manner,” Guez tells Geektime, “Publishers don’t have a grasp of consumption and digital platforms receive recording metadata without publishing information, which challenges them in properly reporting and paying publishers and songwriters.”
To address this, Guez developed Revelator, which provides “a complete supply chain and distribution service to monetize content across the digital marketplace.” Revelator is based in Jerusalem and has raised $4.45 million to date, expanding its services to the US in 2015. Its SaaS platform employs blockchain technology to help rights owners license, track, and synthesize all the data available online now to micromanage these processes, to get the marketplace closer to a real-time marketplace, and reduce artists’ and their estates’ reliance on intermediaries.
Companies tend to focus on “consumer facing” marketing, with less focus on enterprise and B2B services until it becomes apparent this is hurting them. Revelator addresses this by focusing on “scaling data consolidation, and royalty distributions to rights holders,” sharing that backend reporting and analysis within the industry. The company reports 600,000 assets for 65,000 rights holders, and has managed over 10 billion transactions to date.
Guez, who first made name for himself as a DJ in Los Angeles, now has twenty years’ experience in running his own label, Quango. (Music is more than a business or a career for him: Badly injured in a diving accident in 2000, music has helped him get through the therapies and loss of mobility he’s suffered since.) Based on his understanding of the ins-and-outs of sales and marketing, he notes that “If anything, this used to be a lot harder when we didn’t have access to data in a timely manner,” in the pre-digital marketing age where radio and print media were bigger.
The 2000s – a time when MySpace was still king – were a steep learning curve within the industry as physical sales fell but digital hadn’t yet generated enough new revenue to close the gap. “The focus,” he says, “was primarily on the digital disruption to the existing business model and downloads as the new distribution method,” before mobile was popular and embedded players were a new technology.
Quango, back then, was noted for pursuing internet options. “We have been proactive in turning synchs into digital marking opportunities,” Guez told Billboard in 2008, outlining how Quango built webpages, did SEO, and ran digital outreach campaigns with Starbucks and iTunes for its artists’ wares.
Earlier than that, though, in 2004 was when Guez says he “started understanding the importance and benefits of streamlining all these processes into one platform,” on the cloud. And then in the 2010s, the technology we take for granted today in digital music: “Spotify started around the same time as the iPhone,” and “Both of these were game changers for the consumer shift to streaming.” By 2012, when he began working on Revelator, Guez says the streaming market was reaching maturity, and now predicts that the market with further consolidate over the next few years.
But Guez also predicts that even as the music industry is slow to adapt SaaS, they will do so to avoid falling behind, and a central database with standard data exchange protocols will come into being within five years or so, even as “there is no consensus for a unified approach” at present.
As for music startups, which face these challenges in an industry largely hostile to smaller newcomers, Guez advises them that they learn to scale and understand their customers as quickly as they can, so they can get by the steep learning curve that kills a lot of companies early on. “Incubators and accelerators” like the one Techstars is launching next month for ten participating entities, Guez notes represents, “a big vote of confidence for the music tech space and the signal that Music Technology is now mature enough to warrant more investment interest, which will lead to further innovation.”
For Guez, the field remains wide open for ingenuity and innovation, as he says that, “There is still so much to do with big data, machine learning, AI, and AR/VR.”