2020 vision: what have we learned about music/tech startups in 2019 that will serve our industry well in the future?
Lesson one: let’s never again speak of the moment when it seemed like a good idea for music:)ally to choose Myspace as a promising startup of 2012. We’re suitably penitent now.
Now for the more serious lessons. The music/tech startups sector in 2019 is exciting, and partly because some of the most promising young firms are very deliberately NOT capital-E ‘Exciting’. From Legitary going into battle with fraudulent streams or lost royalties, to Musiio’s AI-powered catalogue
scanning, to Jaxsta’s music-credits database and beyond, there are plenty of startups trying to tackle important B2B challenges. There are also some big, whizzy ideas out there, from AIs creating music (Boomy, Dadabots, WaveAI) to synthetic reality (Oben, Replica) and music creation and education
(Voisey, Jambl, Mila, Big Ear Games) to the obligatory VR and blockchain upstarts (Sensorium and HyperSpace, respectively). These are ideas, if not always business models (yet) worth getting excited about. And remember: our criteria for inclusion in the 2019 feature was that we’d written about startups for the first time this year.
In 2018, we gave first-time coverage to TikTok, Canopy, Triller, ClicknClear, Big Neon, Endel, Super Hi-Fi, Blink Identity, Lirica, Amadeus Code, Endlesss, Mubert and Weyo, for example. In 2017 Amuse,
Soundcharts, Jaak, Stationhead, Popgun, Lickd, The Bot Platform, Amper Music, TheWaveVR, Blokur, WARM and Gimme Radio were on our radar, meanwhile. Those all still feel like young startups, in
the scheme of things. Our features on the major labels show that the biggest music companies really have been upping their efforts to engage more constructively with these and other startups. That’s encouraging. At the same time, our feature where startups say what they really think about the majors shows there is still work to do to swerve some of the dysfunctional pitfalls of the rightsholder/startup relationship.
At conferences, music:)ally regularly hears senior executives warning the industry not to be complacent about the seemingly-sustainable bounceback of
global recorded-music revenues over the past three years. That warning should also
apply to the way the industry works with startups.
Yes, let’s celebrate the proliferation of accelerators and incubators; the emergence of labels as fully-engaged investors in startups; and the general desire for young music/tech companies to bring their ideas to rightsholders early without expecting to be squeezed for advances ‘til their pips squeak then tossed aside.
But let’s not allow those celebrations to distract from tackling the problems that still remain, particularly when they revolve around tension between labels and (even their own) publishers; or between the biz-dev and legal/licensing teams within those labels. Or, indeed, any knowledge gaps and/or naivety within startups around what’s necessary to build partnerships with the music industry.
Still, the overall picture is positive. Heaven knows what we’ll make of the 20 startups we picked out from 2019 so far if we look back at this report in 2026. But their technology and ideas – and the willingness to engage with them by rightsholders – will play their part in the next evolution of the music industry.
Music Ally’s startup picks of 2019 [excerpt]
The most promising new firms we’ve written about for the first time this year
Musiio has developed AI technology that can scan and tag catalogues of music: capable of being used by streaming services to power discovery, as well as labels trying to sort out their metadata. http://www.musiio.com