Uncategorized

From AI to VR, These Are Music’s Top Investors In Tech Of The Future

today10/20/2023 1

Background
share close

Whether they’re angel investors offering startups tens of thousands or venture capital power players with hundreds of millions, some of the shrewdest minds in and around the music business are using their expertise to reinvest in the tools of its future. The investors profiled here are just a sampling of the many focusing on new music technology right now; some of their peers prefer to keep their dealings private, while plenty more music executives turned investors have bet on areas other than music technology. Others are interested in music tech but aren’t actively investing. But with generative artificial intelligence, virtual reality and advancements in live-music technology on the horizon, the thought leaders highlighted here see the industry at a “tipping point” — and the next generation of companies may fundamentally change the way the music business works.

Related

The Majors

The Big Three music groups have invested in tech platforms tied to fashion, gaming, music creation and even battling dementia — and executives say there’s more to come.

In February, on his first quarterly earnings call as the new CEO of Warner Music Group (WMG), Robert Kyncl laid out a future of “meaningful upside” for the music business: “As technology opens up emerging economies, the industry’s addressable market will continue to expand even further,” Kyncl told analysts. On top of that, he added, “innovation is constantly creating new-use cases for music, giving us the opportunity to diversify our revenue sources.”

As the major labels navigate a landscape increasingly dominated by streaming platforms and digital creation apps like BandLab and Boomy, it’s not surprising they have eagerly invested over $1 billion, according to label sources, in the nascent technology companies that have the potential to help them diversify and increase their revenue sources.

In the last four years, WMG has invested in gaming platform Roblox, digital fashion retailer DRESSX and music generator Lifescore, which is powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Sony ­Music Entertainment has backed another music creation (and collaboration) platform, Tully; social platform Fave; and Techstars Music, an accelerator program that provided funding and mentorship to promising music technology startups. (It was quietly shuttered after this summer’s class, according to managing director Bob Moczydlowsky.)

“It is always a highlight for us to support visionary entrepreneurs in developing innovative music tech and to help drive experimentation with new products and revenue models that enhance creativity, consumer experiences and overall value and utility for our creative partners and artists,” SME senior vp of strategy and investments Angela Lopes says.

Universal Music Group eschews venture capital investments, preferring to offer seed money, mentoring and other support for startups. The company has gotten behind two health-related music apps: Endel, which creates personalized AI-generated soundscapes to foster focus and sleep, and Music Health, the company behind Vera, which is designed to help those suffering from dementia, as well as next-generation radio broadcasting toolkit Super-HiFi. UMG senior vp of digital innovation strategy and business development Kristen Bender said in a statement that the company’s “music DNA — incubation, connectivity, mentorship [and] strategic partner network — is the greatest asset we can provide early-stage companies.”

It’s likely that the volume of these investments will only increase. Lopes says, “We continue to focus on strategic investment opportunities” in the tech sector. And on the earnings call, Kyncl said WMG will be “reallocating our internal resources in order to invest in technology and drive not only more tools for monetization for creators but also greater efficiencies for us.” —ELIAS LEIGHT

Music Companies

Willard Ahdritz
Founder/chairman, Kobalt; CEO, Ahdritz & Co.

Willard Ahdritz

Recent investments: Dice, un:hurd
Interests: Mobile ticketing, data-driven marketing

As founder and chairman of Kobalt — a publishing administration company that used a technology-first approach to disrupt the world of music publishing — Ahdritz has always had a forward-thinking approach to the music business. In recent years, he has been investing in other newcomers using technology to power music innovation, including popular mobile ticketing app Dice, and he has taken on an investment and advisory role in un:hurd, which uses data to help artists run successful digital marketing campaigns.

Mike Caren
Founder/CEO, Artist Partner Group/Artist Publishing Group

Mike Caren

Recent investments: beatBread, Sound.me, Release.Global
Interests: AI, music production tools, label tools

The label/publishing entrepreneur entered investing by acquiring music catalogs, but in recent years has expanded his focus to music technology and related startups. He says various forms of music tech are worthwhile “for both financial growth and for the good of the industry.” Caren hopes that the new companies he backs can “unleash creativity for those with huge imagination and limited knowledge” as well as economic and relationship-based limitations. But whether these results come through AI, augmented reality, traditional or currently unheard-of means “is less important for me.”

Startup red flag: “I try to avoid great decks without functioning software. I want to invest in companies with a minimum viable product I can use immediately and a clear road map for their future development.”

Neil Jacobson
Founder/CEO, Hallwood Media; partner, Hallwood Media Ventures

Neil Jacobson

Recent investments: Disco, Splice, Soundful
Interests: AI, music production tools, creator services, marketplace platforms

Jacobson, former president of Geffen Records and founder of songwriter-producer management powerhouse Hallwood Media, brings decades of experience at labels and publishers to investing. Hallwood Media Ventures was born out of a special purpose acquisition company Jacobson launched in February 2021 with partner Todd Lowen, raising $230 million for a publicly listed vehicle with the intent of merging with a high-growth, music-related business. Now, almost three years later, Hallwood is unencumbered by the restrictions of a SPAC and looking to invest “in the range of $25 million for minority stakes, up to $250 million for larger stakes or full takeouts,” says Jacobson, who adds that though the firm is seeking companies throughout the music sector, “music technology seems to be where we are spending a lot of our time.” Still, as technology evolves, Jacobson envisions that great managers, like those on staff at Hallwood, will be “more critical than ever. The world, especially music, is changing at a pace we’ve never seen before. The need for management teams to react quickly and intelligently will only be amplified.”

Words an investor should live by: “ ‘Show me the money!’ We say that half-jokingly, but companies need to demonstrate the ability to generate EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] … We look for businesses that are executing on a responsible plan that is ready to be scaled with our help — both financially and strategically.”

Nick Jarjour
Founder/CEO, JarjourCo

Nick Jarjour

Recent investments: Soundful, mayk.it, HIFI, Xposure, Triller
Interests: Music and gaming, livestreaming, virtual concerts, AI, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), fintech

Jarjour, an entrepreneur and manager for songwriter Starrah, says his first mentor told him: “Don’t just invest in companies. Advise them, consult them, sit on their boards.” So when he provides funding to a startup, he often assumes an advisory role too, as he did with mayk.it, HIFI, Xposure and more. He likens the role of an investor in a fledgling company to A&R, where his career began, and he aims to spot “hit companies” much as he would a song.

In the next five years, music tech will…: “See more artists and celebrity investors, more music and gaming partnerships, more growth in VR/AR music experiences … [There will be] a digital transformation for labels, funds and publishers propelled by breakthroughs like AI and the democratization of things.”

Andrew Kahn
Head of Crush Ventures

Andrew Kahn

Investments: Splice, Audioshake, Sound.xyz, CreateSafe, Rhythm.fm
Interests: Fan technology, music production tools, creator tools

Alongside colleagues Aaron Matusow and Dan Kruchkow, Kahn leads the venture capital division for longtime independent management company Crush Music. With Crush Ventures, Kahn and his team make investment decisions that align with the overall company ethos: “We look to invest in building companies that could impact how we manage and grow the careers of Crush Music artists, who are also pop-culture brands,” Kahn says. That’s why the team is so interested in working with companies that create tools empowering artists, like Splice, Audioshake and CreateSafe. In the next five years, Kahn says he sees these companies “narrowing the gap between novice and pro.”

Startup red flags: “We try to avoid founders who are not living the culture of the market they are trying to enter or feeling the pain acutely of the problem they are trying to solve. Other nits are requests to sign [nondisclosure agreements] too quickly and early-stage companies using agencies to build core products.”

Naoki Osada
CEO, Avex USA; founder, Future of Music Fund

Naoki Osada

Recent investments: Wave, Endel, Liminal Space, Strangeloop Studios
Interests: Metaverse, 3D, live experiences, virtual artists, music production tools

When he’s not running label and publishing operations at Avex USA, the thriving American outpost of the Japanese entertainment company, Osada is vetting emerging companies to invest in through Avex USA’s corporate venture capital division. Called the Future of Music Fund, Osada says he invests “in a selective, boutique way” in companies he feels build “immersive multisensory experiences of music” — like Endel’s personalized soundscapes that promote relaxation and Wave’s high-tech virtual concert production tools. So far, the fund has invested about $5 million and has now expanded to $25 million “based on the past successes.” Still, Osada notes that due to saturation in the market, he doesn’t “see quite as many mind-blowing early-stage companies these days as five years ago.”

Words an investor should live by: “In general, [our] motto is ‘innovate or die.’ We must constantly become different for the better in aspects of business/life to survive.”

Hazel Savage
Angel investor; vp of music intelligence, SoundCloud

Hazel Savage

Recent investments: un:hurd, AudioShake, mayk.it
Interests: AI and “all areas of deep tech in the music industry”

After building her own successful startup, Musiio, which SoundCloud acquired in 2022, Savage says she is “proud to invest in exceptional founders” as an angel investor. “I am looking for a founder or co-founders I believe in. They need that magic spark where when I look at them, I just know I could be working for them in 10 years and whatever they do, they will be successful,” she says. Since getting started, Savage has invested just shy of $1 million, the bulk of which has gone toward forms of AI that can ease pain points in the music business. She says she “learned from [her] own cap table about the kind of investor [she] wanted to be.”

In the next five years, music tech will…: “I think generative AI is here to stay … If we learn how to harness the tech and make it work for the musicians and the industry, it will be a net win all ’round. I also think we are evolving out of the existing stage of music streaming and into a new era where we all learn and figure out how to make sure the money fans want to spend goes directly to the artists they want to support.”

Agencies

Phil Quist
Investor, Connect Ventures; music/emerging tech agent, CAA

Phil Quist

Recent investments: Royal, Deep VooDoo
Interests: AI, music production tools, smart ticketing, live-concert experience enhancements

Kendrick Lamar’s innovative music video for “The Heart Part 5” — which used AI to morph the rapper’s face into the likenesses of Kanye West, O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Nipsey Hussle and Will Smith — was made possible by Deep VooDoo, an AI visual effects company and one of Quist and Connect Ventures’ recent investments. Since Connect’s establishment, Quist and his colleagues have invested “eight figures” into music-related technology that empowers creative innovation (like “The Heart Part 5”) because Quist feels “we are nearing a tipping point in the music industry” and a coming decade that’s “transformative and full of opportunity.” He believes the greatest opportunities in music lie in evolving the live-concert experience, investing in the fan-artist relationship, AI and the democratization of music creation, and he envisions a future where the Internet of Things finds its place in music, “transforming everyday objects into musical instruments or interfaces.”

Words an investor should live by: “Warren Buffett once said, ‘Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.’ This quote reminds me to approach both investing and life with a contrarian mindset, not being swayed by the prevailing market sentiment or popular trends, but to rather look toward the future.”

Sam Wick
Partner, UTA; head, UTA Ventures

Sam Wick

Recent investments: Moment House, Stem, Cameo
Interests: AI, livestreaming, e-commerce, distribution

As head of UTA Ventures, Wick consistently asks founders the same five questions: “What is the problem? How big is the market? How are you solving it? Why are you the right team to solve it? What is your competitive advantage?” UTA Ventures’ portfolio includes startups from industries as diverse as its client roster, which ranges from music to film/TV to gaming and sports, but it has dipped into music technology with investments in Moment House and Stem. One of the most important considerations for investing in music, Wick says, is remembering that “music defines culture and is continually at the forefront of technological disruption and innovation … Any trend that impacts the arts more broadly will impact music first.”

Words an investor should live by: “A venture investor will make hundreds of investments throughout their career. When all is said and done, your relationships and reputation are paramount … Conduct yourself with integrity.”

Finance

Fred Davis and Joe Puthenveetil
Partners, The Raine Group

Joe Puthenveetil (left) and Fred Davis photographed on March 21, 2023 at The Raine Group in London.

Recent investments: SoundCloud, Firebird, Amuse, Rock the Bells
Interests: Decentralized distribution, streamlining royalty collection, generative AI

Raine Group partners Davis and Puthenveetil combined their backgrounds — Davis’ as a longtime music attorney, with generational music expertise imparted by his father, Clive Davis, and Puthenveetil’s in advising and investing for Grail Partners and 13 years helping steer Raine’s music and entertainment efforts — to become a dominant music business force. Apart from investing in some of the industry’s fast-growing new music technology firms, they have also had their hands in facilitating many of the industry’s biggest music technology transactions, such as the sale of tech-focused publisher Kobalt to Francisco Partners and the sale of AVL Digital (CD Baby) to Downtown.

In the next five years, music tech will…: “Platforms and distribution will evolve to connect artists directly with fans and unlock opportunities for engagement and monetization beyond streaming,” Puthenveetil says. “Music discovery and consumption will continue to integrate more deeply into other forms of entertainment, particularly in gaming. Music rights management will continue to get more complex and, hopefully, more transparent and efficient for rights holders.”

Bob Moczydlowsky
Managing director, Techstars Music

Bob Moczydlowsky

Recent investments: Endel, Triller, Tribe XR, Strangeloop Studios, Amper Music
Interests: Streaming, music production tools, AI

As the managing director for premier music technology accelerator Techstars Music, Moczydlowsky facilitated 70 pre-seed investments in startups like Endel, Community, Triller and Tribe XR for a total of $8.2 million during the existence of the program that started in 2017 and ended this year. Techstars connected founders not just with money but with mentors from many of the other investors and companies mentioned on this list, including Sony Music Entertainment, HYBE and Warner Music Group. “I invest at the earliest possible stage,” Moczydlowsky explains. “So 90% of my process is about the team … At the early stage, what matters are the people and their passion for the market and the problem.”

In the next five years, music tech will…: “I’m most interested in what comes next in this mature streaming market we’re entering. If music streaming 1.0 was about solving the problem of ‘make all the music play,’ I think music streaming 2.0 is going to be allowing fans a way to ‘play with all of the music.’ ”

Shachar Oren
Founder/CEO, Sound Media Ventures

Shachar Oren

Recent investments: Boomy, Tribe XR, Dance Fight
Interests: Generative AI, blockchain, user-generated content, streaming, metaverse

For 18 years, Oren was CEO of the startup he founded — business-to-business music licensing platform Neurotic Media — which Peloton acquired in 2018. After the sale, he moved to Peloton as its vp of music before founding Sound Media Ventures, where he applied the skills he learned as an entrepreneur to invest in other founders’ businesses. Since then, Sound Media has invested about $500,000 in total seed funding for music-related startups like Boomy, Tribe XR and Dance Fight in addition to significant investments in other areas of entertainment and technology. As Oren puts it, his firm offers founders more than money: “Our experience and expertise in the music space, along with our relationships, give us the ability to drive growth for our founders.”

Startup red flag: “Testing the product and getting a feel for the market fit it can find, or better yet, interviewing customers and assessing how passionate they feel about the solution is key. If one can’t establish a clear market fit for a product or service, that’s a clear warning.”

Guy Oseary
Co-founder, Maverick Management; co-founder, Sound Ventures

Guy Oseary

Recent investments: Community, SeatGeek, Shazam, OpenAI, Stability AI
Interest: AI

After making his name as a superstar manager and music executive, Oseary has more recently turned his attention to venture capital and funding the future of innovation, both inside and outside music. In 2015, he and co-founder Ashton Kutcher launched Sound Ventures, where he says he leans on his skills at spotting talent as a former A&R executive to find the next big company. At the National Music Publishers’ Association’s annual meeting this year, Oseary gave a keynote address that focused on AI: “There’s a whole new wave that’s happening, and it’s happening very quickly. That means things can scale quickly,” he said. He has two funds dedicated to AI; one has raised $200 million to make investments specifically in “foundational AI models,” which Oseary feels will be the bedrock of all companies in the future. “Our thesis is that everyone is going to plug into one of these foundational models. In a few years, I’m going to ask whatever company I’m working with, ‘Which one do you use?’ And they’ll say Google or OpenAI or Anthropic — it’ll be one of five or six companies that you’re going to put all your information into and use that model to help run your business.”

Shara Senderoff
Co-founder, Born Ready; co-founder, Raised in Space

Shara Senderoff

Recent investments: Audigent/Music IQ, Songclip, The WaveXR, Spatial Labs, Altered State Machine
Interests: AI, blockchain, royalty collection, music production tools, AR

Through funds Born Ready and Raised in Space, Senderoff has invested approximately $30 million into music tech startups during her career. These days, she is most interested in the evolution of the creator economy and how generative AI tools will affect it, but her investments range widely, from blockchain-based solutions for royalty collection to generative music to virtual reality. “I’m relentlessly focused on viability of a business model and its alignment with market timing and demands,” she says.

Startup red flag: “Consistently investing in cutting-edge technologies, such as blockchain and AI, before they hit the mainstream has made it easy for me to spot hype cycles while also enabling efficient discernment of innovation from buzzwords. I pride myself on deep diligence.”

Matt Spetzler
Partner/co-head of Europe, Francisco Partners

Matt Spetzler

Recent investments: Kobalt (acquisition), AMRA (acquisition), Native Instruments, iZotope, Plugin Alliance, Brainworx, JKBX
Interests: AI, music production, royalty collection, business-to-business music licensing

It has been a landmark year for Spetzler and his colleagues at Francisco Partners, which purchased tech-focused music publisher Kobalt and its global digital collection society, AMRA. The team also has invested significantly in music creation tools because, as Spetzler puts it, “technology has been, and will remain, a driving force behind empowering independent artists and creators.” His goal is to make Francisco Partners “one of the top technology and media investors” globally — and given that its last three years of investment into its audio portfolio has led to a combined value of over $4 billion, the company is well on its way toward that goal.

In the next five years, music tech will…: “I believe the power and economics will shift toward the artist/creator, and this empowerment will be driven by technology and increasing transparency.”

This story will appear in the Oct. 21, 2023, issue of Billboard.

Written by:

Rate it

Previous post

Uncategorized

Managers to Watch: The Rising Execs Helping Noah Kahan, Ice Spice, Zach Bryan & More

These managers on the rise have guided their artists through breakout years, navigating such firsts as topping the charts, opening stadium shows (for none other than Taylor Swift) and even selling out arenas on their own. Drew Simmons Age: 41Company: Foundations MusicKey Clients: Noah Kahan, Dayglow, COIN “There is no off-cycle anymore,” says Simmons, who has had a front-row seat to Noah Kahan’s nonstop year, “and that is taxing on the infrastructure around the artist but also on the artist […]

today10/20/2023 2


Similar posts

Post comments (0)

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


0%