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Cooper Turley, better known as Coopahtroopa, is betting big on ushering a new generation of music. In September, he announced a first-of-its-kind investment fund focused squarely on web3 music projects and artists themselves. Coop Records raised $10 million and Coopah will be the sole general partner. He’s hesitant to call it just an investment fund though. That’s because Coop Records is also a record label and incubator. Coopah will invest directly into web3-native music artists in a “seed round” — turning emerging artists into venture-backed startups.Structuring an artist’s company is what Coopah sees as web3’s biggest opportunity: resetting ownership dynamics. NFTs are another vertical of the Coop Records fund, in addition to the seed-stage investing in both companies and artists.  Coopah joined me on the show to give us an in-depth look at how Coop Records is eying its investment opportunities. Here’s everything we covered:[0:00] How Coop Records started[2:06] Focusing on emerging artists, not established ones [3:35] Coop Records’ investment thesis[7:24] Investing in artists during “seed round”[9:50] Structuring artists as a holdings company[11:40] What does an exit look like for artists investors?[15:00] Artists as CEOs[20:11] What makes a music NFT historical [22:28] NFTs as a replacement for masters and publishing[27:18] Accredited investors vs. fan investors[29:30] Artist success stories with community building on web3[31:40] Focusing on story when marketing NFTs[34:25] Optimizing for engagement not reach on social [39:24] How tokenization changes the artist-fan relationship [47:00] Predicting the year that music NFTs go mainstream [48:25] Coop’s big question for web3Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Cooper Turley, @Cooopahtroopa Download The Culture Report here: https://trapital.ck.page/a23b7a6a4a Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Cooper Turley: And I think that gets to this artist development piece more broadly is that you're trying to start the process much earlier, much earlier than I think a lot of the major record labels are starting now. Because I think they often wanna see artists having some proven. Track record before they're willing to sign them.[00:00:24] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to the podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Dan Ruey. This podcast is your place to gain insights from the executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level. [00:00:49] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Cooper Turley, aka Coopa Troopa. He is the founder of Coop Records, which is a new venture fund, a 10 million fund that is focused on investing in the future of music, specifically in web three. He is someone that has made a name for himself as a thought leader in the space. He was involved with the Dow Friends with benefits and he's now started this fund to make economics better for artists and ultimately help them take more advantage of the opportunities that are around them. So we talked about a lot of it. We talked about how he views the space right now, why he started this fund, and what the fund's investing in. There are three main areas that we go into. We talk about investing in music startup. Investing in artist seed rounds and investing in NFTs themselves as an investible assets that him as a general partner and little Bited partners would wanna see returns from. So we talk about what the economics of that look like. I think that. Cooper stands out in a lot of ways because he has a much more nuanced understanding of how Web Three fits in with the broader ecosystem of what's happening right now in music, what some of the trade offs are with the financials, the relationship with fans, what services it offers versus the traditional record labels and more really insightful conversation, and I hope you enjoy it. Here’s our chat.[00:02:07] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we're joined by Coopa Troopa who just launched Coup Records, which is his fund that is investing in the future of music and Web three specifically. And first off, congrats. I saw the announcement, it's really dope. So walk me through the process from thinking about you wanna start this fund to where you are now, today with it.[00:02:28] Cooper Turley: Absolutely. Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be here. I've been in music for the last 10 years in crypto for the last five, and so I've seen everything from ICOs to Defi, to Dows, and not most recently NFTs. You know, throughout that time I've been active across public markets as a trader, behind the scenes, as an angel investor, as a community builder, and as an operator. And when I started to think about how to connect all the pieces together, I've always been a fan of music. I felt like there was never really a clear vehicle to help elevate and amplify the space. And so I found coop records to be the best way to really just zoom in on this niche that I'm so excited about and figure out how to really help the founders, artists, and builders that are supporting this space everyday.[00:03:05] Dan Runcie: Makes sense. What were the conversations like getting buy-in from LPs?[00:03:10] Cooper Turley: Basically helping to explain what music NFTs are, why this is a vertical that you'd wanna invest in at this time and day? You know, historically I think that music has gotten a bit of a bad rep, cuz it's very antiquated in a lot of ways. You know, there's a lot of systems that are very complicated and hopefully we can unpack some of those on this episode. But, I think we through presents a new opportunity for artists to monetize in creative ways. You know, as someone who's been a curator my whole life, it's very easy for me to understand the value of investing in songs, artists, et cetera. But for someone who's not music savvy and not passionate about this sector, you know, the majority of those conversations are why would anyone wanna collect a song? Why would someone wanna invest in an artist? And trying to help people understand why there's an opportunity here that I think is. Influential and paramount for the next chapter of music. But once people get over that line, you know, I've kind of been able to build a brand for myself that I think speaks very clearly to why I'm so excited about music. And so for investors that are looking to get exposure to the space, coop records is a great way to get that exposure without them having to get as deep in the trenches as I am.[00:04:07] Dan Runcie: Right. And I gotta imagine that that probably took a few conversations just given things that I'm hearing too, from folks. People, they understand the promise and the opportunity of what NFTs and what web three offer, but there's. Hesitation, there's still perception about what's going on and some of the headlines that people see. How did you communicate or address some of those concerns while still sharing the value add for what you have? [00:04:32] Cooper Turley: Yeah, I really focus on emerging artists. You know, I think that this is where the vast majority of value will accrue over the next couple years with Web three. And so when you think about investing in music, most people's mind goes to like, how do we get Drake to drop NFTs? I actually don't really focus on that at all. Instead, I think about how do we develop the next act that becomes Drake using Web three tools? And so for investors that are kind of hesitant about getting involved in the space, I point out early examples like X copier people, you know, crypto artists who really made a brand and a name for themselves on the back of selling their nfts. And obviously in the case of people, he had a major brand before, but it wasn't until the existence of NFTs and sort of these community based assets that they started to see monetization aspects with their fans and with their collectors. And so trying to highlight that there's an opportunity here to develop and support emerging artists new to Web three through music, I think it really made a clear case that. This isn't about trying to get your biggest celebrity to drop NFTs. I think that will happen at some point in time. But this is about investing in the infrastructure and the artists that are going to make this space very valuable over the next couple years.[00:05:31] Dan Runcie: And one of the things I like too about how your fund is structured or reminds me a bit of Matt Pinkus and how his music fund is structured. It's not just focused solely on startups that are trying to build the next tech platforms. You're also looking more broadly. The NFT space itself and what that opportunity looks like and it'd be great to break each of those down. So let's start first with the music tech companies, cuz I know that's 85% of your fund looking at preceded seed stage companies. What's your thesis for the type of company that is a coop records company that you're looking for? [00:06:04] Cooper Turley:  I'm a really big fan of composability. So in Defi there's this concept of money Legos or protocols and platforms that could plug into one another. I believe the same thesis will play out with music, where we're gonna have music legos, where there's different marketplaces, service providers, tooling, infrastructure that can help sort of amplify what an artist can do with Web three. And so when I think about investing in a music tech company, I think about culturally, is this company aware and active within the pocket that I'm spending a lot of my time in? And then beyond being aware of sort of the artists, the songs, the type of platforms that are doing well in this space, do they have the open mindedness to wanna work in collaboration with those other platforms? So in accurate, we can kind of create this toolkit in this stack where if I am an artist who's new to web three, it's not about choosing Spotify versus Apple, it's actually about trying to develop a presence across many platforms. And hopefully those platforms. The life of the artist easier by making everything connect together with one another.[00:06:56] Dan Runcie: And I feel like this speaks to one of the broader themes that I know you've talked about before, is. It can't be this approach of web three versus web two. These things need to be collaborative. No more zero sum games. How can you think more broadly about the opportunity there? How do you view that more broadly, not just with the fun, but also likely how you're seeing the space with any artist that you're working with too?[00:07:21] Cooper Turley: I'm really laser focused on web three platforms because I think there's a lot more room for change within those platforms. You know, I have nothing against legacy platforms like Spotify have done fantastic work for artists and I think there will be at a time and day when they're able to enable music, NFTs to be purchased, collected, listened to within their platform. But the reality is these companies are so sophisticated that trying to move the needle is very complicated. And so for someone like. I'm running this fund as a solo gp. It's a relatively small fund, and so when I think about where I can have impact and leverage, it's typically working with very early stage founders. You know, I can get in the trenches and help to develop the product. Think about how we're onboarding artists, think about new marketing strategies. And so for me, I think right now it's about cementing the cultural relevance and value of this emerging wave of Web three music. And once that's been clear and established, we can take those same values, ideas, songs, artists, and help to bring those into the traditional industry in a more clear way. Because right now I think that a lot of the bigger players, let's call it major labels, et cetera, they recognize that there's value to be captured in Web three, but I don't think that they have the same level. Boots on the ground cultural awareness that maybe someone like, um, myself or some of my colleagues have. And so I think the challenge here is a, making it very clear what that culture is so you can start to translate it to larger players. And then once that they agree there is something of value there, you know, being able to act as a connector where you can say, Hey, maybe instead of going and doing a 500,000 or a million dollar drop for the biggest act on your roster, let's go ahead and find an emerging artist who's curious about the space and develop them with the course. Five or $10,000 drops and instead really build that community and that collector base in a very organic way.[00:08:56] Dan Runcie:  And I think that gets to this artist development piece more broadly is that you're trying to start the process much earlier, much earlier than I think a lot of the major record labels are starting now. Because I think they often wanna see artists having some proven. Track record before they're willing to sign them. And in some ways your approach isn't too much different. Maybe it's just a bit of a different stage because one of the other areas that you're investing in is artist seed rounds. And can you describe. What stage an artist would have to be in order to be at the seed round, and what types of things you're looking for there from an artist?[00:09:33] Cooper Turley: I think it's very similar to what I look for in companies. You know, has this artist been able to prove a little bit of traction? You know, have they demonstrated that they're culturally aware of where this industry is headed? You know, different things that I feel like are interesting to kind of describe. Cause it's not very concrete. Like you can't point to like a specific amount of sales or a specific amount of volume and say, okay, this artist is ready to be invested in. But it's really just a development process of like, is this person making web three a focal point in their career? I believe that that's something really important for me personally, cuz that's where I had the most leverage. But once they've demonstrated that they've been able to release on some of the bigger web through platforms, you know, once they've been able to collaborate and onboard other artists to the space, you know, you start to see that these people have like a little bit. Leverage was sort of their career. And at that point in time, instead of signing a traditional record deal, co records can really be the one to say like, Hey, let's go ahead and set up a company for you. Let's think about how we wanna do a cap table. Let's bring on some partners to give you the capital that you need to go and hire a team around you. So instead of selling your next three albums to a major label, you can instead fund this through accredited investors. And then over time think about the ways you wanna bring other partners into the fold, but not need to be so reliant on the capital to do that in the first place.[00:10:38] Dan Runcie: And with the artists specifically, cuz I know that you've started the fund. Maybe for the people listening, is there a particular artist that you have made a seed investment in just so people can get a good idea for, okay, this is someone that we invested in, this is where they're at in their career, and this is what the opportunity is [00:10:56] Cooper Turley: Not publicly. I think by the time this comes out, we'll be right around there. You know, I can say that privately, behind the scenes we're working. The first round, you know, we've had some very serious progress on it. Investors are excited about it. We're going through the whole corporate structure, but for me, this is a very different lane because it's not as simple as just investing in the safe note of a precede company. You know, there's a lot more complexity around IP ownership, around revenue sharing around. Kind of how this artist thinks about their company and what kind of rights they're giving back to people. And so it's a slower process, but it's one that's currently in motion. I expect that we'll probably have the first one announced within the next one to two months, but I can definitely say there's one in motion that I'm really excited about. And I think, you know, by the end of this calendar year, we should have that one announced. [00:11:37] Dan Runcie: I think part of this too is also the structure of things. You mentioned this earlier, and I think for a lot of artists it's probably. Not necessarily a new way to think about it, because I think in general, artists do think of themselves as having multiple revenue streams, but in order for this to work, in order for you to be able to make an investment, there needs to be some type of, whether it's a holding company or some type of structure in place so that you can make an investment that would touch all of these things. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like on the artist side? [00:12:05] Cooper Turley: Yeah, it's a fantastic question. I wanna start by saying, This is early days and so this is the first stab at it. I think that this model will evolve and change over time. The way we're thinking about it is there's one Hold Co, that represents the artist ownership across their various income streams, uh, that hold co owns subsidiary entities, one of them being a music entity, which owns the masters in publishing for that artist. One being a live entity, which owns touring and merchandising, and then one being a Web three entity, which owns NFTs and. And so all of that wraps up into the larger hold cow. But the reasons those subsidiaries exist is because we wanna limit liability to each of those different vertical. If there's an issue across web three, we don't want that to end up touching the masters. If an artist wants to go and sign a record deal, they shouldn't have to figure out what to do with their touring or what their NFTs to be able to enter into agreement with a different party. And so we've kind of split up the different verticals into buckets that make sense relative to the type of partners and the type of work that it is. But all of that rounds back up into this holding company and when it comes time to invest in the artist, quote unquote, that artist is selling anywhere from five to 10% of that hold cow to accredited investors so that they can have exposure and pass through to those underlying revenue streams. But there's not this sort of majority ownership, creative control, et cetera. It's really, here's capital and exchange for you to go do what you do best. In exchange for that, we have exposure to these underlying entities, which represent the artist brand in its entirety.[00:13:27] Dan Runcie: And for an investor like you, I think most people listening have a good idea of what an exit looks like for a startup, but what does an exit look like for you as an investor, for an artist, if you're going in at that seed round?[00:13:39] Cooper Turley: I think there's a couple ways it can pan out. You know, one I think would be IP acquisition. Let's say that there's a buyout of someone's masters or publishing, et cetera. You know, there's kind of larger capital inflections that can happen later down an artist's career. I'm more excited about this idea of taking artists public cuz it's something that hasn't really been done before, but I think will happen eventually. Where right now, if you're a fan, you can't really invest or bet on an artist. I think we're starting to see us at a very granular level with music NFTs, and it's something I would love to cover as the last bucket next, but to me, I think an exit here is helping an artist really take this company that we structure for themselves and explore what it means to go public. And so rather than only accredited investors being able to buy into that five or 10%, how do you invite fans to participate in that convers. I think that there's a lot of, uh, legal nuance there that needs to be figured out. And so I don't have that answer today, but I would say that more broadly, the two ways that this could happen is a, investors are seeing a return from the IP becoming more valuable, and they're being capital injected into the whole co. Or B, more optimistically the artist, quote unquote, going public by either, you know, listing on a traditional market or what I think is more likely is creating some form of a token, which represents exposure to this entity that's been set up to represent the artist brand in the first.[00:14:49] Dan Runcie: Got it. And then from a structure perspective, do you ever hear any type of pushback or comments from artists who feel like, oh, you're getting a slice of all these revenue deals. This feels similar to a 360 deal. Do you hear any of that at all?[00:15:04] Cooper Turley:  Yeah, I mean, it is a 360 deal, and I think that that's really important to like zoom in on, because 360 deals have gotten a really negative rep because of the percentage ownership that they typically encompass. So traditionally with 360 deals, it's anywhere from 50 to 80. When we talk about a 360 deal in this context, it's five or 10%. And if you start to look at the way that companies take on dilution and precede and seed stage rounds, it's kind of the same concept. You know, like that company is basically taking all of their revenue into this central entity and they're selling off dilution to investors. And so I think for artists, this is particularly scary because there's been such a history of people taking advantage of 360. But I don't think the structure with 360 deals incorrect. I just think the ownership targets that those deals are typically set at is what's really predatory. And so if we can zoom out a bit and instead say, Hey, five or 10% can give you a couple hundred grand, maybe a million dollars to go invest in a team around you, there's ways for that capital to be really value added where the dilution is actually necessary and valuable because it helps you advance your artist career in a way that you simply couldn't do without it.[00:16:04] Dan Runcie: I agree with that. I think that that's, Testament of some of the challenges with the broader major record label system as well, right? It's not that people shouldn't be willing to trade some level of ownership in exchange to get a boost from the company. It's how much ownership, it's what the terms that the actual economics look like, not the economic agreement itself.[00:16:28] Cooper Turley: Yeah, it's correct. And I think that it's something that is really important to help educate artists on. And this is the area that I'm actually most fascinated by is like artists really thinking about rights ownership, thinking about dilution, thinking about cap table management. And just with that in mind, I wanna highlight, it's a very specific type of artist that is willing to enter into this quote unquote, artists seed round. Because I think that most artists are not thinking about their brand as a ceo, but I think there are very selective artists who think about their entity as a business and for those specific artists being able to demonst. There's value in having employees. There's value in giving them long term options and equity, and having these ownership incentives be a little bit more aligned. I think traditionally music has existed in this weird ballpark where we've basically only ever sold masters in publishing. We haven't really experimented with equity or any of these other ownership vehicles that startups have been taking for the last couple generations, so I'm excited to explore it. You know, I by no means have all the answers, but I think. My time investing in precede and seed stage companies has given me a little bit of context on how things work behind the scenes, and I'm hoping that with a little time and effort, we can sort of mold those same practices and help apply them to artists more broadly.[00:17:34] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And I have to imagine too, with artists as well, there's some artists that love the mentality of being the business person themself that can be the CEO and wear multiple hats. There's other artists who I. As much as they want the business to work for them, they just wanna focus on the art. So there's specific things that you're looking for to determine, okay, is this artist gonna be wanting to be the ceo? Or maybe making sure that they are partnered with someone that may wanna be in that role instead[00:18:05] Cooper Turley: Yeah, I mean, you just touched on it perfectly. I think that there's situations where artists have partners that are acting as their ceo, you know, and in many typical startups you have a ceo, a cto, a ceo, et cetera. Um, the artist isn't the only person that's responsible for their success. They're obviously the largest player in that. But it's less about, is this artist capable of being a ceo? It's more about is this artist capable of building a team around them that can. In tandem as a unit and as an organization. And if that artist is uncapable of operating as the CEO, because they're phenomenal at making music, it's very likely that there may be a manager, an agent, a business partner, et cetera, that could step into that role. And I think the biggest thing that I'm excited about is to realign incentives around the service providers around an artist. So whether that be a manager, an agent, a business manager, a lawyer, et cetera. Typically, all these actors are just operating on commission, you know, and they have five or 10 clients because there's no guarantee that they'll be with that artist in 10 years time. You know, these contracts aren't really a center aligned for those key players. But if we can instead start to create an instrument where a managers may be able to take a salary and then have equity that's vested over four years, I think there will be more situations where artists would be willing to enter into a full-time quote unquote agreement with their manager, because that a manager is now incentive aligned to actually spend all their time developing one. Instead of needing to commission off of five or 10 different artists just to be able to make a living.[00:19:24] Dan Runcie: It's a huge point because there's so many managers I've talked to that just talk about how thankless that job is, and that's purely just from how they're treated, not even getting to the economic aspect. You start thinking about the economics about how managers are treated and yeah, maybe you'll get 10 to 15 to 20%, but if that artist levels up and then they wanna level up their manager too, they can just be like, Hey, sorry, I wanna move on. And you, the person that brought them from zero to 40. Now you have nothing. Right?[00:19:54] Cooper Turley: Yeah. I mean, it happens time and time again from smaller artists to the biggest acts in the world. I mean, I don't have to name names here, but I think we all know examples of this happening time and time. And it's really just a game of incentive alignment. You know? And when I think about the term web three, to me that means ownership. And so for all of these different deals that I'm doing, it's about how do you create ownership incentives so that everyone who's contributing value to this entity is able to capture that in some way, shape, or form. And so I think it's a very difficult conversation to tell a manager, Hey, instead of taking a 15 or a 20% commission, you're gonna get a base salary and then have a couple equity percentage points that best over multiple years. But when you start to zoom out a bit, you start to see like, hey, maybe 1% of equity can actually be more valuable than 20% commission. Because if you're operating a multi-million or multi-billion dollar business, you know that's a life-changing amount of money. And so I don't expect this is something that's gonna happen in the short term. I think it's gonna take a very new class of partners, managers, agents, et cetera, that are willing to enter into these type of. Situations and these type of organizations. But I'm very excited to work with the emerging class of talent that's willing to try something out a little bit differently because I think that new class of talent is looking for an opportunity here. And I think that we've seen time and time again that the systems that exist today work, but I think that there's a lot of room for improvement and I'm excited to use some of the artists that we're working with help push the needle on what that could like. [00:21:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think the other point that you mentioned too, was aligned as well, just in terms of artists being able to have that team around them. We've seen so many examples where whether it's Jay-Z, having someone like a Dame Dash next to him, or you have Jay Cole and e Bama, they've been working together for years. Kate, uh, Kendrick Lamar, and the whole Top Dog team. These artists are doing it themselves, and oftentimes the ones that try to get stuck, so no different then. Yeah, a startup, if you're trying to raise money, they're gonna push back. If you have the technical co-founder being the same one that's trying to go raise money, right? Like you need to have some expansion there. So I think so much of that makes sense. I do wanna talk about the other piece that you mentioned though, the NFT piece of it, because the way that you're investing in these, I think could be eyeopening to some of the folks listening because you're looking. And I heard you referred to historic NFT opportunities and NFTs as collectables. Can you talk a little bit about what you're looking for if you're investing in NFTs through this fund and how that may separate from what a lot of people may assume when they think about an nft. [00:22:18] Cooper Turley: Yeah, so there's a really amazing market of songs that are being released as collectibles right now. You know, there's platforms like Sound xyz, where every day an artist is releasing a song with 25 editions as NFTs. And I've been really active across these markets for the course of the last two years. Personally, you know, biggest collector on Sound today, one of the biggest collectors on catalog. And I'm really excited about being able to collect these early songs from artists that are building in Web three. You know, the analog I'd make here. Music, rookie cards. You know, we have rookie cards for basketball players, for baseball players, et cetera. We don't really have rookie cards for artists, and I think in a lot of ways these early music NFTs are sort of the equivalent of an artist rookie card. And so personally, I've been doing this for the last couple years. I recently just put out a post called the Music NFT Collector Thesis. This is how we're thinking about collecting from the fund. But to really break it down, we're thinking about how do we sort of acquire early NFTs that represent historical relevance of this. Web three and Music NFTs have been around for maybe a year at this point. I think that there's a huge opportunity for fans to start getting involved by collecting the songs that they love and for the fund. I almost look at music NFTs as the new form of like masters and publishing. You know, it's not quite one to one, but there's almost this new market being formed of Tradeable assets that you can buy for something like 50 bucks when it drops, and then hopefully have the ability to resell at a later. And I think for the fund, you know, us being able to participate in these markets and say, Hey, we are aware of what's happening on the ground floor with the next generation of developing artists, we're actively collecting these songs that we can show that were there from them, beyond needing to set up a company and needing to do some crazy type of investment situation. And I'm really excited about the opportunity just to have. Ownership over some of these really early collectibles, cuz I think they're very historic in the development of these artists' careers and I believe they're extremely valuable and will continue to demonstrate. So in the years to come. [00:24:03] Dan Runcie: You brought up an interesting point just about how you feel like NFTs could replace what we are naturally thinking about masters in publishing. I guess in terms of how artists are monetizing and what their ownership looks like. Can you talk a little bit more about that and specifically how that could look or what that could look like? Years down the road.[00:24:23] Cooper Turley: I mean, I'll start by saying that, um, masters in publishing are extremely valuable. You know, I think that this is a system that has worked for generations. There's a huge trend around catalog acquisition. I think that will continue to exist for many, many years to come. I think for someone like myself, me trying to get in the catalog acquisition game is not a smart move. You know, there's a lot of players with a lot more experience. There's a lot of people with a lot more money. The one unique advantage that I do have though, is developing thesises within this small pocket of web three artists, and the best way to get exposure to them is to simply buy their nf. You know the way that this looks is if there's the first song an artist ever released their artist rookie card, and there's 25 additions of that being sold for 50 bucks. If you zoom out and one of these artists becomes the Weekend, Drake Post Malone, Jack Harla, whatever it might be, there's a very high likelihood that those early additions are gonna be worth a lot more than $50. And so instead of trying to invest in the masters in publishing rights, those songs can also go on Spotify. They can stream extremely well. You can have relationships with major label. But I believe those early collectibles have a market of their own. These markets are not tied to any sort of royalty rights because it's just collectibles. You know, there's 25 additions of this digital vinyl. I can buy it for $50 and then sell it for whatever price I want in the future. And I think this is a market that not many people are paying attention to right now. But I think when it comes to new and creative revenue streams for artists, I think that collectibles are gonna be a very, very big market in the years to come. I think it's the most clear way that fans can start to get involved with sort of, Collectible nature of getting involved with an artist and as a fun, I think we're really excited to be participating here to say, Hey, we're really excited about this. I think there's some really amazing plays out there right now, and we're gonna continue to support artists on the ground floor to help develop this thesis. [00:25:59] Dan Runcie: Why do you think that a lot of people aren't paying attention? Or what do you think some of the, if there's friction or if there is just in a bit of a natural adoption curve, like what do you think's going.[00:26:12] Cooper Turley: It's just new. I mean, this entire market has only been around for a little bit more than a year at this point. You know, in total, I think we have less than a thousand artists that have ever minted a music NFT before. There's probably less than 10,000 people ever collected one before, and so. Relatively speaking, it's just a very new and small market. And I think for a lot of players that have bigger fish to fry, it's probably not worth their time to invest buying records for $50 because they have multimillion dollar record deals in place. You know, and so for someone like myself, um, a lot of what I do is help educate artists that there's a lot of value to be captured in web through right now based on how early it is. You know, I think that there's a lot of unlearning that can be done with the way artists are releasing music in Web three. And so traditionally, when you're putting out a song on Spotify, most artists I know here in. They'll take eight weeks in advance to think about what distributor am I gonna put this out through? Am I gonna sign this to a label? What's my advance? What's my marketing rollout? What's my TikTok campaign? How am I getting pre saves? How am I making the music video? And what I've been preaching is like, Hey, if you have a song, you should put that out tomorrow. You know, like there's people out there that would probably wanna collect that record. And if you can 5 25 people to come and collect music in FT for 0.05 E, they're basically $75. That's the equivalent of half a million streams. And so I think trying to teach people that you don't need to have this giant rollout process to make this headline moment with music. We've gotten really conditioned to trying to shoot for the new Music Friday playlist. You know, all of these emerging editorial playlists. One of the beautiful things about the SoundCloud era was people were just uploading music in real time and if you had your finger on the trigger, you could go and just repost something and be part of a wider movement. And I think what's happening with music and FTS now is artists are gonna start to see that you don't need to have a six week rollout to put out a collection of 25 songs. If you make that song on Wednesday and put it out on Thursday, you can immediately get funding from your biggest fans and use that funding to go and market the rest of your career and instead be able to obviscate the need for a lot of those major capital advances that typically get artists caught up in a weird position in the first place.[00:29:05] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that makes sense. I feel like if the funding's in place and you can replace early on, because I think for a lot of artists, the economics don't really work out either. Unless A, you own the underlying masters in publishing to begin, so you're just bringing on a. You know, revenue per stream or just general from what you're getting from streaming or on the other side, you're just massive, like Drake or someone like that. And your billions of streams per year brings in plenty of money. But for a lot of other artists, it ends up being either A, a loss leader if you're focusing solely on streaming or a, or you're leaving money on the table some type of way. So I feel like that approach is something that makes sense for a bunch of. On the investing side though, I have a few questions on this, but the first one, on the investing side though, how do you feel like the appetite will be for, let's say an artist does have early investors, the likelihood for those investors to be folks who are accredited, folks that just wanna be able to get a return, versus people who are actual fans of that artist. Any thoughts on what that mix may look like for the average artist that's going through the web? Growth cycle and the rep do growth curve?[00:30:19] Cooper Turley: Yeah. I mean, I can speak on this from the artist seed round that we're doing right now. Every investor in that round has been an active collector of this artist for many, many months. Prior to that, they all have personal relationships with the artist. You know, they may be an accredited investor, but they're not just bringing capital. They've been active and supportive of this artist's career way before the seed round even started. And so I think if we zoom out, there will definitely be situations. Investors just want to put in a couple hundred grand and not really worry about getting involved on the ground floor. But given how early it is right now, most of the investors who are interested in participating in these capital markets are ones who want exposure to both NFTs and to the artist equity. And so I think that over time, collectors to me are a little bit closer to like early investors. Think about them like almost angels or sort of like seed round investors. Over time, collectors will start to mirror more fan behavior. But I think for right now, a lot of the collectors I know, they're just excited to get exposure to an artist's career and to go and support them more so than they are to really go to their show or to buy their merchandise, et cetera. And I think that's where a lot of the pushback comes for web through music is like, oh, these people aren't actually fans. They're just, you know, buying NFTs. But if you zoom into what that means, it's almost a different form of fandom where they're providing capital to be able to have exposure to an artist's career. And their expectations are a lot less on the fan side. I need you to collaborate with this artist. I want you to put out this type of music. It's more so like, Hey, we just wanna support you and your career however we can. Because the more that you're able to identify your vision and create a brand around it, the more valuable our NFTs are going to become. And so it's a very mutual relationship I think hasn't really existed in music in the past.[00:31:50] Dan Runcie: You're really getting at this aspect of community and how artists can foster that, how they can build around them. We've seen the power of that in the SoundCloud era, so we've seen a lot of these things happening and what streaming in general has enabled to happen. What are some of the success stories that stand out to you when you're thinking about artists to be like, oh yeah, they've nailed community, or they're nailing community, like that's how you do it.[00:32:13] Cooper Turley: Yeah. I would say a couple artists to check out. Daniel Allen, I think has done a fantastic job of this in the web three space. Latasha who started something called Zora Topia has done a fantastic job at this Early nft. Artists like Matt Cha os. Grady bloody white. I mean, the list goes on and on, but basically you see. The small pocket of artists that are really making web through a centerpiece for their career, and they're leveraging that into creating more community conversation. Where typically all these artists have a collector chat where once you've bought a music nft, you can get into a private chat with that artist. It's typically 20 people, 25 people, and that artist is in there every day saying like, Hey, what do you guys think about this demo? Hey, I'm thinking about dropping a song next week. Which one do you like more? What do you think I should do for the supply? Do you think we should do an airdrop? And that conversation is a lot more interactive. And I think in a lot of ways artists have typically maintained separation from their fans to kind of uphold this like form of mystery and this like storytelling aspect. But what I'm seeing now is that collectors are getting really close to the artists that they know and love, and those artists are realizing that for a very specific demographic of their audience, they can be very value added, asked the right questions. And so instead of just doing a meet and greet or doing like, you know, 50 people standing in line to say hi, back to back for an hour and a half, it's like, hey, if we wanna have a valuable conversation about the future of my career, These other people that I can turn to, cause I know they have exposure to my brand and they actually typically have experience That's very valuable and it's something that I think is gonna happen more and more with the next generation of collectors to come.[00:33:37] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think that's a good way to just think about the framing of it, right? Meet and greets can be great, but it's so transactional. It is really isn't an opportunity. And it kind of has a bit of this like hierarchical thing. Like, oh, I paid $500 extra at this concert to like take a picture with you. Versus no, like if you've really been with this person, then how can you help shape that in the same way that someone that was really early on can? So I feel like there's so many principles there and there's so much that aligns with, especially on the financial side. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the marketing side of it, because I know that's a piece that a lot of artists have had questions about, but I also think that we've seen from. Project specifically with Web three projects like outside of music where whether it is the creator themselves who's been able to market or get the word out effectively, or they've been able to just find ways to build their distribution themselves. What are some of the ways that you've seen artists who've been successful on the Web three Path have been able to replicate, or at least make up for some of the marketing that they would get from a major record label, but otherwise they're recreating on their own.[00:34:47] Cooper Turley: I think it starts from the story, you know, like first of all, what is the music that you're releasing and what is the story behind that? But more importantly, like what is the narrative with how you're using the technology? And so almost fusing together like the creative side with the tech side, you know, whether this be something as simple as like creating your own artist website where people are mentioning s from, or it's something like, hey, we're using on chain splits to reward and compensate. 15 different contributors, five of which didn't touch the music, but were helpful in the development or the project management or the visual assets, et cetera. You know, I think there's new creative channels to help bring more people into the table, but I would say generally Twitter is kind of the main resource for all web three artists. You know, the ones that I see doing really well are typically putting out tweet storms, talking a lot about the drops that they're doing, why they're doing it, and how they're doing it. I see a lot of artists doing these sort of collector chats and more private investor relationships. If they have a bigger release coming out, it's not only about posting the tweetstorm, it's also about going and finding time to talk to some of your bigger collectors one on one and being like, Hey, what do you think about this? How can I get you involved? What are some feedback you would have on this drop? Are you excited or not excited? And I think typically with music, traditionally, how it's released, Artist makes a song, they have their internal team, and then they put it out to the world. And when it's out to the world, everyone forms an opinion on it. With Web three music, a lot of the time, there's a lot more happening behind the scenes before the release actually comes out, so that when it is time for one of these releases to happen, you start to see these things sell out because there was a lot of work put into the record before it came out, and that's not untraditional from typical music, but I think the difference there. Active conversations with your collectors is very new. You know, typically it's like people around a table at a major label that are talking about like, how are we gonna market on TikTok? But this is different because it's going and having very direct conversations with the people that are supporting you the most. And in aggregate that sort of. Neural net of all these different people talking about your drop in tandem. It creates this sort of network effect where when it does come out, there's almost a rippling effect that helps to make the drop become more successful. And I think that's something that I'm seeing being replicated time and time again.[00:36:44]  Dan Runcie: And I know that, as you mentioned, Twitter has been a great space for artists to be able to share things. There's so much. There's so many people in the one three community that are active there, and I think have added to a lot of the discussion and narrative around it. But as someone who's active on Twitter myself, I know how small sometimes those circles can feel. What other platforms or what other areas are you seeing some of these conversations happen, and how long do you think until we're starting to see it not just becoming necessarily a Twitter thing, but it is expanding to more platforms and it's becoming a bit more of. Early majority, at least being able to catch on.[00:37:22] Cooper Turley: I think it'll be Twitter for the foreseeable future. You know, I think that's just where the vast majority of Web three people live. And I think it's actually the one social platform where you can talk about Web three and not get ridiculed for it. You know, I think across nft, TikTok, et cetera, it's very taboo to talk about NFTs, and I don't think that those users are really as tapped into sort of like the valuable aspects of Web three. And so I think for the immediate future, let's call it the next one to two. Twitter, I think is gonna be the source for all of that. And to your point, some of these communities do feel very small, but I think that's actually one of the biggest differences with Web three. You know, I think with traditional marketing platforms, we optimize for impressions, we optimize for plays, for eyeballs, et cetera. On Twitter, if you have 50 people that are consistently showing up to each of your drop, you're doing an amazing job. You know, I think that this is the biggest thing that shows why Web three is valuable is you don't need to have a million monthly listeners to make a couple thousand bucks. If you have 25 people that are willing to come and support you, you can make the same amount of money and have a deeper relationships with those individuals. And so I always say to artists, Even if you're only getting three, five reactions on your tweets every single time, that's very impressive because the benchmark to move the needle and Web three is a lot lower because every individual person is much more active and the quality of those conversations is much higher than what you could expect from a TikTok, Instagram, et cetera.[00:38:36] Dan Runcie: And I think in general, like with those platforms, you're more likely to reach people who are just casually following or passively engaging versus whether if you're already in that audience that's Twitter, you're likely reaching a more active fan base to begin with. And it gets to this whole concept of where can you not just reach followers, but reach people who are actual fans of their music? And a lot of the platforms that have grown tremendously large in the past few. Are much more overindexed on followers and less overindexed or or under indexed rather on true fans.[00:39:08] Cooper Turley: Yeah. And so there's still a lot to be done there. You know, I do believe there's a world in which artists that are using Web three and music NFTs become viral acts that have fans in the traditional sense. I try not to like focus on that too much because there's a lot of work that needs to be done to get there. I think that will happen, but I don't think it's healthy to think. What that looks like today, because frankly, we're just far away from it, you know? And I think for me, helping an artist get a thousand collectors is much more important to me than how do they get 10 million streams on Spotify? You know, if the ladder happens, that's great. But I think the former's actually a lot harder to do because it's a much smaller design space. But, you know, I think there's something really exciting there. And a lot of the work that I do as a collector is really just educating fans on like, why would I wanna collect music? Like, why would I wanna participate on the other side of these? I think from the surface, a lot of bands got really bad experiences with NFTs because artists were just selling random drops that didn't really have any merit to them. They didn't actually care about the output. They were just kind of doing something to be cool at the time. But now what I'm starting to see is that these emerging artists, they really care about their NFTs. They care about them just as much, if not more, than their release strategy on Spotify. And for those demographic of artists. If you are a fan that's looking to sort of develop a brand for yourself around. I believe that this web through music space is a great opportunity to do so. And what we're now seeing is a very small group of music collectors who are building their entire Twitter brand around collecting drops on sound, or writing newsletters or writing mirror posts, et cetera. And I think those are the type of people that I want to try and amplify in Spotlight because it's a very much two-sided marketplace here. And in order for these artists to be successful, you also need to have collectors that are willing to be active in these markets and see success from the music they're collecting as well. [00:40:42] Dan Runcie: This is one thing that I keep in mind. More broad trends about like what's happening in music, but I also keep it in mind with artists and creators who are trying to expand beyond the folks that they're naturally reaching. Because if you're only going to try to focus on the people that you naturally reach on a regular basis, it, it can work. And I do think that it's kind of like shifting a bit of the psychology, because I think so much of us have been conditioned to just focus. Who is the next person you're gonna reach? What is your customer acquisition cost? It's not just artists, it's the whole industry that's thinking about it this way, but you can build a sustainable business if you are just focused on the pub shot reach. I know it's a bit of that thousand true fans mentality applied to web three, but I think that there's plenty of nuances there. And sometimes it could be less than that. Sometimes it could be more than that. But I think there's some really unique things. One thing. Interested to hear your thoughts on though is just with artists specifically and fans and just the nature of that relationship and whether or not the tokenization of their relationship changes anything. Right. Because I feel like with fans, there's a lot of this conception that because they don't feel like there's nothing that's like financially tying them to them, maybe that brings up, you know, a different relationship than they would if they do feel actually, you know, financially tied to the. Is there any downsides or is there anything that you think of in terms of how that broader tokenization of the relationship changes any of that dynamic or expectations?[00:42:21] Cooper Turley: I definitely think there's downsides, and I think there's a lot of pressure that comes with it. You know, I think for artists that are selling nfts, you need to think about new mechanisms. Like, what is my floor price? What is my volume? Is this asset trading above what I sold it for in the first place? That's a lot of pressure, you know, and that takes a lot of time to get right. I think that over time people are gonna recognize. Collector is getting mad about floor prices. The same as a fan being mad about the type of song that you're releasing, where that's just kind of the name of the game. You know, everyone's entitled to their opinion, but it's not like there needs to be a huge reliance on that. I think the one thing the artists need to focus on is actually being consistent with what they're putting out in releasing. If you're giving it your best effort and you're doing things to add value back to early collections, to be able to engage with your community and doing things that show that you're being intentional, that to me matters a lot more than like, what is the price of the tokens themselves, because I think over. We need to recognize that not all fans are the same, and it's not like all music is only gonna exist as NFTs. What's gonna happen is that all these songs are gonna be available on Spotify. If I'm a passive fan, I can go and just listen to that song. There's no expectation for me to ever have a financial relationship with that artist. But the new unlock here is if I wanna go deeper on that relationship. This is something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and I believe many others do. I can now collect something that represents a limited version of that song. And for other people that are excited about that artist's career. Not only can we share on our Instagram story, we can now go into a private collector's chat and say, Hey, I was able to pick up this sold out drop. I was able to pick up one of their early rookie cards, and I think what we start to see is that the fan base gets a little bit more. It's delineated across different verticals where there's some vans who are just showing up to a concert, you know, all the time. I go into GA at a show and I'm like, how do I get these people to buy music and FT use? And the reality is most of them probably never will because they just wanna go and have a good time. They wanna party and forget about their nine to five job. And that's perfectly fine. But I think for the small subset of people who are really passionate about music, those active listeners being able to answer into these more deeper relationships, it's really gonna empower curation in a very new way. And I think the analog I would make here, Sites like Height Machine really drove the success of SoundCloud in a very massive way. You know, there was a demographic of curators who were saying, Hey, we love this type of music. There was all these different blogs, like This song is sick, you know, all these EDM blogs, pigeons and planes, et cetera. They were adding cultural zeitgeist to these songs. And I think the financialization of these assets is not only gonna incentivize people to wanna curate and write about these different article. It's actually gonna give them the means to sustain themselves on the back of doing so. Or if I'm a curator who's really successful at identifying talent, I don't need to go work for a major label as an a and r because I can simply spin up a newsletter on sub stack, go and look at the drop calendar on sound, xyz, and then the event that I'm able to really identify. Successful drops, I can actually start to make a living on the back of my taste. I think that's something that hasn't really existed before and something that I'm personally really excited to see happen more and more in the industry at large.[00:45:08] Dan Runcie: That last piece is huge because it makes me think back to the blog era, especially at hip hop with just. How popular it was when, whether it was sites like Two Dope Boys or Now, right. And their influence on being able to have a mix tape that they're putting out. They're putting their stamp for approval. They're the media channel that's sharing the tape, that's being released from Dap Piff and being like, Hey, here is this new kid Cutty record that you need to listen to a kid named Cutty. You know, this is the mix tape. Check it out. Or the cool kids, or Charles Hamilton or whoever, one of these artists, The difference though, is that even though the artists in the blog era and the people who ran these websites in the blog era were so influential, and I think at a time they even had more influence than the major record labels did. They didn't capture the upside. They created the culture. They created the influence, but they didn't capture the upside. This allows that to happen in a way. The next version of Two Dope Boys could essentially be the one to, like you said, they could start up a newsletter, they could be able to release this and be like, Hey, I'm the one that is putting this investment in and then this is gonna stay there from here on out. That's something that's really special. And to be honest, I don't feel like there's enough discussion around that. So I'm glad you brought that point up.[00:46:26]  Cooper Turley: Absolutely. And I think the one, the one thing I wanna zoom in on there, That doesn't require the artists to sell any of their masters. You know, them putting out 25 editions of a collectible song that a curator can go and buy and then help spread the word about within their pockets. There's no conversation around like, what percentage master publishing does this curator now have? Do I need to bring them into my creative decision, et cetera. It's a new market that now exists on the back of taste and curation, and I think in a lot of ways, music NFTs get pushed back cause they say, oh, you don't actually own the rights. Why do these things have value in the first place? I'm a big believer that community has a lot of value to it. You know, I don't think that art needs utility or needs IP ownership or Masters or publishing to be valuable. I think these curators are able to tell very compelling stories about the impact that music has and being able to add a new market into the equation through music and fts, it really unlocks a new mechanism for artist fandom that I think is very simple to understand. I don't think the average fan will be able. Rationalize what a master or a publishing right looks like. But I think they can understand what a rookie card or what a limited edition of songs looks like. And so I'm very excited to watch these markets mature. And I think that ties back into why the fund is collecting music, NFTs, cuz we believe that. More people are going to be able to understand what it means to own a collectible than they are going to know what it means to own masters or publishing. And so you sort of have these two different sides of the equation. I think they can both work in T and in unison with one another to make the aggregate music market more valuable as a whole.[00:47:51] Dan Runcie: And I think your fun will be a, a test to see how well that works. So, It'll, it'll be, it'll be fascinating. I feel like the structures make sense. You have each day, each piece of it there. I'll be very interested to see what the returns end up being like for each of those categories. Right. Of course, you know, most of the fund is looking at your precede and seed stage music and web three startups, so I assume that it's naturally gonna be what the expectations would be for any young startup. But I'm very interested to see what those expected multiples or the exits will be for the NFTs and then, The artists seed round investments themselves. [00:48:26] Cooper Turley: Absolutely. I will say that the vast majority of the fund is going into web three companies, but time and time again, people get really excited about this idea of investing in artists. Again, do not have the answers whatsoever, but. I'm noticing people are really excited about that ballpark. So I'm excited to at least start that trend with this first fund here and in the future. I'm hoping that we can create playbooks for many artists who don't even use nft, use their web three to also start to enter in these agreements as well. But you know, I'm really excited about it. You know, like I said, I've been in music for 10 years, crypto for the last five. I feel like this fund is a great way for me to really fuse those two passions together. And it's a very small market right now, but if you made it this far in the episode, I hope that this is something of interest to you and I would love to keep the conversation going if you have more.[00:49:06] Dan Runcie: Definitely. Before we wrap things up and let you go, one of the quotes you had mentioned, you referenced this earlier, the conversation too, that we're not at the point in Music Web three, where Drake is gonna come through and drop an album or a Bieber or a Post Malone or one of those artists. If you had to pick a year that you think that will happen though, what year would you pick?[00:49:26] Cooper Turley: Uh, 2025. Okay. And I think what's gonna happen is that a lot of the biggest artists in the world will just happen to have NFTs under the hood. You know, I don't think it's gonna be like one of those major superstars doing their first drop as NFTs. I think there's like a developing culture of artists right now that are gonna really gain a lot of momentum over the next couple of years. And when they release that major album, you're gonna look back and see that their first songs actually happen to be minted as the collection of 25. A lot of major artists are really excited about this. You know, I spend a lot of my time talking to artists who are currently signed to deals that are saying, Hey, I wanna drop, but I can't because the major label doesn't let me. And I think what's gonna happen is that major labels are gonna wake up to how valuable these early collections can be. And instead of blocking their artists from doing these drops in the first place, they're gonna start to really ramp up and get engaged with them too. So instead of just like, how do we put this album out on Spotify? It's gonna be, how do we develop a relationship with these platforms and onboard our catalog into the. So the biggest thing that I see as a question mark for web three is do we recreate the same systems of Volt? You know, is there going to be a world in which the major labels are just driving the vast majority of NFT sales? I think you're already seeing early examples of this like Warner's partnership with Open Sea, and one thing that I think is really important for us to recognize is that artist independence is very, very valuable. You know, I think that artists owning their own rights and knowing how to run their own companies and run their own business is extremely valuable. And so I'm hopeful that there's a world in. Artists can coexist with labels in a more free form matter. You know, I'm hoping that there's a world where artists can upstream their most viral song to a label, but still retain the rest of their catalog. But I think what's gonna happen over the next year or two is there's going to be. A shuffling of different power dynamics from artists to label relationships. And I think the most forward thinking labels are gonna recognize that it's okay to give up a little bit of control so that an artist can run their business more properly. And if you have 20% of the biggest artists in the world, that's probably more valuable than having 80% of someone who's not really doing much with their career. And so I'm eager and excited to see what those relationships look like and hopefully try and, you know, form some of those early stage relationships along the way.[00:51:41] Dan Runcie: But it's to your point, yeah, they would rather have 20% of that than 80% of the field at this point, so, mm-hmm. , I think we'll see more of that and actually we'll see more of that, not just involving multimedia, but involv. More merging technology. So yeah, it's only a matter of time. 2025 is earlier than I thought you were gonna say, but things move quick, so we'll keep the, we'll keep an eye out for it.Cool. Absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for coming on. This is great.[00:52:07] Cooper Turley: Thank you, man. I just wanna say, I really appreciate this podcast because you're so well versed when it comes to both the music side, the tech side, and the financial side. I think that it's, Um, difficult for me to find pockets to really talk about the financialization of music. You know, there's a lot of pushback that comes from it, but you know, the way you structured this conversation I think really gives a clear picture of why I'm excited about more of the financialization of music. I think it gives a lot of credence to emerging artists and sort of the way I'm thinking about collecting. So really appreciate you making this happen. I think it was a fantastic episode. I'm excited to share with all my friends.[00:52:37] Dan Runcie: Likewise, no. These are the conversations that need to happen, right? The more that people can talk about it, the more it just gets in the open and the faster things get to where it should be.So thank you for making the time. This is great. [00:52:49] Cooper Turley: Yeah. The last thing I'll say here in closing, I write a weekly newsletter called This Week in Music, NFTs. If you're interested in any of this conversation,every Monday I publish a short edition that talks about upcoming drops, top stories, bonus read from the community. So if you're looking to get more involved in the web three space, that's where I'd recommend getting started. And then if you are a founder or an artist that's building something and looking for investment, the best place to reach me is via email coop Coop records xyz. But again, thank you so much for having me, man. This was a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate your time.[00:53:18] Dan Runcie: Thank you. And if you're not following him on Twitter and you reactive on Twitter, make sure you do that. What's your Twitter handle?[00:53:23] Cooper Turley: Twitter is at kooopatroopa. Good stuff. Thanks man. Thanks for having me.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Today's episode is a two-parter. Part 1 is on Spotify and YouTube’s billion streams and views playlists. After reviewing both lists, there’s a lot to learn about the streaming era and the strategy for both platforms respectively. I broke it all down with Tati Cirsiano, a music analyst at MIDiA Research.Spotify’s list is more reflective of passive consumption. Spotify’s top-performing songs are more correlated with radio hits than YouTube, which is a more active consumption experience.YouTube’s Billion Views Club has more international stars than Spotify. With streaming continuing to grow across the world and plateauing in the United States, YouTube’s list more reflects future music consumption. Part 2 is with Glenn Peoples from Billboard. We talk about its new Global Music Index that takes the publicly traded stocks from the biggest music companies in music to give an overall picture of stock performance for the industry. Here’s everything Tati, Glenn, and I covered on the show:[3:03] Immediate takeaways from each Billions Club playlists[5:15] How “meme traffic” impacted both platforms[9:37] Passive consumption vs. active consumption[12:11] International differences between Spotify and YouTube[14:57] The Justin Bieber conundrum [16:36] How Spotify and YouTube enable fragmentation of fandom[21:26] Gym-going and seasonality’s impact on streaming numbers[26:14] Short-form videos eventual effect on YouTube streaming[27:55] YouTube vs. Spotify competition intensifying [35:58] MIDiA’s upcoming predictions report[38:33] What % of the Global Music index Spotify takes up[39:23] Why music industry stocks fell further than the overall market[46:25] Streaming platforms increasing prices[50:22] What goes into calculating Average Revenue Per User for Spotify[55:23] Spotify’s podcast strategy & acquisitions[59:18] How much of Trapital’s audience comes from Spotify[1:02:53] Why TikTok should launch it’s own streaming service[1:09:39] What Glenn expects 2023 to look likeListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Tati Cirisano, @tatianacirisano, Glenn Peoples, @theglennpeoples Download The Culture Report here: https://trapital.ck.page/a23b7a6a4aSponsors:MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapitalEnjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapitalTrapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Tatiana Cirisano: Spotify's list is more of an accurate reflection of what the passive majority listens to, whereas YouTube is more of a reflection of what people are actively fans of and actively engaging, which is interesting because that was a question that we asked in our last episode where we were like, how do we measure, like, what are new ways to measure consumption? And I said, well, it'd be interesting if we could actually measure, you know, active consumption versus passive. And now here I'm looking at these two lists, I was like, oh, this is actually potentially an example of that.[00:00:37] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:57] Dan Runcie: Today's episode is a two-parter. We normally don't do two-parters, but these topics were so closely linked, it made perfect sense, so we had to do it. The first part of this episode is a conversation I had with Tati Cirisano from MIDiA Research, and we talked about the Billions Clubs. Spotify and YouTube both have their respective playlists that have over a billion streams and views respectively. So we talked about what can we learn from both of these playlists together. What does it tell us about the most popular songs that do well on streaming, but also what can it tell us about these two platforms individually? What are the differences between the two playlists? Are there certain songs that perform better on others versus that and why? And what that means more broadly for the sector, Just given how big these companies are. Second part of the conversation, I talked to Glen Peoples who works for Billboard, and he recently released this Global Music Index, which is a value-based index that takes the publicly traded stocks from many of the biggest companies in music, combines them, and gives us an overall picture of how we can look at the performance of the music industry, at least in the publicly traded companies. Hint, it's been a down year for stocks overall, so nothing too surprising there. But we talk specifically about Spotify, who stock is noticeably in a tougher place, at least from, where it was year to date compared to some of the other companies. So we talked about why that is, what to expect, and more. Really great conversations. Let's start things off with Tati. Hope you enjoy it. [00:02:31] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we have Tati Cirisano back with us from MIDiA Research and we're going to dive into the Billions playlists that are both from Spotify and YouTube. What a fascinating list that's like a tripped-out memory lane, telling you what songs are popular, but also how these lists are different. I feel like they both have somewhere between like 3 to 400 songs, but there's a whole bunch of different trends here. I know that we both have a bunch of notes here, but Tati, I'll start with you. What stuck out to you most when you were looking through these lists? [00:03:03] Tatiana Cirisano: Oh my gosh. So there's so many things. I guess I'll start with the things that stuck out to me that don't have to do with differences, but just stuck out to me in terms of just looking at both. And one was that I felt like there was definitely a dominance of songs and artists from the last decade and maybe even just the last five years, which was interesting to me because there's been such a debate recently about is old music or what we call catalog, which is often not actually old music. But is it sort of cannibalizing new music? Does new music have more to compete with? And that whole argument. So it was interesting to see that there actually weren't that many or weren't relatively as many older songs. I believe the YouTube Billion Views Club had, like, one song from the 70s. It makes more sense with YouTube. And I think YouTube had even more dominance with more recent songs. And that kind of makes sense because if it's visual-based, maybe some of these songs we don't have the music videos, or maybe they're not as good. But I thought that that was interesting just off the bat from both ways. [00:04:03] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I would agree. I think that YouTube's list did trend much younger, and there's a whole MTV effect of just what music videos look like then and now. But I also feel like what's important is with both Spotify and YouTube, that when these platforms accelerated in growth, a lot of the artists that were releasing music around those times accelerated and growth too. And I feel like I saw some trends there. If I think about YouTube and its rapid growth phase more so in the early 2010s. There were a few songs there that I saw, whether it was like a party rock anthem or songs like that, that streamed really well on YouTube. Still nowhere near a billion streams on Spotify. And I think on the flip side of that, on Spotify, there were a few songs that were in that late 2010s era when Spotify was in its rapid growth phase that weren't on YouTube's playlist. So that was one of those interesting things. Like, for example, I think Drake's song Nice for What, a billion streams on Spotify. It's in the Billions Club, but it wasn't on YouTube's list. And I remember that music video, I think it's at the skating rink and he has, like, Issa Rae and all these people in it. So there was definitely some influence of the platforms too. [00:05:15] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah. And that reminds me, too, of with the influence of platforms, it felt like, there were, so okay on both platforms. I felt like there were a lot of songs that were driven by, like, a viral hit or a novelty, which kind of just goes to show how embedded music has become in, like, meme culture and social media and just like online culture in general. But it also, like, looking at the differences within that, it felt like, this is like, I mean, you'd need to do more of a real, like, study and look at the actual numbers on this, but just from scrolling over the list, it seemed like, more of the TikTok traffic is going to Spotify. Like, there were a lot of songs that had a billion streams that I just remember being moments on TikTok, like Dreams and the Roses, Imanbek remix, like those songs and many others had passed a billion streams on Spotify, but had not cracked the YouTube list. And then on the flip side, YouTube had a lot of stuff that was more, like, just these, memes about, I'm trying to think of an example, like the Dame tu Cosita song and video, like that. There were actually an abundance of songs on the Billion Views Club for YouTube that were linked to these videos, including Crazy Frog. [00:06:24] Dan Runcie: I saw that. [00:06:25] Tatiana Cirisano: It like that was just, like, that was a moment in time in meme culture that kind of preceded TikTok humor. I don't know, like you can almost track meme culture's impact based on these two platforms lists as well with TikTok driving more traffic to Spotify and sort of the old, almost like Vine humor going more to YouTube. [00:06:45] Dan Runcie: That point makes me think of two things I also saw as well. So I believe the first YouTube video that hit a billion streams was Psy's Gangnam Style. I don't think that song has a billion streams or anywhere close to that on Spotify's list, which I think speaks to your point about just the visual nature of that. And that of course is a pre-TikTok era. The other song I think that lines up with this a bit, and this is because of memes within the music video itself is Nelly and Kelly Rowland's Dilemma music video. That is the most popular YouTube video that Nelly has, and I'm pretty sure that Kelly Rowland likely has too. And it's because of this one scene in the music video where Kelly is texting on this 2002's phone and she has Microsoft Excel open, and that's what she's actually using to text. So they're both, you know, generating money. And Kelly was even talking about an interview semi-recently talking about, I didn't even know what Microsoft Excel was. They just told me to type. But over time, and now we obviously have a different relationship with texting. That type of event can blow up on YouTube in a way that not necessarily going to Spotify. [00:07:54] Tatiana Cirisano: Right. Like, there's an inherent difference in just what you're going to do on these platforms. Like, there's a number of reasons why you might look up a music video on YouTube. Maybe you like the song, maybe there's a celebrity cameo, maybe somebody told you that. It's a crazy, wild video and you're just curious. Like, there's a lot more reasons I think than there are reasons why you would stream a song. So that just by definition kind of opens up a lot of differences in these lists. [00:08:18] Dan Runcie: The other thing, too, that you mentioned earlier was the decades and how YouTube's list only had one song that I think that was before 1980 and there was only a handful even from the 80s and the 90s as well. And while Spotify had a bit more, I still think it was quite less. Last time I looked at Spotify's list, it was less than 10% of the 300-plus songs that were more than 20 years old. And I have to assume YouTube may be even closer to 94-96%. Part of that, I think, as you mentioned, is music videos, but I also wonder is part of it with Spotify having a bit more of a close link to radio play and just things that were popular on the radio at the time. Like for instance, a song like Goo Goo Doll's, Iris, that was on Spotify's list is not on YouTube's list. I don't necessarily think the song had like a memorable music video necessarily, but I think it's the audio of it, it makes people think of, you know, what was that movie that it was in? I'm trying to remember the movie that it was in. It'll come to me, but there was some 90s movie that was in, I'm drawing a blank on it right now. Oh, City of Angels. So it was in that, and then, but I just don't think that people, like, recognized the music video they would like, it wasn't necessarily this big, like TRL hit the way that like a boy band song was. [00:09:37] Tatiana Cirisano: I noticed the same thing where looking over Spotify's list, it felt very much like just a list of every radio hit of the past 10 or 20 years that it was really, really tied to that. And I wonder, like, this kind of brings me to another thing that I wanted to talk to you about with this, which is how my sort of theory with another reason that these are different is that Spotify's list is more of an accurate reflection of what the passive majority listens to, whereas YouTube is more of a reflection of what people are actively fans of and actively engaging, which is interesting because that was a question that we asked in our last episode where we were like, how do we measure, like, what are new ways to measure consumption? And I said, well, it'd be interesting if we could actually measure, you know, active consumption versus passive. And now here I'm looking at these two lists, I was like, oh, this is actually potentially an example of that. And the other reason that came to me is because at MIDiA, we've recently done a report on looking at different types of entertainment and how much of consumption is in the background of another activity versus focused. And YouTube, like, people that watch music videos on YouTube are much more likely to be doing that as a focused activity in the foreground rather than something in the background, which makes sense because it's visual, there's, you know, social features to it, et cetera whereas they're a lot more likely to just put on their Spotify music in the background of something else. So I wonder if that's also part of the reason that Spotify seems to have more of a tie to radio and those songs that were just kind of popular for everyone whereas YouTube is more what are the songs and artists and videos that people are like engaging with.[00:11:09] Dan Runcie: That's a good point. It makes me think, well, on the YouTube side, I'm much more likely to listen to a YouTube playlist run, right? Like, I normally don't do that when I'm watching YouTube. I know YouTube has playlist, but I'm more likely to put a Spotify playlist on, which speaks to that. And I know some of the stuff that you've researched and the team has researched on MIDiA as well, is just this whole nature of probably a bit more on the digital stream provider side, but how to measure active versus passive engagement of, or actually listening to a song. And maybe this is a closer way to get a gauge for that because, you know, especially when these artists have these big week sales that'll come out and we'll see the numbers come through, it would be great to know, okay, how many people said yes, I want to listen to this Taylor Swift song from the Midnights album as opposed to people being like, oh, it just happened to be what's dominating today's top hits or if I'm listening to, you know, the number 50 or the top 50 songs in the US. These are the ones that happen to play. [00:12:11] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, yeah. That makes total sense. And I think the other reason why Spotify's list probably is more tied to radio is because it's a lot more, like the user base is less international than YouTube 'cause that was the biggest difference, looking at the two lists was just how few internet, like non-Western artists there were on Spotify's Billions Club versus YouTube's. [00:12:36] Dan Runcie: That stuck out too. And I think YouTube as well also had a list of artists that had the most Billion Views Club songs were and artists like Ozuna were high up on that list. I want to say he had at least 10 videos on YouTube that hit a billion. But on Spotify, it's far less. I think J Balvin was another one too, where there was a big discrepancy there. And yeah, I think the fact that YouTube has had much more of a market share and in general listenership in these regions outside of, you know, US and Western Europe as opposed to YouTube. So maybe part of that, where it's a signal of like, okay, this is where Spotify's clearly trying to grow and has been trying to get more share in. So, like, if Spotify achieved its goal, then it likely would have more of that and vice versa.[00:13:28] Tatiana Cirisano: Right. And then it is YouTube's sort of a more accurate representation of, like, what the music landscape of the future looks like in that way where it will be less dominated probably by Western artists. As you know, streaming sort of infiltrates all these other places. And that is so interesting for, like, the fragmentation conversation that we've been having because it means things are just further fractured and, you know, there's going to be lots of artists and songs on these lists that we've probably never heard of. Like, it was so interesting to me because part of the, like, excitement that I had to do this little project of, like, opening the two and comparing them was, I was excited to be surprised. I was like, I want to see what things are on the list that I'm like, I have never heard of that. Or what is that? How did that end up here? And I did not have that moment once looking at Spotify's playlist. But looking at YouTube's, there were so many videos and so many artists that I just had never heard of, and that was exciting to me. So I wonder how much that's a product of YouTube specifically versus that being what will happen inevitably when streaming is more widespread.[00:14:34] Dan Runcie: And were most of the surprises that you had, were most of them from an international perspective, or were there any Western-based music surprises? [00:14:43] Tatiana Cirisano: That's a good question. There were definitely a handful of Western ones that I can't think of right now, but the majority were probably just artists I'd never heard of or songs, yeah, artists I didn't know anything about that had billions and billions of views. Yeah, I don't know. Let me think about that. [00:14:57] Dan Runcie: Yeah. While you're thinking about that, one thing that stuck out to me was there were certain artists that I think surprised me both in a way of, oh, I thought there would've been more here, or there were actually a bit less here. One artist is Justin Bieber. So I know that Justin Bieber is very popular, but if you would've asked me who were the biggest artists of the 2010s, I probably would name four names, maybe even five names before I named his name. But if you look at, even if you're just looking at Western artists, the artist that is the one with the most songs on Spotify and the one that I believe has the most songs on YouTube as well, Justin Bieber is in the top three of both of those lists. I believe it's at least nine songs on Spotify and at least maybe 10 or so on YouTube. And there's something about that fandom that I didn't necessarily, I mean, I knew that he was huge. I knew that there were so many songs that were quite popular, especially the album that had, like, Sorry, and Love Yourself. Like, that one was huge, but I thought that there were other artists, like for instance, an artist like Beyoncé or even someone like Taylor Swift, who, I don't believe that Beyoncé had a song on the YouTube list at all, or a song that's really close to that. And at least up to now, I don't think that Taylor Swift has a song on Spotify's Billions List. I think that Blank Space will probably get there eventually, but I don't think she has a song this moment that's on that list. So to see the two of them who I think a lot of people largely think are two of the largest musicians in of the past decade, but to see someone like Bieber just have hit after hit on both of these lists, I was like, wow.[00:16:36]Tatiana Cirisano:That's so interesting, the Justin Bieber conundrum of all of this. Okay, I have a couple of thoughts on that. I think, so he was sort of Made on YouTube, right? That's where he started posting clips. That's where he was discovered. And I think something else that this ties into that I wanted to bring up is how, with YouTube, the artists that reach these Billion Views Club, I think probably are more likely to have sort of built a community on YouTube which Justin Bieber did, and that was kind of like the roots of his fandom. So when I was reading YouTube's, like, blog about the Billion Views Club, and there were a bunch of artists' quotes, and a lot of them had to do with the artist saying, you know, like, YouTube was a place to build a community. And Alan Walker was one of the artists who said that. And he was someone who, he's an electronic music artist who when I was looking at the YouTube Billions Views Club, he came up again and again and I was like, it seemed random to me because he's a great artist. He has a big community of fans, but I just didn't think that he would have billions of views. But he seems to credit the community aspect for that. So I think that could be part of it. But then as soon as you said, oh but he's also one of the top artists on Spotify, I'm like, okay, but that's a completely different story because there's no community building on Spotify. So is it just that the fans are, that obsessed with the music that they're, you know, maybe migrating over and streaming there as well, or are we just misremembering, you know, how big of an impact Justin Bieber had? And then that brought me to thinking about how, I mean I think this relates to Taylor as well, but they both built their fan bases at a time when things were just kind of a lot less congested. So I think it was in many ways, easier to get a billion views or billion streams on something a couple of years ago than it is now, now that people's tastes are so fragmented. So maybe that's also part of the reason why, like, I wonder how many of those streams came from, you know, pre-2015 or something versus from then on. I wonder when they were accumulated. So yeah, that's sort of my rant of thoughts. [00:18:41] Dan Runcie: That one about Bieber is a good one because I didn't think about that, but I think it's absolutely right. He was doing all those cover songs of all these other artists when he's like a teenager. He's growing the base there. And to the point that you had brought up in an article a couple of months ago, we talked about the last time we're on the podcast, he is in a different category than someone like a Beyoncé or Taylor Swift. Like, when Taylor made Teardrops On My G uitar. I don't even like, that was probably around the same time that YouTube started. Like in some ways her fandom predated so much of what people know as music. And of course, Beyonce became a solo artist from Destiny's Child well before YouTube even started. So I think that's a good point there with some of it. The Spotify thing though is interesting, yeah. I mean, I think those songs did get a lot of radio play as well. Like everything off of that album, that Bieber's album that Sorry came on as well. Like, they got a ton of radio plays. So that ties into the Spotify piece of it, too, and maybe a little bit of misremembering of certain things of, well, and you know, like I'm a little bit older than the custom Bieber demo, so there could be some of it there where they may not hit me in the same circles that, the same way that, you know, someone did with Beyoncé for instance.[00:19:53]Tatiana Cirisano:Yeah. I have another thought related to this that I feel like I'm struggling to articulate, but I'm going to try, which is that on the Spotify list and the YouTube list, I thought there was more overlap when it came to which older artists were on the list than there was when it comes to newer artists. And I wonder if that is also sort of further proof of this fragmentation that's happening because it would make sense that if a decade ago, two decades ago, people kind of had less to choose from to listen to. Everybody kind of has the same favorite artists from those decades that they've listened to enough to reach a billion streams. Yet now that people have more choice and things are fragmented more, their favorite artists and songs today are more varied. [00:20:39] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Yeah, no, I think there's something there because if you think about it, the lists are quite similar. And I think even if you look at YouTube's list, which I think even though YouTube's list is less reliant on radio, the biggest songs they have from the 80s and 90s are still the same songs that people have heard in bars and in stadiums and in TV commercials for decades now. So there's consistency there. Things do start to get a bit segmented to your point of where things are right now. So both of these platforms, in many ways enable the fragmentation of fandom. Their algorithms made it easy for people to have their own circles. So I do think that that piece of it is true. So I think that's a good point. [00:21:18] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah. Okay. I'm glad I could put that into words 'cause it was one of those things where I had this thought and was like, does this make sense? [00:21:24] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Oh, yeah. [00:21:25] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah. Fascinating.[00:21:26] Dan Runcie: Another thing too, that stuck out, this stuck out a bit more on Spotify's playlist than others, but how certain songs have shifted from when radio, for instance, was more playing songs that I think people more often wanted to hear in their cars. But Spotify, it's on-demand, it's everywhere. I think, for instance, workout music is something that we've seen a pretty large uptick on with Spotify. A song like Eminem's Till I Collapse, which is in the billions playlist for Spotify, I don't think I heard that song once on the radio. Maybe I'm misremembering things just relative to how big Eminem's hits were in the early 2000s. But that song is one of his most played songs. And I think it's because it's a song that a lot of guys listen to when they want to work out. Maybe it's something that they also will play, like, I don't think they to like LA Fitness necessarily like on the speakers, but I think it's more so of like a, no, let me go listen to this while I try to, you know, set PR on the bench press or whatever. So I feel like there's things like that, also seasonal music, right? Of course, just Mariah Carey and some of the records and accolades that All I Want For Christmas Is You has continued to reach and all of the remixes and versions she's done of that song, like that doesn't happen without streaming, right?[00:22:41] Tatiana Cirisano: I was going to say September was also on there, which, you know, every September everybody starts to sing. That is a seasonal song. So, yeah, no, I totally agree with you. And I also noticed that both lists had a lot of, like, upbeat music, like what you're saying, like stuff that people work out to. And I feel like it's for different reasons. Like I'm Spotify, maybe those types of songs dominate because like you're saying, they're the things that people put on in the background of something. Whereas on YouTube, the reason might be because those tend to have more vibrant videos. Like, I feel like more people are likely to watch videos for, you know, an upbeat reggaeton song than like some acoustic, I don't know, Taylor Swift song, even though she's a massive star. Like, overall, you know? And on that note, I don't know if this is just my, you know, anecdotal takeaway, you'd have to, again, like actually go through all the songs and do some data crunching. But I felt like Spotify had actually more varied in terms of like upbeat songs were on there. But also a lot of, Coldplay, a lot of like earlier Ed Sheeran, like, those more like, not so upbeat, more acoustic songs, whereas YouTube barely had any of those because again, I think there may be less likely to be something people watch the video of. I don't know. But that was interesting just how uptempo the two lists were. [00:23:59] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I would need to go back and check to see if like a song like Coldplay's Yellow. Is that on YouTube's list? [00:24:08] Tatiana Cirisano: It's on Spotify's, but I don't think it's on Youtube's.[00:24:10] Dan Runcie: And that would speak to that, right? It's a more somber video. I'm pretty sure Chris Martin's head is laying like sideways on the pavement in that video, right, or on the bed, if I remember correctly. So yeah, it's just not going to be as, I think, yes. Like, if you have five minutes, like, this is the thing that I want to be able to get to. So yeah, it's such a fascinating distinction. And I think with it, it's clear that with both of these platforms, the two of them are really trying to compete more and more with each other, with both Spotify trying to get more and more international, YouTube trying to have more and more influence just in terms of the overall revenue that they generate for the industry. So I do want to talk about the two of them as companies distinctly, but before we get there, I think that the international piece and just how revenue is generated for each of these streams or each of these views will be an interesting distinction over time because, especially with Spotify, these streams that the artists are generating don't necessarily get weighted the same in terms of the pro rata and the pools that they get put into and then getting separated. So if one artist has a bunch of streams from a bunch of their fans, but a lot of their fans are in places where the subscriptions cost $2 per month to subscribe to Spotify, or there's a over index of free accounts versus paid, like these numbers don't necessarily reflect that, which is fine. I think we're just trying to get a gauge for what listening looks like. But the revenue may actually look very different for, let's say, thinking about like one of these, you know, 80s or 90s radio hits. The person that's listening to that account may be more likely to be paying 10 or maybe soon $11 a month for Spotify subscription if I'm just thinking about what that consumer may be like and therefore essentially getting more revenue per stream than some of the newer artists that may have a younger aboard international fan base. So that was another point that I thought was interesting. We won't have that data, but just based on inference, I feel like that's a trend in terms of where it's going. [00:26:14] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, that makes sense. And I also wonder, like, if short form video becomes the more dominant form of consuming video, and the people that are watching music videos on YouTube shift to watching 32nd videos that use music on shorts, like, what will that do to the revenue mix? And it'll also depend on if the way that UGC platforms payout to the music industry changes where it's no longer this, you know, blanket payment for uses and is more per use. I think there's a lot that could get shifted around there. And I wonder if, like, does that mean YouTube is sort of cannibalizing its own, one of its own sources where people that are watching music videos are now going to shorts instead? Or is there an opportunity? Like, I think there's an opportunity for both. But I guess these are just questions that come up in my mind when I think about it. [00:27:02] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it's like in some ways it's similar to when Instagram adds stories, right? You're trying to get a sense, is this additive or is this going to take away, And I think YouTube's goal is that would be additive, but you're bringing up, I think, a valid thing where it's a little different with music and how you're registering streams. And I do think that there's a certain number of people that the better and better that shorts get, there's going to be less desire to go check out the actual video. And if these songs aren't registering, I think at least for a stream or a view, it's 30 seconds of listening needs to be registered, at least to be counted as a stream. Then if that doesn't happen on a short end, you're just getting these clips, then how does that impact the actual artist themselves, right? [00:27:47] Tatiana Cirisano: No, you put it really well. Like, the better that shorts gets, the more it might actually threaten people going to YouTube to watch the video.[00:27:55] Dan Runcie: Yeah. So many interesting, I think, things to just dive into with this. But I think it's a good point to just talk more broadly about Spotify and YouTube in general, just in terms of where they are, how both of them want the other one. And I think based on these blog posts and based on a number of the letters that, the emails that you'll see from Lyor Cohen when he's describing where things are with YouTube. There's clearly a goal to, you know, establish itself as the leader in the market. And I think the growth has been pretty strong, but of course Spotify, I think still with nearly 200 million paid subscribers is definitely, you know, I think leading on that front. But where do you see this play out in terms of whether or not the trends and clearly what these playlists tell us about the tendencies of these two companies and also where things are going and who we think will be more or less dominant, let's say five years from now? Let's not say 10 years. I think that's a bit too far out, but let's say five years from now. [00:28:51] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah. Well, I've written about this, I've written a couple of blogs about this, but I think that YouTube does have a lot of advantages, especially for just where the music landscape is going. So one is that, in the streaming world, there's so little differentiation, right? All the DSPs kind of offer the same experience, the same catalog, the same price. But YouTube actually has a differentiating factor in that it's an audio-visual platform, and that they also have shorts, and they kind of have this ecosystem of apps that feed into each other. And that's sort of the second advantage, is that ecosystem aspect where, you know, based on our data, new generations of fans are really looking for more ways to actively participate in fandom and, you know, not just listen to a song, but create content around it. And YouTube has that it has this, you know, creator proposition. In many ways, YouTube was the first, arguably the first, you know, creator platform. The first place that you could post video content online and build a career around it. So, fans want this, but also artists need more ways to directly engage with their fans and monetize and actually not just be discovered, but sustain fandom and build communities. And that's the thing that I think so many social platforms lack, is they can help artists get discovered, but it's still really hard for them to connect the dots. So when you have YouTube, if you think about like the journey of, a fan through the ecosystem, you know, maybe they discover a song on shorts, and they can actually just click it and go straight, you know, go straight to the artist's YouTube page where maybe they watch the video that just came out and then they can go to YouTube music and stream the song, and it kind of creates this more frictionless experience. So I think we're already seeing a lot of consumers spend more of their music time on platforms that let them play around with the music, like the TikToks of the world and the shorts of the world. So if you have an ecosystem that combines that with streaming and the ability to just go seamlessly from one to the other, I think that's really powerful. And that's also why, you know, ByteDance launching a streaming service could really change the game. I think ByteDance and YouTube have a lot of the same advantages in that space. So I think YouTube is well positioned for the current era and what both artists are looking for and what fans are looking for, I guess is how I would frame that.[00:31:22] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I think that YouTube's biggest advantage with this is that A, it still is under a much larger company that prints money from search, which is Google, right? So the fact that it in itself is the second largest search engine, largely because of Google, I think that piece of it will serve well. And I think secondly, the fact that when there's so many more things competing for your attention, whatever can make that have less friction, it can make it easier for people to access that platform as we've seen based on the rise of TikTok, I think those platforms do tend to win out in this area where you're ultimately trying to either capture or monetize attention. And the way that streaming is going, even though I know it can be lucrative for artists that own their assets or have favorable terms, it is a bit more of a measure of capturing attention for a lot of artists and being able to essentially market and position themselves out there to share what they have so that they can monetize elsewhere. And I do think that, I know I've talked about this previously, but just Spotify may be in a little bit more of a difficult position just given the fact that its ultimate goal is still to try to get more monetization from its non-music audio, whether it's your podcast or your audiobooks and stuff like that.[00:32:41] Dan Runcie: And I think that is a little bit of a tougher bet relative to YouTube, China. going with shorts and essentially try to compete more directly with TikTok or just other things in general that are making it easier. That said, I still think that Spotify is more strong from a product perspective of actually being able to, you know, ease of use of listening, being able to find and skip to the song, and being able to listen to a song on my phone you know, turning off the screen and then putting it in my pocket. And I know that YouTube does now allow you essentially to do that if you pay for subscription, but I think the friction, at least in the consumer's mind, is a little different than it is with doing that with Spotify, even because you do that with Spotify for free account especially. So I do think that there are some pros and cons there, but to your point, I do think that because YouTube is moving more in the direction of creating less friction for people to use its product and just the fact that it's visual, it's engaged, and to your other point, it's a bit more directly connected to fans being able to actively choose what they want to listen to, like the data and all those things are going to be more impactful and insightful there.[00:33:48] Tatiana Cirisano: Right, Right. So I think artists will kind of go to wherever the fans and the remuneration opportunities are, and I think YouTube is right now, providing more of that than Spotify is. Like, Spotify is a place where you can monetize scale, but you can't monetize niche. And YouTube is an ecosystem where you can monetize both. And I think there's no reason why streaming services in general shouldn't be a place where you can monetize both. But we haven't really seen that happen yet, and I think YouTube is moving in that direction. So I guess I come at this question because of the work that I do from such a perspective of what do the artists and the fans want. But of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that alone isn't going to, you know, make YouTube overtake Spotify. So I guess I'm a little bit biased just based on the work that I do. [00:34:38] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I could see that. Because there's just so many other, there's just so many factors at play here. It's such a dominant position and at the end of the day, nearly 200 million people in the world are paying for the service and that is much higher than a lot of these other services. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out though. I feel like to some of the points you brought up earlier. Just going back to the Billions Club, if we had this conversation two years from now, I'd be interested to see, one, which old songs creep back up and which songs that have come up recently end up rising up and hitting those places, and does it line up with a lot of the points that we brought up here? So I'm excited to see what that looks like. [00:35:15] Tatiana Cirisano: No, me too. And also what the pace will be like? Will there be just way more songs that have hit a billion streams in a shorter amount of time, or will the opposite trend happen because of fragmentation? Like, I'm not, I'm not really sure. So yeah, as always, excited to see definitely what comes next. [00:35:30] Dan Runcie: Well, Tati, this is great. Thanks for coming to share these insights. And I think now I got to go back and count how many Crazy Frog videos there were on YouTube's list because when I saw that, I'm glad you brought that up. I was just like, my goodness, I forgot all about this trend. [00:35:45] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, at least in that ratio, you know, we have confirmed YouTube wins. [00:35:49] Dan Runcie: All right. Before we let you go, what do you have coming down the pipeline? Are there any upcoming research or any recent things that you've put out that listeners should keep an eye out for?[00:35:58] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, I would say coming up one of my favorite things that we do at MIDiA Research is our predictions report where every year, at the end of the year, we put out predictions for the coming year. And we also rate ourselves in terms of how much we got right from the past year. I believe our success rate is somewhere above 80%.[00:36:16] Dan Runcie: That's legit. [00:36:17] Tatiana Cirisano: That's great. But yeah, so we always do I believe we always do a free webinar on that. It was free last year. So look out for that because it's a great chance to interact with us even if you're not a client. And it's a lot of fun. [00:36:30] Dan Runcie: Awesome, we'll look out for that and, yeah.[00:36:33] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah.[00:36:33] Dan Runcie: We'll have to see. I'm curious about what the hit rate will be this year. So definitely let us know what the success rate is...[00:36:39] Tatiana Cirisano: We will.[00:36:40] Dan Runcie: from the ones you made last year, heading into this year. [00:36:42] Tatiana Cirisano: Awesome. Thanks, Dan. [00:36:43] Dan Runcie: Awesome. Well, thank you. This is great. [00:36:45] Dan Runcie: All right. Hope you enjoyed that first part with Tati breaking down the Billions Clubs. Here's my chat with Glenn Peoples.[00:36:53] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we have Glenn Peoples with us who is from Billboard, and he just released this Global Music Index, which has stated that music stocks are down 44% this year, twice as much as the market. And Glenn, it'd be great to start here. What's going on? Why are socks down in the music industry?[00:37:13] Glenn Peoples: Hey, thanks for having me. Well, stocks are down in general. So it's not that just music that's having a tough time at the stock market. You know, a big component of the Global Music Index, which I created for Billboard is Spotify. And Spotify has had a tough year, just like Netflix has had a tough year. There's, I think, enthusiasm for streaming stocks was high at the beginning of the pandemic and dropped quite a bit since then. And investors are not looking at growth so much as looking at margins, looking at profits, and so they're expecting a lot more from streaming services right now. So it's a tough time to be a streaming service, whether you're Netflix, whether you're Spotify. You could say, well, the investors got carried away. They were overvalued. Yeah, maybe so. It's just been a tough year for streaming services and when Spotify is that big of a component of the index, it's down, well, as of yesterday, it's down 60% for the year. And so that's a lot of market cap that's gone and that's dragging down the index. And that's the short version. [00:38:17] Dan Runcie: Right. So of course, it's a value-based index. Market cap is what defines it. And just so listeners know, how big of a factor is Spotify? Like, how much is their stock and their market cap weighted in terms of the overall index?[00:38:33] Glenn Peoples: I would say it's probably, again, this is just ballpark. It's probably about 15% of the value of the index. It was a lot more obviously. I would say right now at its current price, it's 10 to 15%. Universal Music Group is the biggest component of the index, and there's some other companies just a handful that really stand out above everybody else. Live Nation, Warner Music Group, Sirius XM are some of the big ones. [00:39:02] Dan Runcie: The thing that stuck out to me about it is that, of course, Spotify stock is a huge piece of it, but even if you were to take out Spotify, the non-Spotify stocks in that index still are down more than the overall market has been this past year. So it also makes me think that there may be something going on that's a bit deeper than just streaming. [00:39:23] Glenn Peoples: Yeah, it's not just streaming. You know, a lot of music companies had a great 2021 and I think that they just had further to fall. So there were some really high valuations and it just sets these companies up for a pretty big fall when investor sentiment turns and the market turns. And ever since the Fed announced in, I believe, December, that it was going to start raising interest rates. You know, stocks have started to fall and Spotify definitely started to fall then. And it's been a long, what is that, roughly 10 months since then. Things have calmed down a bit, but stocks are, boy, they're really having a tough time. It's really volatile a lot there. I think there's two ways to look at it. One is what's the value of the stock? What's the value of the company as valued by investors? And what's the potential of the company based on the company itself and the intellectual property it has? And those two don't always line up. You know, Spotify I still think is a very good company. I think it has a lot of work to do, but it's growing at a good clip and I think they have good people there. But when you are a streaming stock and you're facing really a once-in-a-generation kind of environment with very bad inflation you know, crazy, I was about to say unemployment, but unemployment is not that bad. It's just a very strange time in the market and a very strange macroeconomic climate. And you're seeing good companies have very difficult times with their stock prices. You know, Universal Music Group is down. But the market is down overall and Universal's not going to escape the just general downturn of the market. That's saying something because Universal is the biggest music company out there holding up market share very well has a big share of the top 10, any given time, big artists. But you can't correlate stock market performance with company performance just perfectly. It's a very strange time in the macroeconomic climate right now. [00:41:23] Dan Runcie: Yeah. The interesting thing with the major record label stocks, and even some of these other companies that, yeah, even though they may not be streaming services themselves, when streaming makes up such a high percentage of the overall revenue for this entire industry, then Spotify's stock is in many ways going to be at least somewhat correlated to what we see with Universal given the fact that these companies have equity in each other, they're so dependent on each other, so a lot of that is given. You mentioned Live Nation earlier, and I think that their stock is interesting, too, because even though it isn't directly tied to streaming, that stock had hit record highs in the middle of the pandemic when there were no shows going on. So that just spoke to how much of a disconnect there was if you looked at how the company was actually doing in 2020 and even in 2021 when there were nowhere near as many shows as they had had in 2019, but they now are actually being able to realize more of that revenue. But the stock has adjusted in a lot of ways since. So there is a bit of this disconnect. I think there was just a good amount of excitement as well about what's happening in music as an investment class. Specifically, you looked at all of the catalog sales and the booms that happen thanks to the low-interest rates, and they're no longer low anymore. So you're also seeing that play a factor in, and you've also heard some of the acquirers of those catalogs expressing a bit of disappointment that the returns aren't quite what they thought the returns were going to be as well. So some of those things, I think, Brought some of the temperament and a lot of the companies that are in your index down to, I don't want to say necessarily down to earth, because I think there's still plenty of room for growth for a lot of them, but it's clear that we've moved past that era of the pandemic when things were just high for the pure speculation of where it could be in a few years.[00:43:15] Glenn Peoples: Yeah, I think the honeymoon is over for a lot of music stocks. You know, music as an asset class was really attractive. And, you know, look, just the fact that Universal is public and Warner is public once again, and there are numerous streaming services from Tencent Music and Cloud Music in China to Anghami and Spotify and Deezer. There's a lot of music companies that are publicly traded right now and that says a lot about music as an asset, as a segment, set aside the problems it's had in the last year. So music companies had a great 2020 and 2021, and it's been downhill since then. But the fact that there are a lot of publicly traded music companies right now, and so much investor interest in music catalogs like you mentioned, I think says a lot about music as an asset class, music as an investment in general. Look, five years ago, how many publicly traded music companies were there? I mean, Spotify has been public for about five years. Pandora was before it was bought by Sirius. You know, but you didn't have Tencent, you didn't have Cloud Music, you didn't have Anghami, you didn't have Deezer, you didn't have Reservoir Media, or Believe. Warner was private. Universal was private. So the fact that Wall Street has taken a liking to music, I think says a lot despite what the stock prices say right now. [00:44:40] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I agree. The fact that this wasn't even possible, just shows what's happened. And a lot of companies, even outside of music, are starting to have money at least level back off now that the pandemic is over, now that the quarantine highs for a lot of these stocks are over. I'm interested to see where did things go from here, because I still believe that there's a ton of potential in each of these companies if the expectations and if the investors expectations of the market are where they need to be. I still think that music is a hot and a popular asset class, especially for investors. But is it 30 x value? Is it 30 x multiples for some of these catalogs that just bring 'em to certain valuations, or does it need to be more level? Because I do think that there's still plenty of value if those multiples and a lot of those things are where they should be. And even thinking about whether it's live entertainment or streaming in general, I think there's still plenty of room for growth. There's still a lot of opportunities there, but it's just being able to get a clear idea on, what is the actual TAM? What is the actual total addressable market for these areas? And I think if anything, you saw that challenge happen with a lot of the discourse around Netflix and what the future is there, you started to saw things drop right around they had, you know, around 220 million subscribers. I think Spotify was likely asking similar questions, too, and I still think there's growth, you know, for the right price there's always going to be something, but what that price would be and how many people are willing to pay for it, knowing that, of course, if it's a paid product, you're not going to hit all 8 billion people in the world. But there is some actual number out there. So I think the more clarity that there is on that, and of course that's part of the game to figure that out, but the closer that you can get to what that actually is, the more that investors can make sound decisions. [00:46:25] Glenn Peoples: Yeah. You know, as we're talking now, there's a lot going on. We're a couple of hours away from Spotify releasing third-quarter earnings, which will, I'm not sure how much that'll say, look, that's backward-looking, but the company will take the opportunity to talk about a lot of things investors and analysts are curious about. Yesterday Apple announced it was raising prices for Apple Music and Apple TV Plus, and the Apple bundle. And YouTube premium prices went up as well, I believe, for the family plan only. And what do we see today? What we see Universal shares went up almost 12% and closed. They're trading the Netherlands, so that's already closed. In the middle of the day, Warner Music was up 7% to 8% at its best. Believe was up. Hipgnosis shares were up about, and those closed, that trades in London. That closed up about 8% I think. So investors, I think, get the news that they've really been waiting for, that prices are finally going to go up. You know, Netflix has raised prices. Pricing in streaming video on demand is a lot more flexible than it is for music and music prices have barely budged in over a decade, and executives have been saying for months and for years that prices will go up. But they haven't. [00:47:45] Dan Runcie: Why do think it took this long? [00:47:47] Glenn Peoples: Well, I think, companies were much more concerned about growing the market than maximizing revenue per customer. Is it more important to get the customer in the door or to charge more per customers is the question, and I think that they've been much more concerned about building the customer base and building relationships. And then at some point, it's a timing issue. When do you raise price? When can you do it without turning people off? And I think what we see these days with inflation is what it is, is companies might feel a little more emboldened to just raise price and think they can get away with it. Name one price that's not up in the last year. Except music streaming, it seems like everything else is up. And so somebody had to be, you know, first to do it and YouTube and Apple did it, which could embolden Spotify to do it finally. And I think my impression of Universal's shares going up almost 12% is that they think Spotify's going to raise prices as well. That doesn't seem like a bump just from Apple. That seems like a bump from broad price increases across the board.[00:48:51] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I would agree. I think that it's going to happen and the reason why I think it probably hasn't happened until this point I was talking to Will Page about this, who is a former chief economist at Spotify. And his perspective on it was that the difference, and it was mine as well, the difference between why a company like Netflix would continue to increase prices but Spotify hasn't a bit in line with the type of content that you're getting. In a lot of ways, Spotify and Apple are offering a lot of the same thing. Sure. I know Spotify has its podcasting, Apple has its podcasting and non-music audio, and we'll talk about that in a second. But I think when they're all offering the same thing, then there's a bit more pressure to try to offer price discounts and bundles and stuff like that as opposed to Netflix or some of those companies offering differentiated content. So you're more buying into something that you're going to get on Netflix that you can't get on Hulu or on Disney Plus, or on HBO Max or one of the other services. So I feel like there's a factor of it there. And I remember a few years ago there was some tests about it and some discussions where in Europe they were exploring what. 12.99 would look like, or maybe it was 13.99. But I didn't hear anything necessarily come definitive from that. Maybe it was 11.99, but there was some price increase that they were exploring in Europe. So it feels like it's inevitable that Spotify will join in and yeah, if your price is going to increase 10%, then your stock price will likely increase around 10% as well.[00:50:22] Glenn Peoples: Yeah, that makes sense. Most people look at how much revenue a company takes in every month. ARPU, average revenue per user, Spotify considers a metric lifetime value. And so it's not focused solely on price. Price plays into lifetime value, but so does churn rate, and the family plan is something that is reduced churn rate. As churn goes down, lifetime value goes up. I mean, for a subscription business, what you don't want are people coming in and out and churning in and churning out and taking time off or just leaving the subscription service for good. So if you cut down churn rate, the value goes up, and that's more value to creators. That's more value to publishers, to record labels, and to Spotify without raising price. If you can work on lifetime value without having to raise price, that might be the low-hanging fruit that you do in the meantime before you consider raising prices. And now it appears like everybody's to the point where they say, okay, now we can raise prices.[00:51:22] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah. I think the fact that we're here says a lot. So we'll continue to see, and I'm sure that the next price increase after this probably won't take this long if this is the one that got us here. The thing with Spotify though, is I'm sure we'll see what investors feel more broadly about the company's strategy because non-music, audio and podcasting specifically has been part of its big bet on how it can have better margins, how it can just essentially make more money and have something that they can continue to grow. But there's been a lot of pushback. There's been a lot of canceled shows and studios, and some of that's standard for the industry. But some of it also feels like there's more and more question marks on, okay, they've spent billions on this. Is this going to work? Is this going to take off the way that they expect it to? What's your current take on the future outlook for Spotify's non-music audio strategy? [00:52:16] Glenn Peoples: I think it's a good strategy. You build up a platform starting with music. You attract hundreds of thousands of users and then you turn it into an audio platform that's not just music and you introduce spoken word content. I think it's going to take quite a few years. So I think expecting changes, you know, we're only two years into some of their acquisitions for podcast studios and for platforms such as Megaphone. I know investors might not want to wait five years, but it's going to take a while. And, you know, long-term Spotify thinks that they can get some pretty good margins out of podcasts, margins that exceed what they get from music. They think that they can get the math when I look at audiobook margins, they bought an audiobook distributor called Findaway. And I think as retailer and distributor, Spotify gets about 60% of sales. Audiobook download margins are pretty good and that's about double what they're going to get for music. How much business is out there for audiobooks? Yeah, I mean, right now probably not that much, but over time I'm sure they can build it into something much more considerable. And, you know, if it's 60% gross margin, that's really good. You're not going to get that in music. You can build a platform based on music, but then eventually you got to go looking elsewhere for margins. And so I think it can work out for Spotify, it's just going to take a while and some people might not have much patience. I get that. But it's going to take a while. [00:53:41] Dan Runcie: It's something I've thought a lot about because I understand that podcasting itself is something where the audience takes time to build. You want to be able to see these shows grow over time. But I also think that so much of their biggest growth has come from acquiring shows that are already popular. And I know they've made big acquisitions, whether as with Gimlet or with The Ringer, or they have the exclusive deal with, or the licensing deal with Joe Rogan. But how many others of those are out there that they haven't necessarily had? Are there going to be more in-house ones that can build up? Because I feel like one of the challenges I've seen with the strategy is that they've had a lot of money spent on getting these big-name celebrities to then have shows where they have other big-name celebrities as guests and things like that. And a lot of that is antithetical to what's made so much of podcasting be effective for a lot of folks. And sometimes it works well, but a lot of times it doesn't. And it's content. You do have to make some bets, but I'm interested to see how many more of those wins that are going to be out there for them, because that's the piece that at least gives you some bump 'cause at least we've seen the numbers and successes from the popular acquisitions, the shows that they've had. It's the in-house development where I think by nature there is a natural, whether it's just the likelihood of success of you're starting anything new, not everything is going to take off, but the real success metric will be, okay, two, three years from now, we're there Spotify originals that are at the top of the charts and are creating and demanding that audience the same way that some of these other shows, whether it's outside of the network or some of the ones that they've acquired are able to do?[00:55:23] Glenn Peoples: Yeah, it looks to me like they have kind of a three-prong attack where they spend mightily for somebody like Joe Rogan and that's not going to last forever. That licensing deal will be up, I don't know, maybe next year. And what do they renew or do they go spend a lot of money on somebody else? I mean, Joe Rogan brings 'em a lot of a lot of listeners I'd wager. So they have a very small number of really big shows, and then they have a lot of in-house shows with Parcast, The Ringer, Gimlet, and they can go acquire some other ones. And then they have a lot of DIY stuff. And then you get into the long tail. And this is where I think there's a lot of potential to monetize listening just like there would be in music. They bought a platform called Anchor. That's a podcast creation and distribution. Megaphone rather, is more the distribution tool. And so they have the infrastructure in place to let people create shows, distribute shows, and now they can monetize those shows. Now, do advertisers want to monetize or advertise against, you know, podcasts nobody's heard of. Not sure exactly how that's going to work. You might be not getting good advertising dollars on some of the shows, but to the extent that you can monetize the long tail podcast, Spotify is building that. And if anybody can do it, it looks like they could. So it's not about Joe Rogan. Joe Rogan might have been something just to get his podcast business off the ground, a very expensive way to get his podcast business off the ground and get it noticed by listeners and noticed by advertisers. And they might not, you know, have another Rogan after that deals up. But there's a lot of stuff out there to acquire. You know, Spotify, you take a look at the top 50 or a hundred shows. Spotify is Rogan and Call Her Daddy and maybe one other one. But there's a lot of stuff out there that they could go after. But again, this is kind of the long tail and maybe the midtier stuff that would be in-house productions. I think that really is the test of how they're going to do in podcasting at scale how can they monetize the long tail of podcast? [00:57:20] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I think the other thing that's an advantage for them is the advertising business and being able to not just offer, but sell better data to advertisers on who's actually listening to podcasts because outside of Spotify, using podcasts downloads, or relying on some of these third-party tools to be able to tell you how well a show's actually doing is not the best way to actually determine if people are listening. There's so many shows out there that now have ghost downloads from people that we're downloading and subscribing to these shows back in 2014, 2015, 2016, that are no longer listening to those shows, but because of the metric of downloads, It's essentially an RSS feed. They don't know if you and I are actually listening to a show versus it actually being downloaded. I'm talking about more from Apple Podcasts and from other places outside of Spotify itself. Spotify's advantage is the fact that it can provide data just as precise is what it does in streaming, essentially. Are these people listening for at least 30 seconds? Are they going and listening to the middle? And I know some of this exists with Chartable and some of these other tools, but that's the advantage that Spotify has. So if you can essentially have that, offer that to your advertisers and then say, hey, this is the better data to base it on, not self-reported podcast downloads, which is a very tough metric to use if you're trying to base that purely on advertising. This is how you can ensure that you're reaching the right people. And I do think if you have enough of a catalog there and you're able to monetize enough, then in principle, you could then pull the advertisers yourself. And if you pull them, then I think that helps also attract the shows. And you can become not just the dominant platform, but the dominant platform that can monetize as well.[00:59:08] Glenn Peoples: Yeah, well see. You have a lot of insight. You're a podcaster, so you have a lot of insight into what Spotify's doing. As a podcaster, how is the platform for you? Do you get a lot of listeners from Spotify? [00:59:18] Dan Runcie: There's other platforms that I still get more listeners for. Like, I still get more from Apple Podcasts, I would say. But it's up there though. It's interesting because even though I get more listeners from Apple Podcast, if I put a link in my newsletter that has the Apple Podcast link or the Spotify link of where to listen, more people click on the Spotify link. So that also makes me think, okay, one of these is measuring what's already been there, people that could have been listened to my podcast since 2019 to prove my point when I started it, versus what's capturing things now. And I think as we're just seeing Spotify continue to grow and we're seeing more and more stats of how, I forget the exact metric, but them becoming one of the more popular places for listeners to listen to a podcast. The data that I'm seeing on my side, even though I haven't precisely calculated it, more so a gut check of when I'm checking my newsletter analytics, I'm like, okay, I can see where this is trending.[01:00:12] Glenn Peoples: I think it helps Spotify that they're just an innovative company that is always improving the product, right? So, you know, who knows what they'll end up doing with podcast. They could revolutionize how we listening to it. [01:00:24] Dan Runcie: Yeah. The other thing, too, that made me think of it, you mentioned audiobooks earlier, and I feel like there's an opportunity for innovation there because audiobooks themselves, I think to date have in many ways just been looked at as another channel that's a companion to people either buying a physical book or downloading something on a tablet to read. But how can the art of creating an audio podcast feel similar to these high-production podcasts that we hear that sound like they are, you know, made by multiple people in a studio show? I think Malcolm Gladwell did something like this with his most recent book the Think Like Strangers, I forget the exact name, but something like Strangers where it sounded like his podcast does. You know, it's high produced, you can get a bit more variety. It's not just some voice actor that they paid, you know, some flat fee for, and then that's just what's uploaded as the audiobook. So if you're able to create that as its own unique experience, I think that there's an opportunity there with audiobooks. So I'm interested to see if the art and the content itself around those will continue to improve.[01:01:31] Glenn Peoples: I would love a company like Spotify to breathe some life into audiobooks. I used to do a lot more audiobooks than I used to. And you know, what's changed? I think what's changed is just the podcast platforms that are available that make it easier to listen to and find podcasts. I'm not much of an audiobook buyer anymore. But I would say that my audiobook listening has been cannibalized by podcast. [01:01:54] Dan Runcie: And I think some of that, too, like if it's in the same app, it's something that you're already using. I feel like there's an opportunity there because although it's been a while since I've used the Audible app, I have to imagine that the Spotify app is much less friction to be able to be like, I want to listen to this. Boom, here, let me click and listen to the thing. And it's a game of, yeah, how can you make it as easy as possible for the consumer. So yeah, it'd be interesting to see how that space develops. The last topic I want to chat about though before we end things is TikTok. I know you've written about this recently. TikTok has been trying to get into a number of areas, specifically streaming, and I'd be curious to hear your take on them, not just their potential in streaming, but what their strategy is overall in music and how you see them working, either not just alongside, but also competing with not just the streaming services, but other companies that are part of this, that are part of this chain of the, you know, music ecosystem.[01:02:53] Glenn Peoples: Yeah, I think TikTok is fascinating as far as TikTok launching a streaming service. I mean, that makes perfect sense. I mean, why would you not? TikTok sends a lot of traffic to streaming services. If you could keep people on the platform, or at least on an app from the same company, rather than sending them off to Apple Music or YouTube or Spotify after they see a video on TikTok, I think that's probably a better, I would say, it's a better listener experience. But you know, what we've seen over the years is people use the apps they want to use. You can't force-feed people an app. You can stick it on a device. It doesn't mean they're going to use it. People will use what they want to use and TikTok would have to build a pretty amazing music streaming platform for people to use it. And I guess the question is could they grow the market rather than just take customers away from the Spotifys and Apple Musics in the YouTubes? Yeah, I guess so. There's always that, but I always think of it as more of a zero-sum game that TikTok would be taking business away from others. On paper it makes perfect sense. You know, Billboard's done a really good reporting, had some really good articles about the impact TikTok has had on the business. You know, most recently there was an article about how it's just kind of, thrown A&R executives' lives into disarray because it's, it's very hard to capitalize on TikTok success, which everybody wants. It's much more random than sending something to streaming services or sending something to radio and promoting it. It's much more grassroots and not so top-down. So it's unpredictable on what's going to hit. And that's not a good way to promote music, not knowing what people are going to end up listening to, so it makes labels' lives difficult in that aspect. On the other hand, I think labels are probably pretty happy that there's an app out there that customers want to spend a lot of time with and potentially spend money on, and that they are licensing music too and they'll get royalties from. So, you know, labels don't build these platforms themselves. They have to count on other companies to do that. And I read articles every now and then that says that TikTok is going to be the death of labels. Now labels have to partner with these platforms. That's what they do. They don't build the platforms themselves. And TikTok has a great platform. And so it's another one to work with. The question is, is it ultimately good for the labels? Yeah, maybe they honestly don't have a choice. They have to work with TikTok. They have to go where the consumers are. But I think it's ultimately probably a net win even though it's, really thrown things into disarray and changed how people discover music, and it's just not as simple a path as it used to be in promoting music and get people to listen to it.[01:05:28] Dan Runcie: You brought up a few things that I want to circle back on because I think they're important to highlight. One, if you look TikTok's overall strategy, I agree this is something that they should naturally do. If you're the person that has the top of the funnel, then you would want to identify ways that you could do it yourself instead of having another app that is relying on yours to capture that same traffic and to capture that same business opportunity. That said, does that mean that you will succeed? Not necessarily. I think as we both understand and see, it takes a lot to have a platform that gets to where Apple Music has gotten to, to get to where Spotify's gotten to, even where Amazon Music and some of these other digital streaming providers have gotten to. It takes a considerable amount of time to get there. So being able to do that effectively and being able to necessarily grow the market and do that, I think it's tough. Are there regions that TikTok is going to reach that Spotify and Apple have not already spent millions of dollars trying to reach? Probably not, which does turn it into a bit of a zero-sum game. And then are you going to be able to try to offer it at a different cost? Are you going to try to do any of these things that really make it stand out? Not necessarily. And I think one of the bigger challenges, too, is just the consumer behavior that someone has when they're going into TikTok. It has grown as fast as it has because it's an app that doesn't require much active engagement. You can sit there and passively scroll through everything. It's a very passive entertaining experience. Streaming is not that. You have to go and find who you want to listen to. Even if you want to go check out the latest album, you have to go type in that person's name unless they're the biggest star in the world, and they may happen to be on the app when you open it. You got to type in the person's name to figure that out. So shifting that consumer mindset, I think is tough if that's what they're used to in your app. So I think that piece of it is going to be a bit of a challenge for them. And I think in general, we're kind of seeing TikTok adopt a bit of that Facebook strategy, where Facebook is a company that has tried to do any and everything because they're like, hey, we have billions of users. We are the biggest platform in the world. Let's try to do all these things. And more likely than not, Facebook doesn't succeed at a lot of these things. It's more likely to succeed at the things that are naturally aligned with why someone would want to be on Facebook to begin with, and whether it's Facebook's dating services or any of these other things that just didn't necessarily take off the way it could, I think that there could be, you know, some similar type of risk if you're thinking about TikTok. Even though it is aligned with music, even though there's a lot of these things, the mindset that a consumer has when they are going into a streaming service that requires on-demand activity is very different than a passive social media experience.[01:08:13] Glenn Peoples: Yeah, I think those are really good points. There's no guarantee that TikTok is going to make a winning music subscription service if that's what it chose to do. It's just not that easy. I mean, there are companies with big head starts who have built really good apps and have a lot of momentum. And you know, the thing that I've noticed over the years with subscription services and music streaming, in general, is that you have to have an excellent product. Having a pretty good product just doesn't cut it anymore. And there are a lot of music services that have been pretty good that have just gone out of business 'cause pretty good doesn't do it. With ByteDance and with TikTok, you have to assume that they could put together pretty good service. I would bet, better than average. And can they do better than that? Possibly. And what could they do differently that would transform it? And maybe that's the question. Do they need to do a transformative subscription service? Or can they just do something that's a little more traditional and not try to build a new mousetrap? Maybe that's the better option. You know, I'm not sure, but I think, people shouldn't expect that TikTok is just going to clean up the competition because they have a very popular short-form video app. That's just a different experience than what they would be getting into. [01:09:22] Dan Runcie: Agreed. Streaming is a very different game. It'd be interesting to see how it plays out. But Glenn, before we wrap things up and let you go, how do you think the Global Music Index that you created, how do you think things will look at 2023? What's your take on how you think certain things will play out in the index?[01:09:39] Glenn Peoples: There's so much negative forecast out there for 2023. There's a lot of economic experts saying that there's going to be a recession in 2023. You know, normally I would say, boy, probably pretty good. You know, the time to buy a stock is not when it's high. It's time to buy is when it's low. So right now the index is starting from would be starting year at a pretty low place. It's just that they're pretty dark clouds on 2023. It's really hard to say how it's going to play out. There's just a lot of really bad expectations for next year. So I think that as far as these stocks have fallen, they're not out of the woods yet. And I don't think we can assume that they're going to turn around and start growing next year. But if you look at 2022 as kind of a correction to maybe some stocks that were overvalued, then they're starting in a better place.[01:10:27] Dan Runcie: That's true. Maybe the overvaluation may have some, or the overvaluation of the overcorrection rather could lead things off to a good start. So it'll be exciting to see for sure. And we'll definitely be keeping an eye on the index itself. Once again, good job creating that. I think a lot of people were looking for a way to just capture everything that's going in the industry. So it'll be good to continue tracking it. And Glenn, thanks for coming on. It was great to touch base on so many important topics, and I'm sure we can have a similar conversation like this soon. [01:10:54] Glenn Peoples: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me. [01:10:56] Dan Runcie: Thank you.[01:10:59] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Megan Holston-Alexander is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund. It’s the first VC fund that raised money exclusively from Black leaders — from entertainment to sports to business. The fund co-invests with a16z’s other funds and has raised more than $60 million across its three funds to date.The overarching purpose of CLF is to create generational wealth opportunities for Black communities. It’s a two-pronged approach. The first is getting Black dollars directly on the cap tables of high-potential startup companies. And the second is creating a pipeline for more Black talent at early-stage companies. Megan joined me on the show on the heels of hosting the first-ever Cultural Leadership Summit and announcing CLF III before then. Here’s everything we covered during our conversation:[2:39] Takeaways from the Cultural Leadership Summit[5:19] Building despite economic uncertainties [7:36] High-worth individuals also affected by macro economy [9:05] How has the Cultural Leadership Fund evolved?[14:54] Difference between entertainment and executive LP’s[17:16] Web3’s knowledge imbalance  [19:16] Megan’s interest in DAO’s[20:58] Will CLF’s investment model change?[22:42] How CLF used relationships and trust-building to scale its operation [28:35] Megan’s vetting process with LP’s[36:02] How VC industry at-large can create more opportunities for black founders and talent [39:15] Has the Bay Area lost its monopoly on tech? [44:59] What CLF is focusing on in 2023Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Megan Holston-Alexander, @meghalexander Download The Culture Report here: https://trapital.ck.page/a23b7a6a4a Sponsors:MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Megan Holston Alexander: What we hadn't considered on the executive side is, while the athletes and our kind of entertainers can partner on different things or, like, help them go into new markets, when it came down to, like, core operations or how you should run on your board, or how to think about hiring X, Y, and Z, our black executives, like, hold that information, like, in the palm of their hands. These are people who've been, you know, operators for 20 or 30 years, and so they brought kind of an additional level of skill and kind of insight to bolster what our other LPs on the more kind of athlete or entertainment side were doing.  [00:00:40] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:01:01] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Megan Holston Alexander. She's a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, currently leading its Cultural Leadership Fund. And to date, this fund has raised over 60 million, invested in over 300 Andreessen Horowitz portfolio companies, and has brought over a hundred black leaders into this space. I'm talking to Megan right after the Cultural Leadership Fund hosted its first-ever in-person summit. It was a pleasure to attend that summit myself and meet so many of the people that are friends of the fund, LPs of the fund, and really make it what it is. So this conversation, we talked a little bit about what it was like bringing that event together, especially after the pandemic. We also talked about how events like that fit within the fund's overall strategy and how that strategy has evolved over the past few years. For a little bit of background, the LPs in the Cultural Leadership Fund are all black, and it is one of the first funds to have ever done that in the VC space, and specifically, to date, a lot of the investors had been athletes and entertainers, but Megan talked a little bit about how they've expanded to bring on more black executives, what that looks like, and how that ultimately helps support the goal of the fund even more. One of the fund's other goals is to increase the amount of black talent and interest in tech. So we talk about what some of the opportunities are, what some of the challenges are, and what the VC community can do to help improve this even more. Great conversation, so many insightful points that Megan shared. I enjoyed this conversation and I know you will too, especially if you are an investor or you're a founder yourself. Here's my chat with Megan. [00:02:39] Dan Runcie: All right, today we have Megan Holston Alexander from Andreessen Horowitz Culture Leadership Fund, and first, I got to say congratulations on an amazing summit. It was a great event to be a part of and to attend. How does it feel for you now being on the heels of that and just seeing the impact of everything? [00:02:57] Megan Holston Alexander: Yeah, so thank you so much for coming. It means so much that people would be interested enough and engaged enough to spend time with us away from their, you know, everyday grind. But we're really pleased with how it turned out. We were motivated because so many of our LPs had said to us, we want to get together, we want to meet each other, we want to meet the founders, we want to meet the investment team. So as an LP and kind of partner summit, I think it had the intended effect and it seemed like people really enjoyed their time, but also learned a ton. So I could not be happier. I will say I was telling myself that after it was over, I was going to have so much time to, like, get so much other stuff done, but, like, it just never, it never stopped. So, we were really proud of what we were able to put on.[00:03:38] Dan Runcie: 'Cause I'm sure an event like that makes you think about what else you could do, right? I'm sure you had a bunch of people buzzing with ideas on what other in-person events or what other things could look like, too. [00:03:48] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. And that's always the hope, right? We bring people into a room together in hopes that, like, we can help some serendipity happen. So many people in our network work on similar things or adjacent things or things that would have a really nice kind of partnership together. And so anytime we get to make those introductions, our hope is that people will be buzzing after, and have ideas for events and programs and partnerships. So we'll see what comes out of it. [00:04:12] Dan Runcie: And I imagine that a lot of this probably had been in the plans for a while. It was just a matter of timing. So much of CLFs rise and growth had happened during the pandemic as well. And it was just a matter of, okay, when can you bring people together safely to make something like this happen? [00:04:28] Megan Holston Alexander: Yeah. Yeah. And when I say it was three years in the making. I am not kidding, because we were planning actually to host the first summit in 2020. So we were in process of like, you know, picking out venues and cities and where we wanted to be. And then, like, so many people when the pandemic hit that spring, it just kind of cleared everybody's calendars. And so it's nice to know that 2 and a half years after the original that the motive was still the same and the demand for what we were building was still the same that we got to put it on, I think, even better than we could have hoped in 2020.[00:05:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I agree. And then looking at, now, you, of course, get to have it on the tail end of your announcement for fund three. You've now raised over $60 million for this fund. What was it like raising in this climate though, just given where things are with the market and how things have been so far in 2022? [00:05:19] Megan Holston Alexander: Yeah, totally. Totally. So when it comes to like the market environment, you just never know what's going to happen and unintentionally, you know, I actually got to raise ahead of kind of the market changing earlier in the spring. And that was actually because I was expecting and planning to be a new mom. And the firm was really supportive of that. And they said, okay, kind of up to you. Do you want to do it before mat leaves? Do you want to wait until the fall when you come back? And me being like, I don't want to think about this while I'm trying to raise a baby. I was like, Let's knock it out early. So lucky enough, you know, I was able to close that out before people really started tightening their belts. But, you know, as a firm, we really believe that, you know, no matter what the economy looks like, what the macro, you know, face of the world looks like, builders are always building. And even more so, during times when they can be home and spend time thinking about the problems that they want to solve. And so our hope is that, you know, even in moments like that, we can still really rely on founders to keep, you know, pushing great, great companies out. [00:06:17] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I like to think of these moments as well as when you do start to filter out some of the companies or ideas that maybe were a bit more fleeting, and you can focus on the real things happening, you look at the last economic downturn that we had, and all of the companies that came from that timeframe, too. So I feel like the call to action for so many fund managers like yourself, you mentioned the LPs or even to others is, like you just said, people are still building, and if anything, it's the real companies that are going to come out of this timeframe.[00:06:46] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. And then a piece that I would add onto that is in these moments, while we know that like great companies will be built, we don't truly know what they are because people do build for the time and you don't know what kind of instances will be, like, permanent behavior changes or what things are like, just for now, it seems like it's a, you know, a really good idea, but in six months people won't behave the same way. And so the hope is that you just always try to lean in the things that you think will have kind of staying power. But you just try to do risk reduction. [00:07:15] Dan Runcie: Right, Right. And I assume, too, from a fundraising perspective with you and this fund specifically, because a lot of the LPs are high net worth individuals, some of their willingness to invest in funds hasn't necessarily changed as much as some of the more institutional investing in things that we've seen in the past year or so.[00:07:36] Megan Holston Alexander: Yeah. So actually I might argue the opposite. So when you're dealing with individuals, right, in their personal wealth and people who are really new to venture, right? That's a really, really scary moment because venture is a long-term play, right? It's not like you put your money in and then two or three weeks later, you can be like, Hey, Megan, where are my dollars? And so making a long-term commitment like that during a period of economic uncertainty is actually more difficult for an individual than it would be for an institution because one, it's not any particular individual's capital, but also institutions have much kind of more thorough game plans, right? They know what percentage they're putting into venture versus private equity versus, you know, bonds or whatever the case may be. So they're kind of more consistent and they understand that the market kind of goes up and down and that there will be moments like this, and it's actually a little bit more difficult when it comes to individuals to kind of get them over that hump.[00:08:30] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that's fair. Because I do think that even in some conversations I've had with folks, things like the price of Bitcoin or the price of Ethereum having a pretty impactful influence on what their net worth is and their own willingness to invest in particular things. [00:08:46] Megan Holston Alexander: For sure. [00:08:47] Dan Runcie: And for you with this fund, specifically, now fund three, but the fund itself has been around for a few years now. Do you feel like the vision for the fund has evolved at all in that time? I mean, I feel like the core mission is the same, but have any of the ways that you've either talked or pitched the fund evolved in that timeframe? [00:09:05] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. So I think you're right. We've kept our two kind of core missions the same, but what we do understand now is there are a number of different ways to execute on it. So if you will bear with me, I'm happy to share kind of two, you know, how that looks on both missions. So on the first mission of connecting the world's greatest cultural leaders to the best new technology companies. You know, historically we set, you know, athletes and entertainers and musicians, people who, from, you know, a large scale of consumerism have contributed to cultural change. But over time we've realized black executives also have like a really, really huge impact on this space. So people who are in leadership roles at Fortune 100 companies, or even at startup companies, they can have a huge impact on culture and consumer behavior more generally. And so we wanted to be sure that we really leaned into bringing in more black executives into the fund than we ever had before. And that has proven to be really helpful for the firm because they end up being, you know, equally if not more useful to the portfolio than the musicians and the singers, and the actors, et cetera. And so we have really enjoyed kind of expanding and involving that side of the network. And then on the second side of getting more young African Americans in tech, you know, fo fund one, we committed all of our management fees and carried to, like, one set of organizations. We picked them in the beginning and wanted to support them through the life of the fund. But what we realized by fund two was like, well, that doesn't really give us an opportunity to invest in new non-profits that are kind of on the cutting edge of technology, right? As things are growing and changing, we want folks who are being innovative on the non-profit side as well. And so what we did for fund two and now for fund three is we opened up kind of the spectrum of what we would support from a non-profit perspective to kind of match where we thought the technology world was going. So for fund one, you see a supporting kind of big well-known organizations that have proven over time if they are directly putting black folks into the pipeline for technology. But now we're saying like, okay, how do we add to this? Well, Web 3.0 is a huge thing, not only as a space for investment for the firm, but also generally of wanting to be sure that black folks don't get left behind in this Web 3.0 revolution. So we support organizations like crypto tutors that is meant to do just that, and that's not something we would've had insight into in that first fund. Gaming is also a new, huge area in technology. It is now, I think, you know, people play games more than they watch TV based on current research. And so how do we ensure that black folks are being supported in the gaming industry? So now we support black and gaming. We support the Black Collegiate Gaming Association. So just ensuring that our philanthropic efforts can support and are aligned with what we're doing as a firm and where technology is going overall. [00:11:51] Dan Runcie: I actually want to talk about each of those two things separately. Let me go back to the first one. [00:11:55] Megan Holston Alexander: Let's do it. [00:11:56] Dan Runcie: I think it was really interesting what you said about athletes and that sector around sports in general, if I heard you correctly, them being but not even more influential or helpful for the fund overall, but maybe relative to some of the other folks, whether it's your LP such as your musicians or entertainers. Did I catch that right? [00:12:16] Megan Holston Alexander: If I'm hearing what you're saying, you're saying that I said that the athletes are not as useful?[00:12:20] Dan Runcie: Oh, the other way around. Like, more useful than, like, some of the others that work with the fund?[00:12:24] Megan Holston Alexander: Well, I was saying, from the executive side, did I say athletes and not executives?[00:12:28] Dan Runcie: I think it was athletes.[00:12:29] Megan Holston Alexander: Maybe I misspoke. But what I was essentially trying to say is from a cultural leadership perspective, historically, it has very much been athletes and entertainers and we wanted to involve, we wanted to evolve our kind of mission overall to include more black executives.[00:12:45] Dan Runcie: That was helpful. Yeah, 'cause I was curious to tap into more about like, why that is and how that's impacted the fund so far. [00:12:52] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. Because I feel like, everybody thinks that when you bring on like just a celebrity, everything skyrockets, right? That it's just like, ooh, if you put this name on there, things just grow. And that's not always necessarily the case. We've, you know, really supported our companies in being thoughtful and strategic around the ways in which you use a celebrity. And we've also been, you know, in deep conversations with our kind of LP network and our network at large about wanting to be more than like a disengaged kind of passive investor. And so they love partnering with the portfolio companies, et cetera. But what we hadn't considered on the executive side is, while the athletes and our kind of entertainers can partner on different things or like help them go into new markets or help them with the launch of a new product, when it came down to like core operations or how you should run on your board, or how to think about hiring X, Y, and Z, like, our black executives, like hold that information like in the palm of their hands. These are people who've been, you know, operators for 20 or 30 years, and so they brought kind of an additional level of skill and kind of insight to bolster what our other LPs on the more kind of athlete or entertainment side were doing. So now we have this really robust group of black cultural leaders who can help in a number of different areas.[00:14:07] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. Yeah, I mean, we see the influence, we see how influential they are in all of these sectors, and if you're thinking about just like how your fund is structured, I know that you do have different folks on the team focused in sports, focused in entertainment more broadly, and I feel like eventually having, you know, whether it's even more of those or just being able find the best ways to lock in on talent, because I think we're seeing this more and more. I think a lot about like, let's say like 10-plus years ago when we saw the era of a lot of artists being named as creative directors for particular companies. And some of those turned into, you know, really flourishing partnerships, and some of them necessarily didn't. But now, and I feel like your fund was timing this. You captured this moment where we're seeing more than that. [00:14:54] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep, absolutely. And it's not just because you know, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And it's not just because, and not only because, you know, athletes and kind of other entertainment folks want to be more engaged, but quite frankly startups are requiring it. They don't want you to just let your name on something and then you disappear and like, you know, take the money and run or whatever the case may be. And so what we're trying to do is really build up to kind of core groups of people who are interested in each other and want to work together. And so there should be an equal expectation when we bring our LPs in and on our startup side that the startups want to work with these LPs and they've been thoughtful about how they want to engage with them, right? So if you want a particular person, why, right? Why is this person the best fit for your company? And so we really challenge our companies on that, where it's not just like, you want to get the biggest name, but the person who will actually be most influential for the product that you're building. And on our LP side, we say like, okay, what is it about this company that makes you most interested that you want to bring to the table? So it really is about working together. We are trying very hard not to make it where it's just like, kind of one-off, really transactional doesn't make a lot of sense 'cause those tend to be the things that don't work out. We try to be thoughtful on all fronts. [00:16:11] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. 'Cause it's like, otherwise, then it would just be like an Instagram ad or something like that, being like, oh, hey, go sponsor this product. And like, that's not what this is about. [00:16:21] Megan Holston Alexander: And it doesn't make sense. Like, make it make sense. That's the most important thing for us because those are what can be fruitful. And then say it's something that, everything doesn't always work out, but if you went into it with the right intentions and everybody did their best, like, that's all you can hope for. And then those people usually want to work together again, even if it didn't work out. So we really do take this long view on relationships, not just as a firm, but as a fund and the way in which we interact with people and hope that they'll interact with each other. [00:16:47] Dan Runcie: Right. And then at the second piece of what you were talking about, you talked about investing in companies that are ultimately helping to either further access or knowledge. Web 3.0 was an example and wanting to make sure that black talent doesn't get left behind in this space or in other spaces that may emerge. Where do you feel like things are right now? Do you feel like folks are on board? Do you feel like there's still a huge opportunity specifically with when it comes to Web 3.0 and black talent? [00:17:16] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. I think until we get to a place where we feel like we have like, peer across the board equity, there's always work to be done. And being like an HBCU grad being from, you know, born and raised in Alabama, I have a very core sense of like what inequity looks like and how, what are the ways in which we can try to approach solutions to that problem. And so I think I'm lucky enough to have you know, that, sort of background where I can bring an interesting perspective into how we solve those problems. But I am finding that Web 3.0 overall has a lot of opportunity. One, because, like, nobody's an expert, right? Nobody's been doing Web 3.0 for 30 years. It is relatively new, right? There's people who've been doing it for the last 10 ish years, and there are a few people who are just really hardcore, but there is so many of our Web 3.0 companies, because there is just like a lack of, expertise in the space, they're just excited to get people who are interested and passionate about Web 3.0, right? So you kind of get to jump over this need for a long period of time having worked in X, Y, and Z or Web 3.0 in this case where you get to just work off of passion and start building the product. So that's one of the things I love about Web 3.0. The hard part is that there's a knowledge imbalance, right? It takes a lot of reading. It takes a lot of listening to podcasts and going through the a16z canon that a lot of people just don't have, right? The information is there, but everybody doesn't have time to read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages on Web 3.0. And so the kind of that asynchronous ability to get information, I think, is where we have to fill in the gap. What is the answer to that? I'm not completely sure, but organizations like crypto tutors that I mentioned earlier, are making content easy, accessible, fun, really big on entertainment. And so while I think the opportunities are there for the roles, I do think we need to fill in the knowledge gap in terms of who gets the knowledge.[00:19:09] Dan Runcie: Agreed. And for you specifically, which areas of Web 3.0 are exciting you the most as an investor? [00:19:16] Megan Holston Alexander: Whoa, well, you know, with CLF being a co-investment vehicle inside of the fund, I feel like I get lucky enough where I get to see all the cool stuff, but I don't have to make the strenuous, anxiety-ridden decisions about, you know, which ones to pick. I just get the benefit of spending time with them all after the fact. And so for me, I am most excited about and I'll just say the one piece that I've been looking into a lot lately is like, DAOs. I love this concept of like governance and people getting to vote on what they do with capital and making decisions of that, like, things to buy and things to sell. I think the way in which communities are being built around kind of DAOs and that type of governance is really interesting. [00:20:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah, for sure. I think some of these conversations, whether it's DAOs buying sports teams or Dows trying to get involved with different things, we'll see. I think, like anything, we're in the early days and some of these things will come to fruition but there's definitely something there. Just looking at how decentralized so many things are becoming then I think a lot of those things do need to. [00:20:20] Megan Holston Alexander: Agreed and I think there's pros and cons of everything, and I think that's one of the things that, you know, gets missed in the hype cycle. There are things that will be really great about web 3.0 and there will be things that don't work out in the way that we hope, but in the end, we hope we shake out with the best kind of the pack. [00:20:38] Dan Runcie: Right. And then you mentioned it earlier about just the way that CLF invests and you co-invest. So you do get to see all the things that come through and you're not necessarily picking or, you know, making them the investments yourself. But do you think that's something that may change with either the vision or the evolution of the fund itself, where you would be making those investments? [00:20:58] Megan Holston Alexander: You know, we, at the firm, we never say never. We don't know what the future holds, but I think right now, the way that we've structured it, you know, we've got two really core goals at CLF, and the first is like getting black dollars onto the cap tables in Andreessen Horowitz companies and the more that I can do that, whether it's through co-investing or otherwise, I think that the structure that we have right now is one that works and that I'm I'm really pleased with. And then in that second mission or actually still the first mission, but the second way that we execute on it, right, so CLF has a fund and dollars out of that fund go into kind of the deals across a number of the funds inside of the firm. Not all of them, but most of them. But then the second thing that I get to do and spend a lot of time on, because I don't have to do, you know, a ton of that behind the scenes like diligence work, et cetera, is get additional strategic rounds for our portfolio companies. So not only is our LP base as a whole represented on the cap table, but anytime that there is a really thoughtful or smart partnership or somebody wants to add an additional strategic capital, we now can give even more black people on the cap table. And so I really enjoy spending my time doing that and I want to keep at it, but the firms, we never say never to stuff. Who knows? If it ever makes sense, we'll see. [00:22:14] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. And then I think too, you mentioned this a few times just in terms of how the firm is structured in terms of building and investing in relationships. And I think this is something that I know you've talked about in other interviews, something that rings true with a16z overall. Can you talk a little bit about the way that you have the divisions or the way that you have the different verticals for, whether it's entertainment or sports and some of the events that you attend as well, and how that helps the overall mission? [00:22:42] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. So for CLF, you know, historically when probably two years ago when it was just me and Chris the two of us, we did everything right and we realized that if we really wanted CLF to scale and to grow and to really have an impact on the communities and generational wealth, we needed to scale what we were doing. We need to get more cultural leaders involved. We needed to be able to make more kind of partnership introductions, et cetera. And so the way that, you know, made sense was, okay, we've got these cultural leaders. How do we bring together the best at what they do in order to help manage these networks? So we brought in folks like Derek who have been on the management and agency side for a number of years to manage the entertainment vertical, right? So when you have one thing to focus on and it's only entertainers, you can make much more kind of clear and thoughtful decisions around who to introduce to whom or who to bring into this company, or when a portfolio company says, I need this type of person, you can make a quicker decision. We brought in Deb on the athlete side. She was a manager at Rock Nation Sports for a number of years, so she really just has the depth of knowledge. And not only that, they both have this really interesting knowledge just about who players are, but how we can structure deals with them, right? This is what they're used to, and now we're bringing in this tech side, how do we make those deal structures match, or how do we make it more, you know, favorable to everybody involved? And so they brought another level of rigor to the deals and the strategic rounds that we were putting together that we needed a lot. And then both Julie and I work on the executive side, which I said is burgeoning. And so we really try to specialize. One as a firm, right? We've got a crypto fund and a bio fund, and people who are specialized. We do the same thing inside of CLF. We try to have people focus on a swim lane. And it's proven to be successful. So far, we're really pleased with that decision. [00:24:29] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think it's effective and I think the names that you've been able to have as LPs in each of the rounds speaks to that too. And at the end of the day, especially in these industries, of course, I know relationships drive everything, but I think it's more so in these industries because especially with some of these high net worth individuals in entertainment, there's so many people from coming out of the woodwork who are trying to swindle them out of stuff or trying to propose them the most horrible deals and investment opportunities. So I think that's where the value add is here, as opposed to, or even more so than someone else who, you know, isn't in these fields. So they're not necessarily getting as much of the crap, if you will, from the proposals. So being able to sift through the good ones.[00:25:12] Megan Holston Alexander: I think you brought up a really good point. And I think that point is trust, right? So when you have people coming out of the woodwork, like you said, with investment opportunities, I got a good investment opportunity for you. But that person has no real background to be able to speak to like kind of whatever that item is or whatever that company is. We try to really mitigate the risk for our LPs and, and kind of partners that we bring into rounds for CLF, like, we never bring deals to people that we haven't invested in ourselves, right? We feel like how can we tell you like, you should invest in this, but like we didn't do it. And so people know that anytime we bring something to them, it is fully invested through Andreessen Horowitz, like, process, deal team, GP, et cetera. And so we try to, you know, really eliminate risk for them. And obviously, we always have them, you know, do your own research. Here is the information you make the decision for yourself. But we just pride ourselves on building trust with people because if we mishandle people and we swindle people, like that gets around and then that doesn't benefit us, right? If it goes around like, oh, those. sneakers over there, a16z are doing that. But we feel like we have really put forth a concerted effort that people know that they can trust us and they share with their friends that they can trust us. And that really is I think how we try to maintain and engage with our network. And so far, you know, that network has been able to grow and we always say, you know, we're not going to sacrifice a relationship for a quick buck that's just not our style. That's not what we do. I hope that that is kind of what's making the rounds. But so far it feels like people really have built a lot of trust in us and we don't take that lightly.[00:26:53] Dan Runcie: And I do think that information and understanding of these things has just gotten better in decades overall. And couple that with the fact that this is venture capital. Of course, it's a risk. Most of the companies that we're investing in probably aren't going to take off, but the ones that do are going to hit. And you're doing it with a firm that has a track record in this. So I feel like there's so much transparency. [00:27:16] Megan Holston Alexander: Well, I don't think I'm allowed to agree with that, so I'm just going to say okay.[00:27:20] Dan Runcie: Fair enough. Fair enough. And I think the difference there though is that I think about so many of these athletes, whether it's you get pitched on like opening restaurants with their name and all these other things that you know are just dated things. Of course, those things can still work. We've seen them be effective. But we've come a long way. [00:27:39] Megan Holston Alexander: And then one of the other things is, you know, we tell people, you know, that invest in our fund to please consider us a resource when things like that come up, right? We say we're a VC firm in your back pocket, right? So if something comes your way and you want us to, like you have questions about it, you know, obviously we can't tell you what to do, but we can help you figure out what are the right questions to ask when these opportunities come in front of you. And so that education piece that we do, I think is really valued by a lot of the folks who trust us with their capital.[00:28:10] Dan Runcie: And then with your LP specifically, is there anything that you're specifically looking for from a vetting process? Like, not necessarily talking about like commitment levels or anything like that, but more so things that you're looking for 'cause earlier we're talking about, of course, we've come a long way from the celebrity investors slapping their name on things. But I'm sure there are probably still some out there that may want to do that. And you're making sure that that's not who you're attracting. [00:28:35] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. I'm trying to tell you all my secrets. You know, the most important thing for us is that we have LPs who want to engage. We want people who are willing to like, you know, hop on a call with us and share their interests or if, you know, you join the fund and you are entered in particular deals or we, you know, come across a company that would be a really great fit for you to talk to, maybe just have a 15-minute conversation with the CEO. There are people who love opportunities like that. So people who want to engage and want to learn and spend time with us and spend time with our LPs is who we try to really, really lean into because it's a symbiotic relationship, We want to support them. But at the end of the day, like our largest goal is to support our portfolio companies and whether it's the a16z team, whether it's our LPs, like it's all hands on deck. And so I love people who come in and have a genuine curiosity and they're excited about technology and innovation and they want to play a role in things that are being built. And so, we love those conversations and you can kind of really tell, like I've had people who you would never think, people who you would think would be super disengaged. Like, that person is interested in tech who are, have gone down like the Web 3.0 rabbit hole and they're like, ooh, and I'm going to do like a token that has this, and then I'm going to give it to my whole community back in Texas or whatever. Like, really is just a really, really thoughtful people. You don't have to be an expert. Like, that's not what we're looking for, but we just look, want people who want to be involved. [00:30:04] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. That makes sense. Shifting gears a bit on the talent side of things. We talked about it a little bit about how important it is to the fund to be able to just help develop this space and obviously your fund's doing its part. We talked about some of the areas that you're looking to invest in, how you're looking to just elevate this space overall, what do you think the rest of the VC community and landscape needs to be able to do to ultimately get things to where it should be. [00:30:31] Megan Holston Alexander: Sorry, when you say get things to where they should be, you mean in terms of like talent as an employee of companies? You mean talent in what way? [00:30:40] Dan Runcie: So I'm talking about talent in terms of whether it's black founders who are leading companies or black talent that are just interested in the space that are either going on to get jobs in the space or to work for other established companies, overall investing and then just being able to grow and see more black talent in tech.[00:30:59] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. So I'll start by saying there's no one way to do it. I think there are a number of different approaches that people can take. But I usually divide it up at least of this industry into three things. One, funds can, or you know, firms can support black founders, right, by putting capital directly into their hands so that they can build their companies. Two, they can help more black talent get into early stage companies, right? So, employee 10, employee 15, employee 20, because we know that early employee equity can really change a life, right, when a company has a liquidity event, whether it's an IPO or a sale that now that person has capital to start a company or to angel invest in companies and kind of create some generational wealth for themselves. And then the third thing is getting more black dollars on cap tables, right? So ownership stakes, not just monetizing on a platform, right, for all of the amazing things that we're creating, but actually having its ownership in the platform to create generational wealth. And CLF focuses on those last two, but there are a lot of firms, again, focused on, you know, funding black founders. I think kind of focusing on those three core areas can really create economic, you know, extreme economic kind of opportunities for the black community. And so, you know, with CLF focusing on those last two, I think we've got a really special niche that we get to support in a number of ways, which I mentioned before.[00:32:26] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I feel like the closer that, or at least the more people, whether it's in this generation or in, you know, people that are a little bit older that are still trying to do it, being able to just get more focus on building generational. And just the knowledge and the mindset of it. I think all those things help. I think we're seeing more podcasts, more shows, more content from black folks that are specifically focused on this, which is great. I think, you know, there's never too much of it. So personally I think that I would love to be able to see more dollars and more hiring that happens in these places too 'cause I think we saw, especially in the past couple years, there was so many press releases that came from particular companies, and I think I saw recently there was a big tech founder that just announced, you know, a $400 million fund to invest.[00:33:16] Megan Holston Alexander: 400 million. Yeah, yeah. [00:33:17] Dan Runcie: But like, wanted to be able to actually see the results from those and being able to see the impact and being able to see people, you know, become their own Robert Smiths that can then, you know, pay for, you know, tuition for a future class. The more of those we see, and it's not just the one, you know, few names we already know would be great and I think those things will happen, but ultimately I think that's what so many of us want to see in this space. [00:33:39] Megan Holston Alexander: And there's so much embedded in this conversation, right? And I'll go on a little bit of an aside because I think one, we have to understand that like when we think about the future and black equity and empowerment, some people still don't care. Like, there are a lot of people who just do not care. It's not their problem. They don't want to help solve it. And then you have people who kind of commit to things but have no follow-through. And that's what we saw a lot of over the last couple of years. Like, after the murder of George Floyd, all these companies were like, yes, we're going to give this, we're going to do this. And then the follow-through two and a half years later is just not there. And then you have the people who are really, really committed but don't understand the expanse of the black community and think of it as a small sliver, like, really high, like, accelerators that they would want to support who still go to like a very specific set of schools, right, the talented tenth of the black people and are willing to support that. But then there is this holistic perspective around, like, non-monolithic blackness and how do we encourage economic empowerment and growth across the community as a whole? And that's what I want to get to. When we think about HBCUs, there's over a hundred of them, right? And how do we support more of them as opposed to like the same ones that get, you know, a ton of shine. Mind you, when it comes to HBCUs, like, they don't work outside of the community, be like, we depend on each other and we rely on each other. So, you know, I want to get to a more comprehensive perspective on, like, what supporting black economic empowerment looks like from a long-term perspective. So I think we'll get there, but there's a long way to go. [00:35:25] Dan Runcie: What you just said reminds me of, there was one of the tech companies that announced that they were going to have a black board member and that someone was going to take their seat away and they were going to make the opportunity for a black board member. And people were very curious, okay, who should it be? And to the point that you're making, who can we elevate to that point? Who could we provide an opportunity for? And I think they ended up choosing one of the most successful and high-profile black founders in this space. And while it is great to see that person in that role, that wasn't creating a necessarily a new opportunity in that same type of way, and it goes back to the talented tenth thing. [00:36:02] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. We're here. And you know, I think you bring up a good point when, and now we're about to get into black history, but that's okay 'cause this is for the people. Conceptually, when you think about the talented tenth that's, you know, W. E. B. Du Bois and, like, his concept from a sociological perspective, and you think about who he was at tension with the most, Booker T. Washington and this concept of the Atlanta Compromise. Two very powerful black men, the founder of Tuskegee University versus, like, the first black man to get a PhD at Harvard. Conceptually thinking there are multiple ways in which the black race can succeed. And I think that's still very much the case, right? So, you know, W. E. B. Du Bois is very much like, we should be going to college. We should be getting these advanced degrees. Like we can have these like high power jobs, et cetera, and be in government, but Booker T. Washington is like, our people down here, don't even have running water, right? We should be focused on trying to get like basic level of education, jobs that provide us, like, a source of income that's steady, et cetera. So my point is, you know, reasonable people can disagree to what the solution is. And, again, I think there's multiple approaches and so I think if we can, you know, not just go one route, right? It can't always be about only the talented tenth, but kind of like also bring up a pathway where in Booker T. Washington space, right? That's why we'll have all the like, black agricultural people. Tuskegee is, like, the best university for, like, mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. And that's all like thematically with Booker T. Washington. So there's room for both. We just have a habit of focusing on one. Ali went there and went into a total black history tangent. [00:37:38] Dan Runcie: We could do a whole episode on that. But I'm glad you brought that up 'cause I do think that analogy and just, it ties so much of this together and ultimately the purpose of the fund and what you're trying to do. When I think about the nuance of all these conversations and the comprehensiveness of it what people need to hear so thank you for that.[00:37:56] Megan Holston Alexander: Fun fact. I'm actually a sociologist by trade. It was my undergrad. My undergrad degree, I got a Master's in it. I went to get a PhD, dropped out 'cause I hated it, moved to California, and got into tech and my dog is actually named after W. E. B. Du Bois. So fun fact for the people out there.[00:38:14] Dan Runcie: Still fresh, I mean for some of that, you know, I'm sure the sociology degree may have been, you know, some time ago, but still fresh. You still got it. [00:38:21] Megan Holston Alexander: It's good stuff. I love social interaction and studying how people engage with each other. So it's my secret passion. I'm a sociology capitalist, I guess so. [00:38:32] Dan Runcie: Of course, no, I think that there's some term there. But shifting gears a bit though, this is also somewhat on a sociology perspective, especially among VCs, the concept of where to live and where people are investing in has just been a bigger discussion ever since the pandemic had started and you are someone that lived in the Bay, you've recently moved to Alabama. And it'll be great to hear two parts. One, not just why you made the move, but also what is your take right now on the Bay Area, on San Francisco, because it is such a polarizing discussion point, especially from whether it was even people I talked to when I was at the summit or in so many conversations, for me as someone that still lives here.[00:39:15] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. So it's polarizing for a lot of people, but my feeling is clear and I've always felt that, like, talent is truly, truly all over. So I moved to Alabama because, you know, I got two little babies and, you know, my parents are getting older, and I wanted to be able to have my kids spend time with them and to go to Mimi's house, and Mimi to be able to come to their school stuff. And so, you know, the pandemic really allowed us the opportunity to do that because as you know, Andreessen Horowitz moved to the cloud. Prior to the pandemic, we were very much a, you know, in office culture as most firms were. But you know, much to the credit of our leadership, they saw how much flexibility people had while still being productive and wanted to be sure that, you know, people were able to maintain that. So I'm really grateful for it. But, you know, my stance has been the same. I've always felt like people, smart people come from everywhere and they can be everywhere. I used to get really offended, actually. So I went to an HBCU undergrad. I went to Clark Atlanta, but ultimately got an MBA at Stanford. And somehow after I went to Stanford, everybody starts, like, picking up the phone for you, right? And then they'll, like, respond to your emails when they, you know, see a certain thing there. But people are like, oh, I see you went to Stanford. Like, you must be smart. And I'm like, I was smart before I went to Stanford. I was smart in Alabama, you know what I mean? And so I've always conceptually believe that, you know, yes, people get these extra markers, but that doesn't necessarily determine, like, I didn't go to Stanford and get smart. I didn't go to Stanford and get some magical thing that makes me, you know, smarter than everybody else. And so I've just always been a believer in, you know, talent being everywhere. As far as like the Bay, in particular, I do think, you know, something special happens when you can kind of create some serendipity and put people in the same place. It's not that like, oh, you know, everybody was just born there. They're very smart. It's like, no, like, people were actively coming there to join companies, et cetera. So you did get this great critical mass of people living in one place, especially when offices were in office culture. But now kind of that disbursement has happened and I think it just shows people that like, yeah, people who are interested in tech and building things. Also, they desire to live outside of the Bay Area for whatever reason, whether it's family or friends or I want to live near Warm Beach. Whatever the case is, I just think, and again, have always believed that you can live anywhere and be smart and productive and happy.[00:41:38] Dan Runcie: And I think a lot of this was inevitable. We knew that as technology got better and better, the power of conglomeration, especially from a physical location perspective, was only going to lessen. I don't think it necessarily goes down to zero. There, of course, is benefit and why people live in particular places, but I do think that what we saw the past 15 years up until maybe the past two years was at least like the last wave. And you saw it before, whether it was with, you know, the auto industry or the Midwest of all these other places. Like, we've seen this happen time and time again. But what's different now is that things are so fragmented and it makes me think a lot of things we see in music as well. We saw so many areas that were just such culture beds for where the new hot sound was coming from, where the hottest music was. And I think we still see a lot of that. But we're starting to see even that spread out of it too. So this is happening across the board. [00:42:31] Megan Holston Alexander: Yep. I agree. And, you know, I think as long as companies support their employees' needs in whatever it is to be productive, I think we'll get to the right answer. So for example, our firm allows you, if you want to go to the office, you can. There's, like, no office that exists, so, like, you can't get interaction if you desire it. But not requiring it allows both types of people to be happy. And quite frankly, like, most people don't even know I live in Alabama. Like, I'll be on the phone with somebody from work and I'll like, no, I'm in Alabama. And they're like, oh, how long you visiting for? And I'm like, no, I live here. And like, everybody's eyes bug out and they're like, what? You can be equally as productive and no one have no, you know, no idea where you are.[00:43:14] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I think that, and it's interesting, I've heard, you know, from some founders that are trying to go back in the office, some founders that are, you know, doing things remotely a hundred percent. And part of it is all that works for you, but the fact is we have options now and that's basically it.[00:43:30] Megan Holston Alexander: And I appreciate, again, the flexibility of so many companies to, like, actively buck against what the normal used to be, because I think it would've been really easy or conceptually easy to say, like, we're going back into the office. Like, that's what it is, and, you know, that's the end. But for all the companies that are like, hey, the world is changing, let me adapt. I and I know so many other people are really grateful for that. And me as a new mom, the flexibility it's given me is just huge. [00:44:00] Dan Runcie: Right. And to tie it all in too, it just allows the greatness and the genius to come from so many other areas that aren't filtered by all of the other things that let people pick from the pools of talent that existed before.[00:44:13] Megan Holston Alexander: Agreed. The CLF team, at this point, I don't think anybody's in the Bay.[00:44:17] Dan Runcie: Makes sense. [00:44:18] Megan Holston Alexander: I knew we've got New York and Miami and LA. Okay, wait, no, we do have one person in the Bay. But the fact is that this team, CLF as it is now, could not have existed if we could only be in Menlo Park. [00:44:31] Dan Runcie: Right, right. No, that's a good point. That's a good point. All right. Well, Megan, this is great. Covered a bunch. We got a deeper look behind the fund. Everything that goes behind the work you're doing.[00:44:41] Megan Holston Alexander: Wait, we're not done, are we? [00:44:43] Dan Runcie: We're getting to the tail end. We're going to the tail end. Oh, you got more? [00:44:46] Megan Holston Alexander: You couldn't convince me that that wasn't only 20 minutes.[00:44:50] Dan Runcie: No, we definitely, we definitely had some good deep dives in here. This was good. But no, before we let you go though, what's one big thing that you're excited for 2023? [00:44:59] Megan Holston Alexander: One thing I'm excited for 2023 for the fund, I am really excited to continue to, like, bring people together. In the last two and a half years, we haven't been able to do that, but CLF as a fund and as a network really relies on putting interesting people in a room together so magic can happen. And you probably heard me saying it's all around like the summit a few weeks ago. Like, my favorite part of my job is when, like, I know somebody and I know somebody else and I see them and I'm like, ooh, they need to talk. And I'll bring them together and I'll say, like, I don't know what's going to happen here, but y'all need to talk and whatever happens, give me my credit. And then I walk off. And then there's like all this like zhooshing and this magic that happens. I love those moments. So hopefully I can get to create more of those in 2023 with the awesome team that we've built at CLF.[00:45:50] Dan Runcie: Well, we'll definitely be looking out for that for sure. Megan, thank you. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for coming on. [00:45:56] Megan Holston Alexander: You as well. Thank you. I appreciate it. You're doing something very amazing with Trapital, and I mean, I just feel honored that you wouldn't let me be on your platform. [00:46:04] Dan Runcie: Of course, these are the conversations you want to have. Thank you. Appreciate that. [00:46:08] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
At the top of the episode, I talk about Trapital’s new Culture Report and our opening section on hip-hop’s “decline.” This report is sponsored by DICE, and it was a great chance to chat with DICE President Russ Tannen about the future of ticketing and live events.Russ moved to New York City in 2021 amid the pandemic with one lofty goal: grow the music ticketing platform’s business inside the competitive United States market. If that wasn’t challenging enough, this was all while live musical shows were still hard to come by. More than a year later, DICE is still in growth mode, not only in the US but with aspirations for other international markets too.Russ was a day-one employee of DICE when it started in 2013 in Europe. What separated the platform then — and to this day — is its laser focus on the music fan. Unlike its major competitors, DICE is as much a discovery platform as a point-of-sale. Using the app’s own internal data, fans are recommended local shows to attend. The recommendation system was created with the intent of improving the live music-going experience for fans. This same reason is also why the ticket price you see on DICE is the final price, no extra fees added at check-out. DICE tickets also can’t be resold outside of its app, ensuring true fans, not ticket scalpers, will have first access to see their favorite artists. Russ joined me on the show to discuss the inner workings of DICE, from the app’s unique benefits for fans, artists, and venues alike to its overarching growth strategy. Here’s everything we covered:[0:35] The Culture Report[13:01] DICE entering the US market amid pandemic[15:26] Competing against other ticketing platforms[19:58] Re-wiring consumer behavior around attending events[22:15] Prior partnership with Kanye West[23:37] Has there been any artist pushback?[25:16] Showing ticket price upfront, not at checkout[28:10] How DICE deals with ticket-buying bots[35:57] DICE’s investment in data science is paying off[35:37] Partnering with Ice Spice[38:21] Early signals that an artist is on the rise[40:22] Correlation between social media and streaming numbers on ticket sales[43:16] Differences in ticketing in US vs. other markets[46:18] Sales strategies for low-demand shows[48:46] DICE’s plans to tap more into Latin music market[52:27] Expansion is DICE’s primary focus in 2023Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Russ Tannen, @RussTannen Download The Culture Report here: https://trapital.ck.page/a23b7a6a4a Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Russ Tannen: At one point I was booking in London a 150-capacity venue, and I thought it was amazing when 400 people would show up for the hundred 50 capacity show, and we try and cram them all in. And I always saw that was an amazing sign. Those shows were always free, but obviously, now we are ticketing around the world, many of the best 100 to 200-capacity venues that exist in some of the best music cities in the world. So what's fascinating for us is to not just be speaking to the people that are running and booking those venues, but to be looking at the data of, okay, which shows sold out on and out at that level, and who's got the biggest waiting list at that level. And we see a complete global picture of that.[00:00:42] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level.   [00:01:02] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Russ Tannen. He's the president of DICE, which is a ticketing platform for live events that's working to make ticketing fairer for fans of live music. They're also working to make sure that there's personalization, so that fans have a better understanding for the music and the concerts from the people that they want to be able to see. And they've been using a ton of analytics to address some of the challenges that the live entertainment industry has faced over the years. DICE is one of the presenting sponsors for Trapital's 2022 Culture Report that is out and available. You can get that on the Trapital website or if you're on the email list. And it was great to talk to Russ about some of those findings and also get a better understanding for the main problem that DICE is trying to solve. There are several aspects of the live ticketing business from scalpers and bots that are raising prices, with artists and fans not necessarily being able to have the most direct connection possible, and fans not always necessarily knowing what concerts are in their area, other people that they may want to see, and being able to get personalized recommendations there. So Russ really brought us under the hood, painted us a picture of what the events business looks like. This is a company that started in the UK, was able to get a good amount of market share there, and is now expanding into the US. So we talked about how they're focused on the venues, specifically, that have capacity from 200 people up to 10,000, what that looks like, what the opportunities are, what some of the challenges are, and what he's ultimately looking forward to most. Here's my chat with Russ.[00:02:36] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we have Russ Tannen, who is the president of DICE, a company that is on a mission to help solve a number of the challenges right now in the ticketing and live events business. And I give you a lot of credit because this is a difficult business for a number of reasons, and you're entering a US market where I think there's so much opportunity for improvements with things. So it would be great to hear from you all, and for the folks listening, what your strategy is and why the US market's been so important for you.[00:03:08] Russ Tannen: Thanks Dan. Thanks so much for having me on. It's really good to meet you and to get a chance to have this conversation. I don't know why you think it's difficult. It's it's been so straightforward. It's been such a breeze the last nine years. No, it's definitely complicated. Before we jump into it, and I do want to tackle that one, I wanted to ask you a question first actually. What was the first concert you went to, Dan? [00:03:27] Dan Runcie: Ooh, the first concert I went to. So I am Jamaican and my parents are Big Harry Belafonte fans, so I must have been nine or so, and we all went as a family to a Harry Belafonte concert. I grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, so he had come through, so that was the first one. [00:03:44] Russ Tannen: Wow. What was the first one where you, like, bought a ticket or you were, like, going with your mates and you were, like, excited to go? [00:03:49] Dan Runcie: Okay. The first one where was actually, like, me going, it was a 50 Cent concert. He had come through, they had this concert venue, the Meadows in the Hartford area. So, yeah, we went to that. This is like right when he had, like, blown up. [00:04:00] Russ Tannen: How was it? Amazing? [00:04:02] Dan Runcie: I mean, at that age, it was amazing. I thought that it was the coolest thing ever. I mean, this was the person that everyone was talking about, Oh, you know, he got shot nine times. He's this mythical legend. And then you get to see him in this venue. And of course, you're also, you know, you're young, you're with your friends, you're finally, like, getting out, like, people are finally starting to go different places. So I really enjoy that. And yeah, I mean, that was with my own money for the first time.[00:04:25] Russ Tannen: Yeah. I love thinking about those memories. I found a picture of me going to my, like, first proper concert, which is, like, I used to have hair, obviously, when I was a teenager and it was, like, dyed green, and we were going to see Deftones and Linkin Park play. They were playing in London. And I remember just being with all my mates going, it was like the most exciting thing ever to, like, go to that show. And I love like, thinking about those things and that feeling and that emotion 'cause I think, like, if you have, like, a really amazing experience early going to a concert and feeling all of those emotions about going to see live music, then it can really stay with you, like, your whole life. And I think a lot of what we're trying to do and what we're trying to capture is that feeling for as many people as possible and to get more people having those types of experiences, like, more of the time, really just spending less time at home. Like that's what we're really, that's what DICE is all about. Like, more than being an app or being a company or all the other things that we're doing, like, it's really, like, how do you get more people to feel like they're going to the 50 Cent concert and just, like, this is it, like, but thanks for sharing that. [00:05:26] Dan Runcie: Oh, definitely. [00:05:27] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I moved to the US in April last year. So I'm joining on the call from New York at the moment. And we already had a presence here. We'd been building up the business in LA for a few years before, and obviously, the pandemic hit. And I think coming out of the pandemic, we realized that there was an opportunity to start working with a number of partners in New York and really focus on our growth here and building out a team. So when I got here in April, there were three people on the team here. We've built that out to 70 people in this office and a hundred people in the US team overall with other little posts in Miami and Nashville as well as the team in LA. And, yeah, I think it's an extremely competitive market, obviously, but I also think that one of the great things that the pandemic really showed us was just how big and how strong the independent music scene in the US really is. And a big part of that, I think, was the work that Dayna Frank did and founding NIVA and really uniting all of those independent venues together to lobby for the grants that they got to keep the businesses going. And I think that that was just like a really interesting thing t o come out of it and something that will go on for a long time and last for a long time. Now, that organization, and I think it helped to show everyone, you know, how strong the independent music scene is here and what a large opportunity for a company like ours that works only with independent venues and promoters has to build, you know, a very big business here, too, and to support all the artists that are playing in those venues. So we really focus between. 200 - 10,000 capacity. Those are the types of venues we work with. And for people that are listening that don't know what DICE is, you know, we're a mobile event discovery and ticketing app that's working directly with venues and promoters to, you know, increase sales for those shows and to do all the things you'd be expecting a ticket company to do. So, yeah, but that's really where we play. It's a very competitive space, but it's a bit different to thinking about arenas and stadiums and you know, maybe that part of the live business. [00:07:19] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. I do think that, of course, that you have, whether it's ATG or Live Nation, having those arenas and stadiums and a lot of the partnerships there, the independent opportunity is much more flexible and I think there's less pure ownership there from a lot of the big players, but I do know that there's still competition from, whether it's your folks like Eventbrite or others. How have you been able to work and gain market share given that dynamic with some of the other players from that 200 to 10K capacity venue? [00:07:51] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I think that we've been going for nine years now. And we had originally worked as promoters, we'd also run venues. We were working in artist management before starting DICE, and I think we had a number of different perspectives from day one in building the company and the kind of foundational things that we focused on were probably a little different to someone who's maybe more coming from a technology background and seeing a market opportunity and looking at how to build for the venue client. Whereas we always kind of still had a management hat on the whole time. And also we're really thinking about how to build for the fan, and we've had this kind of laser focus on building for the fan experience and that started all the way back with making it a completely mobile product, making the actual purchase of the ticket extremely easy, always showing the full price upfront so you don't get that sticker shock at the end of the purchase when it's suddenly more expensive, stopping the tickets from being sold on resale, introducing functionality like the waiting list where if a show sells out, you can join a waiting list and if tickets get returned to that waiting list, you can just pick them up at the same price. All these things that we did very early that just built a lot of trust very quickly, I think, with fans to become like their preferred platform for tickets and then through time thinking even more about social functionality connecting with your friends. We talk to fans all the time and fans would tell us the number one reason that they wouldn't buy a ticket for a show would be that they wouldn't know who to go with. But we would know that from all the fans that we had using the product, that there must be some that were already friends. So we made it so you could connect with your friends through the app, through your contacts, and then on an event level, you can actually see who from your friends is going to the show, who's been to see that artist before, who's saved that event? You can also go on a view where you can just pick, so me and you could pick this page where it will show us events to go to together based on both of our musical tastes and shows we've been to before. So there's all these things that we've built that are really just nothing to do with the person sat at the venue who's the ticketing manager, and they're all about the real end consumer being the fan. And I think that's just been a different approach to most ticket companies in the US previously that have built been more transactional. And so when we pitch, it's all about how do we actually significantly change how people are discovering the events at the venue and how do we increase the number of shows that they're going to by focusing all of their experience on the actual ticket purchase. And that's really paid off and that narrative is paid off. And when we think about a city like New York, where, you know, last when I got here, it was still events weren't happening. So obviously, you know, the number of users on the app was extremely low. We only had a few partners signed that think people were starting to think about putting shows on sale, but it was really early days. We were really selling a vision of what we could do in terms of driving sales and making people go to more shows. But now that we're 18 months in, we can see, you know, over a million people in New York City using the app every month. We can see over 40% of sales coming through discovery, which is sales that we are driving. That's really significant for the venues and promoters that we're working with and of course for the artists playing those venues. So I think that New York's a great case study for us, and we're excited to do it even more across the rest of the US and also around the world. We're already in London and Spain and Germany and France and Italy, so, yeah, we're just getting started really.[00:11:17] Dan Runcie: Let's talk a bit more about that consumer behavior aspect of this because this is where I think you make the distinction. So many of the other events promoters, it's more focused on their relationship with the artist, right? They're essentially the end consumer or the venue itself. But then it's the fan that then sees the after effects of it, whether that turns out in how tickets are resold or how they're initially sold and offered in the first place and the fees and all the other things that come up. And you all are making it more so of the destination for someone that wants to come to a show and wants to check that out, and by also with some of the other measures you mentioned, not having scalpers, resale value or resale, in general, going directly to someone on the waitlist, how do you feel like this piece of it has been? Because I think so much of this is just rewiring the psychology of how consumers think about attending live events. So of course there's the business aspect of it, but there's also a bit of retraining the customer because I think for so many years we've been trained to follow the way that it's been.[00:12:23] Russ Tannen: I know. I also think that everything is always in flux, right? And everything's always changing and shifting. And I think that the moment you stop innovating is the moment you start, like, failing, right? You've got to keep kind of pushing things forward and thinking about keeping the right north star, I think. And for us, keeping the fan experiences a North Star has been the thing that's really led to, I think, a lot of our success. And I think that with the resale piece, that's a really interesting one, how that's evolved even in the last kind of nine years since we started. And I think where we're at now is that we are so at odds with how, you know, some of the other ticket companies are doing it with integrated resale and this dynamic pricing debate that's obviously going on at the moment. And we're really at the complete opposite end of that, where we really believe that if you really rip off fans or give people an experience or perception that they're being ripped off, then the next time they think about what they're going to do with their spare money to spend on social activities or with their free time, they might not pick going to a concert, and we think it's such a short term view to be doing those behaviors. And I think definitely in the sort of capacity size of shows that we're doing and the types of independent festivals and promoters that we work with, it's just not what people want either. So when we are pitching to those partners or talking to artists even about how we do things, which is really about stopping the resale of tickets and having this completely fair waiting list platform, then a lot of them love to hear that, and that's what they want to be pitched. They don't want to be pitched that we've built a system that could squeeze every dollar out of a fan who can happen to afford it. So I think that's a better approach to be doing it. I think, like, with the resale piece, especially, a lot of the early success we had with artists was also on the fact that we could stop the resale of tickets. I was just thinking of when we worked with Kanye on the Project Wyoming launch parties around the US, it was very early for us when we just launched here. And, you know, that was one of the massive reasons that he actually wanted to use the platform was to stop the resale of tickets. So there's been lots of case studies like that that we've had where just really big artists are trying to use us just to stop resale, and I think it's a misconception that, you know, larger artists are actually all trying to just make as much money as possible from the fan using that dynamic pricing or participating themselves in resale. [00:14:39] Dan Runcie: How did the Kanye partnership develop? [00:14:42] Russ Tannen: It was really very last minute and unexpected, and it was all happening from LA, and Andrew who's on our team and was in LA at the time, running there and setting up the business there had a call very late. And so it all happened while we were asleep in London, and he'd been told to set up some links, no event details, all super secret. And then we were all in a meeting the next day and I remember him texting us saying, go to kanyewest.com, and it rerouted to a DICE ticket page for the show. So it was pretty wild. But yeah, it was via promoter that we'd been working with in LA who'd been sort of brought on to find you know, locations for those shows and stuff. And there's been lots of other examples of that, but great example of a large artist using the platform for protecting their fans, and, yeah, it was just a good one to do. [00:15:27] Dan Runcie: Do you ever experience or see any type of pushback from any artist specifically? Because one of the underlying things about scalpers is that a lot of times it's the artists themselves who also benefit from the secondary market, just with the price that is seen as what people perceive as the value for going to a particular show of theirs. And also, since some of these artists have also participated in buying their own tickets and selling them on the secondary market. Have there been any artists or instances where artists have had any pushback on that? [00:16:02] Russ Tannen: No. Like, the way that we see it is we really focus on attendance. So by having the waiting list, we're making it easy to return a ticket if you can't go, then we're going to be very, very close to a hundred percent attendance on any sold-out show. In fact, what we normally see is about a 15% increase in attendance when a venue switches from a traditional ticket company to DICE, which makes a big difference when you're in the room. And I think the artists get that. The other thing with the waiting list data that we have is that you can really see the true demand for an artist. So an example recently in London would be with Little Simz, where we did this small show and we had 11,000 people on the waiting list for her, and it's just, it was so easy for her to add another date on that show. So there's been thousands. We've had millions and millions of people on the waiting list and millions of tickets returned. But the really exciting story, I think is always when an artist sees those waiting list numbers building and actually adds a second date, and that's when they're really making money. That's a better way to do it, right, really fulfill the full demand, actually have the right number of people in the room, not just a load of tickets unsold on secondary, or use that data properly to make sure that the next show on the tour is going to be the right size, so not missing opportunity on the next go-round or on the next album. And that's one of the data pieces that we really pioneered and a lot of artists have used very successfully at this point. [00:17:22] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. On the pricing piece of things, does the fact that the ticket price, once it's set is not going to be any higher and it's not going to change, does that change either how you or the artist think about what that initial dollar amount should be relative to what they may do with a more traditional platform?[00:17:41] Russ Tannen: Well, I think that the way that ticketing fees and fees in general on to tickets has kind of evolved, has made it sort of less relevant, I think, to have it kind of separate. It's kind of all part of the pie in a way. And we just always thought that the best way to do that was to show the fans the full price upfront and explain that that includes any fees that related to the ticket. We also fight to keep fees kind of as low as they reasonably can be. So we hope that, you know, the tickets are as low as they can be, but the idea of a face value ticket in a world where that ticket is not available at that price anywhere, there's no box office to go to to buy a ticket from. There's no, you know, that ticket is never available at price. So to show that price anywhere to us feels a bit disingenuous to fans and really the, I guess, the theory is that you hook people in with the lower price, and then you just sort of surprise 'em at the end and they won't care because they're already down the journey. What we decided was that actually fans are smart, and once you've been to one show, you know that's what's going to happen. So it's better just to be upfront with people and say, look, this is the full price of the ticket including any fees that need to be added. And, you know, that's it. That's the price you're going to pay at the end. In terms of how that informs pricing, you know, we don't actually inform pricing ourselves. That's always down to, you know, the venue promoter, agent, artist. And I don't know. I don't know, maybe sometimes, because we see shows coming through now where they'll say, actually, let's put it up in 10 and make sure that that includes any of the fees. Or let's put that up for 20 or 30 and make sure that includes all the fees. So maybe a little bit is starting to happen. And, you know, I hope that's the way that that it goes 'cause people should really always be thinking about the final price that people are really going to pay. And, you know, that's another thing that fans tell us all the time that they like about the platform. It felt a little bit, I think, to begin with, counterintuitive to show people a bigger price. Like, it feels weird, almost, like, to start, but then actually if you speak to fans, then they'll say, no, It's better to know. Be upfront. How much is it going to cost me? Don't surprise me at the end. [00:19:38] Dan Runcie: And this extends industries as well, right? It's like the Airbnb thing. No one wants to be surprised to see the price double because of the cleaning and service fee ends up being twice as much as the rental. [00:19:49] Russ Tannen: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. It's just the way that we think things should be, you know, so it's a change. Like, it's been one of the big things we talk in length about with partners, especially new partners coming on board. They've done it a certain way for a long time. But actually, you know, there's all types of legislation getting passed now to actually enforce upfront ticket pricing. And I do think this will be the way that everyone does pricing for ticketing, you know, over the next five years or so. [00:20:13] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it'll be fascinating to see how that all develops. I know that DICE has invested heavily in analytics and how you think about offering the best service, and so much of this also ties back to ensuring that consumers themselves are the ones that can get their hands on tickets. So how do you address bots? Because I know that's an ongoing concern for ticketing.[00:20:35] Russ Tannen: Yeah, with bots, in particular, we were very fortunate that we started the company when we did, and we built this from scratch as a mobile company. The main thing for us really with any bots or any really anti-secondary measure is that for the most part, you know, everything is happening on mobile. We actually have two of the founders of Google Deep Mind were seed round investors of ours. And very early day,s we were terrified that one of the reasons that the company would fail would be that we would crash on a big on sale. And we used to call it the Radiohead test. Like, if we could survive a Radiohead on sale, we could survive anything sort of thing. And we actually worked and we had our CTO at the time go into Deep Mind and like work with a couple of the developers there, thinking about the architecture that would support, you know, hundreds of thousands of transactions to support on sales, but also to think about how we could protect against, you know, fake people trying to buy tickets. So we've done a lot there, a lot around security. And yeah, we haven't had a problem with it to date. So we hope that that continues. But I think, honestly, the biggest thing is that we've built this all ourselves. We have this huge, amazing product team who blow my mind every day, every year that we do this. And yeah, I think that they've built something really special. That's not something like many other ticket companies have been building on the same, they've been building on the same platforms for many, many years. And I don't think it's as, new or as, you know, as capable of handling some of these bad actors as we are.[00:21:59] Dan Runcie: And I think, too, on the analytics piece, you've also used a lot of that to inform how you think about whether it's helping artists or venues or promoters think about capacity or other dynamics involved with selling a show or with putting a show on together. Can you walk us through that process and how that informs the end product that the consumer sees when they go to a show?[00:22:22] Russ Tannen: Oh, totally. Yeah. Our first hire was a data scientist, so I don't know. It's, like, we're starting a ticket company, what do we need? Okay. Like you might think, I don't know, someone from another ticket company or, you know, an operations person or like someone from a venue. Like, we were like, no, let's hire a data scientist first, 'cause we knew that our superpower would be personalized recommendations and building an algorithm that was extremely sophisticated, that was going to show people the right shows for them., Shows that we know that they like and shows that we think they're going to like at the right time. And, yeah, so we hired this amazing guy, Greg, who still works for us and, shout out to Greg, and he's been part of the team now for many years that's been working on how to ingest all the different data points we have, starting with our onboarding process, which is all about you know, syncing with your music library, but also, you know, onboarding process, showing you different artists and genres and everything, and then starting to record all of your different behaviors in the app, which shows you're going to what you've been on a waiting list for, what you've saved, what you're browsing a lot of, and using all of that to inform your discover page, which is really the heart of DICE and the home screen when you go in there. And when we have like a critical mass inventory in a city that we're in, like, in London or Paris or Barcelona or New York, once we have that inventory, then you have an extremely personalized experience that feels almost as personalized as your streaming experience can be where there's enough inventory that you're going to see things that you're really passionate about and excited about. And we're going to package that up in different ways for you. We're going to show you things that your friends are going to, we're going to show you the genres you like, your favorite artists. We're going to show you things from your music library. We're going to show you all the shows that have been announced for you from the last seven days. Fans are always missing these announcements because there's no coordination between venues or promoters on when things announce. It's just all getting announced all the time, every day, hundreds of announcements. So, when you're looking at putting up, like in London, we're maybe 1500 a month. In New York, it's not far from that either. There's so many shows, right? Like, how as a fan are you supposed to filter that? So we filter for them using the data and the algorithms that we've built, so that we're only telling them about on a Thursday, here's the shows that announced to you this week. And that's really where all of that. You know, that's the biggest piece from a fan perspective of where that all that investment that we've made in data analytics really comes to life, away from the numbers and the stats and everything. That's, like, the real-world use of it. And that's what's driving, you know, that massive percentage, that 40 percentage of sales that we're seeing come from discovery and from the push notifications we're sending. And, like I said before, I think the person, the people that really benefit from that is the artist because that's just sales that are just happening organically through the product that we've built and not another post that they have to do or another ad they have to pay for, which always comes out of their pocket eventually. So, yeah, that's where that investment pays off. [00:25:09] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That 40% number is quite high, and it's impressive, I think, just given that this isn't something where people are necessarily consuming their product itself on the platform, right? And I think sometimes that discovery versus on-demand breakdown, you would likely expect that more from, as you mentioned, streaming something where you aren't consuming the actual product there. So the fact that you've been able to do that there is quite strong. And I do have to assume that given the investment that's been put into the data science and the fact that you can direct people and understand what people like, are there any desires or goals to be able to use the platform and the insights you have on these customers to offer them things in addition to concert ticket notifications or things like that, or other ways to leverage it knowing that you're reaching music fans?[00:25:58] Russ Tannen: Yeah, there's two. There's two parts to that. One is, I think, uniquely with DICE, we've built it in a way that what we saw before was that people would discover the show in one place, then they would listen to the artist on their streaming platform. They would invite their friends through their messaging app, and then they'd buy their ticket from the ticket company. And what we tried to do was build that stack into DICE. So you're going to open DICE and discover the show. It's all integrated with Spotify and Apple Music to preview the artist, so you're going to listen to the artist in the app. You can invite your friend directly through the app and then obviously buy the ticket there as well. So what we see is more of the journey happening there. Obviously, the event itself happens off of the app, but a lot more of the actual process of the functional and the emotional parts of like, going to the show, like who you're going to go with, for example, that can all happen within the app and people just spend a bit more time in the app than I think that they would on a traditional ticketing site where it's more like search to purchase is the normal journey, I'm sure, almost all of the sales. So I think that's where we've managed to extend the amount of time people are in there. We are really excited about sort of commerce in general, and we'd made an announcement previously around merchandise and sort of doing more merchandise and things like that, and that's something you're going to see a lot more from us in the new year as well. So, absolutely, and that's something that we already do. We do some really interesting things with Rough Trade Records in New York and also in London where we'll do, like, vinyl bundles with album launch tickets and things like that. So there's already other parts of commerce kind of happening through the app. And ultimately I think the product is well-designed to make it very easy for people to buy things. So yes, whether we're selling them a ticket, or we're selling an artist something alongside the ticket, or we're adding something onto the ticket, I think that it's a natural progression for us and something that we're excited about exploring more. [00:27:44] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And I know a lot of the data analytics discussion leads we've had here is focused more so on the consumer side. Does it inform as well things on the business side, such as the artists, thinking about what size venues that they may want to be in or the promoters thinking about how best to organize things?[00:28:02] Russ Tannen: Yeah, we've been working, I'd say that there's definitely some artists and teams who have been really tapped into that. And, you know, we have a whole artist development team based out of London, New York, LA, and they're working directly with artists and agencies and managers on these data reports where we're really showing them not just where we're seeing a lot of activity from their fans, but we're doing things like suggesting support acts based on other shows that the artists' fans have been to see that might be smaller shows, or we're looking at what cities we think they should play there. We're doing a lot of that on a very kind of bespoke level with artists and also working with artists on getting them into more of the DICE venues and thinking about really make sure that from day one, they're treating their fans well and building that community on DICE, using that waiting list data to plan the next show. There's been lots of successful stories and artists that we've done that with, but just one that's top of mind, a New York artist that's coming up would be Ice Spice, who we're working with on just doing a first show somewhere, so it's not announced yet. But our artist team here is working closely with her team on planning something there, and I think that's really exciting, like, an artist that's blowing up, who's also really keen to make sure that the experience for the fans is going to be amazing from day one, from show one. [00:29:11] Dan Runcie: So with someone like Ice Spice who is clearly having a moment right now, what does that onboarding, the initial process, look like? Is it similar to the Kanye example where these things happen, or did someone on your team looking and scouting to see who's bubbling and then reaching out to be like, hey, let's make this happen?[00:29:28] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I guess I kind of take it for granted now 'cause we've been doing it for so long, but, you know, we literally have a meeting that probably looks more like an A&R meeting at a record label where we are really saying, okay, what are people hearing? What arts are coming through? And that's how we've really, like, you know, a ton of artists now over the years, we've really identified very early as artists that we want to support and have worked with very closely on different types of shows that they want to do. Like, another example that's kind of top of mind would be someone like Cuco, who he identified very early and worked with on this huge block party that he did in LA a few years ago and continue to build that relationship with. But there's really, like, thousands of examples now, so, probably over a thousand artists this year. By the end of the year, it'll be over a thousand artists would have really worked with us very closely, not just on having a show through the platform, but whether we've informed which venue they play or which promoter they're working with or helping them with the marketing on that event or some other really tangible thing that we've done with them. And really that artist development team, I think is, part of kind of, like, the special source of DICE that's like just a bit different to what a traditional ticket company would do. And I really think the fact that we're able to do that is because of the brand that we've built around DICE, and it is a platform and a brand that I think artists do feel comfortable with and want to be associated with as well versus, like, maybe a traditional ticket company that wouldn't have that same kind of feeling to it. [00:30:46] Dan Runcie: Right. For the A&R piece of it, 'cause I think that's interesting and I think that it makes a lot of sense, what are the factors that go into the decisions that you're looking at? Because I know I talked to a few folks and there's been a bit of debate around which stats make sense to follow, which stats don't make sense, what's more signal versus noise, how do you determine that? [00:31:06] Russ Tannen: Well, I think, we obviously have, obviously, this really interesting data ourselves. So a lot of the venues we work with at the smaller level. And at one point I was booking in London a 150-capacity venue, and I thought it was amazing when 400 people would show up for the hundred 50-capacity show, and we try and cram them all in. And I always saw that was an amazing sign. Those shows were always free, but obviously, now we are ticketing around the world, you know, many of the best 100 to 200 capacity venues that exist in, in some of the best music cities in the world. So what's fascinating for us is to not just be speaking to the people that are running and booking those venues, but to be looking at the data of, okay, which shows sold out on and out at that level, and who's got the biggest waiting list at that level. And we see a complete global picture of that. So some of the data points that I think we are finding most interesting are actually the ones that we're seeing very early come from our own data. And then I think that that's always going to be the debate on the, you know, the taste versus, or the gut versus data kind of thing, and a lot of that comes from hiring amazing people, like, we have on our artist development team whose judgment we trust very much to pick the things out that are really going to cut through. But yeah, I definitely think seeing some of those early signals, which may, in the grand scheme of things, look quite small, but I think if you are playing a hundred-capacity show and you have a hundred people on the waiting list, that's a great sign because if you're already driving 200 fans to a show, and you are brand new then, I think that's harder than going from, you know, 3,000 to 5,000 and finding those 2,000 people, I think those first 200 is really difficult. [00:32:39] Dan Runcie: How important is streaming data or social media engagement or following in your analysis? [00:32:47] Russ Tannen: I have to talk to the team about how much they're tracking that. I think it feels more like, Ice Spice is a good example of this. So we are talking about Ice Spice, Morgan on the team who's working with her team is telling me about this track, and he thinks it's going to be big, and we're talking to them about doing a show. And then in the time from when we first started speaking to her team to today, you know, her Instagram following has gone from, you know, in the tens of thousands to in the millions. And so it's more like a, we're right about this one moment. It didn't matter a few months ago or whatever, that there was only 10,000 followers or whatever. We wouldn't have ignored it 'cause it didn't have millions of followers already. But I think that now it's more like, okay, yeah, that is a good signal that this is really going to blow up.[00:33:27] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I think just given that large number, it's hard to ignore that. It's been interesting though. I've talked to agents on this platform and they've said that they don't see as much of a correlation between streaming numbers and ticket sales. And of course, I think there's nuance there. Yes, someone like Drake or Bad Bunny that's doing 10 billion streams a year is obviously going to be in arenas and stadiums, but I think it was more so highlighting that some of the newer artists, it can be tougher because you have people that have, you know, so much of a strong following, but they may not necessarily have that following because of their music or because of other things about them. So, and I think we've just started to see more and more of that. So it does create, in some ways, a bit of a unique opportunity for the promoters or events companies that can be able to determine, yeah, like what is the true signal and what are the things that have less weight?[00:34:19] Russ Tannen: Yeah. We really want to try and work with managers and agents more and more on providing this data that we see so that they get a sense of what is really happening 'cause it is just so different. I think if someone's put their hand in their pocket and spent $30 on going to a show versus hearing a track on a playlist, obviously, like, it's just not the same type of commitment at all. So we're working to keep growing that team and expanding the number of artists that we're having that type of relationship with. And, yeah, anyone listening who wants to get in touch with our artist team is very welcome to as well, and you can do that through the site. But, yeah, we are keen to be talking to as many labels and managers, agents everyone really who's interested in kind of digging into that, especially if their artists already have shows on DICE as well on in any of our venues. We'd love to get into that with them. [00:35:04] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. Switching gears a bit, going back to the entrance and really expanding things in the US market, one of the things that stuck out to me from your past interviews was how you talked about how live events and concerts is much more of a localized business, and I'm sure that the experience that you all had in Europe and everything in the UK, there's slightly likely some differences considering things being localized, whether it's in New York City or some of the other markets here. What are some of those notable differences that you've picked up on in the US and some of the cities in the US as opposed to things in the UK? [00:35:41] Russ Tannen: I'd say that one of the biggest differences is more of a technical thing, I guess, for us, which is that in European markets, the people who actually control the tickets, it's much more spread. So on one show you could have 10 ticket companies selling tickets for the same show, and then it's really just like on the fan to have a preferred outlet or who's, you know, boosting their link the most, honestly. So it's a little bit different versus the US where it's exclusively with the venue. So every show pretty much has one ticket company and it makes the market difficult to break into honestly because of that. It's very binary. You're either working on the show or you're not. Versus when we started in London, we could say, hey, to a promoter, we want 10 tickets to the show, and we would be able to list the show. So if you were going onto the app, you could see all these amazing artists playing. But we didn't have more than 10 tickets sometimes or 20 tickets versus US, where you really have to have the whole inventory and you have to be in a position to do it. I also think that how the market worked in Europe was one of the reasons that we invested so much in the discovery piece because we were competing on every single show. We had to sell our allotment of tickets versus in the US. I think the ticket companies as soon as they've signed the venue, they're almost more lazy maybe about it. So they haven't spent so much on discovery piece. And I think that's why, you know, our discovery story here and the way that it's working here is kind of a rich one and honestly just better for fans. But we needed to do it that way around. I think it would've much harder to start here and then go into Europe. So I'm glad it works the way it did. But that's been one of the big differences. I think for us, really, we're just excited about finding all of the best kind of quality independent operators, whether they're promoters or venues, and really helping them grow their businesses as well. And we love venues that have just really well-curated programming, like, we love the programming. Elsewhere, for example, is another New York venue that we work with where super diverse, amazing program that just kind of ticks all these different boxes, but always hits this quality bar that just seems like almost impossibly high, like, every night. It's really special. So we are really, like, excited about working with people like that. And New York such, it's an amazing city for music. So it's nice that this is kind of our main base here at the moment in the US. [00:37:55] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And given that in the US, things are much more all or nothing, does that have any type of impact on how the tickets may go throughout the entire process? I know at least in the US, I've seen a few things. If a ticket is on for a while. And we talked a lot about scalpers and just their influence when tickets and the demand increases, right? We haven't talked as much about when the demand decreases 'cause I know that at times, I've seen things where artists will have their tickets go on Groupon and places like that where they'd be offered for a much lower price. How has that piece of it been in the US where, let's say there's a show that you've wanted to put on and if the resellers are needing to sell for the same price, but the demand itself may not necessarily reflect where it is, or if the artist is struggling to sell, how does the pricing dynamic impact that?[00:38:43] Russ Tannen: Yeah, I think you obviously see that, and not every show can be a sellout with, you know, tickets being sought after. I think that there's different strategies around that always. I think that for a lot of our partners, they're more used to handling all of that themselves where maybe we might be able to work on doing like competition strategy or just doing discounts or looking at other marketing channels or extra support that we can give to a show, whether that's really checking that we've done and reached all of the different audiences we think might be interested in a show and really keeping that as mobile and really trying to stay away from email, honestly. I think that one of the changes, if you think about how event marketing has changed through the years from kind of posters to magazine adverts to heavy social media to email, I think those email days are very much on the way out and really focusing on our push notification strategy and just having a very sticky product that people going to keep coming into naturally to check. That's going to be the best way to really thinking about increasing sales on low-selling shows. I think it was also a really interesting summer for people just being very honest about their ticket sales. Like, there were literally artists just coming out and saying, you know what? We're canceling these shows. We haven't sold enough tickets. Like, that was kind of new. I think people haven't been that straight up before, but that was definitely happening a bit this summer. And I think that it was a hard summer for lots of artists and lots of events and also some people had some huge success. So it's definitely a kind of uncertain time still, only obviously one year or so out of COVID and shows being back. I think that people are still feeling some of that after effects. There was a, obviously, huge rebound last summer that we really felt here as we were putting together the team still, and then suddenly we had all these venues turning on and using the product for the first time. So that was an interesting experience. But this summer I think things kind of bounced the other way a little bit, and we're going to hit a steadier stride coming into the end of the year, and I think next year is one that people are going to find easier to plan for, hopefully. [00:40:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I bet. And I think that we saw a few things happen this summer. As you mentioned, there was some success, but I think it definitely was a bit subject to that power law, right, where the folks at the top were able to sell out and have their tickets sell for whatever the dynamic pricing set them at. And then a lot of the artists that were either your middle class of artists or emerging definitely struggled. But one area that I do see huge amount of opportunity is Latin America and in our Trapital Culture Report 2022, we talked a lot about how much growth Latin Music has had. Of course, Bad Bunny, but there's many of other artists as well. What does your Latin American strategy look like for DICE? [00:41:11] Russ Tannen: I saw that in your report and, yeah, it totally reflected what we have been seeing as well, actually pulled the stats to share with you as well as you've done such great work. So it was fun to kind of pull something back. So Latin ticket sales for us increased nine times in the past year, so, 829% 2022 to 2021. And Latin events listed on DICE have quadrupled 2022 from 2021. So we are absolutely seeing the same. It's obviously huge. We've been working with people like the Paramount in LA and for a long time, been working with lots of Latin artists. We just did a show last year with Karol G at United Palace, with the Cuco show I mentioned, we did Bad Gyal in Spain. And also we haven't touched on it yet in this interview, but last year we bought Boiler Room, and they've also had a lot of success with Latin and Reggaeton programming, and worked with many artists, especially at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, which was another one of the festivals we work with where we had Boiler on stage this year. And they had this amazing program there, which included lots of Latin acts. So I think that, yeah, like, I think the whole industry's feeling it. I think it's super exciting. I think it's so cool. And I think that people are still discovering a lot of this incredible talent, and it just feels like a nice moment to have that exposure. I think for us more on the venue side. We're also doing this big push into Miami, and we just signed our first venues in Miami. And we're really excited about building that up there. And we just signed Club Space there, but there's many, many more venues there that we're looking to sign. So yeah, I think this is just like an interesting time. We're probably a little bit further away from actually launching in Latin America itself. But, you know, our partners Primavera Sound are just doing, over the next couple of months, are doing their first festivals down there, which are selling really well. Like, they're going to be really, really well. So definitely got my eye on maybe trying to make it down for one of those and checking it out. But yeah, it feels exciting, doesn't it? [00:42:52] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it definitely does. 9x is impressive, and it's especially impressive because I think that a lot of the folks in the music industry are seeing the top line numbers on Latin, and they may assume, okay, well, yes, the Bad Bunny effect, his album is dominating. The difference for you all though is that you don't have artists that are like the Bad Bunny level. Well, I know you're working with them, but since you're primarily focused on that 200 to 10,000 capacity, it means that you're seeing this at that level, too. And that says, and I think that should instill a lot of confidence that this isn't just one or two artists that are pulling up everything. This is an entire movement. [00:43:30] Russ Tannen: It's a really good point. Yeah. I think that's a really nice way to look at that data. And that's, yeah, it's absolutely what we're seeing and I think definitely it's hitting that point where it's not just that kind of trickle-down effect, but it's also like this bottom-up ground swell of artists coming through. So, yeah, that's definitely the right way to think about that, I think, that's awesome. [00:43:48] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think that Africa, with what's happening with afro beats and some of the other sub-genres there, that's next up. It's only going to, I mean, it's already happening, but it's only a matter of time. [00:43:58] Russ Tannen: It's happening, yeah, yeah. [00:43:59] Dan Runcie: You know, we see those numbers start to have even bigger and bigger market share. [00:44:03] Russ Tannen: Yeah, it gets me excited 'cause we're, you know, it takes so much every time we launch into a new country, and we kind of have to do it kind of one by one, and it's a big focus. But we really want to build DICE into being a global business and be truly global. And that doesn't mean just the kind of markets that have this really established touring infrastructure, all these other things. We want to be everywhere and explore all of these different genres and cultures in a way that makes sense. And, yeah, we're excited to be everywhere in the next few years. But in the meantime, yeah, we are helping, you know, do what we can to support all different types of music and sub genres of music and subcultures within music, and we just keep an eye on what we think the next big thing is going to be as well. [00:44:42] Dan Runcie: Definitely. Well, Russ, this has been great. Before we let you go though, what's one big thing that's on your radar for DICE that you're focusing on for 2023? [00:44:52] Russ Tannen: I think for us the big thing for us next year is really going to be expanding across the rest of the country here. We are really excited to be in tons of cities, and there's so many amazing music cities in the US as you well know. And we're excited to keep building and be everywhere because we want to be sat having conversations with artists where we can talk about doing a full US tour with them, playing all in venues that we work with, and helping them to plan how to grow across the country. So that's going to be the big push for next year. [00:45:22] Dan Runcie: Nice. Exciting stuff. All right. Well, if people want to follow along with DICE and if they want to set up their own profile, where do they go? [00:45:30] Russ Tannen: They can go straight to dice.fm. So that's the best place if you want to partner with us, if you want to get in touch with the arts development team, if you are a promoter or a venue that wants to work with us, everything's there. If you want to buy tickets and play around with the app, then head to, you know, the app store, iOS, Android, and download the app and have a play around with it. And yeah, let us know what you think. And people are more than welcome to get in touch with me directly as well. So it's just russ@dice.fm and they can email me directly. It's great. [00:45:57] Dan Runcie: Nice. Sounds good. And yeah, the next time that Kanye throws one of these impromptu listening parties or these Wyoming get-togethers, I'll look to see if I see that DICE redirect. [00:46:09] Russ Tannen: Yeah, oh, well, I'll let you know if it's going to happen. I'll give you the heads-up. [00:46:12] Dan Runcie: Right. Sounds good. Thanks again, Russ. It's a pleasure. [00:46:14] Russ Tannen: Thanks so much, Dan. Thanks.[00:46:18] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Rory founded HitPiece two years ago. HitPiece is an NFT marketplace focused solely on music collections. While in beta earlier this year, unauthorized NFTs from big-name artists became available for purchase on HitPiece. HitPiece was hit with wide-spread backlash from artists, the RIAA, and many others for copyright infringement. The company quickly went dark while the team recalibrated its business. Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Most artists want career growth and they want it fast — sometimes to a fault. This is where Curren$y is an outlier. From the jump, Curren$y set out to grow both his career and fanbase slowly but steadily. He successfully did that and it’s a reason why he’s not only stayed in the rap game for almost twenty years, but is now still earning more money, and at a career point where most of his peers coming up have already fizzled out.Curren$y and his longtime manager, Mousa, joined me on this week’s episode to explain how zigging when others zagged contributed to their career longevity. One instance is leaving his hometown Cash Money Records label to create their own, Jet Life. The two have been able to morph the brand into a full-on business empire that now includes apparel, athlete management, products, and more verticals on top of the music label. The duo built Jet Life on the back of touring and being true to their audience. To do so, they turned down more brand partnerships they can remember and even music festival appearances at times — no matter how good the bag was for each. These trend-bucking moves were covered at length in our interview. Here’s what we covered:[3:15] New Orleans folks are immune to heat[4:44] Mousa and Curren$y relationship began in 2005[8:49] Growing Jet Life business beyond a record label[11:45] Turning down non-authentic business opportunities[15:59] Emphasizing touring early in Curren$y’s career[19:21] Releasing an EP as an NFT[23:52] Curren$y’s take on streaming farms[29:47] Macro-view of Jet Life revenue streams[34:47] Touring is cornerstone of Jet Life business[37:08] Performing on own shows vs. music festivals[43:48] Festival money goes to sports car dealership[45:16] Curren$y’s partnership with NASCAR (and problems with Coca-Cola)[50:37] What’s the secret to a great artist-manager relationship? Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Mousa Hamdan & Curren$y, @MOUSA504 & @spitta_andretti  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Curren$y: You can always expand and try new things, but if it feels wrong on the core, then you're setting yourself up. We never made a move like that. No matter what deal comes across the table 'cause he's money first. But he'll tell the people, the check writer like, man, just let me talk to bro. Because at the end of the day, he's going to hear me say it's half a million dollars, but he might say it's a boring job and he might not want to do it. [00:00:32] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:54] Dan Runcie: Listen, you're going to love today's episode. It is with one of the most successful independent artists in the game and his longtime manager. We got Curren$y and we got Mousa. If you've been following Curren$y's journey for a while, you know that he was originally on No Limit Records 20 years ago. He left the record label. He then went to join Young Money. He was a little early on the Young Money Train, but he ended up leaving the record label before Nicki and before Drake blew up and he started his own. He started Jet Life, and he's been building up his career as an independent artist, and it's been great to see how he has navigated both how he releases music and also how he approached his business overall. And that was a big focus of this episode. We talked about his strategy for releasing music, and Curren$y is someone that is very prolific in terms of the amount of music that he puts out, but it also gets him plenty of opportunities to be able to go on tour, to be able to have several other business ventures that they have through Jet Life and through other areas. We talked about what they're doing in cannabis as well. We talked about the nightclub that they have, the apparel business, and a whole lot more. We also talked about a few partnerships that you may be surprised by, but I still think that fit well within the ethos for what Jet Life is and what Curren$y is trying to build. We even talked about some of the movie deals and opportunities that Curren$y had turned down. I don't want to spoil it. It's a really good one, but this was a really fascinating conversation, is also been great to just see how long these two have stuck together. If you're a big fan of this podcast, these are the type of episodes that you come for. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here's my chat with Curren$y and Mousa. [00:02:41] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we're joined by the duo themselves. We got Curren$y and we got Mousa here, the artist-manager combination. How are you guys doing? [00:02:49] Curren$y: Man, we can't complain. The weather is nice outside and it is been pretty bad out here in Orleans. It's been a hundred degrees and raining every day, but right now it's sunny, 86 degrees, you know what I'm saying? I got long sleeves on, top down, having a good day. I can't complain. [00:03:07] Dan Runcie: See, that's the one thing about folks I know from New Orleans, like it could be 86 degrees and y'all are still in long sleeves. Y'all are still in hoodies. [00:03:15] Curren$y: Well, it is, well, because it is the heat, we're already adjusting. It's just hot in here. So now we've gone more fashion-forward, bro. It's like, just fuck it, bro. Wear what you want to wear because it's still going to be 190 degrees no matter what. So just go for it. I don't really condone that lifestyle unless you have a car. A lot of my younger brothers I see walking up and down the street, and they definitely look like they're about to commit crimes because it's a hundred degrees and they got on the hoodie and I'm, like, weary of, I'm like, hold on, you know what I'm saying, because, fuck, that don't make no sense. You dressed for action. But if you are in the car, you are in the office, you are in the studio. That's where that look really originated. People always tell me, II'm dressed like that forever, but it's been because most of my life has been like tour bus, studio, even when it wasn't me, I was like a little guy on Masterpiece bus. It was 60 degrees, you know what I'm saying? And these big mansions, it's cold as shit. So I just grew acclimated to dressing like that. I think I might have spearheaded that. I honestly, I think that I may have spearheaded that, but what haven't we spearheaded over here, you know?[00:04:25] Dan Runcie: It's true, especially folks at New Orleans, folks like y'all are trendsetters. And one of the things that I feel like sets y'all apart is that you've been doing this for so long, and you've been doing this for so long together. I mean, Mousa, you've been managing Curren$y now for, since '05, right? I know you do 'em before, but you started managing, like, '05, right?[00:04:44] Mousa Hamdan: We're friends before, but definitely since '05, since he joined in with Lil Wayne, with Young Money, Cash Money. So I think that's when he brought me on and asked me to come on as his manager. [00:04:53] Curren$y: Yep. Yeah. [00:04:54] Mousa Hamdan: And you know...[00:04:55] Curren$y: As soon as there was business to manage. [00:04:58] Mousa Hamdan: Right. [00:04:58] Curren$y: You know, right? While I was just slinging t-shirts, like ordering 28 t-shirts on a month, pressing CDs upstairs at my apartment, that was easy to do. When it began to grow and I saw, like, my two homes wasn't going to be enough to handle it, you know, what could I do but reach out to the one homie who I knew forever who don't want to smoke no weed with me, who don't want to get drunk with me, you know what I'm saying? Like, who's just like totally, his high is the business, deals closed and stuff gone successfully is him having a drink, you know what I'm saying? So it worked. It works like that.[00:05:36] Mousa Hamdan: Definitely. I like achieving goals. You know, I'm a goal seeker. And once you achieve one goal, set another one, you know? And that's my inspiration is to see how big we could really take this Jet Life, how, you know, how big deal this will be, and how long we can make it last. I mean, I thought about this morning, I was talking to one of my other homies, I was like, we've been in this game a minute, bro. Like, and he was like, look, I've been home for a little while and y'all been doing this a long time. So I say, yeah, definitely, but we not done, you know. We’re nowhere near done. We really just starting, we really starting to grow even more now. [00:06:12] Curren$y: That's crazy to say that, and that's really the truth, to be here in the game. Like, Jet Life, we're like over a decade, and each year it just gets bigger. That's really what you want. It's not a big, hasn't been just one big explosion. It's a slow burn. But it is guaranteed. And we've always grown. A lot of times you see people struggling, like, not to lose ground in the game, you know, and stay relevant. And that's never been a problem with us because we've been blessed to be able to, like, generate or, like, create our own world, you know what I'm saying? And the people who listen to our music or who dress, some people dress only in Jet Life apparel. And it is because they don't give a fuck about nothing else, you know what I'm saying? They've had their time to see what the world had to offer, and they saw that ours was just uncompromised. So they lend themselves to it a hundred percent. And that's been enough to sustain, like, the lifestyle that we have. And the people that support us, they like to pass by the Jet Life store just to see what cars we might have outside. So they continue to support us because now we're going to park more and more shit. Like, they the ones who help us do it, you know? So it's good. It's good. [00:07:27] Mousa Hamdan: It definitely is. It's really a lifestyle, you know? I think it's, you know, from the beginning I remember, Curren$y said in interviews as well as told me directly, like, you know, his vision of seeing how Jet Life and how he wanted to grow. He always said it was like a balloon. And I listened, I heard that, and I was like, he's right. He's like, you could either, you could blow air in it fast and it's going to blow big and then it's going to explode and it's over. Or you could blow in it slow and it's going to slowly blow. [00:07:57] Curren$y: Yeah. Fucking right. [00:07:58] Mousa Hamdan: Then you show the longevity. And that's what we did. We're blowing it slow. [00:08:02] Curren$y: Yep.[00:08:03] Mousa Hamdan: But look at us. We're still here. There's a lot of people that we saw that came before us and during us who we feel like, oh yeah, they got the light quick and they blew up fast. But then what happened? And you know, they're not around no more.[00:08:16] Curren$y: Something explodes, it ceases to exist.[00:08:19] Mousa Hamdan: It's done.[00:08:20] Curren$y: I've never seen anything, you know what I'm saying, explode that still had it ever, you know? [00:08:26] Dan Runcie: Right, oh yeah. You know, and I feel like with y'all, specifically, you're able to see the trajectory. You're able to see everything that you've accomplished, too, because I look at Jet Life, and it started as the imprint for your record label, but now you have your apparel, you also have the other businesses you have. How would you describe the current businesses? What are the current things under Jet Life right now? [00:08:49] Mousa Hamdan: Well, we got, of course, like you said, it started with records, Jet Life Records. And then it went to, we started doing tour merch, which grew into Jet Life Apparel. We were in now Jet Life Athletics. So we started to do deals with managing athletes and growing that brand. Then of course, we've other stuff that's not necessarily labeled Jet Life, but we've opened up a nightclub in New Orleans, so so that's something that's coming. [00:09:16] Curren$y: We got a big footprint in the cannabis community. We got a couple of other startups, like a coffee shop and a cereal bar we're going to launch. We already have two films out, so, I mean, if you want to say Jet Life Films is in existence, that is true. It's so much stuff that we do, but the circle is so tight, like, nobody's going to tell the other one. Like, bro, you realize what we doing because we are still in the midst of doing it. Like, an outside person would have to come in and really show us how many businesses and what's all under the umbrella 'cause we really just wake up and try to, like, just make sure we make something happen, you know, every day. If you want to label it and put a name on it, then, it was news to me, right now just listening to how much stuff we have going on. [00:10:04] Mousa Hamdan: We forgot Starting Line Hobbies.[00:10:06] Curren$y: Yeah, we got hobby shop bro, like that. See? So the more you sit down… [00:10:11] Mousa Hamdan: We forget some of the business. But they exist and they're profitable, right?[00:10:16] Curren$y: He's got an auto body shop, it's still in existence. That's really where a lot of it comes from, his whole foray into it all was being able to survive if one thing fell down. Even though the music was the one that paved the way and drew the attention, the industry is fickle. So you see people like, we see them rise and you think they going to build this whole empire, they end up with a warehouse full of shit. They can't move bobbleheads of themselves. Nobody wants t-shirts, nobody wants home furnishing. Nobody wants it, fucking goes that way, you know what I'm saying? And we've been blessed to like, now we got two or three warehouses, you know what I'm saying? But we're moving the shit, you know. So it's just about staying true and not, we never really tried to do too much, nothing outside of what felt right to us. You can always expand and try new things, but if it feels wrong on the core, then you're setting yourself up. We never made a move like that. No matter what deal comes across the table 'cause he's money first. But he'll tell the people, the check writer like, man, just let me talk to bro. Because at the end of the day, he's going to hear me say it's half a million dollars, but he might say it's a boring job and he might not want to do it even though it's half a million dollars. So he'll just check with me, you know what I'm saying? We probably go and do the 'shit anyway 'cause it's half a million dollars. But he checks with me because in my heart of hearts, I might want to say no, but I got a kid and shit. [00:11:45] Mousa Hamdan: I'll definitely ask him. Do you want to do this though? [00:11:49] Curren$y: Yeah. And I got respect for him for doing that. The fact that he compromised his money mentality that asks me that much, gives me the strength to be able to say, you know what, fuck it, bro, you gave, I'll give. I'm going to come and do this shit, you know what I'm saying? And then lo and behold everybody wins, you know? [00:12:07] Dan Runcie: Yeah. What's an example of something that you have turned down? Like, Mousa, 'cause it sounds like you're the one that's seeing the things and you're thinking about, oh, this is the bag, but is this something that fits with the Jet Life lifestyle?[00:12:18] Curren$y: There's a lot of those, like, TV shit that'll come across, you know what I'm saying? I hope that he knows, I don't care. So he would say, I'm going to jump out in front of you, like, you don't see because these people still come up with more and more ideas. And eventually, they might put, they might table something that we want to pick up. But we've slammed them because it's like, bro, you know, just looking at something where they say, well, he can say it in his own words, but the way they phrase it makes me like, I'll never put this in my own words, I don't want to fucking do it. You know, just fuck it, you know what I'm saying? Or like post, they'll try, you know, they'll pay you for social media stuff just to say you like something or you can't wait for something to fucking hit the theaters. And I'm like, you know what? Fuck no. I don't want to say that. Because as soon as I post this, my fucking true audience is going to say, you know, how much did you get, bro? They'll say shit like that. I don't want to play them like that. [00:13:15] Mousa Hamdan: Yeah. I think we've known each other long enough and I know his answers on some things. Some things I won't even bring to him.[00:13:22] Curren$y: For sure. [00:13:23] Mousa Hamdan: You know, we had some stuff like, you know, I'll be honest with you, like, you know, media companies that come and say, well, you know, let me post this on your page or do this, that, and the others, and it's clickbait. And he was like, nah, bro, I don't want my fans clicking on that. [00:13:37] Curren$y: Yeah, I don't want that. I'm the one who have to answer for this shit.[00:13:41] Mousa Hamdan: I don't care how much it is. And the fans aren't crazy. They'll be like, Curren$y, that shit was clickbait, bro. [00:13:46] Curren$y: They're like, what? Or you had to, bro? Like, I have all that kind of shit. So I'm just like, let's save the company who wants to pay us the embarrassment of when they realized this was not organic and it didn't cross over. Like, now they won't want to spend any money. They may not want to spend money with us later on, on something that might actually work, you know? So it's just better to just say, you know, it is better to protect yourself that way. You end up in the long run, you still make that money. A few times people have double-backed because they realize, you know what, that was kind of lame. I can't believe we asked them to do that shit. And then they come back with something way dope after they've researched me, you know? 'Cause immediately you do a Google search and you are like, all right, cool. We'll get him to do the new weed spray. Let's get him to endorse this new air freshener that kills the weeds, man. Like, bro, the fuck? Like, I'm not even living like that. I'm actually a boss and I don't have to conceal the weed smell in my fucking life, you know what I'm saying? Like, I'm not promoting shit. [00:14:46] Dan Runcie: I'm even come to you with a deal like that though, knowing you. [00:14:50] Mousa Hamdan: Yeah, yeah. They'll bring all type of deals, bro. They'll try and get you out of character if you let them. You know, they'll push the button. [00:14:57] Curren$y: But it feels like trolling a lot of the time. Like, are they trying to see if I would do this, you know what I'm saying?[00:15:03] Dan Runcie: Right. [00:15:03] Mousa Hamdan: I don't think they understand that he's not saying he's true to his lifestyle. He is actually true to it. He's not going to do anything that's going to bend. [00:15:11] Curren$y: It's not about money. We got enough pots on the stove. It's a six-burner stove. And we have pots with food and all of them are cooking, you know what I'm saying? So when somebody comes with the bullshit, it's like, all right, let's just go dip in this, right, quick. You know, like I I've done that with music, when I feel like, it is just sometimes I get a little down on myself just based on the climate of music, you know? And I'll fall back and maybe I'll just come up here and we'll just make a whole collection of clothes at that time, you know? And we were able to keep the lights on and shit through the apparel. If I said fuck it from here on end, you know what I'm saying? But it just so happens, like, I get my win and it is fun again, and I want to do it. You know, so we're lucky as shit.[00:15:59] Dan Runcie: That makes sense, yeah. It's a good position to be in, right? You understand your brand, you understand what makes sense. You're only going to do certain types of deals. And I feel like this goes back to the way that you just go about this industry overall, right? You were early in terms of, let me put out my music and if people get it for free, they may get it for free, but let me go make the money on tour. Let me go make the money with these other business interests. [00:16:24] Curren$y: Yeah, because I mean, it's, shrinkage. It didn't matter how much music, like, what you do, how much you put behind the budget and what the labels do and all this shit. These people were just, our music was being stolen. This was during the time of, like, manufacturing jewel cases and all this shit that the company had to do, so that affected how much money they could give you. And then at the end of the day, everybody had the album a week before any damn, you know? So you can't feed your family like that. But what you can do, and what I did do is, and also when I did that, it was out of necessity. I didn't have no money to pay everybody for beats. But I could download Dr. Dre's instrumental for free. And as long as I don't sell this bitch, he's not coming for me, you know? I'm going to put it out for free. People going to love it. They're going to want me to come and wrap the motherfucker and they're going to pay however much it costs, you know, so that's how we did it. You know, that's just, like utilizing your natural resources. Like, what's growing in the land? Like, what's there? Just looked around and worked off what's growing out of the ground when you don't have the funds to do it. Like, you know, and you're creating business. Like, that's all we've ever done. And the more resources and the more materials we gain, you know, from gaining leverage or going up a level, then we start another joint, you know? Cause we got more to start with, 'Cause we, we did it with zero. So now it's insane. Like, we're just throwing darts at the board, like, fuck it, let's try and start a speedboat racing team tomorrow, you know what I'm saying? Like, fuck, whatever is whatever you want to do. And I've seen people do it. I’ve seen Master P do it because he had, like, with the bread to try it, you got to go for it. But what you had, but his circle is, was so large at the time with no limit. Like, first crack some ideas, not the best ideas, but you got love for everybody, so you going to roll the dice with everything they come with. You going to try, see, but what's working for us is we don't have that many people, like, around, you know what I'm saying? Like, as far as where the love is, it is right, it is in the room, so we not going to bounce. So if we try each other's ideas, one of 'em going to work 'cause it was just to, you got 19 people in here trying to, you know, tell you what to do and you want to keep everybody happy. You try, you going to end up trying to, like, start a golf cart company and, like, do spacewalks and sell reptiles and wild pets and then just doing everything that they ask you to do. And some of it's not going to work. [00:18:59] Dan Runcie: And I feel like with that, too, is just understanding your brand, understanding what's effective. And I know last year you had released an EP as an NFT, and I know this was the time when a lot of people were first discovering what an NFT is and things like that. What was that like? Because I know that was something that you didn't necessarily need to do to reach your fan base and do everything you wanted to do.[00:19:21] Curren$y: It wasn't to increase the fan base. It was to make our listeners aware that we are in touch with what's going on, and we are going to make sure that you guys aren't left behind as far as having Jet Life representation because we know you wear this shit every day. We know this is all you're listening to. So if the whole world converted to the metaverse, and everybody just wore headsets and live like that, how will you survive if your life is Jet Life? We got to give you something in this shit too. Rather we understand it or not, we have to learn to understand it, to become a part, to take care of y'all out there because it's real, you know? No matter how imaginary it may seem, it's real, you know what I'm saying? It's intangible, but it's a real thing. So we had to be able to provide something for our people 'cause they were there, you know? You look out of touch and, like, not sharp, not able to move, you know, then people wash their hands of you. Other companies won't want to collaborate with us that much because it won't appear that we are in the know, where if you have a big company that's not doing anything in that world, they're like, oh shit, look at Jet Life, well, let's just fuck with them. Let's put some bridge in them because they can handle this for us, blah, blah, and that be our representation 'cause we're far too big to even try to learn and far too big and far too old to even try to learn that shit, you know what I'm saying? So once they saw we did, that makes us look, you know, mobile, you know what I'm saying? [00:20:51] Mousa Hamdan: We have to exist in the future. You know, at the end of the day, we got to do what we have to do to let everybody, like he said, we're in the know, you know, we're aware of what's going on, what's coming, what's worth getting involved with, what's not.[00:21:05] Curren$y: And we going to ride with y'all because if it crashes, all us, then it did it off of us. You know what I'm saying? Fuck it. We going to roll too. [00:21:12] Mousa Hamdan: And even back a long time ago, I don't know if Curren$y even remember this, we did a deal back then with BitTorrent that we released a mixtape on BitTorrent, and it was 'cause the relationship we had with BitTorrent, they wanted to move away from everybody feeling that BitTorrent was a piracy site, and they wanted to like, well what if we give away something that we actually want shared? [00:21:38] Curren$y: Yeah. [00:21:38] Mousa Hamdan: And I remember we did that, I think we had like 156 million shares.[00:21:45] Curren$y: Yeah. [00:21:45] Mousa Hamdan: I told the record label that we were in a deal with at the time and they was like, nah, I got to see that. They didn't believe it. Well, like, what? Don't worry about it. You don't have to believe it. And that's why we're not with y'all now, because y'all don't believe the future. Y'all believing what y'all were taught to believe.[00:22:05] Curren$y: Yep. [00:22:05] Mousa Hamdan: Rather than having your own mind and realizing things change, the world changes. And you just got to be in the mix. You got to know what's going on. You got to get involved where you fit in. [00:22:15] Curren$y: You got to appear agile, man. [00:22:18] Dan Runcie: Stories like that, I feel, is what set y'all apart because if you think back to that time, no one wanted anything to do with BitTorrent or even LimeWire, BearShare, all these places where you could stream music and I get it. It was all the piracy, all the copyright. But at some point, someone asked to be able to say, all right, this is where folks are at. This is how they're getting our music. How could we get our music onto these places? Or how could we just think about it in a different way that isn't just no, don't do that?[00:22:46] Curren$y: Watch it come all the way back to the beginning because we stayed true the entire time, that company that needed to wash his hands and kind of rebirth themselves, needed to stand next to something that was pure the entire time so that they could get some of our life, you feel me? Like, that was the way that shit worked. Their name was so sullied that it was like, okay, as far as music is concerned, people know Jet Life will not falter. They won't fold. They don't go for fucking the dangling carrot. So if we fuck with them, then they would know, like, well, Jet Life wouldn't fuck with us if we were really this pirate fucking factory. So it made everything, you know, legitimate. You know, we saw good in them, so it was cool, yeah. [00:23:34] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's interesting too, to make me think about the current thing that people are pushing back on, whether it's streaming farms, you know, people trying to drive up these streams and stuff like that. What's your take on that? Because I feel like, for you, something like that's almost irrelevant because you're not in this to, like, sell your music, so you don't care about charts or probably any of that stuff. [00:23:52] Curren$y: I can't blame them because it's not like streams, not like that shit pay you a lot of money, you know? I'm saying it takes a lot of streams to make, like, you know, substantial money. It takes a lot of people. A lot of artists don't even understand, you know what I'm saying? Like, the motherfucker call me like, bro, you did a million streams in the day. Like, so what do you think? I'm going to buy a yacht tonight, like, that was worth $12,000, bro, you know what I'm saying? That was worth 12 grand. I was like, don't trip. So I know they need those machines and shit to try and run those streams up. That could be check fraud. Like, they're trying to fucking, they're riding the clock, like, here man, we did 80 zillion billion streams in Apple music. Here's the paperwork. Fucking pay us, man. It could be that, it could be, we need to fucking this shit up so we could get a deal from some other people, maybe Pepsi Cola will reach out to us because they think we going to bring 'em all this attention and fuck them if we can't. The check's already here. You know, everybody's hustling though. It's not righteous, you know, but none of this shit is righteous. And that's kind of the ceiling that we set on ourselves by trying to, like, be legit, you know, it's not like that, you know what I'm saying? So I don't trip off the stream machines and people with the padded streams or, because I understand why they do it. We're blessed to not have to exist that way. And on the other hand, we do a decent amount of streaming because I put out a good amount of music, so I'm not going to do a million every month on one project like these other dudes, like, dude, some people only got to come out two times a year because that project will stream a million fucking streams a month every month all year. But what I will do is probably drop every month and still make it that way, you know what I'm saying? Or drop every two months, you know, and I'm still making that same bread. We just work harder, you know, because we're not doing a lot of the extra shit. [00:25:56] Mousa Hamdan: It don't hurt that he likes to record and what you're going to do? [00:25:59] Curren$y: Yeah, for sure. [00:26:00] Mousa Hamdan: You going to hold all the music? The music's going to sound old. He was writing about a '96 expedition, right? You got to put it out, bro. Next year, that thing's old. [00:26:11] Curren$y: Yep. [00:26:12] Mousa Hamdan: So at the end of the day, it don't hurt that he likes to record and the fans like to consume the music. They like the new drops. They don't feel like they're oversaturated with his music. They want more. [00:26:23] Curren$y: Yeah. The only time we hear that word is from, like, somebody outside. It's like when I'm doing, like, a press run and the people who had to Google me while we were on the elevator and we get up there to interview me, and that's like some shit they say like, so do you think you know about oversaturation? Like, fuck no, I don't think about oversaturation. I only think about my folks, like, you know what I'm saying? That's you. Y'all don't know. Y'all just tired of saying that Curren$y is coming out again with a project. I'm just tired of saying that. It shows up on y'all fucking thing. You have to mention it. You're just tired of saying this shit. [00:26:58] Dan Runcie: That's them trying to put you into a box. That's them trying to put you into what they know. But like a lot of people that serve their base, you know what they want and you are giving them exactly what they want. [00:27:08] Curren$y: Well, I mean, we interact with and we're around motherfuckers that come to this store all day, sometimes not even, to buy a shirt, like to be like, bro, when is this dropping? Like, you know, to play something for Instagram, when is this coming out? So we got our finger on the pulse of what's keeping us alive. Like, we check our posts often, you know.[00:27:28] Dan Runcie: For sure. Mousa, I want to talk to you a bit about the business of Jet Life and everything you have going on. And I know we talked a little bit about how touring is a big place where you all are getting a lot of the money, but what does the breakdown look like from a high level? Like, how much of the money you all have coming in is from touring compared to the other businesses and then compared to streaming and the music itself? Like, from like a percentage? [00:27:53] Mousa Hamdan: Well, I think, of course, since pandemic, the touring has slowed down. We haven't done anything, but I don't think, for a while, I didn't think the people were ready for a tour, you know, because different cities still had different COVID restrictions and vaccination card restrictions, which would limit the fans of coming to the venues. So it wasn't a good look. I spoke to some other artist manager, who is like, yeah, he's on the road, but he's kind of depressed because shows are not selling out. He feels like he lost it. And it's not that, it's just that the environment wasn't for that. You were going out there too fast looking for the money. The good thing with us was, like he said earlier, that if one thing wasn't doing what we wanted, we had something else that was doing it. So, crazily, the apparel skyrocketed during the pandemic. [00:28:47] Curren$y: And I was the one who thought we needed, I thought we had to stop. [00:28:51] Mousa Hamdan: Yeah. [00:28:51] Curren$y: I was like, nobody is going to buy a fucking hoodie. [00:28:55] Mousa Hamdan: He was like, bro...[00:28:56] Curren$y: There's no toilet paper. There's no fucking lights on in the store. Who the fuck is going to order a shorts, and fuck it, we're selling out of shit. [00:29:05] Mousa Hamdan: Shit was flying. [00:29:06] Curren$y: I was watching the news. There's just one, like, who are these people that are buying? Are they aware that this shit's even happening? Do they know they have nowhere to wear it to? And they're just posting the shit in the crib, in our brand new drop. Like, just fucking kicking it. The love was real, and they kept us alive, bro. I bought like fucking three or four cars while the shit was locked down. You couldn't even, we couldn't even go to dealerships, and I was buying cars because people were buying fucking sweatshirts. I'm sorry. I'm going to go back here. Y'all continue with business talk. [00:29:42] Mousa Hamdan: Definitely.[00:29:43] Curren$y: You know I'm saying? He knows, he knows, he knows. [00:29:47] Mousa Hamdan: So I think when he drops some music, there's a jump in streams, you know what I'm saying? There's a bigger check coming, you know, apparel, same thing. We drop some, a new line or a new drop, it's bam. You know, everybody wants that, and depending on what it is. But, you know, we tend to drop a good little bit of apparel. So I think now apparel and the music kind of coexist, and both have their times, that one makes a little more than the other and vice versa. The other businesses that are fresh starts are creating a revenue. Of course, we don't expect the nightclub business to make the money that the record label makes, but it's an addition. So it is always like our thought of keep putting in the pot. Eventually, that pot will get full or, like he says in the songs, we're trying to fill up a safe. Once we fill that safe up, we just got to get another safe. We're not going to empty that safe. We're going to get another safe. Now we got to fill that one up, you know? So if, you know, at the end of the day, you know, it is Jet Life, we're going to spread our wings, we're going to see what we can put our hands on that will create a revenue and at the same time, sticking to our morals and beliefs of what we feel like Jet Life should stand for. A lot of people don't know, Jet Life, at the beginning, Jets was just an acronym. Just enjoy this shit. So that's what we're doing. We're enjoying it. Or like I tell people, Jet Life has just enjoy this life. So that's where we're at with it, steadily growing, steadily trying to get involved in everything that makes sense. You know, If it doesn't make sense, we leave it alone. So the revenue streams, like I said, it kind of goes back and forth. Apparel definitely is a world of its own now. Apparel is great. You know, we moved from, originally, like you said, with touring. That's when I realized that the apparel was so good because at touring, we were selling so much what I consider tour merch, you know, which is just the name of the show, the city's on the back, a picture of Curren$y on the shirt. You know, all the fans want it. They're like, man, they really love this shit. They're buying it. [00:31:56] Curren$y: That was just a tour shirt. [00:31:58] Mousa Hamdan: So then I was like, well, damn, I'd rather wear our own clothes when I want to go to the nightclub, when I go out to eat, or if I just want to hang around. I don't want to wear a tour shirt all the time, but I want to wear something. [00:32:12] Curren$y: And I didn't want to wear no shirt with my name on it.[00:32:15] Mousa Hamdan: Right. He doesn’t want pictures of himself.[00:32:17] Curren$y: I don't want no shirt with me on it, no shirt with my name on it 'cause like, who the fuck am I? You know what I'm saying? Who am I, you know, to even do that? [00:32:27] Dan Runcie: Right. 'Cause that's more like merch, right? And I didn't know that people use merch, but like, no, y'all have a clothing apparel.[00:32:33] Mousa Hamdan: Tour merch. And then we changed it to apparel. Apparel, which you wear on a daily thing, every morning you wake up and you put apparel. You were sleeping in apparel. So we had to reach that. And then every couple of months we just think, what else can we make? What else? 'Cause you know, we started with just t-shirts, you know, then went to hoodies and long sleeves. And then we're like, we got to start getting bottoms and we got to get hats and you know, so now we're, you know, building into accessories and whatever else people may like. And at the same time as well, like I said, we test fitted on ourselves. If it's something that we don't want to wear, I'll always show him stuff like, look, these are some of the new designs. This is some of the stuff that you talked about with me that we created. Now it's on paper. Do you like it? If you like it, let's push the button. Let's go with it. If it's something you would wear. 'Cause at the end of the day, if he doesn't wear it, if I don't wear it, if the other artists on Jet Life don't wear it...[00:33:33] Curren$y: It will sit in the warehouse. [00:33:35] Mousa Hamdan: Why would we expect a fan or a fellow lifer to wear it? They don't want to wear something that you don't even want to wear yourself. So if we don't want to create nothing that we don't like. You know, and that's just, I think our business model with everything we do. We don't want to do anything that we don't agree with. We don't want to do anything that goes against what we stand for. [00:33:58] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And the point again about the merch, too, I think Curren$y, you had this line in maybe it's an interview, I think you said, but it's like, no one's calling you Sean John merch, right? As you're telling Diddy like, oh yeah, I like your merch. [00:34:12] Curren$y: Right. You know what I'm saying? And just, we have to stand on that, you know? And I think we have for a long time, and it made people change the perception of it, you know. Before, like, just, the fact that we stand behind it like that, it made people buy it who maybe weren't even thinking about it because it made people want to look at it a little more to not like it, you know, like people came in to find like what was wrong. And then it's like, well, shit's just actually, you know, I'm going to buy the shirt, you know what I'm saying? Like, they were coming to point out why it was just merch and it wasn't, you know? [00:34:47] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Yeah. One other question for you, Mousa, about touring itself and just doing live shows. Because of how well the apparel's going right now and how the business overall may have changed since the pandemic, do you ever think that you'll go back to doing the same number of shows that you were doing before the pandemic because of how much success you have with everything else? Do you think it'll scale back a bit at all?[00:35:10] Mousa Hamdan: In my mind, I've always lived thinking never forget where this started from and never forget what created this lane for you to get into. Without the touring, I never knew how much the merch sold. And I noticed that with a lot of artists, there's a lot of artists that don't sell merch, and they don't know the money that they're missing. So without the touring, without the shows that we do, like he said, we put a finger on the pulse of the fans. Well, we'll know who's coming to these shows, you know, and you can see when, all right, well, the shows are getting a little light, so what is it we're doing wrong? There's something that we're missing. Same thing with the apparel. When sales are a little low then I'm like, well, what are we doing that we used to do better? Or what are we missing? Are we getting laid back? Are we feeling like it just is what it is now? But being involved in it like that, I think, keeps us on with whatever else we're doing 'cause it's going to keep telling us, like, this is the pulse of the people. This is what you're doing. So I think we'll always do tours. Maybe we're not, you know, one time we did, I think it was 60 shows in 70 days, which was crazy. [00:36:23] Curren$y: 63. [00:36:24] Mousa Hamdan: Yeah, it was, yeah, crazy. Show every night, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And they're like, whoa, when is the break, bro? Like, when are we? So I don't think we'll do that. But we're going to stay out there, you know, as long as the people want to see, and he's got fresh music that he wants to perform. And you know, he's an artist, I think, that feeds off the energy, you know. And if the crowd doesn't have the energy, he's like, why am I here? Why am I performing for these people? They don't really want to see me because the energy is not there. So as long as we're feeling the energy, then I think we're there. Hopefully, I don't see it going down no time soon. You know, we're going to keep doing whatever it is that allows us what the universe puts for us to do, you know? And we're just going to be there. [00:37:08] Dan Runcie: How do you look at doing your own shows versus doing festivals? Do you have preferences? I feel like for an artist like you, your own shows where your people are going to be at, right?[00:37:18] Curren$y: Yeah, bro. This is a whole other show. Don't do it. We love, we love, we love festival checks. If I had to pick, I like, you know, me at the House of Blues. I know exactly that the people who are in there, like, are there for what we going to do, you know what I'm saying? The festival, I've been blessed to be a person that you kind of, you can't get around me in the game, you know what I'm saying? So when you don't fuck with me, people speak out to you. You look stupid, you know what I'm saying? You look crazy. So people put me on shit, like just, no, we got to have him on this festival. We got to put him on this. We got to put him on this, you know what I'm saying? And my core people are there, but they're surrounded by people who are, like, waiting for like the next person to come out and like spit fire, you know what I'm saying? And walk on the crowd, pop, you know, like, I can't do it. I'll never do it, you know? So I'm like, I don't want to put my listeners through it because and they're in there like, shit, man. There's, like, a kid who kept, like, elbowing me, you know what I'm saying? Like, some of my listeners are, like, there's always somebody to put me to the side, like, yo, I'm 51, my nigga, like, this is the shit I'll listen to. So them, them dudes don't, they don't want that. Those ladies, like, who pull me to the side, like, boy, look, you know, I could be... I'm like, Yeah, you don't have time for, you know, for that. So I like to do just my thing. But the festival checks go directly to the sports car dealerships. Like, those are the checks that get you off the lot though. So, you know, you're being a fool not to do it, you know? And that's just business. [00:39:03] Mousa Hamdan: The checks are good, yes, but I think as well...[00:39:08] Curren$y: He makes sense with this. I know what he coming with this, but I'm going to tell you, they're coming to business. He makes sense. [00:39:12] Mousa Hamdan: Sometimes, I honestly, in a lot of things that we do, I always tell him, I think he underestimates his reach, you know, and he's too humble to the point of, nah, bro, like, they're not really here for me and this, that, and the other. Now, I'll be honest with you, we had one festival show. I was a little worried. We got on stage. He wasn't on stage. He was backstage, so he didn't know nothing was going on. I literally walked to the DJ. I said, bro, this is probably our last festival 'cause it was like, there was literally 10 people in front the stage. I said, bro, if he gets out here and there's 10 people out here, he's liable to walk off stage, bro, so listen to me. The intro started and it looked like a rush. Like, I didn't know who. They had about 5,000 people or better rush to the stage. And I like, whoa, that's more like it. Then he came out, he didn't see the dead part. He saw that part. He was like, oh, my people are here. They're here. They showed up. They showed up. I'm like, you just don't know. They really did show up 'cause they wasn't here five minutes ago. [00:40:22] Curren$y: They just showed up.[00:40:23] Mousa Hamdan: Bro, but then that's understanding the festivals. You got six stages. [00:40:28] Curren$y: Yeah. [00:40:29] Mousa Hamdan: They're trying to catch everybody.[00:40:30] Curren$y: I was posting one time, there's a way to do it, you know what I'm saying? As long as you are vocal about what time you go on, your people will navigate through to get there for you, you know what I'm saying? But you also, you got the people who're waiting for somebody else 'cause I'm like, it's a gift and the curse, 'cause, like, I'm, like, the most known unknown. So it's, like they know they can't put me on at fucking one o'clock, you know what I'm saying? So then when you put me on at, like, eight, and then there's, like, whoever the fucking, whoever name was written this big on the flyer, this guy's coming after me, all right. The kids who are waiting for this guy are, like, have been pressed against the barricade for hours, like since 11:00 AM. When I come out there with my low-impact workout, like they're fucking dying, like looking at me and I'm like, I get it. Don't trip. I fuck with this guy's music too. He'll be out here in a minute, and I hope he does a backflip on top of you when he does, you know what I'm saying? Like, that shit kind of fuck with me because I'm delivering a real message. Like, every word I write, like, I mean it. So I really don't want to say it sweating to a person who's like this, like on the barricade, just like, bro, please stop. We get it. You like Chevys, you want us all to get rich? Fucking shut up. We want to fucking rap about drugs. Where's the next guy? So that shit kind of make you not want to do it. But then this guy, fucking, he's also the person who says this like, okay, you also woke some people up to the music you make. Then there's always, like, when I get done, the people who work the festival, the grounds, are, like, bro, I never heard this shit, but this was real music. Like, I couldn't understand nobody else's words, you know what I'm saying? This is fucking good. So I'm like, well, that's cool. I do leave out there with more listeners than I did, you know what I'm saying? It might be 12, it might be 150. He going to count every dollar for each one via stream, so I understand where he comes from with that. But I always like, I say it to myself sometimes, and sometimes when it gets too heavy to me, I say to the people around me, I'm like, bro, I'm actually the only one who fucking have to go and do that shit. Like, I get it. We all here, we all fucking supporting, but they're not looking at you, like, get the fuck out. And you got to do this shit for 45 minutes, you know what I'm saying? Sure. There's some people who are enjoying it, but the motherfucker who's right in front of you is dying, and you have to continue to have a good time. Like, that shit is like being a fucking Disney World animatronic or, being like a Chuck E. Cheese thing. Like, that's a rough time for me for sure. But it works, you know? That's anybody's job.[00:43:27] Dan Runcie: It's a balance, right?[00:43:28] Curren$y: You know, a hundred percent love any fucking gig that you have, any job you have, bro. I'm sure everybody at NBA, that was their dream, to go to the NBA. Some of those days sucked though for those dudes, you know what I'm saying? So it ain't always going to be the shit. The situation overall is one that I wouldn't trade for the world. [00:43:48] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And you mentioned too that the money that you're getting from the festivals is going to the sports car dealership. Can we talk a little bit about that? How's that business set up and how's that been going? [00:44:01] Curren$y: Oh, well, me and Mousa, we've always been kind of into, like, bringing cars back to life, restoring things, and shit. But I've been holding on 'em. But as of late, we're building a stable of vehicles to kind of release onto the public, but it'll be like a collection, the same way we come out with clothes. There'll be like six vehicles put up for sale at one time that we cultivate and put together. We putting together a BMW, a few vintage sports car that we putting together. We're going to roll 'em all out at one time, you know what I'm saying? So I expect them all to be gone, like, within the week. I expect it to be like shoes. Like, I expect motherfuckers to try it and everybody will blow. You know, everybody try their hands at the shit we do. So another motherfucker with a bigger audience and shit will try to do the same thing, but you know, who cooked that shit up first. [00:44:52] Mousa Hamdan: Okay. They know, They know where they got the idea from.[00:44:56] Curren$y: Yeah, they know, too, so it don't matter. [00:44:59] Dan Runcie: Speaking of cars and trendssetting, I know you got a partnership with NASCAR as well, and I feel like there's another thing, too, where not a lot of hip hop artists are doing those deals, but we are just seeing the way things are trended now. Everyone will be following to that. And you got the Jet Life cup series. All right, let's talk about it. [00:45:16] Curren$y: Yeah, man. Yeah, man. Well, yeah. People of any other nationality other than the original rebel down home boys were not involved in NASCAR and they fucking, they had it that way. They built it that way, executive-wise, it's not like that anymore. Now, you know, doors have been broken down, kicked in, and open-minded. People are now there, and it's made it more accessible for fans. I was shocked when I went that I saw like groups of different people, I don't want to just say black people, just different people in general because the other side of it, the way it was, they weren't picking what nationality or what people they didn't want, they didn't want nothing else, but what the fuck they had, you know? So it's way different now in all aspects. It's not just minorities selling nachos. They driving the cars. They are the ones like turning the wrenches and making sure shit is right. They got headsets on, they out there doing the real thing. And I brought one of my younger homies with me, it blew him away. He's at school for engineering, and he was just, he was nervous for us to even be out there. I made a few small jokes to my friends when we first got there based on the appearance and how it looked. But it really wasn't like that once you got down into the meeting. And I read on social media, like I read a few comments. There were some people who were not excited about our presence. There's some people who weren't into the collaboration. I saw one thing under a video that I was so sad 'cause I was like, I hope my mom don't see it. Because the motherfucker was like, what is he coming to steal? And I was like, damn, if my mama sees that, she'll probably cry, you know what I'm saying? Like, it'll take a minute for me to get her over that shit. But what are you going to do? You know what I'm saying? This shit, you can't blame the behavior 'cause it was taught a long time ago. Like, they didn't pop out like that. That's what that motherfucker told him to do, you know what I'm saying? And what we doing is playing the hand and telling the people who are receptive and the new people, the younger generation, like, it could go this way instead, you know what I'm saying? Like, we were up in all the suites and eating NASCAR food, you know, and actually, I'm going to say this, I was a little bummed with the NASCAR because we couldn't get a Coca-Cola badge on our jersey. We wanted to have it because the race that day was actually Coke Zero, Coke Zero 400, all right. So, when they originally had the design meeting for the package, they included Coca-Cola logo because that was the race, you know, that's when it was coming up. And I think like they did the same thing, like, whoever is involved with the collaborations just did a little brief overview of who I was or what I was about, and they're like, oh, no. So like, that kind of fucked me up. [00:48:17] Mousa Hamdan: They'll be back though. They'll be back. [00:48:19] Curren$y: Yeah. But you know, like, I was like, well this still, you know, shit is still hard, you know? But with time, with time, yeah. And I don't know. And then, and I didn't like the you got gang with you. I heard over there, I'm sorry. [00:48:32] Mousa Hamdan: Oh, yeah.[00:48:32] Dan Runcie: That's from fans or was that from NASCAR? [00:48:35] Curren$y: No, no.[00:48:35] Mousa Hamdan: Coke exec. [00:48:36] Curren$y: Just one of the brass at Coca-Cola. And I drank a lot of Coca-Cola, so I really do need to stop, but for health and maybe for business, because motherfucker was like, to the representative from NASCAR who was showing us to where we were going to go to sit down, like, in the suite. He's like, oh, you got a gang with you. And I was just like, damn, like. I'm sure maybe I'm looking at it with a microscope, you know. [00:49:01] Dan Runcie: But still though, you can't say that, yeah. [00:49:04] Curren$y: I really don't know, I just don't know. I just was on the fence. I thought about it a lot. I think about it. [00:49:09] Dan Runcie: But like, they wouldn't say that if, like, Jason Aldean walked up in there with a group of folks.[00:49:13] Curren$y: You got a lot of people with you, you know I'm saying? It wasn't like he said the gang's all here. If he said the gang's all here, that would not have hit me like that. People say that the gang's all here, that doesn't mean that you got a street gang here. [00:49:29] Mousa Hamdan: Right.[00:49:29] Curren$y: But, whoa, you got a gang with you. [00:49:33] Mousa Hamdan: He could have said, Hey fellas and just kept it moving.[00:49:36] Curren$y: Yeah. [00:49:36] Mousa Hamdan: How y'all doing guys? [00:49:38] Curren$y: Yeah. [00:49:38] Mousa Hamdan: And you didn't have to make conversation with us. You were just passing.[00:49:41] Curren$y: It felt like it was a Chappelle show skit because it could have been where keeping the real goes wrong. Because I was like, half step, like, trying to see if I could make eye contact with one of my friends who felt like maybe that was wrong and I had support in, like, hey man, like, what? But it could have went way south. Like, there could be no more NASCAR 'cause shit if we could, would've did that. You know, we just might not have the Coca-Cola on the next one. Or maybe we will, maybe they're like, oh, shit, man. We didn't mean that. I thought I did say that gang's all here. Let's put a badge on the fucking next jacket, you know, it might work that way. And that's business and that's why we're here talking, you know? And and that's why it it pays to be true to yourself within your business. And if your circle is small, it's easier for you to be honest and not worry about if something sounds stupid or anything because, like, we have a yin and a yang, like, you know what I'm saying? Like, that's what makes it work. [00:50:37] Dan Runcie: Right. And I think that's a good note to close things out. And I want to get your thoughts on this question because as you started with the beginning, y'all have been together for a while, even in this conversation, we can see that chemistry between the two of you, that yin and the yang, you understand each other. What do you think is the secret for having the artist and manager that just stay with each other? 'Cause there's so many times that, either other artists or other managers that have been on this show and they're like, oh, yeah, you know, so and so fired me. [00:51:04] Curren$y: Somebody lied in the beginning.[00:51:07] Mousa Hamdan: Right. [00:51:08] Curren$y: Just like, who fucks up anything. You know, like, just somebody lied in the beginning. The artist was signed to nine different managers. Everybody loaned him $1,500 to help him do something. He's just signing with whoever's going to fucking give him a fucking chain or watch, and he's not being honest. Or there's a fucking, like, a discrepancy on this stack of paperwork or something, and this guy's outsmarting the artist and fucking going to rob and blind, you know what I'm saying? Like, if that happens in the beginning, the intentions are bad in the beginning, then you'll see where it looked good and then it fall into pieces because you find out, you know what I'm saying? Like, fucking, when we read for fucking N.W.A, which is one thing I didn't turn down, I was down to do that. He's coming to me with movie shit. Do you want to read this? Do you want to do this? No, no, no, no. They're like, do you want to be Easy-E? And I was like, no. At first I was like, no, like, they should call his son, you know what I'm saying? But then I end up reading for it, and then they end up getting a guy from New Orleans anyhow. So that was cool. I'm like, damn, I probably could have got that shit. But nonetheless, the part that we were reading, it was after Easy-E's wife went through the paperwork that he did with Jerry Heller and she brought, like, so much shit, attention to him. And when E and Jerry had this talk, it made Jerry cry because he was leaving even though he did so much wrong shit. But in his heart of hearts, he probably didn't think it was wrong 'cause he took dude from nothing. But it was still bad and he couldn't believe how quick Eric was ready to shut the shit down. But it's because he was wrong. Like, once that, there's nothing you could do after that. Once it get like that, it shut down. That shit is heartbreaking. And we never, like, we have not hurt each other like in that aspect, you know what I'm saying? Like, when I came to him, I was like, look, I don't, you know what I'm saying, I ain't signed nothing yet, but this is what's going on. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. That's that, you know. I don't know, I'm going to go talk ahead, I'm going to do this and get this and then not say this. You know, he don't fucking pop up and see I'm doing the show in Colorado and, you know what I'm saying, I didn't say anything. I just went, flew out and oh no, I made just 30 grand right quick, you know. That there's just, it's all on the up, bro. So with that, you know, you stay friends, we friends first all. [00:53:28] Mousa Hamdan: That's I think the biggest thing. [00:53:29] Curren$y: Yeah. If he wasn't in my homie, then we wouldn't do business. [00:53:31] Mousa Hamdan: We started as friends, and then we continued to be friends in this. [00:53:36] Curren$y: Yeah. All the way through.[00:53:38] Mousa Hamdan: We're business partners, but we never was just business partners. We was always friends to begin with. [00:53:44] Curren$y: Right. So that make you not be able to do no fucked up business. [00:53:48] Mousa Hamdan: And then we trust each other. [00:53:49] Curren$y: You know what I'm saying? You can't do that to your friend.[00:53:52] Mousa Hamdan: Trust is big, you know. I think he trusts my decisions, I trust his decisions. And then we talk about things, like he said, we were going to always converse about whatever decisions we want make. If there's ever a thought, I think, you know, this may be wrong or whatever, I'm going to consult with him as if he was my manager, you know what I'm saying? So we're going to talk and the trust issue, I always hear that, you know, how, why y'all been together so long? I'm like, if you build a business, who builds a business to separate, right? We build a business together [00:54:24] Curren$y: Who are these people that you're with? Who's in your car? Who the fuck are you riding with in the car? Like, who? That's why. That's why I said, like, having 19 and 30 motherfuckers. Like, now there might be 30 people in this building at a time, and they all could have a Jet Life chain, they all be a part of what's going on. But at the end of the day, you know what I'm saying? When it'll come down, it'll come down. Like, we got to sit down and fucking, you know what I'm saying, and put it together, you know. Everybody respect that because when we come out the room, we come out the with the right answer. I might have the wrong answer, but this ain't here. When we come out the room, we present the right answer. [00:55:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah, no, a hundred percent right. And I feel like y'all got the right mentality. It speaks to everything that you've accomplished up to this date and excited to continue to see where it goes, right? Like you said, this is a balloon, and we want to keep seeing how this balloon continues to grow slowly. So, I mean, congrats to y'all on everything that've done.[00:55:17] Curren$y: Got new music dropping Friday, so if this don't get to them this week, you, bro, you know for sure, Friday, I got music dropping.[00:55:26] Dan Runcie: Okay. Yeah. I was going to ask you what else you got coming up and if people want to follow you, where's the best place for them to check in with you, both of you.[00:55:32] Curren$y: Car is outside, but I don't suggest you follow me. @spitta_andretti, Instagram. S P I T T A underscore A N D R E T T I. Twitter, well, I have a lot of fun at Twitter. Instagram has gotten really weird. It's really, like, tough to figure that out. It's nuts. Twitter is staying true. Curren$y with an S because they don't recognize a dollar sign. So C U R R E N S Y underscore Spitta, S P I T T A. And you know what? They had a fake Curren$y when I first got to Twitter. That's why I had to make that name like that, @CurrensySpitta, because there was already somebody who was saying he was me and he had like pictures and everything. That's fucked up, yeah, but nah. [00:56:17] Dan Runcie: And what about you Mousa? [00:56:19] Mousa Hamdan: I'm on, pretty much all the handles are the same, @mousa504, M O U S A 5 0 4, that's going to be on whatever, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, anything, you know. I stick to that same handle. [00:56:33] Curren$y: Oh, we also got the partnership with Sovereign Brands, Villon France, this is our cognac that we are standing behind. That's just one more thing on the number. I forgot. It doesn't help your memory. It tastes good. It doesn't help your memory. I forgot to mention that we were doing it.[00:56:49] Dan Runcie: Oh, yeah. We could do a whole follow up episode on all of that. All of these deals. Role you've turned down, too, but we'll have to check it the next time. Appreciate you both, man. Thank you. [00:56:58] Mousa Hamdan: Appreciate you. [00:56:59] Curren$y: Cheers, bro.[00:57:00] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
The dominance of Atlanta’s hip-hop scene has been discussed often, but not in the way Joe Coscarelli covered it in his new book, Rap Capital. Joe, a New York Times music reporter since 2015, spent four years and interviewed over 100 sources to get the contemporary story about Atlanta’s culture-defining music scene.Characters are what move the story forward in Joe’s book, not discography, record sales, or cultural relevance. Lil Baby is featured prominently, as is his mom. Joe’s relationship with the hit rapper dates back to 2017 when Lil Baby was still a mixtape artist. Another recurring character is Quality Control Music’s Kevin “Coach K” Lee, who has deep-rooted ties with the city’s most well-known artists across eras.Joe came onto the show to take us through the book’s journey — both for him to write it and the characters themselves. Here’s what we covered:[2:40] How the book came together and finally clicked[6:42] Role of Quality Control’s Coach K in Atlanta story[10:11] Lasting effects of pandemic on music industry[12:38] Which era of Atlanta hip-hop to focus on? [14:09] How streaming helped launch Atlanta rap into the mainstream[16:10] Building trust with his sources despite racial differences[18:10] Did Joe receive any pushback while reporting?[20:19] Evolution key to Atlanta rap’s longevity [25:05] Adapting Rap Capital into a movie[29:45] The crumbling of mainstream culture Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Joe Coscarelli, @joecoscarelli  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Joe Coscarelli:  I wanted to tell the story through characters, through people, not just, you know, you can run down the discography of all the amazing Atlanta musicians, right? You can go through the label history, read the reviews. But I always want to sort of pull back like, who's behind these people? Who's behind that person? So that's why I think, you know, mothers were huge, fathers, you know, friends, people who are around these artists growing up, I wanted them to be human characters, and I wanted the side characters to be as big of a part as the famous people 'cause I think they're as crucial to the equation. [00:00:30] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.  [00:00:58] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Joe Coscarelli. He's the author of Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story, and he's a culture reporter at The New York Times. And this book that he wrote, Rap Capital, I cannot recommend it enough. If you listen to this podcast, if you read the newsletter, if you watch any of the clips from our conversations or any of the posts on social media, this book is made for you. It's a street-level epic about the most consequential music culture today, Atlanta Rap. Joe put so much thought and care into how the book came together and tying everything from the Atlanta murders that happened decades ago and how that shaped the rap culture and the broader culture for black folks in Atlanta that we see today, and how that led to someone like Lil Baby, how that led to someone like Coach K having such an influence over hip hop music and the culture for decades now. This book was a great opportunity as well to have a trip down memory lane. A lot of us understand how influential Atlanta's been, but it was great to have it be told from a unique way. We also talked about broader trends happening in the streaming era right now in music, what a movie or film or TV show adaptation could look like for Rap Capital, and more. Here's our conversation. Hope you enjoy it. All right. Today we had Joe Coscarelli, the author of Rap Capital: An Atlanta story and read the book, really enjoyed it, and I got to ask because I was going through the synopsis and you said this was four years in the making, and I got to imagine with a book like this, there was some point when things started to click in that four-year process. When did you feel like things were coming together for you? [00:02:40] Joe Coscarelli: So I knew that there was a book in this stuff because I had done a handful of stories through my day job at The New York Times about Atlanta. I started this beat in late 2014. So., You know, my first couple years on the job, streaming was really taking over and specifically rap music and streaming. So I just found myself over and over again talking to the same group of people, right? I did a Migos Story, did a QC story that featured Lil Baby, one of his first interviews. I wrote about Drew Findling who's a lawyer in the book that's all over the news these days in various capacities. So I knew from those stories that there was something here. But I didn't know what it was going to be. I knew I wanted to not just tell a history, but follow characters in real-time as they tried to make it. That's something I always want to do in my work. You know, so my favorite art ever is like Hoop Dreams or a music documentary like Dig!, which follows two bands across a long period of time. One of them makes it, one of them doesn't make it. That's always what I want to bring to my reporting is this idea of a journey, right? And it doesn't even matter what the destination is, but following, specifically artists and musicians as they're trying to make something out of their lives, that to me, is just a timeless tale, right, of ambition and dreams, and so I knew I had a handful of characters that I wanted to go on this trip with, but I didn't really know how it tied into the broader story of Atlanta until a real marathon brunch interview with Lil Baby's mother, Lashawn. He was, you know, he and I had a rapport at that point. I'd interviewed him a few times. I did talk to a lot of people around him, and he was kind enough to set me up directly with his mom. And, you know, we sat down at a brunch place outside of Atlanta. And, you know, she said, I asked him, I asked Dominique, her son, we're like, what do I tell him? And he told her tell him everything. And she really did, her whole life story became part of the book, especially the foundation of the book, in the first part. And she had such an incredible life on her own. You know, I hope she writes a memoir someday. But when I learned really that she had been friends in school with an early victim of the Atlanta child murders, which were happening on the west side of Atlanta in the late seventies, early eighties, that she had a firsthand relationship to that historical event that I feel like really left its mark on the city. And she was open. She said it sort of affected the kind of mother that she became, and I think ultimately helped set Dominique, Lil Baby, on his path. And all of that could be traced to, like, something she went through as a kid that also spoke more broadly to Atlanta and the way it has developed socially, politically, culturally, especially Black Atlanta over the last 40, 50 years. So that was a real breakthrough moment for me, and I knew that I could start with her story, which in many ways was also the story of Atlanta in the last, you know, half a century. [00:05:30] Dan Runcie: And in reading that first piece, too, I could see how much care and thought was put into it from your perspective of going through what happened with those murders and then how that traces directly to someone like Lil Baby because it's hard to tell the story of Atlanta hip hop without doing all of that. And that's something that I think is often missing with so much of the discussion about Atlanta's run, which is why I feel like your book does stand as its own and is able to have a unique voice and perspective on this.[00:05:58] Joe Coscarelli: I appreciate that. Yeah, I wanted to tell the story through characters, right, through people, not just, you know, you can run down the discography of all the amazing Atlanta musicians, right? You can go through the label history, read the reviews. But I always want to sort of pull back like, who's behind these people? Who's behind that person, you know? So that's why I think, you know, mothers were huge, fathers, you know, friends, people who are around these artists growing up, I wanted them to be human characters, and I wanted the side characters to be as big of a part as the famous people 'cause I think they're as crucial to the equation. [00:06:31] Dan Runcie: And of course, Lil Baby is one of the central characters. Another one is Coach K, who's one of the folks leading up Quality Control Music. Why was it important for him to be a central character in this too? [00:06:42] Joe Coscarelli: So Coach K is amazing because you can tell basically the last 30 years of rap music only through his career, right? When I said I wanted to be able to trace characters back through the years to artists and eras, like, Coach has seen it all, right? This is a man who was passing out Church fans to promote Pastor Troy and the congregation in the mid-nineties. Then he goes from that to representing all these producers who were, you know, crucial to founding the trap sound, someone like Drama Boy. And then he's working with Young Jeezy, right, as the Snowman mythology takes over and, you know, Def Jam South and the explosion of trap music on a national scale. Coach is behind that, right? You know, there's a moment I talk about in the book where they put the commercial on the radio right, in Atlanta, when the Jeezy's mixtapes, Trap or Die are coming out, right, and it's All Traps Closed today, like National Holiday, you know, like these are the things that Coach was cooking up behind the scenes. Then he works with Gucci Mane, right, who was blood rivals with Jeezy. And then that brings you up to the present day, and in 2013, he and P, his partner Pierre Thomas, they founded Quality Control, and then they have Migos, right, and then they have a Lil Yachty, and then they have Lil Baby. And through Coach K, you could talk about every single one of those careers and so many more that he was on the periphery of, even if he wasn't the main executive or manager involved. So I just think, you know, there's nobody more crucial to that ecosystem at this moment and through the last couple of decades than Kevin Lee, Coach K. [00:08:14] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think one of the things that stands out about their run, too, is that it wasn't just one artist and they faded and rose with that artist. And I think that's what we've seen a lot in the streaming era, frankly, from a lot of the record labels that have rose up. They had the runs, and even when one star started to fade from a group that was the hottest group in the moment, they had others that came through, and you're seeing that infrastructure. I feel like that's one thing that sets them apart from a lot of the others at this moment. [00:08:42] Joe Coscarelli: Totally. For them, it's all about artist development, right? Like, I remember being around them in the office, you know, in late 2017 and they were talking about whether they should have gone after Bhad Bhabie, you know, the Cash Me Outside girl. And like they would see little things pop up and think like, oh, should we get in on that viral moment? And then they would be like, No, that's not what we do. We build artists, we build careers, we build brands. And something that's so special about Quality Control and why they were able to, you know, be the backbone of this book is because they are invested in that sort of old school Motown-esque record business thing of I'm going to pluck someone who might not even think they're a musician, and we're going to believe in them, and we're going to back them, and we're going to build it from the ground up, right, and we're going to build it Atlanta first. Whereas so much in the viral marketing, streaming world of today is going top-down, right? It's a TikTok hit, then it's a major label deal, and this person's probably never even played a show before. They're still very invested in the grassroots bottom-up approach, and I think that's worked for them so many times now that the playbook is, you know, you can't deny it.[00:09:48] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think that also that goes with something that I've seen you talk about even outside of the book as well, just some of the challenges that a lot of the artists and labels have right now in terms of now that the pandemic has, at least in this stage that we're in right now, there's still some lasting effects in terms of how that's shaping the charts, how that's shaping how music's released. What have you been seeing there from that perspective? [00:10:11] Joe Coscarelli: I mean, you know, a lot of people have been writing this year, yourself included, about the sort of stagnancy of the charts, how, you know, there aren't a lot of new breakout hits, especially in rap music, which had been so dominant for the last decade, essentially, as things started to move online and towards streaming. And I think you're right that a lot of that is pandemic hangover, right? Like, people were not outside like they used to be. Artists were not sort of feeling that energy, that creative energy. They were creating often, like, in a little bubble. I'm sure you get projects like a Beyoncé's RENAISSANCE that comes out of that pandemic moment and maybe speaks to some people's hopes and dreams for what the next few years will be, a little freer. But you don't have any chance for that sort of grassroots development, right? So we saw a lot of things come off of TikTok, but as I was getting at, like, those people, they haven't had the opportunity to touch their fans, right, to speak to the sort of ground swell of support. So you get a lot of things that feel fleeting and then you have something massive, right? Bad Bunny or like Morgan Wallen that's just like lodged up there at the top of the charts 'cause I think those guys had a fully formed thing going into the pandemic and were able to ride it through. You know, when you think about a lot of rap, especially regionally, that's bubbling now, there's a lot of drill, right? Like, you think of the stuff coming out of Brooklyn and the Bronx and that sound traveling all over the country. And I think, you know, since Pop Smoke, we haven't really had a sort of mainstream emissary for that sound. And it is such a local, such a hyper-local, such an underground phenomenon that you haven't really had someone translate it for the mainstream, you know, maybe that's going to be Ice Spice, maybe that's going to be Fivio Foreign, and like, you know, maybe it's going to be someone younger. But I think we're still waiting, right, for what that next wave, especially in rap, is going to be. You see the sort of sun may be setting on the trap era that's described in the book in the rise of drill as the default of what a rap song sounds like, but again, that hasn't really crossed over quite yet. [00:12:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it's been fascinating just to see how the streaming era has shaped things, specifically with how much you focused on it in the book. And with a topic like Atlanta hip hop, there are likely so many sectors that you could have dove in on, and of course, Lil Baby being a central figure did lend itself to the streaming era. But how did you decide which era to focus on? Because there's so many time spans that you probably could have done and equally deep dive on.[00:12:38] Joe Coscarelli: I always knew I wanted to tell a contemporary story, right? Like, I'm more of a reporter than I am a historian. So I'm not a musicologist, I'm not a music critic. You know, I've never really written criticism in terms of album reviews or show reviews, things like that. So I knew I wanted to be able to witness as much as I could firsthand and write about that because that's what I love to do in my work, getting back to this idea of, you know, being a fly on the wall for someone's journey, for someone's rise, for someone's fall even. So it was always going to be contemporary, right? And I feel like you have to tell a little bit of the history, right? You have to talk about Freaknik, you have to talk about OutKast, and the Dungeon Family, and LaFace Records, and So So Def to be able to get to this moment. But I think for me, like, I'm not someone who writes about music nostalgically. Sure, I love the stuff I grew up on, but I'd rather look forwards than backwards. And I think, character-wise, I just want to stay with the cutting edge, right? I want to see what's next. I want to see who's changing things, who's, you know, who's moving things forward. And that's just what I seek out in my life and in my job. So I think it was always going to be as contemporary as possible. [00:13:46] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that makes sense. I think that streaming also allowed us to see more growth from the areas that I think, in a lot of ways, were a bit held back from gatekeepers controlling everything. And I think Atlanta's a perfect example of that, even though they had the massive rise, you know, nineties, early 2000s, it went to another level this past decade. [00:14:09] Joe Coscarelli: Yeah. And I think you know that sort of in-between time, right, when you think about post-Napster and file sharing, post-CD crash in the early 2000s. But pre-streaming, like, a lot of what became the go-to playbook for streaming was happening in the underground mixtape scene, especially in Atlanta and in the South. And you think of things like DatPiff or you know, sites like that where free mix tapes were coming out and it was all about quantity, right, in a way that really set these artists for the streaming era, right? You think of Lil Wayne's mixtape run, Gucci's mixtape run, and then Future's mixtape run. It was just about music, music, music, music. And so Migos sort of got in at the tail end of that and they released, you know, whatever it is, 5, 7, 10 mixtapes before they put out a proper debut album. And then when they finally hit with something like Culture, their second proper full length, the world had finally caught up to them and the rest of the Atlanta artists. And yet there's this whole group in between that gets left behind, right? Like, I'd love to read a book about Travis Porter and Rich Kidz and you know, these Atlanta rappers who are really, like, laying the groundwork for a lot of this, even like Rocko or you know, early career Future. Like these guys, I think if they would've come out once Spotify was as big as it is now, they would've been huge national and international stars. And instead, they sort of get caught in this in-between zone. So, you know, I think, I love to see when art lines up with the technology of the moment, and I think these Atlanta rappers were in the perfect place at the perfect time to take advantage of that explosion. [00:15:39] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I agree. And then even reading it too, and thinking about this conversation we're having, so much of you framing this as you're a reporter, you're capturing what's happening contemporary, and given the insights and the things that people are sharing with you, the amount of trust that you were needed to develop with them, and we talked a lot about the aspect of race and how that plays in. How did you navigate that yourself as a white man and trying to tell this black story and making sure that you're capturing it in the best way possible? [00:16:10] Joe Coscarelli: Yeah. You know, obviously, I thought about this a lot in the reporting, in the conception of the book, and certainly in the writing and the editing. I think the job of any journalist, right, is to be like a respectful, humble, open-minded guest in other people's worlds, right, and to be well aware of what you know and what you don't know. Like, that goes for when I'm interviewing a female artist, a trans songwriter, reggaeton star. I think, like, to navigate spaces where you're not an insider, like, it's best to come prepared and engaged and curious. Like, I did my research, I knew what I was talking about to the extent that I could, but I also was eager to, like, defer to people who are the experts, right? I made sure that everyone from artists to managers, family members, like, they knew that I wanted to take whatever platform I had with the book and with my work at The New York Times, and sort of take their work seriously to shine a light on it, and recognize it as important as it is, right, this cultural product that has this immense influence and impact. So I wanted to really preserve these moments to the best of my ability for the history books. And I think that my subjects got that right away. You know, I don't think it took a lot of time for them to spend with me to see that I was really dedicated in that mission, that I was going to be respectful of their time and space, interested in the work that they were doing and the lives they were living. And then, like, your credibility travels, right? One person can vouch for you with another, you know, with a collaborator, with a family member. And I just wanted to just defer to them and their experiences. And I think I took that with me in the writing of the book. You know, of course, there's analysis, there's observation, but I really wanted people to speak for themselves. The book is very quote-heavy. I really wanted to capture people as they are, do an accurate portrayal of what it is they've been through. Hopefully, I think the quality speaks for itself. But I wanted to, you know, give these people whatever, spotlight, whatever platform I can offer. And then tell the truest version of how they relate it to me. [00:18:03] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think that's the best and the most fair way to do it. Along the way though, did you receive any pushback or any type of challenge as you were doing this?[00:18:10] Joe Coscarelli: There's very little. I think I'm fortunate enough to, you know, have an institution like The New York Times behind me. I think, you know, people take that name seriously. It opens a lot of doors, whether or not I was a good reporter. And I think when you can open the door and then when you show up, and you're thorough, and you're accurate, you know, I'd written a lot about these people before the book, I think that the trust just grows and grows. And I was also finding people really at the beginning, right, of their careers in a lot of cases, like Lil Baby, like, you know, he may not be able to spell my last name, but he knows that I was that guy with him listening to his mixtape tracks as they were deciding what was going to be on, you know, his second, his third mixtape. And he's seen me for years along the way, supporting that journey, you know, engaging with the work, like I said. And, you know, meeting people at the beginnings of things, they remember, right, who was there with them and who was supportive and who got it. And I think that that went a long way for me with my subjects. I think the other thing is like, you know, in the music industry, whether it's rap, you know, southern rap, regional street rap, like, there's always a white guy around, you know. I talk about this in the book, whether it's a dj, a producer, a manager, you know, this is a trope, this is a tradition. And I think, you know, sometimes it goes well, sometimes it goes poorly. But I try to always be above board and respectful in my dealings. But I think, you know, when you're riding around in Atlanta, with a rapper and you look like I do, you know, someone's just going to assume that I'm either from the label or I'm from The FADER, you know, something like that.[00:19:41] Dan Runcie: Exactly. Exactly. But no, I think that, given this, as you mentioned, yeah, there's plenty of precedent for people having done this before. And yeah, I think the care that you bring into it with the book is clearly shown. And thinking about that, as you mentioned, just you driving around Atlanta, getting a feel for the vibe of the city and everything else, spending so much time there, how do you feel about the run that Atlanta's currently having and how this will continue? Because I think that like anything, people are always thinking of what is the next thing. How long does this last? We, of course, saw the east and west coast rise and fall. What do you feel, like, the next decade or so it looks like for Atlanta in hip hop? [00:20:19] Joe Coscarelli: I mean, the thing that's been so amazing about Atlanta, the reason it can be the subject of a book like this is because every time you would think it was over, they would just come up with a new thing, right? So like, you know, you think back to OutKast, you think back to So So Def, you know, you have the run of Ludacris, who becomes, you know, this crazy mainstream success story, you have Gucci, and Jeezy, and the rise of trap, and T.I., you know, becomes this huge crossover star. And then you think that that's over. And then you have crunk, and you have Lil Jon, and you think that's over. And then here's comes Waka Flocka Flame coming up from under Gucci, you know. Even someone like Gucci, he's helped birth three, four micro-generations of Atlanta rappers. And, you know, someone like Young Thug comes out and you're like, oh, like, this is too eccentric. This is never going to happen, right? Like, this is only for the real heads, only for people listening underground, and then all of a sudden he's on SNL, right? And he's in Vogue. And just over and over again, you have these guys sort of breakthrough with something that seems like it's too outre. It's too avant-garde. You know, even Migos and their sort of like punk repetition, you know, people heard Bando and said like, oh, this is annoying. Like, this is going nowhere, and then all of a sudden the whole radio sounds like that. So there's a part of me that does feel like, you know, this book is sort of capturing a contained era, right? The first 7, 8, 9, 10 years of streaming and the intensity and the tragedy of the YSL indictment. Like, maybe that's a hard stop to this era. But I think you can never count Atlanta out, right? So like, you might not know exactly what's coming next, but there's always more kids like this, like coming up with something new, taking what came before them, putting like a twist on it, and then all of a sudden it's on the radio, right? So like, even me, like, I see like a real post-Playboy Cardi, you know, sort of experimental streak in a lot of these rappers. I think there's some drill influence coming into Atlanta. And I don't think the next generation has really revealed itself yet, but I'm very confident that based on the infrastructure that's there, based on the amount of talent, the artists who call it home, both from there and not, like, I really think there'll be another wave, and there's just always another wave, in a way that even New York, you know, has struggled to bring the championship belt back that many times, you know? But I think, you know, Atlanta's regeneration has always been sort of its calling card. [00:22:41] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think one of the things that stands out about Atlanta too, and this is a bit of a sad way to frame it, but they've been able to withstand the jail time or the charges that happen for a lot of the rappers that are in their prime. Of course, we saw that happened with the West Coast in the nineties, Death Row, and you know, everything with Suge Knight and Tupac. I think we saw that a bit with the East Coast as well. But Atlanta, unfortunately, whether it's T.I., Gucci, like, a lot of them have served time, but the city still has been able to still thrive in hip hop because there was always someone else coming through. And I think even more recently now with Gunna and Thug, dealing with the RICO case and everything, who knows how that'll end up. But I think the difference for them and the city now as opposed to other areas is that even if you know, let's say that they may not be able to make music or this hinders their rise, there are other folks that can continue to have the city continue to rise up in the music around it.[00:23:38] Joe Coscarelli: Yeah, and I think so much of this music, right, the music that's come out of Atlanta in the last 30 years, like, it comes from struggle, right? It comes from necessity. And the things you're describing, whether it's, you know, violence, death, you know, the criminal justice, the weight of the state on these young black men, mostly. And they do tend to be men, especially in this scene, though that's changing too. You know, I think when people feel backed into a corner, like, art can come from that, right? So whether it's YSL directly or it's the people, they influence, the people from their neighborhood who are going to fill that void. I think, you know, the people hear the urgency in this music, right? They hear the, whether it's the joy or the pain, you know, there's a lot of feeling here. And I think, yeah, the tough times, people bounce back out of that. And trap is so much about that in general that I think it'll just continue to happen.[00:24:29] Dan Runcie: Definitely. And in the beginning of this conversation, you talked a little bit about how Hoop Dreams and that type of story was definitely an inspiration, and of course, that was nearly a three-hour long movie, if I remember correctly, the timeframe there. In terms of this book, already reading it, maybe through the first few chapters, I was like, oh, this is going to get turned into some type of TV or series or a movie or something like that. I could already see that happening. Was that in the back of your mind as you were thinking about what this could look like? Obviously, I'm sure you're so focused on the book, but were you, as you're thinking about the inspiration, were you thinking about multimedia adaptations? [00:25:05] Joe Coscarelli: You know, I wasn't as much as I should have been, right? Otherwise, I would've been recording my audio better to turn it into a podcast, to then turn it into a doc series or whatever it is. I'm very much like a print writer, right? Like, I'm a newspaper reporter. I don't even think about images really as much as I think about words. And yet, like, so much of my influence, like, you know, Hoop Dreams was always the sort of the north star of this, but, like, I'm a huge consumer of television and film and stories of all kinds. So I knew I wanted the scope of the story to at least have that potential, right, to feel grand, to feel cinematic, to feel like it was about a time and a place and characters, which I think, you know, is often easier to do in a visual medium. So I had it in mind. But I was really too focused on just getting the words down on the page and getting the material I needed. I hope you're right and that now that this thing exists, right, this big book, like you said, Hoop Dreams is a three-hour movie, and this is like the book equivalent of a three-hour movie. It's almost 400 pages, so it has that sort of epic quality. And I think there is, you know, hopefully, more to mine there, not necessarily in recreating the stories that I've already captured, but in that essence, in that spirit and the way that Atlanta sort of goes in waves and goes in cycles. I hope there's a way to be able to capture that visually as well. [00:26:23] Dan Runcie: If you could handpick any director you would want to lead a project on Rap Capital who'd you pick?[00:26:29] Joe Coscarelli: Oh, man. All time. I mean, that's a tough one. Look, I mean, what Donald Glover and Hiro Murai have done with their Atlanta series, you know, it's much more surreal than this. It's fictionalized, but the parts of it that are based, you know, more on earth and more in the music industry, like, are just captured so well. I think, Hiro, as a director specifically, was able to, you know, all the aerial shots, like the highways, the roads, the woods, like that version of Atlanta is really seared in my mind. And, you know, I know they've done their version, but I think there's more to do. But then there's like the younger generation, right, of video directors and stuff that I'm just waiting to be able to see their worlds on a larger scale, you know, someone like Spike Jordan or someone like Daps who have their hand in, or, you know, Keemotion, like people who have their hand in a lot of the visual representation of this music on YouTube. And I think I would love to see what they would do, right? I would love to see the present-day music video directors' version of Belly, right, in Atlanta. Like, Belly, one of my favorite, you know, top five favorite movies ever, and has that sort of that music video quality to it in a lot of ways, but then blown up for the big screen. Like, I want some of those guys to have a canvas like that to paint on. [00:27:42] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that's a good answer because I think that, especially the Hiro one, because I think that Atlanta, as a TV show, does capture so much of it. And you're right, the episodes that are set in earth and not the surreal, you know, messages. But yeah, the ones that are set in earth do capture a lot of the intricacies about the music industry and I think the reality, which is I think something you do in the book as well. I also think that some of the newer music video directors, too, just given the world that they're capturing, do so much of that well, too, and I think having that is key because, of course, some of the more established names have a picture of Atlanta, but it may be more relevant to that, you know, LaFace era of Atlanta, which, while very impactful, isn't what your book is about.[00:28:27] Joe Coscarelli: Yeah, I think there's a new wave, right, and the people who are responsible for the iconography of this wave. You know, even the crazy run of Young Thug videos, I think the director Be EL Be, is that his name? You know, just super, super surreal sort of dream world stuff. But I want to see what those guys can do with the present day, given the budgets, you know, if they were given a Hollywood-size budget instead of a rap video-size budget.[00:28:53] Dan Runcie: Well, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for that because I feel like it's one of these inevitable things and it'll be fun to watch for sure. [00:28:59] Joe Coscarelli: Fingers crossed. Yeah. [00:29:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah. All right. Well, before we wrap things up, I do want to go back to one thing about the music industry because you had tweeted something out, I forget how long ago it was, but Punch from TDE had, shoutout to Punch, he had asked a question about when did the personalities become bigger than the music, and you had responded and said, well, there's some nuance here. Look at someone like Rod Wave who is, you know, selling multiple times more than someone like Megan Thee Stallion. And I think Rod Wave is someone that, unless you know the music, you're not necessarily tapping in, versus Megan who's someone that's performing at all the big award shows and has a lot of the big features, how do you make sense of that dichotomy between those examples and maybe what it says about where we are in the industry and how to make sense of it?[00:29:45] Joe Coscarelli: I think there's just been a real crumbling of the monoculture, right? Like, before. You would expect, if somebody had a number one hit, if somebody had a number one album, everyone would know who they were, right? I would know, you would know, your mom would know, my grandma would know. They would at least have some vague idea, right, of who Shania Twain was, or you know, Katy Perry, whoever it may be, even Ed Sheeran, to name one of the last, I think, monoculture stars. Whereas today everything is so fragmented, right? You write about this in your newsletter, whether it's streaming TV or movies or music, like, everything finds its own little audience, and it's sometimes it's not even that little, you know. Jon Caramanica, the pop music critic here at the Times, and I collaborated on a piece, you know, I think probably almost four years ago at this point, saying like, your old idea of a pop star is dead. Your new idea of a pop star is, you know, it's Bad Bunny. It's BTS. It's Rosalía who's not selling a ton of albums, but can pack out two shows at Radio City Music Hall without saying a word of English, basically, you know. And people are finding these artists on their own, right? You think of NBA YoungBoy, another one who's like, basically, the biggest rap artist we've had over the last five years, and he gets no radio play. He's never been on television, he's never played SNL. He has, you know, maybe one magazine cover, national magazine cover in his past, that happened when he was, you know, 16, 17 years old. And yet, like the numbers on YouTube are bigger than Ariana Grande's, for instance, you know. So I think these audiences have just splintered. And there are a few people who permeate, right, personality-wise, you know, Megan Thee Stallion or whatever. But often the music is somehow divorced from that, right? Like, I think there's far more people who know these next-generation stars from being in commercials or, you know, Bad Bunny in a Corona commercial or whatever it is, then can sing one of their songs word for word. And I think that's fine. You know, I think that a lot of artists have found freedom in that, right? I keep coming back to artists who sing in Spanish primarily. Like, before I would be that to cross over, you had to change, right? You had to start singing in English, at least somewhat, like a Shakira or whatever it is. But now, that's no longer a prerequisite because your audience is going to find you on Spotify, they're going to come to your shows, they're going to buy merch. And even if you're not getting played on Z100 or, you know, Top 40 radio, you can still have as much of a footprint. It's just not in that same everybody knows the same 10 people way, you know? [00:32:10] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I think that the fact that someone like Bad Bunny has an album that's not in English, that has been on the top of the US charts for, what, 30%, 40% of the weeks of the year is incredible. [00:32:24] Joe Coscarelli: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, I think that he is a celebrity, right, he is in films, he's in Bullet Train, he's in commercials, whatever. But I still think if you, you know, maybe it's different in New York, but if you went on the street and you asked, you know, your average 42-year-old white woman who Bad Bunny was, or to name a Bad Bunny song, it might not happen. But he's still selling out Yankee Stadium, you know, so it's this weird give and take of, like, what makes a hit these days, what makes a superstar. I think, you know, to bring it back, like, Lil Baby is in this boat too. Like, he's as close to, we have, I think, in the new school as a mainstream superstar, right, headlining festivals, you know, he's performing at the World Cup. He is sponsored, you know, Budweiser sponsors him. He's in, you know, all sorts of commercials, and he is really moved into that upper echelon. But he is still not a celebrity, right, in the way that a 50 Cent or a Jay-Z is to everyone. But he is to a certain generation. So it'll be interesting to see if he can sort of push past that last barrier and become a household name. But he doesn't need it, right? He doesn't have to be a household name to be the biggest rapper in the country. [00:33:28] Dan Runcie: Right. I think the part that I'm really fascinated by, too, is how this separation of, yes, you can be someone that is more known for personality than music, how that will translate to the labels they're assigned to, which of course are in the business of people actually streaming and listening to your music, and they're not necessarily in the business of selling personality or selling brand deals, right? Like, they're not getting the Pepsi deals or they're not, like, that's Pepsi doing that, you know what I mean? So it'll be interesting to see what that looks like 'cause obviously I know that there are legal challenges and transgressions with maybe why someone like a Rod Wave or like an NBA YoungBoy may not be getting asked to perform at the Grammy's, right? Like, I think that's pretty easy to understand. Or even someone like a Summer Walker who I think that does very well from a streaming perspective, but I think, you know, personally, just isn't the personality type to want to be all out there, right? [00:34:21] Joe Coscarelli: Yeah, has no interest in being a celebrity, but I think it's almost healthier, right, for some of these artists to be able to say, like, I've seen what happens on the fame side, and I don't want that part. I just want to make my music and play for my fans. Like, I think that's becoming maybe more and more of a possibility, where you can speak directly to your fans and not have to play the game, right, with the gatekeepers that might not actually be turning into anything at this point other than mind share. So, yeah, there's a lot of different kinds of stardom right now, and I think, like, the cult star, the, like, mass cult star, Tyler, the Creator, you know, the way he built up his career. You've written about this over so many years. Like, he doesn't have a smash hit, he doesn't have an Old Town Road, you know, or a Call Me Maybe, or whatever it is. He doesn't have that defining record or pop cultural moment. He just has years and years and years of solid growth, and people respond to that, and that you can pack arenas on that just as easily as you, and maybe even more effectively than you can on the back of one or two massive hits.[00:35:25] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely now, for sure. It'll be fascinating to watch and I'll be looking out for your continued reporting and thoughts on this, yeah, such a fascinating time in the industry. But Joe, it's been a pleasure, man. Hey, if anyone listening, if you are a fan of this podcast, believe me, this is a book. I can't recommend it enough. You'll enjoy it. But Joe, for the folks listening, where can they get Rap Capital? [00:35:47] Joe Coscarelli: Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story, out October 18th, available wherever books are sold, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. Get an audiobook, should be out soon at your local bookstore. Yeah, hopefully, you'll be able to find it. Rap Capital. Thanks so much for having me. [00:36:00] Dan Runcie: Awesome. Thanks for coming on and great work again. [00:36:02] Joe Coscarelli: It was really fun. Thanks. [00:36:03] Dan Runcie: Really good.[00:36:04] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Mona Scott-Young is best-known for producing the Love & Hip Hop reality TV series on VH1. The franchise debuted in 2011 has remained a TV fixture today through industry-wide changes with TV and around 30 different seasons aired. However, it’s Young’s ability to permeate hip-hop culture into the mainstream that’s been the true calling card. Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Hannibal Buress has carved a name for himself in comedy over the past two decades. But now he’s foregoing that part of his career for a fresh identity — Eshu Tune, his rap alter-ego. The name pays homage to a “trickster god” in Nigerian mythology.A rap career has been in the back of Hannibal’s mind but the career pivot wasn’t seriously put into motion until 2020. Earlier that year, he put out a comedy special, “Miami Nights.” While promoting it at home during lockdowns, Hannibal felt a spark missing. That, plus the added alone time from not performing at comedy clubs, finally pushed Hannibal into the studio. Since then, Hannibal has largely dedicated himself to rap and rap only. His eight-track, self-titled EP dropped earlier this year. Live rap show performances followed that. An agency deal was inked with UTA this summer. And soon, Hannibal will hit the studio to prepare for his debut album, which he plans to drop on his 40th birthday next April.Hannibal took me through his comedy-to-rap journey over the past two years on the show. Here’s what we covered in our interview:[2:54] Introducing Eshu Tune the rapper[4:17] What led Hannibal to the career pivot[6:53] Goals of debut EP [10:11] Benefits of being independent artist[14:34] Following Too $hort at a Bay Area show[19:52] Getting a performing residency in LA[21:29] Challenging himself with music[26:52] Difference between Hannibal’s comedy and rap fanbase[29:08] Will Hannibal still do comedy?[31:36] Has the changing climate of comedy impacted Hannibal?[34:01] Previous comedians that went into music[37:50] Response from rap community to Hannibal’s career pivot[38:52] Eshu Tune’s next album dropListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Hannibal Buress, @hannibalburess  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Hannibal Buress: I got some stuff, I got 'em locked and loaded, just, you know, got to go get 'em out. That's one thing too, is since I am independent, I don't feel, I just kind of do it when it feels right, when it genuinely feels right to do. It's no pressure. It's just like, okay, do I truly want to do this? Ain't no exec, hey, you got to do, there's nobody doing that, so I have to make that decision, which is a gift. I wouldn't say it's a curse, but it forces that accountability.[00:00:35] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Hannibal Buress. You likely know his name from his comedy and his acting, but this episode is all about his music. Hannibal Buress has released an eight-track EP under the name Eshu Tune, and that is his artist that is creating hip-hop music. And we talked all about why he chose to start this new chapter in his career, why music was important to him, and how he sees things moving forward. Hannibal had had a career of dabbling in music every now and then. He actually had beaten Open Mike Eagle in a rap battle a couple of years back. And it's something that he had tapped into, but it really wasn't until the pandemic, and a lot of us had the time to really think and tap into what was most important to us. And he was able to take this on not only as a new challenge for his career, but as a new opportunity to do something that he always wanted to do, but knowing that he could both continue to leverage the platform that he has as a comedian and as an actor, both from a financial perspective, but also from an exposure perspective. We also talked about his upcoming residency, how he's been positioning himself to get booked on shows and other things, and how important this is for him right now. So it was great to tap in. This was also the first episode recorded in Trapital's new home. I have a new office and studio here, and it's been great to get everything set up, and it's been great to record these in person, too, because, listen, it's great to do things remotely. A lot of them have been that way, but it's just a different chemistry that you get when you can do them in person. So it was great that Hannibal and I could connect while he was in town. Here's our conversation. Hope you enjoy it. All right. Today we got the one and only Hannibal Buress.[00:02:41] Hannibal Buress: What's up, man? [00:02:41] Dan Runcie: Mr. Eshu Tune now, though. [00:02:43] Hannibal Buress: Eshu Tune, yeah, yeah. [00:02:44] Dan Runcie: Last we talked, it was all about comedy. We're getting ready for a special that you had Miami Nights, but now we're about to talk about your music career, man. [00:02:52] Hannibal Buress: Yeah, for sure, man. [00:02:53] Dan Runcie: So who is Eshu Tune? [00:02:54] Hannibal Buress: Eshu Tune is my musical alter ego. Eshu is from Yoruban mythology, Nigerian mythology, the trickster God. I was looking for a stage name there, so I just looked up African mythology and I just connected with that description. It kind of felt like me and some of the things I've done and, yeah, it just felt right. It really was a big help to kind of separate the worlds a little bit just 'cause now I look at, you know, Eshu as, okay, we can build them together 'cause now, I can if I want to do a little bit of comedy on this shows, it's like, Hey, yeah, they'll both be there.[00:03:34] Dan Runcie: Right, right, right. [00:03:35] Hannibal Buress: I changed shirts. You know, I can think of you like, you know, Hannibal's t-shirts. Eshu's in a red shirt or something, you know? So it's been fun. And so I'm excited for the growth, and performing has been really exciting, and a lot of dope stuff coming up.[00:03:53] Dan Runcie: So talk to me through the journey a bit because I know this is something that you spent a lot of time on in the pandemic. And last time we talked about it, you were getting ready to release Miami Nights, and this was around the same time that you had started working on music. So what was your mindset at that time? You got this big comedy special coming out, but you also are thinking about this new career opportunity.[00:04:17] Hannibal Buress: My mindset? 2020, putting out the special during that time was hella weird just because it wasn't the usual motions and movements that you have with putting out a special, doing events, doing press in person. You know, I did The Daily Show, but it was on Skype. And it just felt weird doing television from my place 'cause you still get wired kind of, but then you're just wired at the crib. It's like, man, oh, I'm not getting in the car to go somewhere else, you just there like, oh.[00:04:54] Dan Runcie: Right, right. [00:04:55] Hannibal Buress: I remember doing, I did First Take with Stephen A. Smith. Something for Last Dance, just talking about Last Dance. And I remember just, I kept messing with them changing jackets. [00:05:08] Dan Runcie: Oh, I remember that.[00:05:13] Hannibal Buress: Molly was giving me sass. Oh, thanks for being so professional. I'm trying to, like, you want me to make a great statement about Last Dance? Look, oh, yeah, Last Dance. What's up with that? I'm trying to have some fun, make some real memories here. Nobody will care about my take on... [00:05:30] Dan Runcie: It's a documentary, right? It's not like it's an event that happened last night. [00:05:35] Hannibal Buress: Yeah. If I make a great point about the '96 Bulls, '98 Bulls in 10 years, but people don't care if I'm was chaotic as hell. I need to put that clip back up actually. That was really fun. I was sweating and shit. Yeah, it was a good time. But, yeah, putting out the special then, it was weird, man. And I wanted the music, I started really diving in in November of '20 when I was out in Hawaii. I kind of, it was nice to be able to lock in, focus. I've always wanted to do it and would finally find the time. And the time was always there, honestly, but I wasn't as good as maneuvering time as I am now. 'Cause looking back, I could have been on the road after gigs, instead of going to the club, could have been booking studio time, that type of thing, or, you know, I'm glad it happened when it happened. [00:06:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that makes sense. I think, too, I've looked a lot about how you chose to roll this out, right? It's not like you just did one single, let me drop in and see what happens. You had an eight-track LP, oh, EP that you put out specifically for it. What was your goal in terms of the release? Was there a certain response that you wanted to have or a certain emphasis you wanted to have with how you chose to put it out as an EP?[00:06:53] Hannibal Buress: Yeah. And initially, I was going to do singles, the single strategy, but then I had a bunch of songs and I said, let me just get these out and see how I want to do it. Like, if I want to do videos for stuff, which I am still going to do the visuals on things and get 'em out. But it was just after a while. It was just, let me just do it. And I didn't follow the proper practices of, you know, get it to the DSPs with this much time, to the best time, like, all the stuff that I know you're supposed to do to give your release the best chance. But I just feel like it'll get its due when it's due, you know what I mean, whether it is when I put out videos later this month or next month or down the line. It's my first project. So whether it's crazy now or crazy in five years, it's always my first project. So it'll be there and it just felt good to get it out and have it out ' cause then the music got better afterwards, the stuff I started recording. And I still like the song, like 1-3 Pocket. I like 1-3 Pocket. And that was 1-3 Pocket, that's the motherfucker hit. Like when we made it, yeah, this bowling song's going to go crazy. Hell yeah, we made a bowling banger, but now I got other songs. I'm like, okay, I was wrong. Well, maybe I wasn't wrong, but it's just, the music is getting better. And so it's nice to feel that and feel that improvement and the progression. And so that'll keep on happening indefinitely. You know, if you keep on working on it, keep on releasing, keep performing, it's going to get better. So it's nice to have that feeling and, and hear that in the music and like even hearing how the music sounds. If I record the day after a show, that music sounds good 'cause you can kind of hear the clarity, you know, you already got the energy. So it's been exciting, man.[00:08:50] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I get the feeling that 1-3 Pocket was a song you thought was going to be the one and that's a one, but I feel like Veneers is the one that I feel is your anthem. [00:08:57] Hannibal Buress: Veneers worked before I even put it out, and I performed it 'cause the hook is slower and the beat is chill. It feels, yeah, Veneers is the one I think people like more than the song that has really inside bowling terminology in it. Surprise the song about teeth is more accessible than the song about the bowling pins. Like, even people that love bowling have said to me, what is the 1-3 Pocket? [00:09:33] Dan Runcie: 'Cause some people would think you're talking about like billiards or like, you know, like shooting pool or something like that.[00:09:37] Hannibal Buress: Nah, it's just a, yeah, it's the headpin and the pin to the right. I got to put out a video for 1-3 Pocket. I got the lyric video out. I got to get the official video out, a couple of them. I might, you know, we'll see if I get on stubborn mode and start putting out three, four videos for a song. That's when I really, I'll start really lighting up, just going crazy with the visuals. Yeah. I was waiting to see the music videos. I'm glad you mentioned that you got the lyric video up. [00:10:02] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And of course, you know, like that's a great way to get the views and engagement up, but yeah, seeing the Eshu Tune visual character, I feel like that is, you know, the next piece of this.[00:10:11] Hannibal Buress: Yeah, I've been holding off a bit on the music videos 'cause I know when I got to know, when I do officials, that's when things are really shifting in a way. And so I don't want to rush it, but, you know, they come in over the next month or so, is when the visuals start. I got some recorded already. I got some for Back In The City. I recorded in Thailand actually. When I was in Thailand and I looked on Eventbrite and it was a restaurant packaging conference at the convention center. I was like, let's just go here. And I went and it was all this interesting, just different machinery and robotics. Me and my lady just walked through, something just to, you know, just a different environment. I said, man, well, I'm over here. What else am I going to do in Thailand and it's a convention? I have to shoot a music video. So I came back two days later, shot the video there. And so I got that. We got one for Closed Mouths. We got a Pocket video, got a version of the Veneers video, but I want to do a story version. So, yeah, I got some stuff, I got 'em locked and loaded, just, you know, got to go get 'em out. That's one thing too, is since I am independent, I don't feel, I just kind of do it when it feels right, when it genuinely feels right to do. It's no pressure. It's just like, okay, do I truly want to do this? Ain't no exec, hey, you got to do, there's nobody doing that, so I have to make that decision, which is a gift. I wouldn't say it's a curse, but it forces that accountability.[00:11:44] Dan Runcie: Yeah, with that, too, I feel like, with you, you're an independent artist who also has the luxury of this platform of your comedy that has given you not just the resources, but the platform to be able to get booked on shows or to be able to get at festivals or other things like that. How do you look overall in terms of how you view your career as an independent artist and wanting to see that through? Do you see a major label in the future? Do you see building what you have clearly with the resources that you have from your comedy and acting to be able to push off for that? [00:12:19] Hannibal Buress: I think the major label thing isn't something I'm chasing. I would hear them out, you know what I mean? I would take a meeting or a call just to hear the right pitch and see. But before I even would do that, I would have to give myself at least a year or so of operating full speed. [00:12:42] Dan Runcie: Right.[00:12:42] Hannibal Buress: 'Cause now I'm in the coast, I'm doing a good amount of shows and having fun, done a couple of festivals this year with, you know, no visuals out. So I would have to give myself all of 23 of like going, you know, with a full staff, you know what I mean? My whole infrastructure, putting out everything, like really, really going crazy merch, all the whole thing, and then see how I like that. And then see what we could do from there. But for now I kind of got an idea of how I want to do it. And a lot of the things that a label can provide, I've been to some of these spots before while I promoting standup or touring or different things, I've been around. I'm sure there's other things or different cracks and crevices they can operate in, but there's a lot of things that, you know, I'm able to pull off 'cause I'm independent, but it's not a true, like in the same kind of thing. 'cause I've got the visibility. So it's a good help. The music still has to be good, too, and I'm cognizant of that, where I want to be, you know, I don't want to just be in the spots to be in them. [00:13:52] Dan Runcie: Right. [00:13:52] Hannibal Buress: I want to be in the spots and really doing my thing and having a dope show and, you know, justifying the spot.[00:13:59] Dan Runcie: Yeah. [00:14:00] Hannibal Buress: Yeah. [00:14:00] Dan Runcie: Because I think the thing that works out for you with it well is so many folks signed with the record label because they want to be able to get the distribution that can at least get them some global recognition in reach. But then that also gives them to being able to do shows, right? And you are able to get a lot of these shows on your own, just given the connections and the influence that you have. What has that process been like specifically with you getting out? 'Cause I know that you were up in San Francisco a couple of months ago. You did, you know, we had the 420 thing up here. What has that process been? [00:14:34] Hannibal Buress: That's through friends, you know, old friends that I've worked with before or talk with and people that, yeah, my homie Normani helped put that together, the 420. So it's just people that believe in what I'm doing, that I have a history with, that, you know, see some opportunities. So Too $hort went on, I forget who the DJ from the Bay was, but Too $hort went on and I was like, oh man, I'm going on after Too $hort in the Bay? With friends? [00:15:07] Dan Runcie: Blow the whistle finishes and now... [00:15:10] Hannibal Buress: It was crazy and I got brand new music. Brand new. That was two days after the project dropped. But it was a fun time. I enjoy it so much, man. Even that show didn't go how I thought it was going to go, but it still was fun, you know? [00:15:34] Dan Runcie: Wait, how did you think that show was going to go?[00:15:36] Hannibal Buress: How did I think it was? I thought it was going to, in my mind, and it's the blessing of being mostly optimistic on the performance side might just drop the project, it's circulated, two days after, it's the Bay. I'm going to hit the stage going Veneers. Yeah, get out there, and then, you know, they didn't, they was listening, but it just wasn't, you know, it's just new rap sometimes it's tough. And so also then I still, my music performance chops are a bit more developed now, too. It's been some time, so I'm better at engaging the crowd, even if they don't know the music 'cause I think, at first, bringing a lot of standup energy into it, meaning, you know, you get the, Hey, yeah, say, yeah, but, you know, you got to, and so getting used to just monologue and even just the body language, too, microphone holding, body language, like, you know, that whole thing. Still a bit rusty now. And there's a lot of room to grow. I like coming back to spots, too, after you did, so it will be some folks, they had a good time there, too. It was dope. Had another show that night too. I did LA later that night with the full band. So it was just a dope experience to have two shows in the Bay, LA, same night, 420. I'll never forget that at all. [00:17:04] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's an interesting crowd too, because their crowd is high as hell, and it is a midweek thing, too. So it's not the same way of, let's say a music festival where it's like, oh, three o'clock at the East stage, Eshu Tune is going to be there, right, so that's definitely a little bit of a different vibe than I feel like what that event is. [00:17:21] Hannibal Buress: Yeah, it was. But the one good thing, another good thing about is that I rehearsed right before. Like I landed, went to a rehearsal space, and then I ran through it. So when I got on stage, I felt good 'cause I was freshly rehearsed. So even though I wasn't rocking out, I kind of was in the zone, in a good space. But when I had a show in Philly for Adult Swim Fest, that one we were tapped in, had the band. I love having the band up there just because I feel like, you know, when you got the band, that's just a lot of energy on stage and you got to, I feel like, giving them a reason to be like, okay, why are we playing for this motherfucker? So then you got to bring the energy up even more to justify the band, you know, so that's always fun.[00:18:13] Dan Runcie: Yeah. So how often are you doing shows right now? [00:18:15] Hannibal Buress: My last show was I popped out at this open mic in LA a couple of days ago, then before that was, what? [00:18:24] Dan Runcie: An open mic for music, to clarify.[00:18:26] Hannibal Buress: Open mic for music. Yeah, open mic for music, did a few songs. And doing Wild 'N Out next week in Atlanta and probably do a popup or something in Atlanta, maybe. And then I'm starting up a residency in LA, six weeks at Grand Star Jazz Bar. That's going to start on September 26th, every Monday until October 31st 'cause I wanted to get that structure in. And then, you know, I used to host at Knitting Factory in Brooklyn and that kind of, like, having that consistency of doing a regular spot. I hadn't done that in a minute. And so when I did the last show at Knitting Factory, that location closed down, I did and so it reminded me of that energy and just of that, you know, having that regular spot where people know they can see me 'cause you can't always link up with friends or grab lunch and all of that. So you can kinda have the residency, people know where to find you. So I want to do that. I'm excited about doing that 'cause I think that'll help the writing 'cause it'll be like, okay, I got this show. I definitely have this show on Monday. Maybe I'll try this new song there. And then the rest of the week can kind of flow off of that. So I'm super excited about these six shows. I put 'em all on sale at once and it's nice to see they're flowing, you know? And so it is going to be, it's going to be a good time and then we'll see how we want to operate from there. But definitely doing those six in a row, man. [00:19:47] Dan Runcie: What was it like to get that process going for the residency specifically?[00:19:52] Hannibal Buress: It was, you know, I went to the spot at Grand Star. I saw something there I've been there twice. It is really close to my spot. And then I just reached out to the owner online, walked over there, talked to him, told him what I was trying to do, told him I wanted Mondays. He was like, all right, you take the door, I'll take the bar. I ain't dealing with your ticketing, like this it. And then I was like, all right, let's get it. It was pretty straightforward and simple, you know. ' Cause I realized I wasn't, something about LA, it was making me stagnant on a live performance side and I was doing more gigs out of town. And I've done some stuff, but I wasn't really consistent locally. And so I just realized I had to create that. I couldn't be, you know, annoyed with the nightlife or performing if I wasn't really trying to do something about it. [00:20:45] Dan Runcie: Right, right. [00:20:46] Hannibal Buress: When I have that ability, it's not that tough to like, Hey, this is the place I do a show, you know? So I'm really hyped 'cause they'll be, you know, have a comedian or two and two or three music acts and get the book stuff that I'm a fan of and tape 'em. And the excitement of doing a show, like putting on a regular show after doing it for a while and doing it now with knowledge and knowing how to build the vibe and promote and all those things. It's going to be a blast. [00:21:14] Dan Runcie: Yeah. With that type of show specifically, you are also staying in the same spot. And I know that probably helps from a lifestyle perspective too. You have a young daughter, you know, you're not trying to, you know, be on the road, maybe, to the same extent.[00:21:29] Hannibal Buress: Yeah, just the consistency of this is what, you know, for everybody, for the team, for the camera people, by the third show's, like, okay, this is my spots right here. Everybody being, you know, the timing of it, and it's just, I got to create that consistency for myself and that external pressure to do 'cause they're not all like everything else. 'Cause then once like, okay, Monday, this is what Mondays are no matter what. So then it's like, okay, well, it's Tuesday now since we only got six others. So like, okay, one of those has to be a studio day or this type of day or that. Or, you know, it forces the structure for the rest of it. So it's something I haven't had in a while like that consistency. So, you know, when I did have it in New York, it kind of led to the most productive times in my career and, yeah, the most profitable. [00:22:24] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah, I feel like I'm seeing, hearing more artists talk about that, especially, we're seeing what's happening in Vegas. So many more artists, especially while they're still in their prime, taking the residencies there, too. And you're starting to see them more in different cities. And I like how you did where you're like, yeah, you essentially created your own opportunity where you're at. So and I feel like we're going to start to see more of that as I'm just seeing trends of how artists are thinking about doing things and where it makes sense to monetize in and where it doesn't.[00:22:50] Hannibal Buress: Yeah. Just, you know, it's like, Hey, I booked myself for six, you know, I'm here. But even, you know, with that, it's a bunch of different things. And look, you could change up the core each week, you know what I mean? Change up the merch or change up the drinks or change, you know, all these different elements to keep it fresh since you learn in the space and learning the crowd. And you get to know the fans 'cause I'm sure, you know, folks go return, you know? So and having that data, too, of seeing that, you know, yeah, who you see exactly who I'm seeing, who’s buying the tickets and blah, blah, blah, and so can reach out direct. Thank you for your time, who are you listening to, you know? now it's like a kind of, It's going to be a new phase, man. And that's one thing, too, with the music is that younger hunger, 'cause it's a newer thing. It still has that feeling of I don't know what's going to happen. Right. You know, I could try to make things or put things, but the other parts of it, when you do that, make other things happen when you just, you know, action cause reaction. Even going to that open mic that I did the other night and ask this other person, Hey, come to this show, you know, shows beget shows. And so it's nice to have that momentum and that feel because the comedy side, I don't want to say it's predictable, but the goals kind of are, you could change up your special and, and different things, but the goals like, oh, blah, blah, blah, special, blah, blah, blah, move and you do this, too, but it feels super blank canvas a little bit.[00:24:24] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I get the impression from you that there's part of that that is enjoyable. It's that challenge. It's like what keeps it fresh in a way, because, at least for comedy, you mentioned the predictability of it. Like, you knew what would work, you're getting the calls. Like, you know, you're still getting them up to this point. So this is an opportunity to be like, no, this is something I've always wanted to do. Let me tap in here and explore the unknown because, at least from the comedy side, even though that could be unknown to someone else, but you've been in this for decades now, you know? [00:24:50] Hannibal Buress: Yeah. At the open mic, it was a bunch of other artists, that was having the same conversations. Like, I didn't know you rapped, I didn't know you rapped, I didn't know you rapped. Like, yeah, I guess that's why I'm here. So now you know I rapped. And so to have, you know, it's still building that, you know, through word of mouth, through performing and, you know, a solid amount of time, but it's happening piece by piece where I'm, you know, seeing folks in public. Oh, I see you doing the music, yeah, keep doing, you know. Yeah, it feels good, man. It feels exciting. And it is just going to get better and keep learning and, you know, I got my drum set, you know, practice more, got keys, got to, you know, I want to in five years be full on musician be able to move around the whole kit, the whole, you know, all the instruments and, and really do a show show, you know?[00:25:44] Dan Runcie: Yeah. By show show. What do you mean? [00:25:47] Hannibal Buress: Like, being able to, you know, like even have a band, like this one, I'm on keys, for this one...[00:25:52] Dan Runcie: Yeah, yeah. [00:25:52] Hannibal Buress: But not fucking around on keys. Like, actually killing that shit. This one I'm hopping on the kit and like, not bullshit. I don't want to, you know, half-ass it like, oh yeah, he's up there. He's having fun. Then get the picture. No, I wanted to, you know, actually, be technically proficient at it. And I'm willing to work to get to that spot too. You know, but you got to lock in for that. So that's the real, real goal is to be able to even, in seven years, pop in on somebody's set only for drums and, like, nail it, you know what I mean? Like, okay, like he playing on somebody else's music, you know, and it like, yeah, that's the goal. Even if I'm 47, 50 when I'm able to do it, that's what I want to do. [00:26:37] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I feel like with you, too, you talked a little bit about the fan base piece of it, and you be able to see who's coming to the shows and seeing who the fans are. Do you feel like the fan base is slightly different in any way from your comedy fan base? [00:26:52] Hannibal Buress: It will be. It will be. Right now, there's a lot of overlap 'cause people that might be thinking, they're getting the comedy show and show up for the music and then they like, oh, okay, that was better than that. I didn't know that was happening. But there'll be some folks that weren't into my comedy at all that was like, okay, I like this I'm seeing some folks, I did Sway In The Morning, the freestyle, some people are like, I like this better than his comedy. And now I'm thinking me too. I do too, yeah. And then there'll be people that never knew I did comedy once, then when the music is discovered, if they find it through the algorithm or something, they'll be some folks like, what? This guy got four comedy specials, you know, especially when things start tapping on an international scale. If When I started touring in Asia, going over, you know, folks that they just find the music through the promoter or whoever, and then they like, what? You do music? So I'm excited for that part of it too, man. It's nice to, you know, and then I might rerelease Miami Nights, but just put music videos in between that shit.[00:28:05] Dan Runcie: Yeah. [00:28:05] Hannibal Buress: Like, oh, y'all want Miami Nights? Well, here. And it’ll be like, and so, and then I said 2Chainz and like Veneers, Veeners, 1-3 Pocket, you know. There's a lot of moves to, you know, that just because I have that this older stuff and this older material to be able to maneuver and, you know, run ads against and all these different things, man. So it's just a lot of possibilities and ideas. It is fun, it's a fun time. Every day, I'm lit up, like excited, just because, you know, there's so much to do and so many different ideas. I'm and so it's just, I'm fully locked in, yeah. [00:28:45] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Where do you feel like your comedy itself fits within your career? 'Cause I know I've listened to past interviews you've done and you've said that, nope, I'm locked in on music right now. But I also know that you had said in other interviews that okay, maybe in three years, if I do another comedy special or make it all even stronger. So where does your comedy fit in for you right now? [00:29:08] Hannibal Buress: I could still do it. Because I did it last night at this private gig. And I did it when we did the last night at Knitting Factory, I planned on doing 10 minutes and I ended up going on a couple of tangents, did it in 20, 30. That was partially 'cause of the history of the room and that energy there and that's where I built that soul. And I still can write, you know, I do banter in between. I just don't think I foresee just me kind of grinding out in the clubs or, you know, trying to do for weekends for a while, unless it's just purely to pay for some last-minute music expense. It would be just purely that, if I'm at an improv or doing it if I'm billed as a standup publicly, that's where it's at right now. Even I did for the gig last night, I brought a keys player, Preach Balfour, he plays for my show sometimes, but it was just, I didn't feel like having the emptiness of just pure waiting for laughs. It's not going to be with a keys players the whole time and I'm telling these stories, these jokes, but it's not going to be dead in the room just because. It's like, I'm not giving y'all that as an audience. I'm not giving you the ability to have this shit be silent at the very least after I say something, it's going to be beautiful keys planted as motherfucker. So it's just that exercise of just the grind of what it takes to stay sharp as a standup, I don't feel like doing that anymore. I just find the music to be more enjoyable. And just, it has more, yeah, you just can go into a different direction, like everything don't have to be funny or everything don't have to be one level, you know what I mean? And so maybe down the line now, another one or, but as far as like working, working, I don't see it happening, yeah. [00:31:15] Dan Runcie: Has any of the reaction to how comedians have either been perceived or how they're being called upon to respond to particular things, especially in the past few years with how things happening on Twitter, has any of that impacted how you feel are your relationship to comedy or making it at all?[00:31:36] Hannibal Buress: No, man. 'cause you just have to, you don't have to do anything out here unless you're on a show where you do that and you're contractually obligated. But even that is still a choice, you know what I'm saying? Everything is a choice. We could live in the woods, man, with no electricity if we choose to. We choose to be out here and perform, play video games, move about, you know, born into this, but you don't have to do none of the shit, all of it, all of it's made up. [00:32:11] Dan Runcie: Right. [00:32:12] Hannibal Buress: Yeah. [00:32:13] Dan Runcie: Yeah, because I feel like as you mentioned, yeah, a lot of it being made up probably makes people almost forget that they do have a choice in a lot of this because I feel like what I've seen or what I've heard from other comics sometimes is that just because of how things are with the climate or how people feel like they need to respond to particular things that there are comics that feel different, especially how things have happened, post-pandemic. But I feel like your mentality is a bit more like, Hey, we really don't have to like, just like whether it's people being canceled or people having backlash for things they say like, comics don't need to fit into fall into that.[00:32:51] Hannibal Buress: You can just do what you want, you know? And that's one thing. And it's not to judge or say, oh, it's wrong. I see why people would feel pressure. And I get that, too, but it's, after a while you just really like, oh, it's now that I know exactly what I enjoy, and I know the spots where I am truly having fun and losing track of time and enjoying life. And so I just try to spend as much time in those spots and spaces as I can and leave the other shit alone. It takes practice. It's a great theory. It ain't fully perfect, but it's a solid system for me. [00:33:37] Dan Runcie: Yeah, yeah. Has there been a bit of a connection to other comedians that have went into music? Thinking about something like a Jamie Foxx or someone like that, that, you know, someone else like yourself, multi-talented and has, you know, had success in both areas. Is there kind of like a, okay, you know, you see that others have done this, or do you really feel like, no, this is even more unique thing? [00:34:01] Hannibal Buress: I respect, definitely respect what they've done. The timing is different for how I'm doing it. So that's why it's kind of, it's tough to compare a little bit the approach because it is been a minute. But it makes it interesting for me just from having stuff to talk about, too, for doing it so long 'cause sometimes I'm like, maybe I should have started when I was 23, but I think it happened when it was supposed to happen, and it happened when I was ready for it to really happen. But yeah, I watched, you know, like Jamie is amazing, you know? What Gambino's done, it's really dope. I saw Lil Duval write his Living My Best Life, was popping. I saw him. [00:34:42] Dan Runcie: That was a good song. [00:34:43] Hannibal Buress: He did good with that one. He was at the Stress Factory in Jersey as the song was peaking, and he was definitely too big for that room, but it made the energy...[00:34:54] Dan Runcie: Yeah.[00:34:55] Hannibal Buress: He was, like, crazy. He hit the stage to it. Like it was dope to see, man, like I was genuinely excited, and you could feel that he was hyped about it too, man. So it is dope to see when people just go for it in that way, and then we just making this shit, you can really do anything. I have to remind myself of that, too. Just really do anything, man. Just, you know, just go for this shit. I got this song, No Whip. It is a freestyle. It's a 7-minute freestyle about how I was living in Hawaii last year. I bought a car there,, and then I took a trip and then we ended up moving, but I didn't go back to like send the car and I've been planning to, but it's just kind of one of them things where I just, out of sight out of mind. And it ain't really, you know, causing a strain on my life, right? But it is, it's kind of, I bought this whip left in Hawaii, blah blah. And it's like, it's a loose freestyle. And I'm like, you know what, man, I'm going to shoot this part here, part in Hawaii, and just keep it at seven minutes 'cause you can just do that. The instinct is like, oh no, maybe I need to, I'm being repetitive, so maybe I should cut. I'm like, no, shoot that shit rough. Like, make it look as dope as possible. Like, shoot it rough freestyle dope and have fun and then just let it fly and just don't put the constraints on yourself unnecessarily. It's easy to try to overedit sometimes or get it. And so it's just, getting better at trusting myself, which was the initial hurdle It was just, okay, let me do this. There was nobody like, you can't make music, man. What are you, like? It was kind of me battling initially. And then once I dropped it and then, you know, now, okay. And then just rewiring my brain to, okay, I am doing this and keep doing it. It's like, okay, well, we are doing this for real, you know, no matter, no matter what. That's why I find it, like, absurd when people reach out and like, stop. That's weird. Like, you realize I'm a very, I'm a very stubborn person. Like, I'm not doing it to show you up. Like, this is like, I'm already way more locked in than you could ever imagine. So, you know, why you would ever tell me to stop. It's weird. But then I know that that person's not locked in on whatever they want to do if the time to tell me to stop. Yeah, but it's that I don't even get mad is just more like what, what? That's a weird thing to like, why stop? You realize even if my music was completely trash, I would still be able to figure it out from a marketer standpoint. I'd still be able to work some angle in this shit. But it's, you know, it's exciting, man. [00:37:44] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's an exciting time, man. What has the response been like from the hip-hop community?[00:37:50] Hannibal Buress: It's been dope, man. Went on Sway In The Morning, did my written freestyle. I bothered Questlove when The Roots were performing at Pitchfork. They let me rock up there. So I got to rap with Black Thought, you know. It's been good, man. The Sway, the Sway interview helped, you know, I got a bunch of friends that I've worked with that I send stuff to sometimes. So the people that really know me, like know me know me, know that I've been working on things for a while and been building. So they've been super supportive and especially the ones that know what the grind has been and know how I've been working. So it is been dope, man. I'm just, I'm excited to just keep pushing, putting together shows and it's a fun time with just lots of possibilities and shit. [00:38:40] Dan Runcie: Exciting time, man. Exciting stuff. So before we close things out, what should the audience stay in tune for? What does the next year look like for Eshu Tune and what should they keep locked in for?[00:38:52] Hannibal Buress: The plan is to drop the full album on my 40th birthday, February 4th, '23. So I got a couple of songs done for it, going to start the sessions for it next month in November and December, hopefully, shoot videos, December. January, drop a single on New Year's Eve. And then 40th birthday album, I don't know what the title is going to be yet. 40-year-old freshman, 4 HB, 4 Eshu, 40, 244. I don't know, something like that, but I feel like 40th birthday is a good, drop date. Yeah, so that's the plan. And so I'll use the time leading up, you know, to start purging old stuff, you know what I mean? Use that to kind of, you know, drop loosies and different things and even drop some of the older comedy stuff I got, I've been hoarding. And so I want to also, in addition to having the Mondays residency, use the Mondays as a drop date, you know, for new content, old content to start just really, really getting stuff out and start just to free my brain up, 'cause there's a lot of, even though I'm making stuff and dropping stuff, there's a lot of other stuff that I think needs to just be let go, let the birds fly and then it'll help the creativity more.[00:40:12] Dan Runcie: I hear that. In terms of other stuff too. I think I remember seeing you, you had a song called Numbers. Is that a kid song? Is that one of those things you're going to be putting out there? [00:40:21] Hannibal Buress: I don't know if I'm going to lean too heavily into the kid songs yet, or maybe under an alias. I might start dropping, but yeah. I've been seeing some of, who's it, Gracie's? [00:40:29] Dan Runcie: Gracie's Corner? [00:40:30] Hannibal Buress: Gracie's Corner and then another one where they got the trap kind of kid stuff. Maybe Numbers was fun to do. I did that, yeah. Shout out to Shaliek on the beat for Numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. One robot, two robots. The robots is an ongoing theme in my music also. [00:40:51] Dan Runcie: Hey, man, we're excited for all of it, man. [00:40:53] Hannibal Buress: Yeah. [00:40:54] Dan Runcie: Tons of respect for you, man. [00:40:55] Hannibal Buress: Hey, thank you, man. Thanks and good talking with you, Dan, for sure. [00:40:57] Dan Runcie: Always been. [00:40:58] Hannibal Buress: Yep.[00:41:00] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
It’s never been easier for artists to release music and find an audience in any corner of the world. Likewise, it’s never been more difficult for artists to break through the noise. The Internet and streaming services have created a double-edged sword for rising artists. To discuss this, Tatiano Cirisano joined me on the show. Tati is a music analyst at MIDiA Research and a former reporter at Billboard.Tati released a research piece a few weeks ago that argues the music industry is oversaturated and fragmented — more than ever before. This shift has created a new class system for artists.In Group 1 are artists that reached prominence pre-streaming in a less cluttered marketplace (e.g. Beyonce or AC/DC). Class 2 consists of artists who rose in parallel with the proliferation of streaming. Drake and Taylor Swift fall into this category. And then there’s the Class 3, that includes newer artists, who try to cultivate audiences in today’s hyper-competitive landscape against the other two groups. Tati believes the trend line for the music industry’s fragmentation is clearly pointing up. To understand how we got here, why it matters, and how it redefines success, you’ll want to listen to our interview. Here’s our biggest talking points: [3:11] Why consumption is now fragmented[8:41] Music superstars losing their reach[10:55] Modern artists valuing fame less than prior generations[13:24] Benefits to fragmentation[14:48] Updated benchmark for artist success[16:50] Active vs. passive listening[18:53] Music industry is still tied to album sales[25:34] Artists segmenting audiences by platform[30:18] Trap of taking users off native platforms[32:59] Content is becoming more important than the creator[37:35] YouTube and other potential outlier platforms for audience-building You can read Tati’s full report here: https://midiaresearch.com/blog/music-is-not-a-level-playing-field-it-is-a-field-of-all-levelsListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Tatiana Cirisano, @tatianacirisano  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Tatiana Cirisano: Fame is actually really low on the list of priorities of artists today. And whether that's because they don't really want it or because they just don't think it's achievable is kind of another layer to that, but the top two things are earning a sustainable income and achieving recognition within their scene. Artists' definitions of success are changing, but I don't know if the music industry is really catching onto that or really supporting that because the music business is a hits business and record labels are trying to create superstars and drive culture.[00:00:38] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:58] Dan Runcie: Today's conversation is all about why the stars of today cannot be compared to the stars of yesterday in the music industry. And when I'm talking about yesterday, I'm not talking about 20, 30 years ago. I'm talking about 3, 4 even 5 years ago. The era that Drake and even Post Malone and some of these other artists came up in cannot be compared to what's happening with the artist today and that's as it relates to streaming, as it relates to TikTok and all the ways that things are fragmented in the creator economy. And it was great to be joined by Tatiana Cirisano. She is a music industry analyst at MIDiA Research, where she has written some insightful pieces and breakdowns on this topic in a whole lot more. We talked about the impacts and the current landscape of the streaming era, and what it looks like for artists that are prioritizing their growth and perfecting what they can do on one platform as opposed to spreading it on others. We also talked about some of the trade-offs and some of the challenges for artists in the creator economy and a whole lot more. She does some great research on this topic. So definitely check out the work she does at MIDiA Research if you haven't yet, here's our conversation. Hope you enjoy it. All right, today, we are joined by music industry analyst, Tati Cirisano, who is going to help us solve all of the music industry problems today. Are you ready? [00:02:22] Tatiana Cirisano: One can hope. I'll do my best. [00:02:25] Dan Runcie: So what sparked this conversation was a really insightful piece that you had put out recently through MIDiA Research, and this was about the different levels of artists and where they are specifically in the streaming era. And you had this really good breakdown on how you had the artists that were already established in the streaming era such as your AC/DCs or your Beyoncés, they were established before streaming became a thing. You had the artists that were, folks like your Drakes or even your Taylor Swifts that rose while streaming was really huge. And then you have your artists today. Could you talk a little bit about how that differentiation between those groups impacts success and what achieving success looks like today?[00:03:11] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I'll kind of back up a little bit to what is underlying all of that, which is just the fragmentation of consumption. And that's something that we study a lot at MIDiA, and it basically means that you know, with people able to, through streaming, access all the music they could ever want to and listen at any time that they want to, and also with these increasingly sophisticated algorithms kind of pushing people to niches. It follows that there are kind of less mainstream moments or mainstream stars and more of these stars just for individuals and their communities or their niches. And I think that's something that we've all kind of experienced at some point, like, maybe there's an artist that you're obsessed with and all of your friend's love, and you mention it to a friend that is in another circle and they're like, who's that? I mean, I get that reaction. I've gotten that reaction talking about Bad Bunny before, and he is the top streamed artist in the world. So I think we've all had like this anecdotal experience of you thinking that something is mainstream, but it's not as mainstream as you think it is and that is the fragmentation at work. So this is happening on a really, really accelerated scale now. Just because of how everything is online and on demand and because of these algorithms. So we're in this situation where the artists that are competing today are in a much more oversaturated and fragmented landscape where it's a lot harder to have a mainstream impact than the artists that were even chasing success three years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. So the way that I had kind of broken it down, and I think you could actually break it down way further, which I think we're going to talk about is yeah, the artists that came up before all of this, pre-streaming, really, which are the AC/DCs, even a little bit of like the Beyoncés, and because they built their fan bases at a time before everything was so fragmented and cluttered, they're still, like, building on that today. They're still kind of riding that wave. And then you have the artists who came up kind of at the beginning of streaming and before all the second-order impacts happened. So basically streaming did democratize the playing field. It did make it so that way more artists could find their audiences. And there were all these benefits at the beginning, and artists like Drake, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran really benefited from that. But now we're at a point where streaming has also contributed to this really oversaturated landscape, this really fragmented landscape. And it's only getting more and more so every year. And so the artists that are competing in that landscape now face really, really unique challenges, yet they're still competing in the same field as the Drakes, as the Beyoncés, as the AC/DCs. So because so much of this change has happened in just, like, 5 or 10 years, we're in a situation where the artists of today have very, very different challenges than, I think, even the artists of 2020, like the pace of fragmentation, is just insane. And I have data on that too, that I can share. [00:06:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It would be great to dig more into that 'cause you've mentioned 2020. I look back on that year, especially, maybe the year leading into that, Billie Eilish was someone that was being talked about more and more, and she, of course, ended up sweeping the Grammys that year. But even when she came up, things are even more different now than back then, to your point. [00:06:20] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah. I really like the data that BPI pulls on this in there, I think it's called All About the Music. They have this annual report, and they look at, this is only in the UK, but they look at what percentage of total annual audio streams go towards the top 100 tracks? So, like, how much the hits are dominating basically? And that percentage has halved, more than halved, in the past 5 years. So you see that, like, we still have superstars, but their impact is just kind of lessening. And more, more consumption is going towards sort of like the mid-tier of artists, but it's spread across them. So it's just harder and harder to kind of have an impact. So, yeah, I think Billie Eilish is, it's funny, I feel like she's such a tough one because I try to use her as examples all the time, and I'm always like, but she is the exception to every rule because she is, like, such a talent. And, you know, I feel like it's hard to use her as an example in things, but I do think that she even came up in a much less cluttered space. I think that was like, more like 2017, 2018 pre-TikTok. And that's actually another division that I would make. Like yes, because of TikTok, the app itself, but also because of the fragmentation that it kind of has fostered and that other platforms are now following the footsteps of.[00:07:38] Dan Runcie: It's interesting because the BPI data is essentially telling us that a superstar has around half the reach that they maybe once did, or half of that footprint that they did. And it's one of those things where, of course, there's that cultural aspect of wanting to feel like something is big enough, so that, yeah, you're not asking your friends about Bad Bunny. And even though he's a global superstar, people still don't know who he is, but is this necessarily an issue as it relates to artists? Because a lot of it does reflect on the expectations that someone may have for their career, so I wonder has the industry itself adapted to the expectations, right? I think a lot of folks understand that no one is necessarily going to have that 1960s Beatlemania level of fame, or even 1980s, Michael Jackson level of fame. But do you feel like people have come around to the fact that no one is going to have 2015 Drake or 2014 Taylor Swift level of fame? Do you feel like that has sunk in yet? [00:08:41] Tatiana Cirisano: That's a really good question. That's a really, really good question because so much of this is about, like, how we define success in the first place, right? So at MIDiA, we do these surveys of creators where one of the questions we ask every year is what is your definition of success? And we're finding that, while in the past, the music industry was very much associated with, like, fame and fortune, and like, that was kind of, like, what you're going after as an artist. Fame is actually really low on the list of priorities of artists today. It's the last thing. And whether that's because they don't really want it or because they just don't think it's achievable is kind of another layer to that that I'm not sure the answer to, but the top two things that they choose are earning a sustainable income and achieving recognition within their scene. And I think that's why so many artists are sort of enticed by the creator economy model because that's what you're doing, right? You're earning a sustainable living from, you know, your biggest fans or the people that are recognizing you within your scene. There are a lot of problematic things about the creator economy and maybe that's for another episode, but like, I think that what I'm trying to say is I think that artists' definitions of success are changing, but I don't know if the music industry is really catching onto that or really supporting that because the music business is a hits business and record labels are trying to create superstars and drive culture. And if the mainstream is almost nonexistent these days, like how do you do that? I do think that the sort of silver lining to it is that these sort of like more niche communities behind these, like, smaller stars are more engaged anyways. So it's like, do you want this, like, are you trying to go after this passive majority that, you know, maybe isn't ever going to be that engaged with your music, or would you rather go from a bottom-up approach and kind of find your audience, your niche, and builds from there. And I think that that can be really, really powerful, and we're kind of entering this age of like cult stars rather than superstars in that sense. I forget what you even. Ask me that launch beyond this rant. [00:10:52] Dan Runcie: That was good though. [00:10:54] Tatiana Cirisano: Those are my thoughts on success.[00:10:55] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I feel like that was relevant though that, 'cause cult stars is a great way to capture this because I think shadowing back to the first thing that you said fab and fortune were so linked from the legacy of the music industry. And in many ways, they were linked that you couldn't really achieve one without the other. There was no one that was making 10 million a year from music as an artist that people really didn't know about to a certain level in terms of their take-home pay, not in terms of, you know, the money that they're generating, but today it's completely different. And of course, yeah, we mentioned how someone like Bad Bunny may be unknown to those outside of the circles. But I think we see this even more so because it's easier to achieve some of those fortunes without that same level of fame. I look at someone like Russ who, you know, he shares his TuneCore receipts and how, I forget whatever number he is pulling in, whether it's 6 figures a week or a month, or however much he's getting there, but he's clearly showing that he can pull in millions. And I mean, Russ, his music doesn't hit my circles, and if anything, the more news I hear about Russ is more related to his earnings and how he manages as an independent artist, not necessarily his music itself. And I think that speaks to me not necessarily being in that cult itself, right? But I still think that there is a space and opportunity for those artists that clearly want fame and fortune. You know, if you want to be able to perform in an arena and sell it out and gross, however many millions or, you know, doing the same thing in stadiums, you do have to likely follow a lot of the same traditional things from that path level, but still, even fame from that perspective doesn't hit the same way that it did. So it's a really fascinating time, and yeah, I think a lot of it does go back to both artists' expectations and the industry expectations, if the industry and the artists still have these dreams of thinking that artists can reach the levels of fame that artists did even 6, 7 years ago, then that's where people should probably be taking, 'cause I've had this conversation with so many people and they'll mention examples like, oh, well look at BTS. Oh, well look at Bad Bunny. Oh, well look at so and so, and I do think that there's something to be said for just the global aspect of the fame is just how music is reaching in different areas, and maybe that probably reflects that the people that are closest to that global superstar level, maybe just because of how saturated the US is, they're more likely to come from elsewhere, but who knows? [00:13:24] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, no. And there's also, like, a lot of benefits to this fragmentation, right? Like I feel like I, the way I'm talking about this is very like doom and gloom. but it's also very beneficial to, like, the middle tier and long tail of artists that, you know, they're actually able to have audiences. The tricky thing though is that it's still so hard to break through. It's such a fascinating conversation to have because whenever we present this data on fragmentation and our thinking around it, the question from labels is always like, okay, but how do we drive culture? How do we create those moments? How do we make something mainstream? And I think there's an opportunity to kind of, like, labels are really top heavy, right? They're focusing on like the top three artists in their roster, making them superstars, and I feel like there's maybe an opportunity to spread resources more evenly across the middle and create those kind of cult stars that we were just talking about. So I think it is about changing your definition of success. I just don't know, you know, if the music industry wants to. But they might have to, I don't know. [00:14:22] Dan Runcie: Yeah, because to your point, it could be potentially even more profitable to reflect the current playing field and invest in the people that have these niches, and knowing that even though it's not going to reach everyone if this person is reaching their tribe of people, then they can double down on that. And it could probably end up being even more successful, you investing all your resources to sell you know, three artists on your roster telling that they can be the next Drake.[00:14:48] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, no, and talking about this is reminding me too of I think we both wrote about the Gunna and The Weeknd album release week, like, whenever that was, time is flying. I think that was like earlier in the year. And how, even though the weekend is like objectively a household name, a bigger star, Gunna had this more engaged niche fan base that, you know, latched onto this P phenomenon and it ended up vaulting him maybe into the mainstream. 'cause the album debuted at number one. So it's like, which of those scenarios is success? You know, like the P phenomenon that happened, so many people didn't even know that that was going on. It totally bypassed, like, the majority of the population, right? But for the target audience, it felt mainstream. And I think that that's like, what's so different about this current moment is that something can feel mainstream to that circle, but totally bypass the rest of the population. [00:15:42] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And there are so many factors at play in that that gets into this broader question that I've been thinking a lot about in terms of what does the closest thing we have to a benchmark for success look like, right? Because someone could easily look at that weekend that The Weeknd releases Dawn FM, and Gunna releases his album and Gunna outsells him, and then someone can think, oh, well, look at Gunna, you know, already selling more than the guy that performed at the Super Bowl. But if you look at it another way, The Weeknd is selling out stadiums right now and one of a handful of artists that can do that. And I love Gunna, I think he's had a great rise in everything, but he's nowhere near being able to sell out that much, at least in terms of where he is in his career right now. He could get there someday, but he's not there right now. So I feel like even that makes me wonder, okay, is streaming itself as a predictor for concert tickets or other things becoming harder to inform what it is really reflecting, or is that just its own individual metric that we are looking at? [00:16:50] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, I think it is becoming harder to use stream counts as a metric for fandom and for culture because I think those things are building off of streaming platforms. Like, fandom is building on, you know, TikTok or Twitch or wherever, whereas streaming is a lot more of a passive activity. So that's another thing is like, I feel like we need new metrics and one of them is, like, active versus passive listening, which is something that's kind of hard to track. How do you do that as a streaming platform? So yeah, I think streams don't always equal fans and that's becoming more and more true. It's just, it's a lot harder to discern. [00:17:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And that goes back into this broader question of the Billboard 200 and how it's trying to both combine streams, and pure album sales, and all these things to get to these numbers that we have. And it's becoming tougher and tougher to use that as a metric of what success is. If anything, these things are more reflecting, marketing budgets than they are popularity of the actual underlying music. And although the marketing was always tied with it, this is another thing that's separating further and further. And it reminds me of something that I know that MIDiA has talked about often in terms of measuring the success for these superstars when they do release albums. Remember Mark had that breakdown about Adele and how it should be, how her album for 30, we can't even compare what she had done when 25 came out in 2015, different era. She did pure CD sales and you could do that in 2015. You can't do that now. Although I think that vinyls have brought back an interesting conversation with some of this, but still it's difficult to do that, and it's making me think again because you had something similar when we looked at Beyoncé and I don't think you can necessarily compare Renaissance's numbers to Lemonade or the self-titled album before that. And we're going to have this conversation again when Taylor Swift's Midnight album comes out in a couple of months.[00:18:53] Tatiana Cirisano: No, it's so true. And I actually, I had that exact conversation with someone recently about, you know, the Billboard 200 and the Hot 100 and how it's not necessarily measuring, there's a lot of places that get left out from that count in terms of how people are consuming music. Like, I think so much of listening is happening and the fandom around it is happening off platform these days or off DSPs. It's happening like on TikTok and all these other spaces, in games, you know, wherever. And I don't know if we're accurately measuring that. I also don't think that, like I said, we're measuring so much, you know, active versus passive listening and these sort of segments of fans on streaming. Like, streaming kind of equates everyone as the same consumer, right, whether you're a super fan or whether you just press play on a playlist and sit back, you're still paying the same. You're still kind of equated as the same thing. So the question is how should we measure success today? Or how should we measure cultural impact? It's so hard 'cause I think in a lot of ways it goes beyond music. Like, if you're an artist who has really had a cultural impact, that impact is transcending music anyway, and that's kind of what it means to be like an icon or to be a cultural icon in that way. So I don't know. It's really tough not to crack. Like, a lot of these things are qualitative, right? Like, how do you measure the cultural impact that something has? And I don't think that it necessarily parallels commercial success. Like, you can have something that had a huge cultural impact on a certain group but didn't really hit the charts or change the way that people think about making music but didn't really hit consumers the same way. So now I'm just ranting and rambling.[00:20:34] Dan Runcie: Let's explore this a bit though. [00:20:36] Tatiana Cirisano: It's tough. [00:20:37] Dan Runcie: Let's explore a bit though because you brought up this point about active versus passive listening. So if I'm understanding you correctly, even if we started there, active listening is Gunna's album's coming out, I'm a Gunna fan, it's midnight. I want to press play and hear this album on Friday morning. [00:20:55] Tatiana Cirisano: That would be a great metric to know is, right, and I guess we have first-day streams as kind of an indicator. [00:21:01] Dan Runcie: But I guess you're saying, that's different from passive listening, which may be it's Friday. I just want to put RapCaviar on and then boom, RapCaviar has eight tracks that are going to be in the first 20 tracks that I just play as I'm going to work or something.[00:21:17] Tatiana Cirisano: Right. Exactly. And I think that's where it's more and more difficult to know, and it would be really helpful information for artists to have as well because if you're going to go this route that we've been talking about of, you know, finding your niche and finding your biggest fans and sort of going from a bottom-up approach in this fragmented environment, trying to become a cult star, you need to know who your most active listeners are, and I think that's really hard for artists to know today. [00:21:43] Dan Runcie: I think part of the other challenge, too, with any type of metric is that the music industry itself is still tied to album sales. So anything that can translate back to that will always be there. So even if streams are how majority of music consumption is happening, as it relates to chart performance, it's always going to be challenging from that perspective because I feel like the resurgence of vinyl brings back an opportunity to push these things. I look at how well Harry Styles' album had performed, but a majority of the sales from that album was because of the vinyl that he had that was sold with it. But given all the shortages, how much of Harry Styles' performance is based on the pure demand that he had, which I know, obviously, he sold them. But because of how high his number is relative to, let's say some other artists that are signed to Sony and Columbia, what if they had the same type of inventory? I think that I had similar questions thinking about whether it was a Beyoncé or even a Kendrick Lamar. If they had the amount of vinyl inventory that he had, would it be a completely different discussion? I feel like the two of them maybe had around 300,000 or so first-week album sales, Harry Styles was over half a million. But if we were to still give them all the same inventory on that perspective, what that would look like? So there's all these ways that when you look at the data, it's telling you completely different things, but people are still just responding to the top line revenue number, and it brings us back into this whole thing that we just talked about with Gunna versus The Weeknd where it's like, okay. Yep, these numbers may tell you something, but when you really dig in, it's something completely different. So it becomes a mess to try to quantify. [00:23:37] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, exactly. You hit the nail on the head.[00:23:39] Dan Runcie: Yeah, because the comparison I've always had as a joke is like let's say that the music industry was still stuck on trying to measure everything by DVD and VHS sales, right? So they had some amalgamation of some calculation that had whatever percentage of streams that you had on Netflix that was weighted with this, plus how many VHS sales you had, plus how many DVD sales, and this gives you a DVD equivalent unit. If you presented that metric to someone, someone would be like, that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life. [00:24:13] Tatiana Cirisano: Right, right. [00:24:13] Dan Runcie: They would laugh at you out of the door, but that's what we've normalized in the music at this time.[00:24:19] Tatiana Cirisano: That's what we're doing. Isn't that just a metaphor for so much? Yeah, it's true. I also think it goes back to exactly what you're saying about, maybe these charts are more indicating the marketing budget and you know, how they decided about bundles or we're going to sell vinyl or whatever we're going to do to try to make it to the top of the charts. And I wonder what these charts would look like weighted differently, or we are talking about fragmentation. It's so fascinating to look at, you know, the charts across different platforms and see that they're totally different. So I do wonder a lot, like what are we actually measuring when we're looking at, you know, the Hot 100 or the Billboard 200.[00:24:57] Dan Runcie: Great question and great segue, too, 'cause I wanted to chat with you about this, how you look at a lot of these platform charts, especially the non-digital streaming providers and the artists who are on the top look completely different. You even see this a little bit with some of the DSPs as well, where some of the artists on top of your Amazon and Apple music may look a little different from what you see on Spotify. What's your take on that overall and do you think that artists themselves should be keeping this in mind when they are focusing or when they are thinking about how best to build an audience? [00:25:34] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, no. I mean, I think that it's just another really apparent reflection of the fragmentation that's happening. And I think it does make sense knowing all this as an artist to rather than try and dominate every platform, which is next to impossible, trying to kind of find where you fit in and dominate there. And that is sort of like that bottom-up approach, but from a platform perspective, and also might, like, reduce the feeling from artists that they need to be, you know, popular everywhere and they need to be churning out content on every platform and all that. I think the risk though, is that, especially when we're talking about non-DSP, there's artists that maybe have the most followers on TikTok, but they're not being followed for their music. They're being followed 'cause they make funny videos or their song has the most uses because it's become a joke that people are sharing around and not as many people are streaming it offline. So I think it is a good idea as an artist to maybe figure out what platform fits you best, but you also need to understand, like, the particular sort of idiosyncrasies of each of those platforms. I also think, I think you've written about this a lot like segmenting your audience across platforms as a strategy. And I think that's another way that you can kind of use this information as an artist if you know that you have an audience on one platform that is looking for this specific thing and another, that's looking for another, why not, you know, release your full album on Spotify, but you know, the deluxe edition only on Patreon for your biggest supporters or something like that. Or even, there's this indie artist mxmtoon, who I think is a really interesting example of like a modern-day sort of artist slash creator where she has a presence on pretty much every platform. YouTube, she has a podcast, she's on TikTok, she has like a Discord, I think. But every single one of those is used for something totally different. And she has audiences that kind of funnel through all of them. But YouTube is where she does ukulele tutorials and, like, TikTok is where she does Q and As, and the Discord is where the true fans go to congregate. And that's also a path that may be unsustainable for a lot of artists, and I don't like, I'm not trying to suggest that everyone should be on every platform, you know, there are eight octopus arms, like doing all the things. I think that's one of the, like, things that's problematic about the creator economy, but, but yeah, I do think that it's really valuable for artists to understand this fragmentation and how it plays out on different platforms because I do think there are ways to navigate that and kind of use it to your advantage. [00:28:07] Dan Runcie: There's definitely a benefit to focus here. And this, as you mentioned, spans beyond artists. It does look at everyone that is a creator. And maybe just for clarity for the folks listening, when we're talking about DSPs, we're specifically talking about the ones that a lot of people are paying monthly subscriptions to, so your Spotify, Amazon, Apple music. When we're talking about non- DSPs, we're talking about the place where you could still hear music and artists can still build platforms, but they're not in the same type of way as the other. So we're talking about TikTok, we're also talking about YouTube and maybe some of the other platforms there, although YouTube does have some hybrid tendencies there, but to level set that piece of it. I do think that focus helps a lot because I look at someone like an NBA YoungBoy and how he's been able to just blow up and dominate on YouTube. That takes time of really understanding the algorithm, understanding what works here, and just given how big the platform is that did help him grow and have traction on Apple music, on Spotify, and on other places. So I've heard a lot of people refer to this 80-20 rule. That's a lot of content creators, which I think could be helpful for artists as well, where if there was a platform that you're focusing 80% of your time to try to focus on and just understand, especially if there's an advantage there where others that are in your niche, maybe aren't necessarily doing as much. And then you're still having your feet in the others to just understand what those opportunities could look like. I feel like that type of approach could work well because that's how you get to the levels of, you mentioned the independent artists who essentially tailored so much of the content for each area. And while there's a lot that benefits there, obviously, it isn't completely scalable, but I feel like that's how you get to these things. And we've seen other examples of how people have just focused on a particular platform or just doubled down the risk of that. Of course, when we can talk about this in a minute, is that you do relinquish a lot of your power to any decision that that platform does make, especially if you're relying on so much of it for your business when you necessarily own anything underneath that. So there's definitely trade-offs, but there's benefits too. [00:30:18] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, no, that's a huge issue there. Which we'll get, yeah, we'll get into more of that, that stuff in a minute, but this approach of like focusing on a platform also means that you're seeing these non- DSP platforms as a form of consumption in their own right, rather than just using them as a funnel to streaming, which I think is like a trap that the music industry has kind of fallen into is, oh, make something go viral on TikTok and then push everybody to Spotify. And it's like, if the fandom and the culture and a lot of consumption is happening on TikTok, you're leaving that on the table when you're pushing people to Spotify. And you know, I think that there's a lot to be gleaned there, and we should start thinking about these platforms as their own consumption platforms in their own right.[00:30:58] Dan Runcie: Yeah. As a content creator myself, I've heard a lot of people use that analogy of give, give, give, give, give, and then ask. So it's not like you're just going there and asking and trying to transport folks over. You're still making some enough effort to make sure that you're connecting authentically with the folks on the platform, but you still know that when there was time for an ask, you're thoughtful about how you're doing, and you're not doing it all the time because trying to take people off the platform, especially TikTok, which has grown in so many ways because of passive engagement, it's even harder. [00:31:31] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, yeah, no, I think this is something that you wanted to get into anyway, but just, like, the objectives of the platform and the creator are totally different because the platform has the best-case scenario when there is all this passive viewing and people are just scrolling endlessly and they're spending a lot of time on the platform, but that's not the best case scenario for the creator. So the audience and the platform get all the benefit. And the creator kind of falls to the wayside. And I think that's a big issue that we're seeing in the creator economy. [00:31:57] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And this is a big issue that I know that people have had about Web 2.0 more broadly and just how this can be improved. The challenge I've seen though is that any type of platform I've seen that does try to be more creator-focused and doesn't try to do the same things that marginalize the content that the creators make, a lot of those platforms struggle to gain traction, or they're only used in these niche type of ways. So it creates a bit of this double-edged sword where the creators themselves feel like, well, if I focus on the platforms that are solely built to cater to me and prioritize me over the content, then it's going to be hard to get the users there because it isn't designed in a way to keep the users engaged, just thinking about the extent that the more popular platforms do and more popular platforms are the ones that prioritize the content over the creators. So it's one of these unfortunate situations that has continued on and on, and that's why we're at the point we are now.[00:32:59] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, I think that we do see that happen more often than not. And before we even got to this point where content is becoming more important that the creator, which I could talk about in a minute the objectives are just totally, like I said, misaligned, like the platforms need scale. They need to monetize. All of the combined audiences of these individual creators. But the creators are looking more so for fan bases and engaged followers than they are looking for, you know, these passive audiences. So it actually, I think a lot of the struggles that creators are having with these platforms sort of echo issues that artists have had with streaming platforms in really interesting ways. Because it's similar to how like rights holders, like labels are monetizing scale of being able to own all of the songs and therefore all of the audiences of dozens, if not hundreds of artists, but those artists individually will never have enough scale to earn a meaningful income from streaming. And I think the same sort of thing is playing out with creators now where the platform is getting all the benefit because they get the combination of all these audiences and it's best for them. If people are just mindlessly scrolling, whereas creators have just totally different objectives and a different way of earning money. And then the current algorithm, or like the one that everyone's trying to kind of copy, which is TikTok, is making matters worse because there's no need to even actually follow anyone or, you know, really engage that much with the platform because you're going to be served content that is tailor-made for you regardless. So we're kind of teaching people with that kind of discovery-focused feed, not to actually follow individuals and more to just expect this constant flow of content. And again, going back to the parallels with streaming, it's interesting how we went from a few years ago, talking about TikTok as this amazing democratizing force to now talking about how well, yeah, it's democratized 'cause everybody can post anything, but it's impossible for anyone to get heard. We've gone through the same trajectory with streaming where, 5 years ago, we were all saying, oh, my God, streaming is great. It's democratized the industry. And in many ways it has, but now we're seeing all these second-order impacts where it's really, really hard for anyone to break through the noise, and it's really, really hard for anyone to earn meaningful income, so, yeah. [00:35:14] Dan Runcie: The pattern is clear. You laid it out perfectly. [00:35:17] Tatiana Cirisano: It's crazy. [00:35:17] Dan Runcie: And one thing about TikTok, everyone talks about how quick it is to grow a following, how favorable the algorithm is when you start off, and all those things are intentional. It is the easiest platform to be able to gain tens of thousands of followers and even more, but it's the hardest to be able to translate those followers into actual fans because it's more likely that they are going to be passive folks that are engaging versus active ones. And we're going to see more and more of that, especially given to goals to try to expand into so many other places, and then additionally, every other app trying to copy what TikTok is doing, because they see that being the norm. And now that that's what they see as the standard operating procedure for how to keep people's attention and engagement, everyone is trying to have their own version of that.[00:36:09] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, you know, and I think that people do have an appetite for, like, wanting to follow individuals. I mean, that's what everything has been based on up until now. And people were annoyed when Meta changed its algorithm and said, it's all going to be discovery-focused now because you go to Instagram to see updates from your friends and people that you follow, not to just get this feed of things that you've people you've never heard of. So I think that there is still, like, an appetite for that. And there's sort of a chance to recalibrate and allow more ways to actually follow creators and not just make it all about each individual piece of content. But I think that we're kind of in a critical window right now to preserve that. And I don't know if we're talking about this enough. Yeah, it's just the situation, like to kind of bring it back to artists is really difficult because you need every individual thing that you post to do well. It's not enough to just have one thing, draw someone in because they might not even follow you from there. And they're just consistently scrolling and getting more and more content. So there's just this endless churn of content happening. And it's just, yeah, it's benefiting audiences and it's benefiting platforms, but it's not benefiting creators. [00:37:18] Dan Runcie: The need to preserve is there, as you mentioned, and we talked a lot about some of the platforms that have made it challenging. Are there ready that stand out to you that you're like, okay, they are at least making an effort or do you feel like there's more opportunity there relative to some of the other platforms that exist?[00:37:35] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah. I do think that YouTube could be an exception to the rule with this. I think that it's a really interesting company because when you think about it, they kind of were the original creator economy company and kind of are seemingly doubling down on that now. I think that it's great how there's sort of this network between YouTube shorts, YouTube music, YouTube, and that's sort of what I think is missing, but won't be for long from TikTok is that you have to switch to a different platform to listen to the music, which is why if ByteDance, you know, release Resso worldwide or make this TikTok music app, it might become crazy powerful, but, yeah, I think YouTube does have this focus on channels and following people. And I think a lot of creators have been able to build sustainable incomes there. But I do worry that the impact of all these other platforms kind of teaching people not to follow and not to follow individuals and channels is going to have an impact, but I think YouTube has a lot of potential. [00:38:35] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think so, too. It definitely is the platform, bad thing has the most ability to offer this just given the full complexity of whether or not you're an artist, you're someone that's creating any type of thing that has video, you're probably going to be on there. I also do think about platforms like SoundCloud, Audiomack, and Tidal as well because...[00:38:55] Tatiana Cirisano: A hundred percent.[00:38:56] Dan Runcie: ... even though they may not necessarily fit into the same buckets as some of the others we mentioned, I do think that the things they've tried to do, whether it's with SoundCloud's fan-powered royalties or with Tidal's user-centric base model, which is similar, or even what Audiomack has done with its supporters program, allowing people to say, Hey, this is the person that I want to give my money to. If there's extra money at the end of the year, this is the person I want to have a badge on and want to be able to share that with the profile, they keep the connection there. They're willing to share who are particular artists' followers and fans are, which is something that most of the other DSPs don't allow to happen. So I do think that they are more unique opportunities. And also, I would say tracing back to the last thing we talked about, a place where a lot of artists, if they are trying to build up a fan base on a particular platform could be an interesting angle to prove, because I do think there is a certain type of fan and artist that thrives on each of those platforms individually, just given the brand there, everything else. So those are the ones that I keep an eye out for, the same way that we saw NBA YoungBoy and others rise up. SoundCloud, of course, had its SoundCloud rap era and there's still artists coming out there. And of course, Tidal, I think, just given its origins will always have deep roots within hip-hop culture. So I'm always keeping an eye out for those.[00:40:18] Tatiana Cirisano: A hundred percent. No, I'm glad you brought up Audiomack and SoundCloud. Those are two companies that, I mean, we worked with SoundCloud on a user-centric royalties white paper that was really just eye-opening with all of this. And I do think that there are opportunities to, going back to what we were saying about being able to actually segment your fans on streaming and see who are your biggest supporters and not have everyone just equated into the same bucket. I think what Audiomack is doing is really smart because those support badges are also a way for people to express themselves. If you have that in your profile, you know, it says something about who you are. And I think there's a lot more opportunities to bring music and self-expression closer together 'cause I think that streaming has kind of pulled them apart a little bit by sort of equating everyone. So yeah, I think those are really good examples and really promising.[00:41:04] Dan Runcie: So there you have it. We solved it. I think in this conversation, we solved it all. [00:41:10] Tatiana Cirisano: There we go. We can all go home. Class is dismissed. [00:41:13] Dan Runcie: This is great. Tati, thanks for sharing your insights and some of the highlights of the research you've done on this space. Excited to see what you have coming up next, especially now that things are ramping back up for the industry. So for the folks listening, where can they stay tuned to keep up with the latest research that you have coming out? [00:41:32] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah. You can go to MIDiAResearch.com, where we have a blog that I write on often. Those posts are free. So even if you're not a client, you can read them. And I also wanted to mention that I'll be talking more about this exact topic at Stan Con in New York on October 5th, which is Denisha, who I think she had an episode with you recently, right, Dan. If you heard that episode, it's her conference, so I'll be there talking more about fandom and fragmentation. So looking forward to that and thank you so much for having me. [00:41:59] Dan Runcie: Of course, great minds coming together. I'm glad you're going to that. That's awesome. Thank you.[00:42:03] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Returning to Trapital for a second time is comedian Roy Wood Jr. We last spoke in mid-2020 when lockdowns curbed his usual comedy performance routine. On the outside, it might not seem Roy has changed much since our first convo — he’s still a regular on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah — but internally, Roy is amidst another career evolution.Roy made a successful comedic career — three specials on Comedy Central over a five-year span — out of finding unique angles to discuss external events such as news and politics. But now, Roy wants to talk about himself. Spurred by an appearance on PBS’ “Find Your Roots”, Roy is more introspective about the relationship with his father, a civil rights activist, and how it influences raising his own son.How and where Roy delivers this refined message hasn’t been decided yet. For now, Roy is taking time for himself to think through how he’s changed, and so has comedy and the entertainment industry at-large. In our discussion, Roy hinted at some of those major changes. Here’s what we covered:[3:15] The state of live comedy in 2022[5:32] Roy’s insane performing streak from 1998-2020[6:27] Why the comedy club isn’t the right venue for Roy right now [11:45] Comedian expectations have changed [13:35] Morality vs. profit [17:05] Roy’s partnerships[18:42] Roy’s criticism of Netflix and streaming[26:27] The new superstar is an assemble cast [31:08] How Roy chooses comedic topics[34:43] Roy’s most personal joke[35:24] How much does Roy’s son know about his comedy career? [37:39] How Dick Gregory changed Roy’s life[40:48] Roy starring in Confess, Fletch movieListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Roy Wood Jr., @roywoodjr Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Roy Wood Jr.: You can be funny, you can get away with being funny for a little while, but true career longevity as a comedian, I believe, you have to make people feel, you have to give them an emotion. Sooner or later they have to leave feeling a certain way. It's not just a matter of the tactile Xs and Os of did they laugh at the setup? Did they laugh at the punchline? Okay, next joke. It's what are you infusing into that person's heart on the backside of this experience that you all had together on stage for an hour.  [00:00:36] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:56] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Roy Wood Jr. This is his second time back on the podcast. The first time we recorded a podcast was back in the middle of 2020, middle of the pandemic. And we talked a lot about how the closure of comedy clubs and the closure of everything was affecting his life as a comedian and what he saw the world would be like on the other side of the pandemic. And now we're starting to be here, so it was a great opportunity to check in, hear how things are going for him. And we talked a lot about how the past couple of years have reshaped his perspective on the type of message that he wants to be able to. What are the best venues to do that and how he might change his approach up a little bit in the next few years. We also talked about streaming and what it's been like from his perspective as someone that is acting in movies, acting in TV shows, writing and producing shows as well, and how it's been like navigating these streaming networks, what their goals and incentives are. What his goals and incentives are and what he has seen from others in this space. We also talked about his upcoming movie Confess, Fletch. It's out in theaters on September 16th. It stars Jon Hamm. This is a reboot of the classic Chevy Chase Fletch movies from the eighties. So we talked about what to expect there, what he's excited about and more. Roy's good people, man, plain and simple. If you listen to the last conversation that him and I had, you know that if you've watched anything he's ever done on The Daily Show, ever seen him perform standup, you know that as well. Here's our conversation. Hope you enjoy it.[00:02:30] Dan Runcie: All right. We are joined today by a return guest to the Trapital podcast, the one, the only, Roy Wood Jr. How are you doing man? [00:02:38] Roy Wood Jr.: You're back. I'm back. You're welcome. You're all welcome. I apologize in advance for my voice. There's things that happened this week that I did not plan on happening. And this is the result. It was either this or cancel, and I didn't want to cancel it. [00:02:54] Dan Runcie: No, I appreciate you. Hey, it's either this, or, you know, this is part of getting back on the road, right, 'cause I feel like the last time we talked, we were talking about what the other side of this whole pandemic was going to look like and what it was going to be like for comics returning to the stage. And now you're in it. What has it been like to return to the stage and with everything? [00:03:15] Roy Wood Jr.: What's wild is that I can't tell you too much. You know in 2022 I've only done four or five road gigs. Most of my gigs this year were COVID makeup dates from '21. So I've been blessed enough to be able to, you know, have a podcast that I'm able to do for myself, and sell a couple of scripts, and just create other revenue streams for myself, when the pressure to go back out on the road wasn't there. Also, creatively, I'm just in a different spot, bro. And I know that the stuff that I want to talk about, I don't know if the comedy club is the right place. It's part of the process creatively, but I just haven't been in a rush to get back out to figure it out yet, you know? It's been a really weird year for me in that the thing that I've done for 23 years is the thing that I did the least this year. And you know, that part of it's been really odd. It seems like the clubs are doing well though. You know, I still talk to a lot of comedians that are in the clubs because I'm still kind of that on the outside looking in. So I see all the comics who are touring, there's guys who I didn't know were headliners yet, but apparently, they are now. They're out there, they're doing their thing as well. So, you know, I'd say, all in all, it seems like the comedy club model got through it okay. But I don't know how sustainable it is as an entertainer to continue to be a part of this standup comedy model. You know, a lot of these new cats, you know, they're finding their own venues and they're figuring out their own way through the internet to get shit popping for themselves. But, you know, I will say this about standup. Since the shutdown, this idea of having one magical five-minute set on late night, and that being the thing that definitively becomes the new pivot point in your career, the likelihood of that happening is definitely less and less as the years go by.[00:05:09] Dan Runcie: Interesting. I could only imagine how big of a life change it is for you. I remember you saying in the past, from when you started this once out of every 10 days, you were doing something on the road, right? Whether it was a standup show or something, and for you to be doing this completely different now, and just thinking about what the adapting is a complete life change, let alone anything on the business side of things.[00:05:32] Roy Wood Jr.: Until the shutdown, until a federally mandated government shutdown, from 1998, I'd never gone more than 10 days without performing, period. [00:05:41] Dan Runcie: It's huge. [00:05:43] Roy Wood Jr.: And I've gone months. I look forward to it for months at a time. I don't have another gig right now. And I have a corporate gig in three months and I'm like, perfect, perfect because it gives me the time, it gives your brain the time to settle. I can only imagine, you know, when you look at guys like Chris Rock, who have said, you know, you need time to go away and live and see the world and experience things and have something to come back and report on. I understand that now.[00:06:13] Dan Runcie: You also mentioned too, that there's material that you want to talk about, topics that you want to discuss that the stage may not be the best place for that. What are the things you want to discuss and why isn't the stage the best format? [00:06:27] Roy Wood Jr.: It's not the stage it's comedy club specifically. Like, alright, so I did Finding Your Roots over the shutdown and found out a lot of new truths about my father and, you know, some stuff on my mother's side, but as a father, myself, I often feel this attachment to my dad and then looking at how my father lost his dad when he was four. My granddaddy was gone when my dad was four. So when I think about that type of stuff, how that will inform the type of man that I will be to my son, and just family, and bonds, and the men who raise me in my father's absence. And there's jokes and there's stories, but as I figure out what the heart of the story is first before I make it funny, I don't know if the comedy club is always the right place for that because the comedy club, motherfucker, we want the jokes. I've been drinking. Me and my wife got dressed. I came here to be happy. You up there talking about your dead daddy and trying to figure out what that means for your son, motherfucker, I don't want to hear all that shit without jokes. So I think there's a place to go and develop that, you know, New York has a lot of different places, but also I think it's important for me to do my standup in venues other than comedy clubs because I think that sometimes, depending on the venue, you know, jazz club or black box, little theater or some improv house, I believe it changes how the material is received. You know, it changes how people listen to you sometimes. This is a terrible analogy and it's not going to be a perfect analogy, but it's like how food tastes better in church. You know, like when your grandma will pull a peppermint out of her purse, and she gave you that peppermint in the middle of a long ass church service, and that peppermint tasted like a pizza hu meat lovers. Like, it was just an amazing, so where we are sometimes can change the experience and the connection to the material. And so as I start mining this material, I'm going to have to figure out the best places to put it all together 'cause I feel like I'm teetering into some one-person show territory. And, you know, every comedian that I know that did a one-man show, you know, they didn't build it in a comedy club. You can sure present it at a comedy club, but you cannot build it there. That's why I've been meaning to talk to Jerrod to figure out where he built up Rothaniel 'cause, you know, that one was definitely a blend of the two skill sets. [00:08:54] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That's a good example of it. Just how he was able to be so raw, be so personal and different than anything he had done before leading up to this. I got to imagine, too, that part of this may also be linked with just the evolution of comedy and some of the other topics you've talked about recently and how people, especially nowadays, are looking for comedians to be truthsayers or they're also looking for them to be the ones that can tell them certain messages and how there's some people that believe that should be the case, but there's others that, I know you said this before, that it shouldn't necessarily be that way. So I feel like there's some of that that could also be potentially in line with some of the broader feeling about what is the best message to communicate where. [00:09:39] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah. And I think once you figure that out as a performer, the people will come find you. You know, I don't really think it matters where you go once people love you, they will follow you to wherever, you know, so I think that's it. They went to a farm to see Chappelle. So you can come up with different venues, you know, once you have the ideas that are worth hearing. So it's my job first to get the ideas together.[00:10:02] Dan Runcie: Right, yeah. There's something about that comedy club setting, like you said. You're going with your significant other, you got the two-drink minimum. No, like I'm trying to get these laughs out that just doesn't, that works there. That doesn't necessarily translate elsewhere that could obviously work to your benefit going elsewhere. [00:10:18] Roy Wood Jr.: You can get deep in a comedy club, but you really have to stack the show properly. The people have to know who they're coming to see. And I'm still a comedian where, you know, with The Daily Show, unfortunately, this is a lot of people's first discovery point for me. So you don't know the previous 15, 16 years before I got with Trevor. So, you know, even those people come to a show and they want me to be a little more political than what I am on this show. And I'm like, sorry, that's not who I am. That's not what I do. So even within the construct of just regular standup, they still want something more specific. So, you know, it's about just figuring out, you know, the right places for that. But if you put that person in a setting they've never been to before, well, now you don't know what to expect. And I just think it just changes how you see and analyze things a little bit. You know, I'm going to try to experiment with, you know, different venues in '23.[00:11:15] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. You mentioned the politics piece of it, too, and just , given what you and Trevor are doing on The Daily Show, people coming to you for that. But I assume part of it also is channeling back to that truthsayer thing and seeing some of the things that Chappelle and others have talked about. Do you think that the way the current climate is that when people are expecting you to speak on these things, do you think that this changes and continues to evolve, or do you feel like this is kind of the place that things are right now? [00:11:45] Roy Wood Jr.: I don't think that the role of comedian has changed. I think that the expectations of a comedian have changed. Some for the better some for the worse, but I can't think of any one standup comedian that I know that is, like, set and looked themselves in the mirror, okay, today these jokes are going to change everyone's and change the world. You know, comics are more outspoken. Comics are more, you know, quicker to say what they feel on stage, especially the young ones, which is good. But I don't feel like when people say this climate, the climate is about the people reacting to what the comedian said, but most of these comedians that people get mad at, they've been saying shit like this for a long as time. But they're groups of people that have decided, you know what? I want to hear that shit no more. So they got something to say and they got a right to that. But I think at the end of the day, I don't think comedians have changed. I mean, Louis C.K. Back, he's cooking. Chappelle got another three special re-up from Netflix after all of the outrage or whatever. So that should show you where the corporations stand. And for as long as you are an entertainer that has an audience of some sort, you know, they're going to find a place for you regardless of whether or not that pisses off another group of people. You know, that's just kind of where we've always existed as a society. It's capitalism, baby. [00:13:10] Dan Runcie: Does part of you see someone like, let's take Chappelle, 'cause you had mentioned him, him still getting these deals even after the backlash or even after the response. Does some of that almost feel like, okay, we're not necessarily just responding to what people may get mad at, there's still clearly an opportunity or there's still people that want to hear what we have to say, even if the expectations from our viewers have changed? [00:13:35] Roy Wood Jr.: I think that as a society, you know, it is very difficult to place the expectation of morality and profit on a corporation. Most corporations have to choose between one or the other. And when I say profitability, you know, we're talking gross levels of profitability. I don't think many companies care to a certain degree about people in general. You know, this is bigger than just entertainment and whether or not you can say something that pisses off a group of people. Delta Airlines just started paying their flight attendants for when the plane doors open and they're boarding passengers. It's nothing moral. There's nothing moral about that, but it's definitely profitable. And only when it became embarrassing, which is not profitable, that they become a company with morals. If you can't attach profitability to morality, more often than not, you're not going to find a corporation that's going to make moves like that. I'm not surprised that Netflix gave Chappelle more specials for the amount of people that were mad at it, clearly, somebody was watching it and this is Netflix. Netflix cancels shit while you are in the middle of watching the episode. The second episode of a 10-episode show will come out and Netflix about, yes, cancel. What? Damn, can I finish? Season one? Nah, we've already looked at the metrics of the first episode that tells us everything we need to know. So, you know, that's a company that, you know, like people say that, oh, it's a FU to the LGBTQI community. It's definitely a slight to them for them to rebook Chappelle after they had said what they said and everybody had protested, whatever, whatever. But also Netflix is a company and that's about profit, which means somebody was watching Chappelle. And that's all they care about. That's all most companies care about is eyeballs. So, you know, unless you're getting into just straight-up criminalistic behavior of someone, morality versus profit is always going to be a tug of war that most corporations, they just do not have the heart that people do.[00:15:34] Dan Runcie: That's real. That's real. I mean, and even thinking about Chappelle specifically, because of how Netflix tracks the performance, a lot of the backlash likely helps those episodes because you have some that are tuning in because they want to hear what he has to say. But you have others tuning in because now they want to see or hear what he said that is causing all of these headlines.[00:15:55] Roy Wood Jr.: And that's all Netflix cares about. So the surprise on the backside is that can you believe this company didn't care? Yes, I can absolutely believe this company didn't care because more often than not most companies don't care. And that goes into women's rights, that goes into race, and George Floyd, and every company putting up black lives matter, whatever the fuck on the top of their website, and black squares and Instagram. So, you know, when it comes to a bevy of social, it is just, you know, it's interesting because corporations are now rocking a heart because now being moral. if it's profitable and cool, they'll jump on board. But if it's not, they're kind of like, eh, we'll see.[00:16:37] Dan Runcie: Yeah, for sure. You've experienced this, you've worked with a number of these networks and seen the decisions that you've made. How has this impacted you at all with any of the partnerships you've made? I know you have the deal with Comedy Central that you've had. I know you had a special that came out with them, but we'll talk about that in a second. But how has that been with regards to you, and your specials, and your content, and how that works for you, both with the things that you want to do with the networks, and how you're able to still produce and create? [00:17:05] Roy Wood Jr.: You know, from the standup side, you know, it's fine. We're Comedy Central. You know, we had a, I call it The Trilogy. I had my first three-hour specials with Comedy Central and they were good. And now, as I think about what that next block of content will be, you know, we'll figure out where that's supposed to go once I figure out creatively, what the fuck it's going to be? But, you know, on the scripted side and selling scripts, I've been very blessed to have opportunities to sell stuff, not just the Comedy Central, but you know, Fox and NBC in the last couple of years and HBO Max as well. but the thing is that it's very difficult to predict how COVID is going to affect a network's creative strategy when it comes to scripted, you know. Like scripted is, that's where the glory is. That's where the fun is, right? But, you know, I had one script, Jefferson County: Probation. Aaron Magruder was my, you know, executive producer and co-creator on it. And as soon as we got the script together and shot the pilot, there was a merger between Viacom and CBS and they changed their strategy. And then right after that COVID hit and they changed their strategy again. And at both of those mile markers, scripted shows were the first things to get cut from the budget because they're the most expensive. So the pressure to be profitable fast or to have a cultural impact fast is greater now on the content that, you know, that we have because the thing that I don't like about Netflix is that what streaming has removed from our zeitgeist is the concept of a cult hit. You know, like a cult hit TV show. Cult is just a nice way of saying underground and not a lot of people watch it, but the ones who watch it really, really love it. But there are shows that sometimes do not pop until season three. Sometimes season four and it takes people a while to get on board, but then you have a network that has creative execs who want to stay in that pocket. And now we believe in this show. We're going to give it another season, give it another season, give it another season. This don't happen with black shows. I'm talking about Arrested Development and you know, shit like that. And maybe The Wire, if you want to count that as a cult hit. But I feel like The Wire was more by the time they got to season four, everybody was on board, but at that point, HBO was like, wrap it up. Streaming, the analytics that are attached to streaming companies deciding whether or not a scripted show lives or dies has eliminated the ability for certain shows to germinate over a year or two, and really have an opportunity to find their audience, get the word of mouth. Everything is now, now, now. And so because of that, you know, where scripted is concerned, you have to have an idea that pops now, that sails, now that gets on TV now. And if you're really lucky, it also touches the vein of what is happening in the now. That's why Abbott Elementary is what it is. You have a great creator. You have a great writer. It's well cast, it's shot beautifully, it's funny, but also educators are at the forefront of a lot of the bullshit that's been going on the last two years. It's perfectly on the pulse. It's perfectly on the pulse. So, you know, word of mouth isn't enough. You also have to have the numbers. And so, you know, I'd say that for me, when it comes to coming up with scripted content, you almost have to find something that lives. You have to have the idea that lives at multiple intersections, because if it's just a fun, cool, nice idea. That might not be enough anymore. That's 2015 ideology. [00:20:34] Dan Runcie: Yeah. The closest thing that seems like it's comparable to that cult classic of discovering it seasons later is when something gets picked up from a smaller network and then gets put on one of these big streamers. For instance, I'm thinking about South Side. Season Two. It's on HBO Max. And I think that made a lot of people that weren't watching South Side Season One discover it. [00:20:57] Roy Wood Jr.: Correct. Like, there's a show that was on in Canada that came over to Netflix called Kim's Convenience and that was a fucking hilarious sitcom that somebody like me, I would've never discovered had it not come over to, but it had to live over in Canada for two years. But you need execs who care about the IP and care about the idea. And a lot of these execs are under the same pressure as the creatives. You better be bringing this studio, some hit shows and you better be signing and buying scripts from the best creators 'cause if you aren't and we don't have a hit, if we're not getting nominations, and we're not getting talked about it's your ass, too. So if you have an exec that is betting on a show, that's just has midling numbers versus just canceling it, and bringing in something new, there's also job security in that for them as well. And I think that's why, you know, to a degree, you know, you don't see shows that get an opportunity to build and grow their audience, either you a hit out the gate or you got a target on your back. [00:21:57] Dan Runcie: The other challenging thing about this is knowing what those numbers are and whether or not the streaming services are sharing them with you. From your perspective as someone that is doing the scripts, selling shows, do you feel like you're getting any true quantitative aspect to be able to compare and say, okay, I see what I would've been able to hit or what the target is or how that compares, 'cause that's the piece that feels so non-transparent at all right now.[00:22:26] Roy Wood Jr.: That part of the game is still above my pay grade because I haven't gotten anything that's gone to series. I've sold a bunch of scripts that have all gone to pilot and most have gone to pilot at least. But even with the stuff over at Comedy Central, you know, we're on basic cable. So it's Nielsen. So, you know, that's more above board than companies giving their streaming numbers. But I wouldn't even be able to speak to that, unfortunately. I hope to be able to one day, but not today. [00:22:51] Dan Runcie: Yeah. There was some interview I had seen it was Steven Soderbergh or someone like that. And he was like, I have no idea how well these movies do. They literally just tell me, yes, this was good. You can make another one or no, we're all set. Thanks. And he's just like, okay, then that's when he decides to make another movie. [00:23:08] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah, that part of it, yeah, you are totally flying blind as a creator. You know, at some point there's going to have to be some equity in this, but, hey, sooner or later, all of these streaming sites are just going to keep merging and folding into one another. It's like airlines in the eighties. Go Google up how many different airline carriers we had in the eighties. And then here we are now with United, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, and, what, American. Spirit and JetBlue emerging. So, okay, so you'll have, what, four or five major carriers? In the eighties, there was like, well, over 30. I could Google it real quick, but I know for sure I can name 15 airline companies from the eighties and I bet you the numbers are higher than that. [00:23:50] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's that whole industry. Even the big ones have done so many consolidations, even in the past 20, 25 years, they've done a bunch. It's been wild. [00:23:59] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah. My point is that all those streamers are going to eventually all keep folding into each other and it's going to be basic cable all over again. [00:24:05] Dan Runcie: Oh, yeah. And I think, too, even how they're making decisions is starting to stand out. I'm sure you saw the Batgirl news when the movie's done, they just decide not to run that thing and just put it as a write-off. That's not going to be the last time that happens. [00:24:20] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah. It's literally cheaper to not release this because the landscape keeps changing, bro. My heart goes out to that whole team. They are crushed about that. You know, as they should, but you work hard on a film, spend 90 million, at least you could do is put it out. But, you know, I just think that, you know, corporations like it's, again, it's profit. The right thing to do would've been to release the Batgirl film, but if projections and analytics have already told you that this film more than likely will underperform in the top tier markets where we need it to perform above money, profitability, it ain't profitable. Morality ain't profitable, man. So fuck them folks. We ain't going to release the film. Oh, but we should, they worked really hard. It's a black woman get to be black. We don't give a fuck. Cancel it. That's how a lot of places think, man. And you know, as they say, the game is the game, but that don't make it right. That don't make it hurt less. I just think that that's where a lot of companies are coming from, you know. They want bankable stars or an idea that's high concept and easy and quick and catches on. I still think that, you know, when you look at a show like Squid Game, which was such a breakout, you know, hit for Netflix, I think that the new superstar is the ensemble. You know, if you can't get a single star to carry your thing, then you need a great idea with a bunch of people nobody knows anything about. And then that's how you get people to invest, get people to invest in the concept and not the face.[00:25:47] Dan Runcie: Interesting. I can see that because I feel like there's so many big-name movies that you see on Netflix and they have all of these actors that you would consider to be A-list, but they come and go. But yeah, the magic of Squid Game is that it didn't have that, but it had this fascinating topic that people just wanted to have more and more of. It created a bunch of memes. And I'm sure not only they're trying to create a sequel, they're trying feel like, okay, what is the next thing like that that's going to take off. And sometimes it's random. I mean, I don't know if people thought that Queen's Gambit was going to take off the way that it did or any of those things. I feel like Netflix, especially, it feels like it could be very, you know, we'll see what happens.[00:26:27] Roy Wood Jr.: I mean, when you look at shows that have sustainability and have expanded their universes, like Power, there isn't a single actor in Power that is such a behemoth. Like, and I don't say that as a slight, it's an extremely talented cast of wonderful A-list actors. But when you look at how they try to anchor a show around one person, where Power is, it's always been a universe of people all working together. Of course, you have Mary J and Method Man in it, but it's not Mary J and Method Man alone to, it's not Joseph Sikora alone. Abbott is an ensemble cast. It's not a singular person. And so I think that concept will, I don't know, man. Why do you think people get so excited when Idris Elba comes back to do another round of Luther? It's 'cause, oh, my God, it's him. You get Idris every scene being badass, but he's busy, he's got movies to do and stuff. So I just think creatively, we're probably in a world where, you know, by and large, I feel like we'll just see more and more, you know, larger groups of people unless you have a network willing to pour millions of dollars into one person. You know, I don't know.[00:27:34] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think, too, we talked a little bit about how this is part of the evolution. Part of it, too, they want to have something that's quick to capture people's attention. And I think some of this has impacted how comics, and you as well, have talked about how it may approach your shows and how you're delivering certain information. And I know you've talked a lot about both the balance of having the timely topics, of talking about something that's current versus having those evergreen things that you need to, or you want to be able to tap into. And I feel like, you know, why actually Imperfect Messenger, you did a good job of that with just being able to balance things, you know, whether you're talking about current topics or just evergreen things. How conscious is that when you're thinking about the topics that you want to cover in a special?[00:28:22] Roy Wood Jr.: Well, for Imperfect Messenger, my comedic philosophy up until now, it has changed now 'cause I want to talk about myself and not the world. But the creative excavation process of a joke for me boils down to what is everybody saying about this topic. And is there anything new I can say? And if the answer is yes, then I continue down that road of exploration and then I put that joke on stage and then the best jokes win. As I like to call it, those are the jokes that make the 25-man roster, like baseball. Like, these are the start. 12- man, if you want to go basketball. So, you know, if the argument is A and B, is there a C side to it that I can introduce? Like if you look at my second special, No One Loves You, where I talk about the national anthem and the debate at the time with Kaepernick was should people stand for the anthem or should you take a knee? And my angle was why is that song the anthem? That song sucks. And then an exploration into what songs could replace it. What, if you won't stand for that song, is there a song that people would stand for? And so that's kind of my approach, you know, to a lot of this. You know, and if we're going to talk about Imperfect Messenger and we talk about policing and, you know, the issues that lie in policing in America now. Okay, fine. It's going to take bureaucracy and a lot of bullshit to try and get that changed. But in the meantime, in the interim, what are the small things cops could do to help? And then the joke is just essentially, a run of those things. You know, every now and then just let a black person, someone who should have gone to jail, let them go. If there's Stop Talking in Code on the radio, I forget my material. Like, literally the night I do a special, that material just turns into Thanos dust in my brain. But for me. That's how I've always tried to approach standup and my material rather than just arguing from the conventional positions that have already been presented to everybody because if nothing more, I want you to leave with a different perspective. I'm not trying to be right or wrong. I am just trying to make sure that you get something that you hadn't considered. [00:30:26] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I always got that impression. I feel like that's a good example. I also think about, from Imperfect Messenger, your piece about Leonardo DiCaprio and Django Unchained and even though that movie, you know, I think like eight years ago at that point, still everyone knows exactly who you're talking about. It's timely. It's not dated in this way of a comedian still referencing, you know, pop culture from the nineties, but you have it. And you're able to weave that in with everything that's happening. And I feel like even though that was a movie that was a few years older, you're still relating it to all the topics we're talking about now, like allyship and all those things. So I feel like people may not see the subtleties, but when you really break it down, you can see how much goes into constructing a good joke.[00:31:08] Roy Wood Jr.: I appreciate that, man, 'cause you get paranoid about that type of stuff, 'cause you don't want to be dated, but are there evergreen examples of a point that I'm trying to make that could help me parallel and boil this down, you know, a little bit more? You know, that special was also very interesting because the story that I told near the end about a childhood friend that's in prison for the murder of a person I know, but, you know, he was the getaway driver. You know, like that was a joke. He was a getaway driver in a robbery that turned into a murder is what actually happened in real life. And so he never went in the store, but in Alabama, the law is set up where everybody gets the murder charge. If a murder happens while your crime is being committed. And that joke was set up in a way where it was really about him and the sentencing and how it's all messed up and blah, blah, blah. But you know, there's part of me that's, you know, I love Birmingham. I love Birmingham, Alabama. I love the people there. And I've tried, you know, for the entirety of my career since 2001, when I came home and started at the radio station and started doing stuff in the community with the radio station. I've always tried to be a person that's of the community. And so that joke carries a different level of responsibility when I'm home because everyone remembers that murder. Everyone remembers Mr. Muhammad being murdered at the Music-N-More store and that man was a pillar of the community. So if I'm going to speak on his legacy, there's got to be balance to that. And you know what. I probably should reach out to his family before I put this on national television. And so when I did that and I had a conversation with his son, it completely shifted what that joke was and it made it the right version of what that joke needed to be. And that's the thing that I really enjoy. And it's part of really what's triggered so much more of where I am now creatively because that just wasn't an A, B, and C observation. This was a legitimate issue that I was having within myself of feeling like my friend should not be in prison for the rest of his life for being an accomplice, but also feeling empathy for the family, because I knew them. Like, they carry my CD and I'll spare the story here, but in the special, you know, I tell the story of my relationship with this store as an independent music artist, like this store supported local rappers and, like, they help people kickstart their career. So it's not as cut and dry. So when you look at a law, like, the one that Alabama has set up and then you start talking to the victims, then you start understanding why these laws are in place. And so that will always be my favorite joke isn't the word, but it's definitely the most honest joke that I've told on television to this point. [00:34:03] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Well, definitely link it to this one to make sure that people can see it, that or listening to this episode right now and just bringing it all full circle. I can see how this is informing the type of content or the type of message that you want to be able to push forward, whether you're telling it in a different setting, whether you're finding new ways to tell it, it has been really cool to see how so many of our favorite comedians have been able to find new ways to be able to share different messages or even things that they may have to give a little piece of and seen that that's where they want to move more into for the next stage of their career. So I'm excited for that. [00:34:43] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah, it's going to be fun. You know, it's going to be fun, talking more about my father, my relationship with him talking about, you know, raising my own child. My son is six. So you know, that is definitely a new and scary place to be as a parent. But yeah, yeah, I'm excited about what's down the road, but I'm just not in a position anymore where I feel like I need to rush. You know, I was very blessed, but also probably very crazy. I put out three one-hour specials over the span of five years. That's a pretty healthy clip, you know? So I feel like I should go sit my ass down somewhere for a second and really think about, you know, what it is I want to say and what I'm trying to do. [00:35:24] Dan Runcie: What's your son's relationship with your comedy? Is it something that he goes and checks back in looking back at old clips, just to see the history of where you came to things, or is he not allowed to look at all that just yet?[00:35:37] Roy Wood Jr.: He might catch me on the couch every blue moon watching old episodes of The Daily Show. Like, I binge our show every week, 'cause I don't get to always watch it every night 'cause of whatever's going on. So he may pop in and see me on television. Like, if you ask my son what his father does for a living, he'll say my dad works on TV and he's a comedian. Like, he knows that much. He's been with me to sound checks early in the afternoon for, you know, theater shows and stuff. But the idea of bringing him around this and exposing him to it for the sake of this is what you're going to do, this's a family business. Nah, not really. I'd like for him to see some of the cameramen and the editors and the computer stuff. I don't think my son will be a comedian because he has two loving parents, which is already the worst thing that could happen to a comedian. To be a good comedian, you can't have both of your parents love you. What trauma you got? We want to know what's wrong with you. [00:36:32] Dan Runcie: Right. What is the source of the comedy then?[00:36:35] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah, so we're trying to raise him as pain-free as possible. So I think that's going to make him ineligible for most comedy clubs. [00:36:41] Dan Runcie: maybe he'll go back and look at the old stuff. He'll go back to that. You know, the Last Comic Standing run, then he'll come back to see, okay, all right. I can see this trajectory here. I can see what dad's been up to. [00:36:52] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah. I mean, he's funny. He has a sense of humor. He's cognizant of that, but it's not something I encourage or discourage. It's just, you know, whatever you feel like doing today, bro. Then that's what you're going to do. Like right now he's into the BattleBots. So let's watch and do things that are related to mechanics and STEM and see where that goes.[00:37:10] Dan Runcie: I'm hearing a lot from you in this conversation that talks a lot about both mentorship and the relationship that you have with others in your life, especially family members and important figures. And I know that from a comedian perspective, Dick Gregory was an important person in your life. And you had referenced in a past interview life-changing conversation you had had with him and it would be great to hear a little bit more about what that conversation was like and how that changed, how you ended up approaching comedy. [00:37:39] Roy Wood Jr.: I only saw Dick Gregory, I only opened for him twice. And the first time was in Selma at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. It was a banquet that he and Jesse Jackson were speaking at. And then the other time was in, I opened for him proper in a comedy club in Zanies in Nashville. And he said something that just always resonated with me. You know, I'm butchering the quote, but he said people always ask me, Dick, why you always on the road? Why are you always out of town? And I said, because the battle for justice ain't at my house. And so that always stuck with me in terms of his tenacity right up till the end. You know, he died the way that, that every comedian wants to die and that's with dates on the books. I think it's the biggest compliment that, you know, any comedian can have is to die with still having more work and gigs scheduled because you got to get the message out there. You got to make people laugh. You got to try to heal people. In Dick Gregory's case, you know, he was doing things that were far above and beyond just telling a couple of shuck and jive jokes about police reform. This man was out there really doing the work, you know, concurrent. This man would have had a full itinerary all day and then go do two shows on a Friday night. It's not like he was just posted up in the hotel, watching Maury Povich till 7:30. So, you know, when I look at his career and everything that he did, that was a beautiful thing to see. It was a beautiful thing to see a dude knocking on 80 that was just at a comedy club on a Friday night, and it's 350 people ready to pay him and ready to hear what he has to say. And to be able to still say things that are resonant and that are on the pulse of what people are feeling, you can be funny, you can get away with being funny for a little while, but true career longevity as a comedian, I believe you have to make people feel, you have to give them an emotion. Sooner or later they have to leave feeling a certain way. It's not just a matter of the tactile Xs and Os of did they laugh at the setup Did they laugh at the punchline? Okay, next joke. It's what are you infusing into that person's heart on the backside of this experience that you all had together on stage for an hour. And, you know, I saw Dick Gregory do that twice and Selma was even more amazing 'cause he did it from a podium and I cannot explain to anybody how hard it is to do standup comedy from a podium. Jokes do not go over a podium, lectern, whatever the hell you want to call it don't matter. The jokes don't go over it. The moment you standing at one of them damn things, you look like a preacher and none of your jokes are funny, but Dick Gregory demolished, demolished, it was a good time. [00:40:19] Dan Runcie: That's special, yeah. He's someone that always stuck out in a unique way with everything that he did. So and I think a lot about that, even with artists or anyone that's performing on stage, if you can still do this when you're 70, 80 years old, that's where the real magic comes. And I know many of the younger artists now want to get there and it's great to see. I think, you know, you're in a generation of comedians that I think are going to be doing the same thing as well., [00:40:44] Roy Wood Jr.: Trying to, that's what I'm trying to get to. [00:40:48] Dan Runcie: All right. Well, before we let you go, we do got to talk about the film that you have coming out, Confess, Fletch out in theaters September 16th. And I have to ask, you're a detective in this film, you're opposite Jon Hamm, is Jon Hamm, a white ally that we could trust in this movie? [00:41:07] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah, yeah, in the movie. Yeah, I'd say in real life as well. I'll go ahead and hang that on him. No, it's dope. I also had to give a shout-out to our director, Greg Mottola, and Greg, you know, really worked to create something that totally feels different from the bright lights and the big demonstrative jokes that were the eighties Chevy Chase version of this character. And so, you know, it plays right into Jon Hamm's warehouse. I'm just happy. I got to play a cop in Boston and they didn't force me to do a Boston accent 'cause that would've been insulting. That would've been very terrible. [00:41:39] Dan Runcie: Was that a conversation at all? Did anyone even broach, Hey, should you try to do this? Or should we, 'cause I know that Jon Hamm with The Town and all that stuff, I know he's done it before. [00:41:48] Roy Wood Jr.: It was breached briefly during my audition and at the audition, they said don't even try it. We've watched a tape on you. I'm like, well, just let me know if you wanted the cop to be from Alabama. I can nail that one, man.[00:42:02] Dan Runcie: Sometimes I feel bad. The ones that they try to do, like, when Anthony Anderson was in The Departed, love Anthony Anderson, but I feel like they try to make everybody in that movie. What was it, Mystic River, I feel like that was another one where they try to have everyone do a Boston accent. I'm like, all right. I don't know, you know. Let's have a few signature characters maybe, and I think everyone else is fine. [00:42:20] Roy Wood Jr.: Yeah. Yeah. It was fine. It was definitely a good time. It was a good shoot, you know I think just murder- mystery- comedy, you know, I think it feels light enough and fun enough in these times. And so, you know, we don't get too woke in it and I know everybody is scared of the woke and the woke mob is coming. A, it's a cop trying to catch a criminal or a guy that he thinks is a criminal. It's a cop trying to solve a murder and a private detective trying to solve the murder as well. So, you know, I think it's a good film. [00:42:48] Dan Runcie: And we talked a lot in this conversation about streaming and everything releasing there. This is not debuting on streaming, out in theaters, available on demand as well. Did that change to the creation process at all? Or does that change your relationship at all with this movie? [00:43:05] Roy Wood Jr.: No. I think that it'll be interesting to see how quickly people see it and when and where. You know, I do think that coming out on demand, in addition to theaters, I think it only helps word of mouth and I think it still brings profits for the film itself. So, you know, in that regard, you know, I think it'll be fine. But when you make the movie you're, as an actor, my job is to just make the movie y'all can figure out the rest of that shit after, you know, two months from now in post-production, you can decide how many theaters and blah, blah, blah, and all of that. [00:43:34] Dan Runcie: Exciting stuff. Well, we'll definitely look out for that, but Roy, it's been a pleasure, man. Thanks for coming on, keeping it real as always. And if people want to follow you and stay in touch with everything you're doing, where can they find you?[00:43:46] Roy Wood Jr.: Oh, it's Roy Wood Jr. I put an @ sign in front, .com on the backside. Also visit me online, my podcast, roysjobfair.com. [00:43:54] Dan Runcie: Good stuff. Appreciate you, man. Thanks again. [00:43:56] Roy Wood Jr.: All right, will do.[00:43:58] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
TikTok has reshaped the Internet in under a three-year span, but if its parent company, ByteDance, has its way, the platform’s dominance is just getting started. This week I brought Stan founder Denisha Kuhlor back onto the show to discuss TikTok’s ambitious plans for total media domination.In the past few months, TikTok has announced plans for several new features — each aimed at competing with current media giants such as Google, Spotify, and Ticketmaster. Features include extending video-length capacity to 10 minutes, the TikTok Music streaming service, better internal search capabilities, and a ticketing platform, among many others.Recent history in Western culture is not kind to companies trying to be an all-in-one platform. Google and Facebook stumbles come to mind. To predict how TikTok might fare, Denisha and I hit the new features point-by-point, weighing TikTok’s advantages and disadvantages at breaking into each. Here’s our main talking points: [0:50] TikTok’s masterplan[7:02] Prediction: 10-minute-long TikTok videos[11:50] Prediction: TikTok music streaming service[15:43] Prediction: Enhanced TikTok search[22:00] Prediction: SoundOn music distribution[25:42] Prediction: In-app ticketing [29:46] Are consumers creator or platform loyal?[33:18] TikTok’s impact on creator economy [37:22] TikTok’s geopolitical issuesListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Denisha Kuhlor, @denishakuhlor  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Denisha Kuhlor: It has become this trend where we have more affinity to the platform and the platform's ability to curate the content than some of these content creators themselves. And in a world where I think these content creators are so driven to following the algorithm and getting promoted by the algorithm, what they don't realize is kind of the uniformity in content that is created.  [00:00:30] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:50] Dan Runcie: All right. We're joined again today by Denisha Kuhlor, who is the founder and CEO of Stan. And today we're going to talk all about TikTok. And TikTok has been a topic I know you and I have talked about offline, we've both covered it and have our opinions on it, but I want to talk today about talk's grand plan to try to take over everything. Just to name a few headlines from the past couple of months, TikTok is planning to extend into 10-minute long videos. It is launching its own music distribution service called SoundOn. It filed a trademark for its own streaming service called TikTok Music. They are enhancing their search function to identify key terms. They're also adding in a text-to-image option as well so that people can start to do that. And it sounds like a lot, the company has grown quite a bit, so it's understandable. But do we think that TikTok is going to be able to do all of these things? What's your thought? [00:01:47] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. So TikTok's been really interesting to watch these last few months and honestly, really from inception, my initial hunch is that it's hard to do a lot of things well. And as TikTok grows and somewhat through replication and also a bit through innovation, I do think they're going to struggle to really get to scale for all the new features that they want to launch. [00:02:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I think the tough thing with this, and it's something that has been ingrained with big tech companies for a while is when the big social network grows and they have this huge following. TikTok now is the fastest to reach 1 billion monthly active users. We can see the trajectory of it potentially getting to be as big as Facebook is now. And Facebook, of course, is another company that has tried and is still trying to do every possible thing under the sun. But I think the part that's important is there are a few examples when these companies have succeeded. Instagram copying Snapchat is of course the primary example that people often look back to, but more often than not, most of these attempts don't actually work that well. And one of the reasons they don't work as well is because they don't necessarily solve a true need that the core users are looking for to be solved from that app. And I think that's one of the important things about Instagram Story specifically because Instagram Stories copy Snapchat worked because Instagram already had a hub of influencers as its core users. And these core users wanted to be able to both post pictures, but they also didn't want to feel the pressure of needing to have this polished picture that was on their feed all of the time. So their thought was, okay, if they could copy this feed that they see Snapchat's doing, they already had the core users there and having something that's more ephemeral. It can go away in 24 hours was perfect. It worked as good as you could probably expect it to. And honestly, it worked better than Snapchat because Instagram already had the home base of those core users whereas Snapchat, at the time, they had a bit of penetration from Gen Z, a bit of DJ Khaled here and there, but it just wasn't to that same level. And I think when you look at a lot of the other attempts that Facebook has tried to copy from others and even Instagram as well with seeing with Reels, that's the piece that I go back to. If these successes and these copycat attempts haven't worked, it's usually because there's some type of disconnect between what the core users on that app are looking for and whether or not that new feature helps them do that.[00:04:23] Denisha Kuhlor: Totally. And I think it creates a culture even internally for these organizations of duplication versus innovation, right? So now you see these organizations going and seeking the desire to duplicate and get to market as quickly as possible, whereas before they had no choice but to be innovative. And to do that, I think they really had to listen to their users and the folks on the app. So it also just even changes, in a way, the culture of what the app is about because now folks are so used to see or expecting to see things that have already been done before, rather than excitement towards really where the platform could take things. [00:05:01] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it's interesting because, on one hand, I do understand the aspect of copying what's already successful. You see it's there and you know that you have those users on your platform already. So why not make an attempt, why not use your resources, especially because of how much money these companies print on ads, then, yeah, you could take the chance with Google having its Google X or Facebook opening up its own VC firm or in many ways, treating all these new initiatives as its own VC firm. But to your point, you do lose the innovation and that's exactly why these apps became relevant in the first place. They offered something newer. They did it in a truly unique way. And when you think about why TikTok has blown up, the genius of it is that For You page. They made it so frictionless to be able to stay entertained, to scroll. You don't have to think about who to follow. You don't need to do any of those things. And that is its biggest strength, but I think it also makes it very challenging to have any type of new feature that is harder or requires more user- input or more activity than the mindless scrolling that has worked in its favor up to this point.[00:06:11] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I completely agree. I feel like the For You page really was the magic and to, in some ways, see them stray away from that, or even improving that in other ways does feel a little unfortunate. Some of the features that you listed, while exciting, I think are just not necessary in the sense that so many other folks are out there doing it. But it will be interesting to see how it fits within maybe the grand scheme or the grand vision for TikTok users and creators. I mean, when it comes down to maybe offering a more seamless experience, then it gets a little bit more interesting. But how big of a problem is that right now for creators, especially when you think about, like, some of the plays towards distribution and features around that? The problems don't seem prevalent enough to justify the investment. But maybe there's a grand vision within all of that, in which it makes more sense. [00:07:02] Dan Runcie: So let's break those down. Let's go through each of 'em. Let's start first with TikTok extending into 10-minute videos. I do feel like this is probably the least friction out of each of them, but what's your thought on this expansion and clearly a move to compete more directly with YouTube? [00:07:18] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think this one is interesting because it really, in some ways, is probably the least painful in the sense that if content is compelling enough, you could argue that an individual is just going to keep watching, if the initial, you know, piece of content is compelling enough. What actually is, like, somewhat fascinating to me is that in some ways you could argue that TikTok took away or has hindered people's ability to focus for that long of time. So going to like the corollary of now having 10-minute videos, I do think will be interesting 'cause it's like a different habit, right? Even just focusing on something for 10 minutes versus like 6 seconds is a very different habit. So to see how or to see what type of users actually adapt to that, I think it will be interesting. I do think though there'll probably be some niche communities that emerge as a result of that feature who do want to take deep dives much to content, right? There's folks that like read casually about the music industry and then folks that like really, I think, deep dive, much as a testament to Trapital's content. And so I do think, like, some interesting, like, subsections of the feature will rise. However, I think the bulk of the users aren't even, like, able to watch a video for that long.[00:08:33] Dan Runcie: I think that if it is extending the videos into that length, I agree with you. This is the least friction one. I think it does have the highest likelihood of success. But if I'm thinking about music videos specifically or something that ends up being at least that length, it changes the format to look like what the videos for the most successful YouTubers often look like and the science that goes behind that. I'm picturing what NBA YoungBoy does in the beginning of his videos or even someone like MrBeast. There's some hook there that gives you some tease and that keeps you engaged, just to make sure that you end up watching the whole thing to see what it is. So I feel like if artists start creating music videos or start creating videos in general to be more like 10 minutes. And I think the format of how those videos look will be a lot different and everything will be how do we keep people engaged so that, okay, if we keep them for the first 15 seconds, how do you get them for the next 15 seconds and after that. Like, you can't have these long buildups that I think you can have for certain types of videos on YouTube, just give the audience. But I think it will change things in that format. No different than when MTV blew up, there was a type of video vibe that people tried to go after. I think that if this is the route that TikTok is really trying to go. I think we may see videos lead more into that where, yeah, everyone does start creating videos where you may look like you're trying to be a YouTuber. You're trying to be a TikTok dancer, whatever it is. But I feel like that's where it could head if it's as successful as it could be. [00:10:04] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, that's actually really interesting in the sense that a lot of folks, like, point to their desire to use TikTok because it does feel like less polished, in a way more authentic. I was listening to a podcast where a TikToker says she makes more content on TikTok because she has to like, yeah, just be less prepared in a way or prepare herself to get on TikTok in the way you would for on Instagram. So I think if that does happen, it'll probably have an effect they don't want, which is a longer timeline to people creating and posting content. And like, just a harder barrier to entry because now folks will feel like, well, I don't have all the things needed to start a TikTok or to really start posting on TikTok, which is really against, I think what the platform did in its early days. [00:10:50] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah, you're right. That whole instant, making it easy as possible is part of it. It almost brings me back to Vine to an extent. Maybe that's a better comparison for what this looks like 'cause of course someone like a MrBeast or NBA YoungBoy, they have big teams at this point. But some would be able to take a Vine and having this whole narrative story in that 6-second, 7-second clip, maybe it's getting a bit back to that. But even that takes time and there's clearly a difference between that. And, you know, while Vine was popular, it didn't blow up the way that TikTok has blown up. So I feel like you're right. It may change the app in a way that users aren't ready for. But we'll see. I obviously know that this is kind of what happens when you're trying to do everything. You're going to risk having some type of frustration that comes from the core users. [00:11:37] Denisha Kuhlor: Exactly. Much to your point, I do think there will be a really active, like, community or communities around that in which like 10 minutes of content works really well and TikTok is just like an easy medium to do that [00:11:50] Dan Runcie: For sure. All right. The second one here, this one I will be interested to dive into. TikTok Music and TikTok filing this trademark. It clearly wants to launch its own music streaming service. We had heard rumors about ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, wanting to do this, but how do you see this one playing out?[00:12:09] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, this one, I just kind of felt like, okay, like another music streaming service You know, one, I don't think people realize or really think through just like how complex streaming services are as a business. I mean, thankfully, you know, a lot of platforms have kind of, pioneered some of the heavy lifting that came with making deals with labels and really like getting the content onto the platform. But that's all still to be said that it's a very unique and complex business model that's driven on another party, right? And how another party feels about giving you access to your content? What does seem somewhat interesting about it is, in the same way that TikTok democratizes content creation and the barrier to entry to post, you could probably argue that it in a way, democratizes that for music, and so more artists are able to get more volume or traction as a result. And so I do think if they focus on maybe content from newer creators or newer musicians who don't necessarily have some of that on the platform, that could be interesting, like in terms of a new streaming platform being able to get access to these independent artists at rates that could be favorable. I think that's interesting, but I don't know if that works at scale. And frankly, like, songs from independent artists, I don't think, is enough to keep a consumer satiated. And there's an even harder barrier to entry to have two streaming platforms at once. [00:13:35] Dan Runcie: Yeah, this is the one I'm probably the most skeptical of its success and for very similar reasons. Say what you want about Spotify. I know people have a number of issues about how that platform is operated and how it distributes its money. But the fact that it's helped the music industry, A, get to this point, says something and just the type of deals it's been able to negotiate to make it all work the way that it has that's enabled all the other types of revenue-generating opportunities that have came from it. And then additionally, it's hard to get to that point. Again, you may not agree with all the decisions that they make, but it is very hard to get to that point. And while I understand, from a strategic perspective, why TikTok may initially want to do this. Of course, if you have and you own the top of funnel that exists in the industry today, why wouldn't you want to at least think about what it could be like to keep that attention on your platform? If your platform is where discovery is happening for both the new fans, for artists to get initial exposure, and for that, you know, the record labels are already seeing, I understand why you would want to think about keeping more of that in-house. But it is a lot tougher than they think for the reasons you mentioned. And also going back to the usability of the app streaming services are a type of consumer experience that requires much more active engagement. People don't just scroll through Spotify and Apple Music. You're going there actively to find something that you're looking for. I mean, I don't even know that many people that are actively relying on that discover weekly playlists to find anything. You're still searching for the things that you want. Even if you're looking for a playlist, it's probably that's much more catered toward the mood or genre that you have. So I think anything that requires that level of agency or action from the consumer side will always be a bit of a challenge for TikTok there. So yeah, I'm skeptical on the success of that one. Unless it tries to go more of the YouTube route of things, which ties back into the 10-minute video things that we talked about before. There's some potential there, but even there, I think there's still some question marks.[00:15:41] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. I'm aligned with you there. [00:15:43] Dan Runcie: Yeah. The next one is TikTok Search. A lot of us had seen the viral tweet that someone had. I don't Google I TikTok. And a lot of that spoke to how a lot of folks in Gen Z are looking for information and I get it, I've even done it myself, my wife and I were recently searching to buy a new mattress. And you know what? I didn't want to go through a Google Search and just read some sponsored content about a mattress. I wanted to see a video of someone unboxing this thing to see what it looks like. [00:16:10] Denisha Kuhlor: Exactly. [00:16:10] Dan Runcie: And TikTok was the quickest place to do that, even quicker than YouTube. YouTube's going to show me a mix of explainer videos and then also concept from the company. I just wanted to see some random person be like, oh, hey, here's what I think about this bed. And here's what I think about that bed. It was quick, it was easy. So I do think that that works, but I think there's a few caution flags with it. A, I still think that even though TikTok was able to offer that, there's still deeper search functionality that went into how Google got to be as good as it is, even going back thinking about 20 years ago about like why Google succeeded where Lycos and AltaVista and all those other go.com, .com era search engines didn't work. So I don't know if TikTok has all of that baked in to really go beyond just, you know, people like me looking for random purchases that they want to look through here or there or just want to look up a certain topic. And I also think the other bigger, more important pieces, the misinformation, and just being able to correct for that because that's already been an issue on TikTok. And I think that could potentially continue if there isn't some way to relegate what's happening in search. So, high likelihood success, but still some trepidation. [00:17:23] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, this one is one I'm actually a little bit more excited about. I do think it's really interesting, like in the sense of search, because it is something that we naturally do more. I first started to search on social media using Instagram. And I think they've even done a greater job of like adding more functionality to do that search, whether it's by location and showing you things surrounding that location or even venues or event spaces. So I think that it's a growing feature and a great feature. Like you said, the reviews, whether people sought them to be that way or just inherently more, right, they're showing you video. Most times they're talking through it and you can just consume and walk away with a more educated viewpoint for a time that's favorable, right? A 30-second or 1-minute video can really give you a lot of feedback about whatever you're searching. I think, honestly, this is where a TikTok should spend some time doubling down. I think we want to see more of that functionality from them playing around with maybe the highest use cases, whether that's locations or certain venues, or even like festivals. As I think about it, like, I see so often on TikTok, like you can see a certain event from multiple vantage points and understanding what it's like at a festival from someone in VIP versus general admission versus backstage, even, right? Like, Rolling Loud, you see, like, every single vantage point, even sometimes down to the artist manager with them. So I think, like, them doubling down on a few use cases that really highlight the immersiveness of search is something that excites me. And I think just naturally follows up on what the users are already doing on the platform. [00:19:02] Dan Runcie: That ties into the another announcement I saw from them about enhancing its ability to search for things locally, or being able to find things from that level because to your point if you are seeing multiple vantage points at Rolling Loud or at Coachella, you may want to meet up with someone that is there, or you might be able to see their vantage point. You might have times I've been to a music festival and it's like, where are you? I'm at the main stage. But what part of the main stage, you know, they got this quarter over here, they got that quarter, but if someone could just do a quick, like, boom. And maybe that could be even easier than them trying to send me a FaceTime video or something like that, where there's no service, but if they could at least post it up on TikTok or wherever, then it could be like, okay, I see your angle. I'll be there. I'll come see you in a minute.[00:19:44] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think that's great. And to that point, too, it kind of like puts on other users in terms of like, okay, wow, I didn't enjoy my experience at like Rolling Loud 'cause I was GA. So maybe VIP is worth it to me or I should consider doing that. And so I actually think more artists should be embracing and recognizing that search feature. The only thing is too is because so many people are using it, you in real-time, right, seem to get updates. So like, Kizz Daniel who's come under fire in Tanzania for not showing up to his performance. I already, like in my mind was like, well, Kizz Daniel was four hours late to his DC show. And how did I know that? Or DC or New York? I'm sorry, but how did I know that? Like, because I saw it on TikTok and so that's like twice in a row. So how likely am I as a fan to justify the cost of a ticket in the event that he is going to be near me? So I think it's like a good maybe transparency or accountability measure. But with that search, we maybe do sometimes need to recognize like, what do they say that like, people are most likely to post or leave reviews when they either have a really great experience or a really bad experience. And so sometimes you might not just get what the true experience is in the case of like a service-based search. [00:21:02] Dan Runcie: That's true. That's a really good point. And that goes back to the quality of the results and how they can find a way to measure that piece 'cause I think that's the piece that ties back into why Google has been good at what it does over its competitors. So that TikToks can actually survive and not, you know, become someone else that may do video search even better. [00:21:23] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. And maybe, you know, to the extent they would consider this, like, there's an opportunity for collaboration, right? Like Google's done a great job of, you know, when you ask certain questions, they have a definitive answer, but they also pull like multiple sources. And so what if, like, on a Google search, you search a restaurant and you're also seeing like TikToks in the area? I think the aggregation of that repository of information could be really great. And also a way for them to continue to like maintain their dominance in search. [00:21:55] Dan Runcie: Let’s take a quick break to hear a word from this week’s sponsor. [00:22:00] Dan Runcie: Definitely. So the next one, this one's interesting, music distribution. TikTok recently launched SoundOn, which is a service that in many ways is set to compete with a lot of the music distributors. And I think similarly, it could be seen as its opportunity to capture its top of funnel attention as well. You already have the artists, why not make it easier for artists to use your platform, to distribute the music that they have? What are your thoughts on this one? [00:22:31] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, and this isn't personal, but I'm just not really excited by music distribution. Nowadays, like in a lot of ways we're listening to a song on a streaming platform is a commodity, right? Like listening to Drake on Apple Music sounds the same as, like, Spotify. I feel that way with music distribution, like, as a consumer, the consumers have no idea, right? They just know they go to their streaming platform and the song is there. The reverse engineering of how it got there and the back end is really not of much interest to them. On the artist side or for them to do this, I think it requires a really deeper investment in artist education. And so I'm curious to see, you know, especially as they double down on creator programs and things of that nature how willing they are to invest both on a content and community side, but also a capital side, in artist education to incentivize users to distribute through that platform. When you think about switching costs in terms of getting set up on a new platform and just probably some of the like new things you have to adjust to by doing it. I feel very underwhelmed hearing about this, and I'm really curious to see how it goes. [00:23:39] Dan Runcie: I think you called it right in the beginning. Music distribution is a tough business. It is purely a commodity at this point. And I think you can win a few ways. You win by trying to achieve massive scale with it, which Distrokid clearly has just given everything else. But if you don't have that scale, you try to find something unique to position yourself with. I think we've seen that a bit with United Masters, but even that's a bit of a unique business model because, A, they've done a bunch of partnerships with different platforms and companies in sports and entertainment to try to use that as a way both to attract artists and give them an opportunity. But it's also attached to an ad agency with translation, which essentially can, you know, offset any costs or anything like that if there are already losses that come through with the business. So that part of it is unique there. But then even with some of the other services, I think a lot of them have adapted their business models over time because that customer service piece is so timely. It's so expensive. And yeah, when you have an artist that maybe generated less than $20,000 a year, and they're calling your service every other week because they're trying to feed their supporters and making sure that every one of their fans can get their music. How do you justify that cost when you want to be able to support the fans? But the economics of it don't make sense if you're also trying to compete with Distrokid where it costs very little money to be able to use their service on a regular basis. And the same could be said about TuneCore and the others. So it's a tough business to enter. [00:25:16] Denisha Kuhlor: And I think, you know, artists and management teams don't really have any particular affiliation to, you know, to like any platform. Maybe there are things that they like about certain platforms or that keep them there. But when you talk to artists and management teams, it's kind of just this is what we use, it works, it gets the job done. And it's not an area of the business as long as things are working, they're going to particularly spend a lot of time overly evaluating. [00:25:42] Dan Runcie: Right. The next piece of this and the next thing that TikTok's been trying to do is ticketing. And while this is less of a big initiative the way they have it right now, it's an integration with a Ticketmaster who, of course, owns most of the medium size to large venues from a ticketing operation, given their relationship with Live Nation. I have to imagine that TikTok's ultimate stream would actually be trying to do what we just saw from Spotify to try to launch its own ticketing service. But even that has plenty of issues and challenges there, but what's your take on at least this first step of the Ticketmaster integration for TikTok and where it could go from here?[00:26:23] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. On the ticketing side, it's interesting. And just like having a background in venture and tech and startups, like, I've seen a lot of folks try to solve ticketing in many areas, right? The curation that comes with ticketing, ticketing from all over the world and in different currencies, and just a better user experience overall. I will say while I don't think I'm, like, particularly mad at TikTok's, like, foray into ticketing, I do think it's a missed opportunity to probably focus on like events that have organically grown through the platform. And something that's like so interesting is I think you've seen more and more promoters or even event producers, like really like leverage TikTok to create those events and grow their followings in their community. And that's not what TikTok's ticketing platform is really targeted with as evidenced by, you know, a partnership with Ticketmaster. And so while I feel like it's somewhere in the direction, I do think it could be a bit more directionally accurate by focusing on, kind of the, yeah, the smaller organic events that just naturally have grown through TikTok and like TikTok partnering with those events to help users produce more content and like, it can truly be mutually beneficial in a way that I think some of those event organizers would welcome. And so while I could understand why they went for the validity and reputation that comes with a bigger brand, such as Ticketmaster, I think they could have got more bang for their buck with a smaller, more targeted partnership with folks that already found interesting use cases to grow ticketing for the respective events.[00:27:54] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I feel like there's a bit of a balance there because I hear you and I do think that it ideally would be, yeah, great for them to double down on the creative uses of the, especially some of the more emerging artists that are using this platform to bring folks together, right? Almost similar to what you may see people trying to do, whether it's seeing things virtually in Twitch or bringing those types of audiences in real life to particular things. I think that's really cool and unique. I do feel that for TikTok though, specifically with what we're seeing them do on the music side, in the back of my mind I always wonder, okay, if it weren't for Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion and some of these other major artists that are using the platform, what percentage of their impact is making up the overall pie of TikTok Music? Just thinking about that, they had that pie chart from a few years back about the genres and how hip-hop was over-indexed and how Megan Thee Stallion was the most popular artist. So if you're trying to cater to the biggest artist on your platform, you know, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat are definitely at the Ticketmaster level of what they're doing. So if they are going to have an event, could you have something that keeps them in, right, because I think that the more organic things that we've seen likely are more of a direct competition to what we see from Eventbrite, let's say, which I think is much more in that sweet spot of everything from like a birthday party up until you get to like, you know, a small club concert or event, right? But then obviously Ticketmaster is everything else. So yeah, it's like, my heart wants to be like, oh yeah, stay with the types of cool events you've had. But also just thinking about how YouTube leaned into its biggest customers and like, if you're TikTok then yeah, it's the Megs, it's the Dojas, and ones like that. [00:29:38] Denisha Kuhlor: That is interesting and I think a good corollary. Maybe it does, like, trickle down on more of like a hybrid approach. Yeah, that's interesting. [00:29:46] Dan Runcie: I do think this taps back into something that you had mentioned before just about the platform itself and as this platform continues to grow, where does the loyalty sit for the consumer, right, whether it's with the artist or with the platform. [00:30:03] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. I think this is such a big thing, right, and that comes with building a fan base or even just like your notoriety on TikTok. You see the changes that were made to Instagram and kind of everybody from the Kardashians, right, calling them out. And I think it has become this trend where we have more affinity to the platform and the platform's ability to curate the content than some of these content creators themselves. And in a world where I think these content creators are so driven to following the algorithm and getting promoted by the algorithm, what they don't realize is kind of the uniformity in content that is created. Even when it comes down to, like, some of the events or experiences or those types of videos, sometimes, like if you've seen one, you've seen them all. And I think that's why there's other creators, whether it’s, like, more comedian-focused or other topics that really excel because it forces them to kind of have to do something different, even if they do have to be relatable. And so unfortunately I think that, you know, artists who are employing TikTok and kind of using this, especially as they build their name and their brand, need to think a lot about like, okay, I have X amount of followers on TikTok, but the barrier to entry to get someone to follow you on TikTok looks very different compared to other platforms. And then taking that a step further, it's like, what does that mean? Because while people might like you, how willing are they to migrate to another platform? They ultimately have that ultimate affinity and loyalty, in my opinion, to TikTok. [00:31:38] Dan Runcie: I couldn't agree more, and it makes me think about how I use these apps today. For instance, we're recording this now August 26th, and this is a few hours after DJ Khaled released his album and Jay-Z had his four-minute-long verse on GOD DID. And I've seen everyone from ESPN's account to all of the hip-hop blogs and everyone else posting about this. And of course, you get it. And it's all these memes you see about people posting, okay, what Hov did on this track and they're getting photos of LeBron's best games or LeBron's game six against the Boston Celtics and things like that. But I bring that up because speaks to the uniformity of how all of these platforms or all these accounts on these platforms end up doing the same types of things because they know it works and they know what is effective. And it comes to the point now, when I'm scrolling through Instagram, I don't really know who the account is that is there that's posting something that I see unless it's something that's super specific to that person, right? Like if a friend is posting something from, you know, one of their kids starting in kindergarten, then it's like, okay, I know that that only comes from you. But if someone's posting something that's happening in media or something, that's happening in the news, you have to, like, look at that account at the top to really know who it is. And I think that's something they probably got from TikTok more so that, unless you're really looking to see where that account's coming from, it's a bit hidden now, right? Like that's part of, I know some of the frustration people had had, whether it's with Google searches or how social media was sharing links and they made all the links look the same, whether it's something from The Wall Street Journal or your friend's blog, right? And it kind of goes back to that point. [00:33:18] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. And it probably has like real implications for the creator economy now that we're talking about it, like, I think, you know, living in New York, I see, I like casually probably see a few TikTok creators a month and maybe even sometimes I follow them. But you know, what's interesting? Like, rather than noting, other than noting to myself, like, oh, I follow them on TikTok, kind of the like je nais se quois or like the magic of like, oh my God, like I'm seeing this person in real life feels like it's disappeared a bit to me in a way that used to exist with YouTube or some of these other platforms where it felt like a weird, like breaking of the screen. But now that everybody's behind the screen and as a result, even some of the content they're showing is so accessible. I do think it probably, like, leads to this dynamic of where we're just like, okay, let's just see interesting things. The people creating said interesting things are no more interesting in some ways than like you or they just did a great job at doing this. And I see that with, there's a lot of debate and, like, discourse around some of the lifestyle blogs or, you know, like people showing their lifestyle, like waking up in the morning, like obviously, you had to set the camera up before to do that. But a lot of folks in the comments argue like this is just a type of content. Like, it's a type of cinematography that people like to view and people like to see. And so as a result, these people are continuing to make these videos, but if that's just a type of content that people like to see, TikTok is simply going to provide that content all the time, regardless of really any affiliation to one creator, which makes it a lot tougher on these creators, I think, to build these networks and conversely artists.[00:34:55] Dan Runcie: Right, and this brings me back to the whole issues that people have with Web 2.0 to begin with and why they wanted to be able to solve some of this with Web 3.0. It's because the platforms commoditize your content, and then in return, they're the ones that hold the power. [00:35:10] Denisha Kuhlor: You know, I think though folks have to be honest. In some ways, it's what the user likes or what the, yeah, the users do like this because if not, you know, we're long past exclusives being standard in the industry, but if not the exclusives would've worked. Like having, you know, Chance the Rapper's album on Apple Music for two weeks, that would work. But the industry shied away from that because ultimately consumers cared more about choice and the ability to choose and experience and be exposed to all types of artists. And so I do think it's a dangerous game because it doesn't recognize like that's why malls exist, right? Like, you go and you want to go to multiple stores. And so I do think sometimes while I understand and recognize and very much like honor the need to, you know, differentiate and be able to have your core audience and provide to those things, I think we'd be remiss if we also didn't realize, like, natural human behavior comes from choice and like the brevity of choice. And so that's sometimes the interesting thing between Web 2.0 and even Web 3.0 and with crypto, for me, because ultimately, like, the barrier to entry is so high, right, to get someone, a true fan to download an artist NFT because that insinuates their true fans. And I think a lot of artists have actually had to face the music in some ways with realizing their perceived fan base isn't as big as they thought and the mechanism to realize that has been some of these drops.[00:36:40] Dan Runcie: Well said, well said. The engagement piece and what you need to have a true fan is harder than people think, so, yeah, I couldn't agree more. Well, we're getting to the tail end, but before we close things out, we have to talk about the elephant in the room for TikTok, and that is its geopolitical standing and all of the things that it wants to do while, whether or not they will be successful, a lot of it depends on the company's viability in the US and whether or not it's current status, especially given the fact that the Chinese government does have this data and there are unknown questions about what that means, what it can do with this data, how do you see this piece it?[00:37:22] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think it's tricky in some ways, because, you know, as consumers, we're now kind of privy to the implications of tech and big data. And even just being on our phones, being on our phones in general, what I will say is and a lot of the like research indicates that true, like avid TikTok users are just, like, hooked in a way where they don't or they might say to you they don't care. Now how much is that true, I guess we'll find out. But I do think it's concerning because maybe to some extent, we don't even fully realize everything and all the factors that are at play here, right? Like, you're just giving that summary, I'm like, whoa. But as a user coming on every day, you're not thinking about that. And so often with big data and some of these platforms, in a way, you don't realize just the implications it had until it was too late, right? Until we're now talking about the ramifications of a platform existing in that way. And so I think it's going to be really interesting to see how, seriously consumers want to take it and beyond consumers, like the US, the US in general. I mean, I would be remiss if I didn't say that some of the data is concerning, right, learning about some of the data TikTok has access to is concerning. But ultimately like as more and more people post and the ecosystem grows larger and there's now 10-minute videos and your favorite artists are on there and they have a streaming platform and all these things in this ecosystem, it starts to get hard to really stray away. And so I think that's going to be a challenge because it feels like it almost has to be a collective push for folks to disintermediate from the platform. But I'm really curious your thoughts on this, too.[00:39:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah. So the first attempt of this was in fall 2020. So it was around two years ago at this point, when Trump had tried to shut down TikTok. That didn't work for a number of reasons. There were a number of things going on in the world that the attention just wasn't there. And I don't think that the argument was made in a concise and effective way that could have necessarily gotten the job done. And TikTok had other challenges at the time, Kevin Mayer had his short term and then he had left shortly after. So there were a number of issues there. This though, I think that even though you're starting to hear some senators say certain things about it, I think things will be pretty mum, I would guess, until the 2022 midterm elections coming up just 'cause think from a strategic perspective, they want to keep momentum on things that they can confirm can get votes. So while I think I've probably heard more of the concern, if I'm being honest, coming from democratic senators, their biggest concern right now is okay, how can we continue to try to celebrate Joe Biden's victory so that they can not lose seat coming up with this election, I feel like. And because of that, like, we kind of see how this whole thing plays out. I do think though that we could be facing a potential situation where it's almost like the Facebook thing where people know that this is an issue, but it's not going to happen proactively. It happens reactively. It's going to be like, when shit hits the fan and then people are going to be like, oh shit, now we need to do something. [00:40:27] Denisha Kuhlor: Exactly. Exactly. Out of curiosity, how do you think TikTok, and I'm sure it'll vary, right, but how do you think TikTok is going to be used with the upcoming election cycle? [00:40:37] Dan Runcie: Oh, good question. I don't see it impacting 2022 as much, but I could see it playing a factor more so in 2024 because I just think that even though there's plenty at stake coming up with this election, the presidential elections always get more in place. I do think that, especially as this group of voters does tend to grow and as more and more older people do get on TikTok, a lot of the same types of activities and nefarious behavior that we saw on Facebook here is going to make its way onto. TikTok. The bigger challenge is though, I think, it's even tougher to navigate all those things. I mean, we even saw that there was misinformation back in 2020 when you had a lot of the Black Lives Matter uprisings and people, they were censoring certain things related to those hashtags. So I do think that those things are going to cause big problems. I think the difference though, and this is part of it is that when these issues happen for Facebook, it's one thing if you have mark Zuckerberg coming to Congress and it can kind of be this thing where he could be media training, he can kind of have these like, you know, haha moments where it's like, Senator, we sell ads, that's how we make money. That doesn't exactly work with the Chinese government in the same way 'cause I don't think that that type of congressional hearing would necessarily work in the same way. So it would have to be some type of, you know, harder crackdown that happens with it. So, yeah, it's tough. I feel like we're not going to see anything actually happen until shit does hit the fan. And unfortunately, that could be the 2024 presidential election in the US, but maybe it could be something sooner. [00:42:19] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, no, we'll definitely have to see how it plays out. I also think we could potentially see, like, new candidates that come to the result from easily being able to build followings on a platform like TikTok. So I'm curious to see what, like, TikTok- native candidates emerge as well. [00:42:36] Dan Runcie: Right, like kind of like how Obama was the Facebook champion in 2000. [00:42:41] Denisha Kuhlor: Exactly. [00:42:43] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's funny, right? Because I feel like, you know, back then it was like, oh, look at all the great things that Facebook could do with 2008. And just, I think given some of the political leanings at the time, but then 2016 in many ways was a very opposite case with it. So I do feel like we're a bit more jaded and cynical of the powers of social media than we were then. But there is always a candidate that rises up with these things, that does these things, right? Like, I don't know, thinking back to the days of candidates that are just entering a different thing or new platform, whether it's Bill Clinton going on the Arsenio Hall Show playing his saxophone or something like that. Like, who's going to be that on TikTok? I don't know. I don't follow any politicians on TikTok. I'm sure they have accounts, but I'm sure they'll probably be doing that. And who knows? They'll probably have a debate on Hot Ones for all I know. [00:43:35] Denisha Kuhlor: It's definitely going to be interesting. [00:43:37] Dan Runcie: Yeah, for sure. All right. Well, this was great. We covered a bunch in this, so we'll definitely have to revisit this topic at some point. And we'll see how TikTok succeeds over this for the next few months. I think we both have our internal scorecards ready, but we'll definitely have to touch base on this again at some point. [00:43:54] Denisha Kuhlor: Agree. Thanks so much for having me.[00:43:56] Dan Runcie: For sure. Thank you.[00:43:58] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
One of the most successful entrepreneurs in the music industry is, without question, Matt Pincus. He sold his independent music publishing company, SONGS, for $160 million five years ago. And now, the music holdings company he co-founded, MUSIC, just raised $200 million to invest in music and music-adjacent companies. Though, Matt doesn’t see MUSIC as an investment fund, but rather a holding company. That’s because he takes an operator-centric role in the companies he funds. And unlike the splashy catalog acquisitions that’ve dominated the space over the past few years, Matt is looking forward with his investments and targeting brand-new growth opportunities instead.In particular, Matt sees big opportunities in the technology sector, web3, and even record labels and publishing. At SONGS, Matt was able to spot and develop up-and-coming songwriters, inking early deals with the likes of Diplo, Lorde, and The Weeknd. He’ll be tasked with finding similar success at MUSIC.  Matt and I dove deep into a wide-range of topics during our conversation. Here’s a few highlights of what we covered:[2:58] Why Matt created MUSIC[8:07] MUSIC’s investment thesis?[14:40] What Matt doesn’t like about the music business [19:49] Recent inflow of capital into the music business[21:15] Two lanes to entering music business[25:15] Finding left-of-center opportunities among musical talent [27:30] The structural problem of the music business[31:35] Continuity was key to SONGS success[33:34] The Weeknd as a business blueprint for other artists[37:53] Sync business opportunities [44:55] Have streaming subscriptions peaked?[47:50] Tiktok brought back music frequency[51:40] Matt’s five-year predictionsListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Matt Pincus, @mpinc  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Newsly is your all-in-one audio super app to hear the trending topics on the entire web. Download newsly.me for free and use the promo code ‘TRAP’ to receive a 1-month free subscription. Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Matt Pincus: Defensibility in the music business is not a patent or a technology or some special recipe you have someplace. It's your understanding of music, the people that make it, and then your ability to develop relationships with people around the business and to keep your reputation such that people want to be with you. But the real key in, at least in the music technology side of it is you need to be able to spin the technology yourself and understand really how it works. [00:00:37] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:56] Dan Runcie: Today's episode is with one of the most successful music entrepreneurs of the past few decades. His name is Matt Pincus and he is the founder and CEO of MUSIC, which is a holding company that invests in music tech and music-adjacent companies. MUSIC just launched a 200 million fund to invest in this space, so Matt and I talked all about it. He's looking for companies that still have a clear understanding for how music gets made and understand the art behind it. He's also looking for startups that have a true defensible moat that is something unique that they can do. And he's also looking for the companies that have a huge total addressable market that can clearly grow and expand as we're seeing things continue to grow in this space. Our conversation covered a bunch of topics in this space. We talked about sync and the impact of that. We also talked about how much further streaming can go. And we talked about a bunch of insightful music trends. Really fascinating conversation. I feel like every few months we have one of those conversations where people reach out to me and say, Hey, I took a bunch of notes in that conversation. Thank you for this. And I have a good feeling, I have a good feeling that this is going to be one of those conversations. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here's my chat with Matt Pincus. [00:02:16] Dan Runcie: All right. Today, we're joined by Matt Pincus, who is the founder of MUSIC, which is a holding company that invested music and music-adjacent companies. Matt, I'm really excited to have this conversation because you have had a very impressive career with what you did with Songs and everything that you had done in publishing specifically. And what always stuck out to me about you in this space is how you've identified opportunities where others didn't see them. So I know when I saw the announcement for MUSIC and the $200 million fund you launched, I said, okay, he's seeing something and he's seeing an opportunity to dive in. So what did you see? What made you want to get involved with this?[00:02:58] Matt Pincus: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I'm a big admirer of Trapital and your work in general. And I'm really happy to be with you here today. So, you know, I started music, it was sort of an organic process. I sold Songs after running it for about 13 years. And it was a fairly abrupt end. So we decided to sell the company and neither me nor my two partners really wanted to run it for somebody else. So we decided that once we sold it, it was time to step away and it was fairly quick. So, you know, I ran the company for 12-plus years. And then 90 days after the sale, I was out in the street, like, what am I going to do with my life? So it was a bit of an organic process. It started with meeting a lot of really interesting founders of music businesses and companies that were around the music business. It's obviously an interesting time in our business in a number of different ways. The streaming market has matured. There are a lot of music tech businesses with interesting founders cropping up over the past four or five years. The web three crypto business has, you know, started the early days of really coming online. And the way that labels, publishing companies, management companies reach audiences is really different than it was like, you know, six, seven years ago. So I met a lot of really interesting people. The first one was Steve Martocci, who was the founder of Splice. He and I hit it off particularly well. And I sort of said, listen, I've been, you know, doing talent deals with young people, you know, in the early twenties for the past 12 years, I think maybe the next chapter is working with founders of companies that are more like 10 years younger than me, as opposed to, you know, 20, early 20s. And taking the experience that I had in the last, like, four or five years of songs when we were trying to figure out how to really realize returns on the business and build on that to try to help people do the same thing. So I was out looking for, you know, are there interesting companies that I might be able to work with in some way or another? And the answer to that quickly became kind of yes, on the music tech side originally, in growth companies, when online music and music technology was shifting to a subscription-based backbone as opposed to a packet software business. And then also on the music side of it, you know, interesting independent labels, music companies operating in a different way. And so the first thing was, are there interesting companies out there? The second is, do they need capital and where would they get it from? And the third was, how am I going to get the money to invest in these businesses? So it was kind of a bit of a bootstrapping exercise where I would go find an opportunity to invest in a company, put some of my own money in LionTree, which sold songs for me and has been a partner and champion of mine since I sold the company, would invest some money too, and then we'd find some other people to round out the investment. We did that first with Splice, put about 20 million into the company over a period of time. We also did in the same way, made an investment in a company called HIFI, which is a FinTech platform benefiting artists in a bunch of different ways, and also with DICE, the ticketing business. And you know, they started, a couple of them did well and actually, they all did well. And so I decided that I wanted to raise some capital and have my own sort of, it's not really a fund. It's more of a holding company 'cause I'm less of an investor and more of an operator. And so the question became, how are we going to raise the money? Now Aryeh Bourkoff who runs LionTree is somewhat of a magic maker, and he took me on and introduced me to two families, the Schusterman Family and JS Capital, which is Jonathan Soros's capital vehicle. And they agreed to invest in a four-way partnership. So it's between me, LionTree, Schusterman Family, and JS Capital. And we formed MUSIC, which is a $200 million holding company. We do deals in a couple of different areas, music tech, which is sort of where I spent most of my time after Songs. We also invest in independent music companies like Songs. So labels publishing companies, management companies. Increasingly, a few of those functions are in one company, as opposed to when I was running Songs, it was like you were either a publisher or a label or a management company. And then we partner sometimes with a larger private equity firm if we are interested in acquiring something that's, you know, of a larger size. And so we're in the middle of one of those right now. And so we were able to find a bunch of interesting opportunity, a bunch of interesting ways, and it seems to me to be, you know, a really good time to be putting money to work in the music business. [00:07:32] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's an exciting time to be investing in these companies and to be acquiring them too. And you mentioned something there about the types of companies you're looking at and whether they are modern music companies or whether they are doing something that's unique in the space. Can you talk a little bit more about your investment thesis and what you're looking for, and specifically, because, as you mentioned, you're not a fund, you're a holding company, so you're not necessarily just doing, you know, angel investments or early stage. You're trying to make investments for the long haul. So how does that shape your strategy?[00:08:07] Matt Pincus: Very good question. And I think the answer to that depends somewhat on the different areas of investment. So the first is in the technology side of the business, which is kind of where I started as an investor. So, you look for a couple of things there. So first of all, you need to invest in companies, not products. So some of the music startups can be sort of, it's an interesting widget, but can it be a scalable business? So you need to make sure that you have a couple of things in order to know that you're investing in a company that has the ability to grow. So the first thing is you need your own tech stack and it needs to be built to suit whatever market you want to be in. So for example, with Splice, one of the reasons, and there were several, but one of the reasons I invested in the company was because Steve had built this subscription stack from day one of the company. So it was a native SaaS company in a world where the rest of the market needed to move from the old way of doing business to the new way of doing business. Splice was always in the new way of doing business, so it was going to be ahead of the curve. And so you need to make sure that your technical capabilities and your technical assets are going to, you know, be where you want to go. The second is that you need to make sure you're in a part of the market that has a big enough user base to make a real company out of it. You know, it's great to make a widget that, you know, 1500 people love, love, love, but 1500 people is not a lot of people. So you need to make sure that the addressable market around the business has a lot of users. And again, in Splice's case, you know, they are the content business in music tech. So they can be used in an infinite amount of applications across the business, which gives them, you know, a really solid user base. And so, you know, that's kind of the second thing. And the third thing is that you need to kind of own where you live or have the ability to own where you live. So, you know, it's great if you get into a category in the technology side of the business, that, you know, breaks some ground and shows everybody what can be done. But if then, you know, Apple or Google just says, thank you very much and does it instead of you, it's not so great. So you need to have a defensible business that you can build and scale. And again, back to Splice, you know, they are the content leader and I'm a music publisher by trade, so content is the water supply in the music business. You know, in publishing, it's the song that starts the whole conversation. Splice owns music. And so no matter where the market is going to grow, no matter where it ends up going, they have the supply that feeds the music tech business. And so it's inherently defensible when it gets up to a certain level. You know, at this point they have 3 million works in their database. To catch up to them is, you know, difficult, if not impossible. And so you need to be defensible now on the music side of what I do, which is investing in music companies, there's a couple of things I look for. So first of all, I don't do catalog acquisitions. I invest in people. So the first thing is that you need to have really talented executives that understand music and know how to find repertoire and make it bigger. I tend to like businesses that give advances to artists. There's a certain way, like at Songs, we built a catalog over a long period of time, but we built it through signing young writers and giving them advances. So I call it a mattress out of sheets. If you do that one after another, over many, many years and you do it well, all of a sudden you wake up, you know, 7 to 10, 12 years later, and you're like, holy shit, it's a big catalog. And so I tend to like businesses that advance money to artists and build catalog that way or manage catalog that way. There's a certain magic to understanding how to compensate artists and doing it fairly. So I tend to look at that. You know, the music business has changed a lot. It used to be that if you wanted to be an independent, you needed to own your own vertical. And you know, at Songs, we had our global administration business that we owned and built. We had our own technology. So we were self-contained, standalone competitor. Now I think, you know, solutions have become available everywhere. There's a lot of good publishing administration, a lot of good record distribution solutions. There's a lot of off-the-shelf stuff you can get. It's really about music. It's really about understanding artists and the music that they make and connecting them with an audience. So I look for people who uniquely understand that. Now that can be, you know, somebody who has a geographical lock on a particular kind of music. It can be somebody that has a particularly unique understanding of how the studio works because I think if there's one big change in the music publishing business lately, it's that it's gone really back to the studio. And the interesting companies are actually making songs in real-time in a studio environment. So it can be that. It can be that you have another business that you do and music is associated with it. So why not, you know, get into the music business while you're doing whatever else you do, but you need to have some reason why you have access to a particular group of artists in a particular kind of repertoire, and you're helpful to that in some way or another. And so it's quite a different set of things that I look for on that side than on the technology side. [00:13:34] Dan Runcie: And with the way that your firm is structured, too, I see parallels with the types of companies you're looking at, right? You're not just focused on one particular type of investment area. You have the music tech companies that you're looking at. Splice is an example. You also have the companies that are working more directly in music itself, whether that is giving advances or companies that have a unique edge on who they're reaching. And I think that translates as well when you're talking about the types of companies you're looking at because a lot of times, especially 10, 15 years ago, as you mentioned, there were more silos and now you're starting to see companies have different types of roles that they do or different divisions to try to be this nebulous term that I've heard several times as broader entertainment company. And while I think that that's effective, I could also see how that could challenge some of the challenges of being able to have a business that is defensible or having a moat and the focus that comes with that. So how do you balance that and what are the things that you look for when evaluating companies that are both trying to do it all, but also are trying to have something that they can be defensible with? [00:14:40] Matt Pincus: Well, so on the music side of it, you know, it's about relationships. You know, the good companies, their equity is their relationships with different people around the business. And it's really a human-centric business. So, you know, defensibility often is correlated with reputation in the independent music business, at least. That was certainly true of Songs. One of the big success factors of the company and in fact, like, kind of our asset was that me and Ron and Carianne had really good relationships around the business that we built over many years, and that allowed us to punch above our weight class. You know, when we were a very small business, you know, we acted as a bigger business because we were able to get champions that helped us along the way, both in terms of the artists that were willing to sign with us, but also in terms of, you know, other people around the business that took us on and helped us out. Oddly enough defensibility in the music business is not a patent or a technology or some special recipe you have someplace. It's your understanding of music, the people that make it, and then your ability to develop relationships with people around the business and to keep your reputation such that people want to be with you. You know, on the tech side of it, it's a little bit different. You have to make sure that your innovation curve is constantly there. You have to make sure, like, I would not invest in a business that did not have a technical co-founder. You know, ideas are great. Everybody's got ideas. You know, there's an app for anything. But the real key in, at least in the music technology side of it is you need to be able to spin the technology yourself and understand really how it works, which when you get into the crypto side of it's really interesting 'cause a lot of people understand the implications of it, but they have no idea how the shit works. They don't actually use it. And they get kind of confused thinking that it's much more complicated than in fact it really is. Or, you know, they get so fascinated with the technology that they don't make a product that stands on its own bottom and has value to the end user. So it's a little bit different in the different areas of the market that you look at. And one of the reasons why I like the field that I play on and I feel very lucky to be able to do the different things that I can do with music is because some of it is about sort of analytical, scalable technology-oriented investments. And some of it is just about people in tunes. And so you're kind of mixing a lot of different things together. You know, the one thing that I don't like so much about the recent music business is somehow we all slipped into talking about music as assets and fractional finance and cash flows and securitization. And I'm like, listen, if I wanted to do all that shit, I do it not here. You know, the music business is not assets and finance and cash flows and, you know, securitization. The music business is moving people, motivating people, creating an audience, assembling humans to want what you make, and distributing that and delivering it and all the rest of that stuff. You know, the fact like, listen, what I'm doing is either really smart or really dumb because either you can make a real investment business just out of the music business. And I think you can because there's lots of different types of investments in music and there's lots of growth and lots of possibility. But also, you know, it's a pretty small business. And I live in, play, you know, a neighborhood, the size of a postage stamp. We'll see if they can be done, but I think originally, you know, it starts with the creative and it starts with the means of delivering the creative to the people that want it. And then all of the rest of this stuff, you know, yield, debt payments, multiples on equity, bonds, all the rest of this stuff just is a happy accident that comes from doing your job well.[00:18:35] Dan Runcie: I'm glad you mentioned this because there's a version of what you do that could easily look more like a traditional private equity firm, where they are just going in and doing all of the things that you just mentioned and they're coming more from that perspective, but in many ways, your defense is having this laser focus on music, but you're going deep within all of the areas that it encompasses. And with that, I have to assume that this also maybe has a bit of a flavor on what your take is about the money that has come into the music industry and some of those other non-music companies or those that are purely looking at it for the financial opportunity or for the noncorrelated opportunities and how that in a lot of ways, even though on paper, someone that's fundraising may see the money they can get from you versus the money they get from others. But I'm hearing it from the record labels. And especially the independent ones they're getting reached out to all the time now about acquisitions. And a lot of those calls are coming from non-music related companies that are trying to make those moves. So it's been fascinating to see how that shapes, but I do feel like you are going about this in a much more unique way than a lot of them are.[00:19:49] Matt Pincus: Well, thank you. I really appreciate that. I will say that the recent, like, huge inflow of capital into the music business has one very good byproduct, which is it's giving a lot of money to songwriters and artists. Some of these catalogs getting valued at 20 times, 30 times, you know, NPS where they would've been valued at 10, you know, four or five years ago, maybe 10 years ago. It just results in people that make great music, making a bunch of bucks. And there's nothing at all wrong with that. On the catalog side of it, it makes a little bit more sense that some of these like larger capital vehicles are coming into the market and, you know, bidding things up and structuring the leverage in a certain way that makes sense. There's a big difference between what's going on now and what was going on when this first happened, like in 2006, 2007 timeframe because the people that are doing it now can afford it. They've got lots and lots of money. They don't need big returns on that money. They have the ability to structure this stuff financially in ways that don't make no sense. And so it makes, you know, more sense that people are doing that with the IP catalog acquisition business. When it gets to new music, you know, I think it's still a human business. I think you got to know the people, you know, and you have to understand how it's really about managing what I refer to as the working capital of the business. So, you know, you need to advance money, you need to collect that money, you need to reinvest the money. And so a lot of that, you know, it's not a big enough business that you can structure it like a bunch of bonds. You need to kind of understand the market that you're in, how many deals you could possibly get, and what about you ought to pay for them, and what kind of infrastructure you need to address all of that to do a good job. And that's hard to know from outside of the business. It's even hard to know, like there's sort of two lanes in the music business. There's people who came up through the building where they started at majors and they kind of built their career, you know, up from coordinator to director to senior director to VPs, SVP, EVP. And then they end up running the company, a lot of great people who came up that way. And then there's people who kind of feed in the wild. Like, come outside of the building and need to figure out, like, what's available. And there's some real differences, you know. Sometimes they cross over like Ron Perry who was an instrumental person at Songs from, you know, the very beginning to through time we sold and now runs Columbia. So sometimes that happens. Or Carianne who, you know, also was my partner at Songs who now runs Warner Chappell with Guy Moot. It's like there, you know, it happens, but there are really two lanes. And I think in the independent side, it's a lot about systematic A&R so about looking at, listen, none of us are overfunded with tons of money. So, you know, everybody's stretching the dough. And it becomes about how can I build this system in the world that I live that can do deals inexpensively, and then find the ones that are working and invest and push them forward. And all the great independent music companies, you know, Chrysalis, Jive Zomba, A&M Rondor, all the great ones throughout history sort of did that really effectively or were usually like the other ones. So everybody goes to the majors to get their offer. And then there's these other cooler guys that are there, like, you know, kind of fucking with the majors by picking off all the left to center stuff that was us at Songs. You know, and all those other companies I just mentioned were kind of some version of that. But there's kind of, all of these mechanics that come both from history, so understanding the history of the business, but also understanding the people and how they sort of work 'cause as much as the world is changing and it's changing a lot, it's still kind of about A&R. It's still about creative in some way or another. I mean, Carianne's superpower, which she's got many, but the original superpower was understanding not only what works well to picture, but the people that choose music in film and television, advertisements, video games, she's particularly uniquely talented at that. And that's still a core skill that people need to understand. So, you know, I'm the guy that kind of pulls the pieces together. I don't do any of those things. I, you know, originally hired some great people and now I try to invest in great people that do all that stuff, but it's still about understanding it and if you're coming purely from the outside, I think it's challenging.[00:24:22] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I think your career experience speaks a lot to this, right? You mentioned being able to find the left-of-center opportunities when you're at Songs, whether it was Lorde or The Weeknd. And you saw how those turned out. It worked out brilliantly. I'm curious to hear what you think about the way things are right now because, especially with the way that TikTok is and so many of the companies, whether it's the major labels or the independents, they all have access to the same information. So the cost of acquiring and being able to find and develop those same artists is much more expensive. So what do you think those left-of-center opportunities look like today in the current environment where it feels as if there are more and more outlets to find different types of people, but the way that people are going about it, it does seem like a lot of people are now playing a pretty similar game.[00:25:13] Matt Pincus: You mean like a moneyball...[00:25:15] Dan Runcie: Yeah. [00:25:15] Matt Pincus: ...type of, yeah. So, you know, again, I go back to like, there's sort of in the building and there's outside of the building way of thinking. So in the major system, it makes logical sense that they want to sort of hang back, see what reacts, and go and get it when it reacts, the more predictable something is the more you're willing to pay for it. That makes logical sense. There's nothing wrong with it. They're not idiots for doing that. It's just the way that they traditionally operate. And now it's about, like, seeing the shiny pennies and then grabbing them right away, whatever the cost, because music is much more efficient than it used to be. It used to be that you'd have to, like, release a whole album and sink a bunch of capital into seeing if something works. Now you can kind of tell pretty quickly if something's going to work. So it makes sense to pay a lot for something predictable, as opposed to, you know, paying a little bit for stuff that is wildly uncertain. So, you know, that makes total sense. I think on the independent side, and I really count in that like A&R mentality, like people who are finding artists and developing artists. So it's not just like, you know, independent labels, but it's also like, you know, Electric Feel is a really interesting company that does this, Hallwood. You know, APG is obviously the really great example of this, of finding artists really early and developing them into something or representing people who do that. A lot of, you know, that is about iteration and about understanding, you know, what makes a good story in a particular market. Now, part of that is the music itself. Part of that, most of it is the music itself, but part of that is also all the other stuff around it. You know, how you unfold the narrative, how you stage market entry for an artist. You know, all of those things, again, I come back to the stick to your knitting thing where it's like, as much as the world changes, it kind of remains the same to some degree. So, you know, the interesting and frustrating thing about the music business for people that run companies like I did at Songs is that there's just not that many good, really good, talented people, you know. If there's one structural problem in the music business is there's not enough, really good A&R people, promotion people, you know, creative people. [00:27:29] Dan Runcie: And why do you think that is?[00:27:30] Matt Pincus: I think it's hard, for one, I think it's hard. And as much as people try to play moneyball, now I'm a big believer in systematic A&R, which some people would consider, you know, moneyball. So in other words, like having a funnel that gives you a group of things that might work, that I'm a big believer in that as a starting point, but that only gets you like 51% confidence. That's not much more than a coin toss. The rest of it is really doing the work of developing the product itself, the music itself, and then the story around it. And it's just a hard business, plus you got to know everybody, you know. So it takes a while to develop those relationships and those skills. One of the things that's interesting when I look on the music tech side of it that I think is one of the great things is that the technological development in music production is allowing people to learn how to use the gear quicker. So you're going to have hit singles coming from 13-year-olds within no time at all. And that used to not be possible because it would take you four or five, six years just to learn how to twist the knobs on a board. Like, it was hard. Now with like, you know, presets, with things like Splice, with AI-assisted creation, you know, anything that makes it easier for an artist to get what's inside of them out, the learning curve is becoming less steep. And that's a good thing because talent shines in that environment. You know, it's one thing to be able to, you know, have a knowledge-base to tweak things. It's another thing to just be a talented and expressive artist with urgency. And so maybe some of that will happen. And on the executive side, like on the A&R side, as things like radio, you know, radio's been so monolithic and so hard to penetrate. And now maybe it's loosening up a little bit, but it still takes a while to figure out what's going to work. It's very hard. And it is one thing to be a fan and be like, this is good, this is not good. It's another thing to take a look at something that doesn't yet exist and be like, this is what it will look like if we can pull it off. I don't have that talent, you know. I'm not an A&R person, but I watch people do it and it's pretty miraculous. And it's not just A&R, it's also promotion, which is an undervalued piece of the equation and increasingly, marketing, digital marketing, like the first cut of it was just, you know, sort of advertising on Facebook. Now it's much more sophisticated than that. And so I feel like it's just hard and I wish there were, you know, there's also the part of the problem in the music business is nobody trains anybody. There's no HR infrastructure. You know, I went to Columbia Business School and I had been in the music business. I didn't have one single meeting about a job that came through the school. [00:30:14] Dan Runcie: I'm not surprised. That wasn't the case for me either. [00:30:17] Matt Pincus: That’s what I'm saying like, nobody trained you. I mean, I remember going on a job interview when I was like 21 coming right out of college or 23 coming right out of college with a guy at ICM. And he said, what do you want to do? I said, I want to be an A&R .He said, great, find a band. That was it. That was the interview. And so it's like, it's that kind of business, which is kind of wonderful in its own way, but it doesn't train people really. And so that's also part of the reason. We don't develop our talent, executive talent pipeline in a really great way. And that's why people like, you know, Mike Caren at APG is so special. You know, the LVRN guys are so special because they bring along executives in a really concerted kind of way. And I wish there was more of that in the business in general. [00:30:58] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think that's a huge opportunity for it. And I think you see a lot of it play out when there are executive shake ups and who gets picked for certain things and why people get picked for certain things. And to some extent, you see this in other places too, whether there's a mix of internal hires versus external. But one thing that I have noticed is the units that do tend to stick together, or there is some continuity there. You do see a lot of success happen if they understand what works, everyone's into it. And I think some of these other places where it could be a bit of revolving doors with who's in leadership, who's trying to get where it's very tough to have that infrastructure. [00:31:35] Matt Pincus: And that was one of the great blessings for me at Songs, which is not, doesn't speak well for the industry, particularly, but, you know, Ron and Carianne were two of the most talented people of their generation for sure. And the business didn't know what to do with them. The fact that I could get the two of them and we could all stay together for 12 years and build a company is like a miracle. And that was a big part of the reason why it all worked is because we knew each other really well and people knew us as a unit. We had different things we did. It's a little bit like, you know, kind of what's going on with the professional sports a little bit too, is, you know, it's great that all these individual players are celebrities. And again, great that athletes are making more money, but great teams don't stay together in the same way that they did before. And I think that's changing a little bit now because you don't have to do a deal with a major and get your money the traditional way in order to build a company. And that's one of the reasons I exist as MUSIC, is because there's opportunities to bring outside capital into the business under terms that look a little bit more like sort of venture capital or private equity, which is in a way more fair than the traditional music business has been on a per transaction basis. There's natural reasons why the major music companies finance the music business for as many decades as they did, and it's not to rip people off, it's because nobody else would do it. But now it's a different world and so hopefully some of these things will change. You know, when you have really great entrepreneurs that own their own business, as opposed to, you know, in some JV with a major that's really a compensation agreement, then it's in their interest, like it was in mine when I was running Songs, to bring along really talented people and find new ones. And so that's one of the things that I've sort of hoped for in some way. [00:33:24] Dan Runcie: Are there any artists that stick out to you as examples of yes, they're building their business and they're doing this the way that could be a blueprint for what we'll see more frequently moving forward?[00:33:34] Matt Pincus: Ones that I talk about all the time is The Weeknd, which we were involved with, you know, from fairly early on. And Sal who's, you know, has been his manager for a very long time, and Cash. You know, I think you're going to see what they did with XO happening in a lot of different ways going forward, where you get a group of people that form a partner and distribute responsibilities between artist, manager. You know, there's people like La Mar Taylor involved with those guys that does all the visual. There's a lot of cooks that need to be in the kitchen to make something really successfully work. The label model of sign to a label, they'll do everything that existed in, like, the nineties is way long gone. Even management where you sort of have somebody who's a commission person that's just doing the business of an artist, that's not true of the good ones anymore. The good ones get in it with the artist and really help them build an entrepreneurial life. I mean, to be an artist now, you need to, like, be like a 140-character joke writer. You need to be an accountant. You need to have a corporate entity. You need to deal with all these different vendors. And you need to be like, you know, P. T. Barnum, like, step right up, step right up, check this out, you're going to love it. It's a complex skill set. And so I think one of the things that you're going to see in the talent representation business, like the management business is I think you're going to see more entity partnership formation, where people are going to go into partnership together. Managers and artists will be like Sal, Sal and Abel have been together for, how long now? Like, I mean...[00:35:08] Dan Runcie: It's at least a decade, right?[00:35:09] Matt Pincus: Yeah. And they've been able to scale and grow and make a lot of money and still be together. And that's because everyone provides value. I'm sure they adjust their relationship, however, over time, I don't know. But I think you're going to see that approach because it takes a village in a way to make really durable stuff. I mean, if you're talking about a viral hit that's here today, gone today. That's one thing. But if you're talking about really building a franchise over a period of time, it requires a lot of work from a lot of people. So I think you'll see sort of, you know, entity formation with partners that include business people and artists in with interest aligned. You know, Diplo's another one. I mean, you know, TMWRK and Diplo have been together for again, going back to since I started working with them. So that was 2011, you know? You look at firms like CRUSH, Jonathan, Daniel has built franchise after franchise of artists that stay with him forever. And he works with him as a partner and that's why it works. So I think you're going to see more of that going forward and and I think that's a good thing.[00:36:13] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. The Weeknd's a very good example because even from the origins of his career, you could see the mentality of where he saw things. Drake famously offered him the opportunity to come on OVO Sound. They had the whole Toronto connection, Drake put him onto that blog post and everything, but then he was like, no, I don't want to be under another artist when I think I can be just as big as that artist, even bigger and do my own thing and look what he's been able to do now. So I think a lot of it...[00:36:41] Matt Pincus: And by the way, the record deal is a distribution deal. [00:36:43] Dan Runcie: Right. [00:36:44] Matt Pincus: You know, I mean, there you go. And so in terms of distribution of value, you know, if you can do it, if you're smart enough to have a cool head and plan like those guys did, you know, you can have a much larger enterprise than you normally would. So I hold them up as an example of, you know, what I think is going to happen and is happening really in lots of different areas of the business now.[00:37:07] Dan Runcie: One of the other areas that has gotten a bunch of attention right now has been syncs, and this has been growing, I think, especially given what we've seen with people, especially from outside the music industry, trying to get more involved, but especially this past summer with Kate Bush being featured in Stranger Things. This conversation has been happening more and more. This is another example where it's a mix of that art and science of what does finding a good sync looks like and what happens with it. And I think so much of it, there's maybe a little bit of luck with just how the internet works and how things take off, but there's also a good amount of work that's put into finding the right type of placement for the right type of artists that could make all those things work to make it happen. So how do you view the opportunities for sync right now? [00:37:53] Matt Pincus: You know, it's interesting. I was sort of a student of Carianne. She taught me the sync business. I literally remember she had a binder where she kept every single interaction she ever had around a song and a placement. And she not only showed me how it all worked, but then we made a software platform out of her own process of how she did it. So I was trained by the best. One of the interesting things about sync is how it always comes back in cycles. You know, when we started Songs, it was like 2004, sync was the whole game. Like, between 2006 and sort of 2009 timeframe, it was the most important thing in a pitch. You know, it was responsible for a lot of our really early successes. And then when it became a largely pop business there in the early days of streaming, it was like sort of radio and super reactive and viral repertoire. It sort of stepped to the background for a minute. And now with the way that kids are bouncing around on a playlist from like, you know, Taylor to like a hip-hop track to, you know, Kate Bush back to Metallica and they don't care. It's become all of a sudden, perhaps one of the top, most important ways repertoire gets discovered now. It's amazing the enduring power of synchronization over time. The thing about sync that I think is interesting is part of it is selection. Like, is this song going to work to picture? But there's a lot that goes into making the deal happen. I mean, that Kate Bush deal as my understanding, I was not involved, but my understanding from, like, just hearing about it was that it took 'em forever to get the clearance done. So a lot of it is not only just is this going to work the picture? Is it the right BPM, the right mood, you know, the right tonality, the right cultural notes, which is a very special thing that music supervisors are particularly good at, but it's also the real politic of like getting the fucking thing cleared. And one of the things that I look at, I tend to have thesis sort of areas when I look at investing in the music business, and one of them is just how fuck the sync business is. That, you know, there should be a buy it now button in the music business if you want to use something for your film, buy it now. And if it was easy, people would pay more. But the problem is they have to roll around a glass to clear a copyright, getting the same deal with 13 songwriters and the master side and it's horribly inefficient. So I think part of the interesting thing with sync in the next generation is how do we do right by the music by making it more usable. Because there's also a couple of different ways this sync business cuts. So, you know, you have stuff that's used in a more traditional sense, and that has a real, like the standard pairing of like, it matter, it makes a huge creative difference and it's very hand selected. Front title and title, you know, big placement in a film television advertisement, but then you have this huge blanket sync business where a lot of the new promotion platform are AV platforms. It's technically synchronization, TikTok, YouTube, you know, Instagram it's technically sync. And I would argue that if there's one element of the business that gives radio a run for its money, it's AV platforms because what happens is people use it in so many videos that you end up hearing the song a thousand times, however many times it takes for you to be like, oh, my God, I have to hear it again. That's really the only place it happens and that's sync. There's a couple of different ways it cuts. You know, the great, like, placements of all time, and we had quite a few of them at Songs that sort of are like, you know, really make a song and make a film. Those are works of art. But also a lot of handling everything else is like maybe 50, 50 at best creative to handling. And so a lot of it is understanding, having those relationships, understanding how to price things, understanding how to clear repertoire, getting permission from the artist to do it. There's a lot of process that goes into it.[00:41:49] Dan Runcie: Is there a sync from your days that song that you look back on that you were like, yeah, that's the one. It took some work, but looking back that's the one. [00:41:56] Matt Pincus: Wow. That's really, that be would a really better question for Carianne than for me. In terms of like the stuff that really made a difference to us as a business, one of the things that I think was meaningful was when Lorde did the Hunger Games soundtrack in the follow-up movie. That gave us a really good look at how music can be a content element in overall entertainment. The Weeknd did a similar thing with Black Panther where, so it was those sort of tie-in, you know, big-ticket where our music was woven into the substance of the film or the ad in some cases. That I think are really the special moments. Those are two that pop out. There's always like the random one where you have a relatively smaller artist and you get them a sync and, you know, it changes their life. It gives 'em more money than they ever thought was possible. There's also the ones, we had an artist who had a very high level of ethic and I won't name the artist, but independent artist, good earnings, but not a pop artist. And we got a $90,000 ad and for very good ethical reasons, he said, fuck, no, it's not going to happen, not going to approve it. And as much as I was like, it was to do early days of the company, it would've made a huge difference to write 90 grand into my books in a quarter. There's some beauty in the level of control that artists have over their own work in the music business that they don't in a lot of other media that I was like, you know what good for him, I guess we're saying no. There's this artisanal component to it that's really special.[00:43:32] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Being able to have that power and knowing when it isn't right. I've heard similar things as well from other podcasters I'll talk to when they get pitched with certain deals and stuff, and they'll be like, you know what, that's just not a product I'm willing to do, or that's just not an endorsement I'm willing to have. And it could have been a game changer for them and their business and everything. But I think we're going to see more of this with creators as they just are leveraging their own independence and being able to make their own decisions. [00:43:59] Matt Pincus: Yeah, exactly. [00:44:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah.[00:44:00] Matt Pincus: Exactly. [00:44:01] Dan Runcie: I want to close this conversation out talking about streaming 'cause I know this is a topic that you've shared a number of insights on over the years. And one of the things that you've said before that has always stuck out to me and resonated is this path that streaming has been on where it has been growing year over year, but a lot of people, especially in recent months, have started to question how many more subscribers out there are willing to pay the full price for streaming services and even if there is growth in some of these other regions where the revenue coming in is only a fraction of what it currently is now, what does that growth necessarily look like? So I hear that there's two camps there. Some people are skeptical about the future, but others are looking at smartphone adoption and just the way that things are trending as an indicator of where things are going. But how do you view the opportunity and especially streaming's growth from here on out. [00:44:55] Matt Pincus: Okay. So I think there's a couple of different things there. You know, one is just on-demand streaming and what the growth curve looks like for on-demand stream. I think the broader question is what does overall growth look like for music consumption going forward? And I'm not sure those are totally the same thing. So, you know, listen, Spotify's done an epic job growing that business. It's a difficult business from just the word go, you know, you're relying on content licenses, you're inherently undifferentiated. Like on paper, it looks like this is impossible. And yet they build an unbelievable business out of it. And I really, you know, sort of think it's worth, you know, whatever opinions people have about streaming, to take a step back and realize that the people who did this originally, you know, Larry Jackson and Apple Music, the people who did it originally did a really fucking tremendous job of making it work. It will mature. There's some debate over whether it may have already started to mature in some distinct ways in Western, you know, sort of developed economies and even maybe in some of the larger sort of secondary territories. The really interesting places that we used to see at Songs in our own data are high population, low discretionary income countries, Indonesia, Philippines, a lot of the African continent. I'm not sure it's necessarily in all of those places going to be an on-demand streaming function that, you know, ultimately wins the day. There are people fucking with a model in a bunch of different ways over mobile. Boomplay in Africa is doing a buyout model. You know, it can be woven with other kinds of entertainment in a bundle in a bunch of different ways. So the question of where on-demand streaming goes, it is a little bit like anyone's guess, but there are different opinions between reasonable people about how the growth curve looks. You know, one of the things that I really love about the web three thing, and I think it's in the early days of really grinding the gears to figure out what actually works, 'cause like this sort of, you know, sucking on the laughing gas tank and you know, watching your crypto go up or over now. So it's entering into like a moment where people actually like have to figure out how it works. But the thing that I think is true is that it's unlocked a premium, that people are willing to pay over the cost of consuming music permanently. How big that premium is, we'll see. I think it was overinflated and inorganic in some of the early times of crypto, not a lot, humans are doing it and they're doing it for high ticket prices, you know, but if you look at some of the stuff, for example, that's going on in Asia, where people are throwing money at artists they like just because they want to you know, people paying sort of eye of the beholder price to be associated with an artist that they feel strongly about, that they love early in their career. Like, that's not going away. So whether, you know, the subscription fatigue is a reality, whether effective penny rates, times units of consumption are going up, flattening, going down. You know, we'll see. I mean, the Goldman Sachs people think they're going to go up forever. I'm not sure I totally agree with that. But what is true is that the willingness of people to invest in artists they love is increasing. And I don't think that's going back to zero, so it may not be, you know, that subgrowth continues on forever and on-demand streaming, but it may be that there are other ways that people can figure out how to engage with artists that keep the value, you know, exchange going up. Now, the one thing about streaming that's interesting is that, you know, the TikTok thing, in ways that people, like, talk shit about it all the time, whatever, but the thing that's interesting is that it did introduce frequency back into the equation. And one of the things about music that's unique is that you need to hear a song a number of times before you like it. Like at first you're like, I hate that. And then you hear it like five times and you're like, maybe I want to hear it again. And then by like, whatever end time you hear it, you're like, I can't get it out of my head. I got to hear it. It's like, Barry Weiss used to call it a record finding its bottom, where it would kind of come out and people would spin it, and then it would drop and then at some level would start to rise again. That's a function of promotion. That's a function of frequency. And in the early YouTube time and on-demand streaming time, you didn't really have that. Like, the people couldn't make something frequently play. And the AV platforms, not only TikTok, but also Snap and Instagram changed that equation and that music needs that. The thing that I'm wondering where it will happen, where it will come back into the equation though, is the music press, which has largely disappeared. And so I'm looking for who, on a consumer level there, people like yourself covering the business, part of it, that are doing an extraordinary job, but who sort of tells people what's good, gets it in front of them, filters it and what does that look like? It's probably not printed on a page. It's probably, it's sort of associated, I think in some way with what's going on with the NFT world, you know, with getting people to buy in, getting a community of people bought to projects, but it's still that same mechanism of filtering. And so I'm wondering where that's one of my thesis areas that I have my on. Where's the next one of those? [00:50:08] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think this is a role that, of course, MTV and so many other places own and were able to do so well decades ago. And now the commonality I've always referred back to is that TikTok in many ways is the new MTV, but it's more so in the broader sense of just the cultural appeal, but not in that solo aspect of yes, if you want to know what this group of people are pushing, or what is the thing that's in, this is the place to go to find that. And I think it's very tough, the way that things are right now, just with how fragmented things are. But people are always going to want to feel like they're part of what's in or feel like they know what's in that desire also isn't going away. So I think there were always be a space for this, no matter how fragmented.[00:50:53] Matt Pincus: And people don't always know what they like. I mean, who knew that all these people love Kate Bush? [00:50:58] Dan Runcie: Right. [00:50:58] Matt Pincus: We all understand why. She's amazing. Song's amazing, but people don't always know what they like until somebody shows it to them and repeats it. And then all of a sudden they can't get it out of their head. And that's the magic of music. So how that happens, you know, the cool kids like it up from the bottom, you know, like to be selective, know about the stuff first. The general audience likes to hear things multiple times and then, you know, be addicted to it. And I think that those things will reinvent themselves in a bunch of different ways going forward. [00:51:27] Dan Runcie: For sure, Matt, before we let you go, do you have one big prediction for us on where you may see things in the next five years or one thing that you think will change from where music is right now to where things will be come 2027?[00:51:40] Matt Pincus: Well, I think as I touched on before, I think younger and younger people are going to be making music that the world reacts. And that is going to be miraculous when it happens. And not necessarily in like a sort of criss-cross Whip / Nae Nae type of way, but in a real, like expressing the core thoughts and feelings they have and getting them out there in a way that sounds good to the world. I think that's going to happen in a bunch of different ways. I think the way that repertoire moves across the planet is going to be revolutionary in the next five years. If there's one thing that's really going to change, you know, it used to be that sort of music went west to east and technology went east to west. Now, I think that's all scrambled eggs right now. If you look at stuff, like, you know, some of the music that's coming out of West Africa right now and how it gets into the global culture. It's not like in a, you know, used to be like you had like a world music business. Like, that's ripped up and thrown away. And so I think, you know, the way that the in-country community relates to the diaspora community in around the globe is going to be really different. You know, I think if there's one thing I have my eye on, it's sort of how all that stuff travels. And obviously, there's some obvious examples like BTS. But I think this is going to happen anywhere and everywhere. And one of the things that I heard somebody say the other day that I felt was really interesting is that the music business thinks about countries in its marketing. You know, they've Europe and Asia and Australia, Canada, US. It should be cities because music is about scenes and it's going to travel that way. And so your Amsterdam strategy is going to be different from your Seoul strategy is going to be different from your São Paulo strategy. And so if there's one like broad thing, I think we're going to look at the way that music travels around the planet in a completely different way. [00:53:37] Dan Runcie: That's spot on. Look at the way we think about music here in the US. That should be an indication of how it should be looked at elsewhere, right? We know what Atlanta hip-hop sounds like compared to what you may hear in LA or even the New Orleans bounce sound. Like, it's so different place to place. So you look at a country like Nigeria, which is soon going to eclipse the US in population. What you may hear in Lagos would be completely different from other parts of the country. So that's a really great point. [00:54:05] Matt Pincus: Yeah. So that would be like, if I, you know, sort of, if I had to obsess about something, it would be that. [00:54:10] Dan Runcie: And I think a lot of people listening probably will too. This is a good one. I think that you got a bunch of notes for people to jot down. So Matt, thank you for making the time for this. This is fun. Thanks for coming on. [00:54:21] Matt Pincus: Thank you so much. I just really appreciate your thinking to me. And it's a pleasure to talk to you about all this stuff.[00:54:27] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
In less than a week, AI-powered rapper FN Meka became the first virtual rapper signed to a major label and then released by one. Capitol Records dropped the virtual act for being a complete caricature of black culture — glorifying police brutality in lyrics, dropping the n-word, and other cringey behaviors. However, FN Meka’s utter failure shouldn’t be a write off for ALL virtual characters. In fact, a prime example of how to do it right is Aku.Aku was created by Micah Johnson — a former MLB player and now a full-fledged artist, both in the virtual and real world. The kid character is a black astronaut, which was inspired by Micah’s four-year-old nephew asking his mother, “can astronauts be black?” Unlike FN Meka, Aku is a vehicle to promote what one artist wants to see in the world. A symbol or hero for a better tomorrow. This week, I’m running back an interview I did with Micah in 2021. It was done shortly after Micah first released the character as an NFT collection, selling $2 million right off the bat. And no, this was not just a FOMO-fueled drop amid the NFT crazy. Aku has lived on since then, and only a few weeks ago, the lifestyle fashion label Paper Plans announced a snapback collab with the Aku character. This comes on top of prior partnerships with major brands like Puma and Billionaire Boys Club, plus Aku appearing on the cover of Time Magazine.Unlike FN Meka, the creation and intention behind Aku is an uplifting story.Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Micah Johnson, @Micah_Johnson3 Links:Aku | Micah Johnson’s character to inspire kids to dream without limits  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Before Abe Batshon started BeatStars in 2008, a handful of superproducers had a quasi-monopoly on selling beats, charging hundreds of thousands of dollars per song. Top producers still get paid today, but the concept has become more antiquated with platforms like BeatStars democratizing beat-making. Creators can sell instrumentals — either under an exclusive license or not — to artists around the globe for a fraction of the previous cost. With $200 million paid out to creators to date, BeatStars has reset the entire economics of beats. Abe started BeatStars without any VC funding during the Great Recession. This was also pre-steaming, when the music industry was in its dark days. Bootstrapping the company, BeatStars would redefine the music landscape along with other DIY distribution platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube. Abe’s goal from the get-go was to break the relationship-driven nature of creating music and open opportunities for creators around the globe.Fourteen years later, it’s safe to say Abe has created more opportunities and then some. Famously, Lil Nas X bought the beat for viral sensation “Old Town Road” on BeatStars for $30. BeatStars’ producers have also been featured on songs released by Drake and Ariana Grande and ads for adidas, the NBA, and many more. BeatStars’ fingerprints are all over media, not just the independents but the majors too. Here’s all the noteworthy moments during our conversation:[3:27] Recognizing BeatStars instrumentals online [6:18] Starting BeatStars amid 2008 music landscape[7:28] Receiving pushback when BeatStars began[10:02] What finally changed for producers[12:20] Resetting economics of beats[16:25] Typical earnings for BeatStars creators[20:36] Music syncs in mainstream media[23:44] BeatStars growth trajectory[28:20] More competitors in the marketplace [31:22] VC money’s impact in the music industry [36:03] BeatStars cap table[39:30] Roadmap for the futureListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Abe Batshon, @AbeBatshon  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Abe Batshon: for us, it's never been about the money. It's always been about these young people all over the world and old people, creators from everywhere. Like, can we liberate the idea of songs? Can we help push people to be more experimental with their words and their messages and their art and something that's so personal for them. I don't see any of these like venture-backed companies or big invested-type of companies actually having a genuine approach to how they treat or deal with their community. So I'm really not worried about it. I definitely keep them in mind in terms of continuing our fight to liberate music. [00:00:57] Dan Runcie: Today's episode is a topic I've been wanting to dive into for a minute and this is about the business of buying and selling beats. It's a fascinating marketplace that has shifted considerably over the past few decades. So I wanted to bring on an expert himself to chat about it. Abe Batshon, who is the founder and CEO of BeatStars, which is a marketplace for buying and selling beats. He joined me on this topic, and we took a trip down memory lane. We went back to the 2000s, we talked about what it was like. You remember when Timbaland was bragging about getting half a mill for his beats and Neptunes had 40% of the songs on the radio? As great as it was for them, there really wasn't a lot for the other producers and other people that were trying to come up, so BeatStars came up in this post-YouTube era to make it possible for having this marketplace. And Abe talks about what it was like back then and just given some of the challenges that existed with the music industry, searching for its own business model at the dark days of piracy and trying to navigate that. But then also with the early days of the streaming era and how that has lifted his business. In the past two years, BeatStars has made more money than it made in the past 12 years before that, and it's on track to have another one of its biggest years yet now. So we talk about what that journey's been like, what led to that, and how this marketplace and how this business has evolved. When Abe was starting this, people laughed at him because they thought it was crazy what he was trying to do. Today, there are plenty of investors with bigger pockets that are trying to come in and eat his lunch. So we talked about what that looks like and why he still thinks that BeatStars is well positioned there. We also talk more broadly about the amount of VC money that's come into music tech, and how he looks at that, and what it looks like for other opportunities. If you're as fascinated about this topic as I am, you'll love this conversation. Abe kept it real and it was great to talk to him. Here's our chat.[00:02:55] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we have Abe Batshon who is the CEO and founder of BeatStars. One of the premier places to buy and sell beats and wanted to have him on so we could have a conversation about this entire process, this landscape, and right before we recorded, Abe, you were just telling me about how you were listening to a different podcast. And you could hear when you hear that BeatStars beats on a podcast, Trapital podcast, of course, mine came from there. How do you know that the beat for sure came from BeatStars as opposed to somewhere else? [00:03:27] Abe Batshon: Well, yeah, I'm a dude. I listen to so much music on the platform. Like, I process everything so much and I kind of, I don't know if it's photographic memory in terms of when you hear something, I just retain that information around that piece of music forever. Like, I know when I've heard something. Yeah, so, yes, I'll randomly, like, you know, turn on the TV or turn on the radio or turn on, you know, TikTok or turn on SoundCloud or turn on anywhere. And I'm like, holy shit. Or Spotify, you know? And I'm listening to, like, some of the trending viral songs or the top Billboard songs. I'm like, yeah, I know those beats. I know those beats. I've heard those before. Yeah. [00:04:04] Dan Runcie: Do you feel like there's a distinct brand or sound that has BeatStars sound that you can pick up on almost in the same way that well-known and established producer has that sound like you could hear a track and be like, oh, that's a Neptunes track even if I'd never heard it before, do you feel like that's the case for a BeatStars beats? [00:04:21] Abe Batshon: Good question. You know, maybe eight years ago, nine years ago, yeah, I could have, you know, been like, okay, that's definitely an influence from the marketplace, from the sound, from the platform, but today with the amount of variety and just so many different genres, and sub-genres and styles of music that's getting uploaded to BeatStars, it's impossible to just define it to one, sound anymore, but maybe 10 years ago, for sure. Yeah, not now, not now. [00:04:49] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That makes sense from the timeframe perspective 'cause I could imagine, especially in the early days, there are artists you have that are likely championing the service. And if they're bringing on others that want to have that artist-type beat there, then there's going to be a lot of that similarity. But over time, especially with where you are now, over 200 million paid out to artists on this platform that just speaks to the reach that you have and everything that you've been able to do from it. [00:05:16] Abe Batshon: Yeah, man. so fulfilling, so fulfilling to just like know that's the kind of impact the technology and platform is making for, you know, for creators' lives. I'm definitely not satisfied with that number at all. But it's a great, great motivational indicator for me to keep going for the team, to keep pushing. But, you know, our aspirations are a lot bigger than that for sure. [00:05:37] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Let's actually go back a bit because I think that could be a way to have the arc of where this is going. Of course, you started this company in 2008, but in the 2000s, it was such a different landscape for producers, beat makers. And I look at that era as being quite top-heavy, right? If you were one of the super producers. If you were Timbaland, if you were Pharrell, if you were Kanye, then you almost had a, you know, quasi-monopoly in a particular area of just what you could charge, what you could do. But for everyone else that wasn't a superstar, it was a much more challenging landscape, I could assume. Can you speak to what it was like that time frame? [00:06:18] Abe Batshon: Oh, so challenging then. So challenging, you know, I was working at INgrooves prior to me starting up BeatStars and, you know, I'd work with a bunch of artists, and labels and I'd get to know, like, the producers behind some of the work that's being released. And even for those top-heavy guys that I was talking to, they started definitely feeling a shift in how operationally the record labels were approaching licensing of beats and the development of an artist. You know, I think I just saw a recent article. I forget which publication, oh, maybe Billboard just the other day about how everyone's a distributor now. All the majors are just, you know, they're distributors. Each one of their kind of like sub-companies under the parent companies are all, you know, competing with each other, actually as distribution companies, and it's creating like a healthy competition of distribution. And so, you know, that wasn't the case back then, man. You know, back in the day, like, the major record labels weren't operating from a DIY, you know, distribution mindset of like mass distribution, mass releases of content. That wasn't the mindset. So, yeah, it was a much more controlled environment with which producers actually were contributing to, you know, these songs or these albums that were, you know, the majority of what we were listening to back in 2008. And I think you know, what changed at all was, was the emergence of probably YouTube, right? The emergence of YouTube, and SoundCloud, and, you know, and BeatStars, right? And the accessibility and the ability to now reach a broader and global audience of collaborators and music creators. And we were kind of laughed at. We were kind of laughed at in the beginning, you know, everything different that goes against a grain, that goes against a traditional way of how things are done, there's always going to be some resistance to that model or any resistance to those ideas. And it used to bother me back in the day and I used to get some of these super producers, you know, some of them would send me like dirty messages, like you're fucking up the game. You're saturating, you're devaluing our art. And I didn't see it that way. You know, I didn't see it that way. I was seeing it as a new opportunity to create more and broader reach of intellectual property for the independent creator that can actually sustain themselves in a world where it's controlled by a few different organizations, you know. [00:08:36] Dan Runcie: Definitely. Thinking about those artists themselves. I'm thinking back to that time, there was that stat, maybe it was in 2002 or 2003, where they said that 43% of the songs on the radio were Neptune songs. And I think you could have said the same about Timbaland. You could have said the same about Max Martin or any of these people that are just on the radio so much, but you come in with this platform that very much speaks to where we were in the music industry and where things were with technology with hip-hop specifically. This is the blog era, it's really starting to pick up. You're starting to see more of that DIY distribution from the artist side. SoundCloud was just launched and even Spotify was still in the early days, but streaming still didn't take off the way it did. And I can imagine that some of the pushback or some of their response you got was from people feeling that you were likely ahead of the curve, and because of that, there were still several years before things really took off in streaming. So it was probably interesting just to see the landscape evolve. And then as you had success, you saw other competitors come in and other folks see the landscape and you're like, well, you know, I've been trying to tell you all, this is what the vision has been since the 2000s. But back then, the industry was just in such a place of people were still trying to push CDs. Like people were still trying to fight piracy. And like, when you think about that, I'm not surprised at all that you had faced some of that pushback you did. [00:10:02] Abe Batshon: Yeah. I'm trying to kind of go back to those days in hip-hop, you know, everyone was the plug for certain things. Everyone was the plug for certain things. And you had to go through this person or this company in order to achieve some of the, like, artistry goals that you have as an artist, you know? And there was a determined route that you had to go, you know. There was a determined route that you had to go and you had to go through certain gatekeepers in order to, you know, achieve success. And it just bothered me from a human level. You know, it bothered me from a human level that we're not allowed to experiment and develop art, you know. Closed environments, the outcome of those. Like you said, how many more Neptunes hits can we have continued to listen to? Nothing against the Neptunes, I fucking love those guys, right? They're amazing, they're geniuses. But even them, they would tell you that, yeah, that kind of monopoly was probably unhealthy for music, for artists all over the world. You know, I'm sure they will tell you that that opportunity was, you know, scarce, you know, opportunity was scarce. And yeah, it was relationship-driven industry, you know, so it was a different time, different time. And I think my goal was to just completely break it.[00:11:16] Dan Runcie: Thinking about that time too. You had the people that were the top producers at those times, and they could charge handover fist for a beat. I mean, there's the line where, you know, Timbaland's like, I'm getting half a mill for a beat. And if I'm thinking about just from the competitive dynamic, what happened there, you did have this very top-heavy landscape. And in some ways they're telling you, Hey, you know, you're fucking up our money. And in some ways you are, but not necessarily in a bad way because you're letting everyone else that couldn't eat at all at least get something, right? So when you now introduce this marketplace and no, you don't necessarily have to pay half a million for a Timbaland beat to get on the radio. You could pay under a thousand dollars, a few hundred dollars to have one of the biggest songs of the summer on your music, and being able to do that lifts it up for everyone else. So I think whether it's your Timbaland's or your Mike Will, other folks could still get, you know, six figures or a lot of money, but I don't know if they're getting that 2006 or those 2003 checks that they were for the type of beats they did.[00:12:20] Abe Batshon: But, Dan, superstars are superstars in terms of creation, right, in terms of music production. Even on BeatStars, right, even on BeatStars, maybe, yeah, there's some producers on a platform that don't have that type of name recognition in a game of only a handful of producers. It's kind of different now to gain that kind of name recognition, but there are superstars on BeatStars. There are superstars that are generating half a million dollars in cumulative earnings in licensing revenue from one beat on BeatStars. So those days of like earning hundreds of thousands of dollars on one track is still happening on the platform. It's just happening in a different model. It's happening in a non-exclusive model where thousands of recording artists are, you know, licensing that same production and have the rights to create another master version of that production. But at the end of the day, that producer generated hundreds of thousands of dollars just from that one piece of content that lives as a catalog item in their store. Yeah. And I'm hearing like huge songs now on the radio that those beats are still available, non-exclusively on the platform, they're still available. So producers are becoming less and less willing to let go of their intellectual property exclusively because there's just so much backend earnings and recurring revenue, business building and, you know, forecasting of earnings for themselves, that it doesn't make sense now for them to kind of give up the rights to just one rights holder anymore. So now it's super competitive and it's gotten to a point where I think competition is healthy in song making like, Hey, here's the beat, $20. By the way, some of these beats, a lot of these beats that live on BeatStars, if they existed back in those 2000s, when it was the heyday of license revenue of 200,000 a beat or 500,000 a beat from Timbaland. Like, these beats are competing with those beats or even beyond them, right, 'cause these kids are pumping out content like crazy, right? They're bending this software in terms of DAW, the accessibility to digital VSTs, and effects, and processing, and sound libraries and, like, their ability to, like, craft, you know, sonically, like, amazing, amazing records that penetrate every market around the world. Like, it's much easier now. Back then it was harder. But, yeah, I think the earnings potential is still there on BeatStars. You know, I think it's still there. It still exists and that's why we're still seeing producers that have had tons of success, you know, licensing to major recording artists still maintaining and developing and building their online presence on BeatStars. Like, it's still a major income stream from them to the point where they can't neglect it. And they can't completely immerse themselves in the traditional way of like, you know, music licensing within the industry. It's cool to see. It's cool to see a balance. You got to have both. You got to have both today. [00:15:07] Dan Runcie: Oh, yeah. And I'm glad you brought that point up 'cause that's an important distinction 'cause, of course, we're talking before about the upfront money that the super producers were getting in the 2000s, but people were rarely talking about the totality of it, and what it looks like. And that's what you're talking about here and being able to measure it in totality makes so much more sense because, with the way it currently is now, with an artist releases something on BeatStars, there's so many ways that they can generate money from that, whether that's, especially if it's non-exclusive, as you mentioned, people can pay for it directly. Anyone that is then using that beat, you could earn revenue directly, you know, from anything that's there, depending on the arrangement. But then I think you have this additional benefit where people, especially with TikTok and all these other platforms, they want to be able to remix and make their own versions of songs and being able to do that and how that can compound on each other. That's what makes the platforms like this successful. And maybe it would be helpful to hear you mentioned that, you know, there are superstars on the platform that are making and exceeding a lot of those, you know, revenue totals that we had seen before. What does a typical breakdown of that look like in terms of how much of that comes from upfront sales of people purchasing versus how much of it is the recurring and maybe ballpark? We don't need anything too exact, but maybe to give an idea. [00:16:25] Abe Batshon: Yeah. So I guess we can only attribute the upfront micro licensing revenue on BeatStars, right? That $200 million, that micro licensing. But if we wanted to get very, very technical, we can talk about the earnings that were actually, you know, generated from those, you know, derivative works, those songs that were made from those beats. And if you calculate the earnings from the millions of songs that are created on the platform every year that get distributed to DSPs and DIY distributors, you're talking probably billions of dollars of earnings, music copyright earnings from, all of these non-exclusive licenses, cumulatively. So I wish there was a way to calculate all that, but it's hard to like quantify that. But I think today, from a platform earnings potential on BeatStars. I think the average seller producer on the platform generates over a thousand dollars a year, you know, which, Hey, a thousand bucks is, you know, not the craziest amount, but if you compare that to the average earnings of artists on these DSPs or some of these, some of these other ways of earning revenue from music. I don't want to poke too many holes at platforms that are, you know, kind of not building their businesses and products with the music creators in mind. I wish they would. I wish they would, but we're not going to get too deep into that. But I think I'm proud. [00:17:53] Dan Runcie: I was going to say there's somewhat listening right now that is backing into the math of how many streams does it take to get a thousand dollars a year?[00:18:01] Abe Batshon: Right. Exactly. Yeah, I think if we were to calculate the stream versus earning ratio on BeatStars, yeah, our million streams are definitely generating a shit ton more, shit-ton more than what you would earn, you know. But again, it's a different concept, different way of consumption. Things are happening differently than compared to, you know, the more bigger consumer products that are out there, which, you know, we're going to keep up with them at some point though, I think, and that's one of our goals is to build a more consumer-friendly product that actually is not just niche to artists and music producers. So we're excited about what the future of what we can do for our creators, yeah. [00:18:41] Dan Runcie: Can we talk a little bit more about that? What would that consumer side look like? 'Cause I think as you mentioned, a lot of the creators themselves are the ones that are using the platform, getting the most out of it, but what would the more creator side focus look like?[00:18:56] Abe Batshon: Like a more creator-focused platform that evolves, what the evolution of what BeatStars could be? Yeah, I mean, you know, we are already starting to do it. We're already starting to do it in terms of adding publishing administration, global publishing administration, and partnership with Sony Music Publishing and giving our creators the ability to go and collect on, you know, all their royalties worldwide. I think is a big one from all of these copyrights that are made on the platform that they still have ownership and rights to. You know, we don't take ownership of anything on the platform. Our creators right now keep a hundred percent of all their sales on the platform. They maintain all of their ownership. They dictate and decide what their license terms look like. We're just a technology layer just facilitating this collaboration. And I think, we'll definitely get into a lot more, a lot more businesses that are complimentary to music licensing. So we do allow our creators to sell sound kits and samples as well, too. And I think we're, you know, we're going to build a more sophisticated product around that. Major companies are already licensing for syncs already off of the platform indirectly, even though that's kind of not the primary function on the platform. That's something that, you know, we're exploring and, and going to expand on as well 'cause just another revenue stream opportunity, you know.[00:20:12] Dan Runcie: I was going to ask you about syncs next because I feel like that is so current and top of mind, especially the explosion of video streaming right now in all those projects. And so many people see the benefit of having a good sync. And I think we're having these conversations before, but ever since the Kate Bush song on Stranger Things, those conversations have happened so many more times, more frequently than I've at least heard before then.[00:20:36] Abe Batshon: For sure. For sure. Yeah. We used to have a, man, like eight years ago, we did have a sync license and I don't know why we took it away. We just kind of wanted to laser focus on just the non-exclusive licensing of artists and producers. But yeah, we're already seeing our music and Netflix documentaries. We're already seeing our music, you know, synced on movies, TV shows, independent, films, commercials for Adidas and Madden video games. We're seeing our content already being used in that way. You know, it makes sense to develop a product that's, you know, tailored for that community for sure. [00:21:06] Dan Runcie: Has any of the explosion of music rights buying and selling, has any of that changed and shaped your business in any way? Because I know that there are super producers themselves that have sold theirs, whether Tableland or Darkchild having done deals themselves. Has any of that shifted anything or have you seen any result of that in your business or any of the transactions that are being made there? [00:21:31] Abe Batshon: Yeah, so I'm not too aware of too many producers on the platform that have kind of sold their rights away or anything like that. It hasn't happened on the platform, but I'm sure, I'm sure there's been, you know, those investor, kind of like investor copyright types that are out there acquiring rights of music, whether it's, you know, from the producer's side of things. But I'm sure they get approached all the time. I just, I don't know of any, like, specific creator producer on the platform that's done it yet. But I'm sure, like, a lot of people are having those conversations with them for sure. [00:22:03] Dan Runcie: Yeah, 'cause I know the artists' side, artists get reached out to all the time now about this whether it's from the main investment firms that we know, or even some that in my experience don't really do much in music, but have reached out because they'll reach out to me to see if I can reach out to these artists, right? And I got to imagine that in some ways, not only are they looking for the artists themselves, they're looking okay, where are these artists? Where are the catalogs that they own? So it's fascinating to see, I assume that it's likely a conversation that, especially given the way your business is, I know you said that a thousand dollars is the average payout annually that artists or that the beat makers and producers get on the platform, but I'm sure that it is quite top-heavy itself where, you know, there are the few that are just bringing in so much, and I'm sure that they're probably hearing some of those conversations every now and then. [00:22:54] Abe Batshon: For sure. For sure. Yeah. I'm sure it's happening a hundred percent. [00:22:58] Dan Runcie: Yeah. One of the things that I had seen, especially with BeatStars, we talked about how growth you've had recently, and, I believe this was at July 2020, you had $85 million in payouts that you had done to beat makers specifically at that point since you had launched a platform in 2008, and then you had recently announced a few months back here now in 2022, that you had had $200 million. So quite a big jump, it’s almost double in less than a two-year span. One, it would be great to hear what that was like and also, what are the steps that happened or what are the things that you all had done that helped you, you know, double everything that you had done the past decade-plus in the past two years?[00:23:44] Abe Batshon: Yeah. I mean, our growth trajectory, even the years prior were a hundred percent year over year as well, too. So we were already kind of pre-pandemic move, like, that was our growth trajectory prior as well. It just took us a long time. It just took us a long time. We did it the slow and steady way. And the last two years, I would say, for sure the pandemic put a priority, yeah, I guess I guess people started questioning their existence, man. You know, like we started questioning our existence and we're like, am I not going to explore my art, you know? Like, I know I was doing it. I was making more music during the pandemic. And I would, you know, meet a lot of our creators and I and I would hear their stories and like, I started singing during the pandemic, or I started making beats more seriously, I'm home and I needed an outlet to kind of license and sell them. And so I think the pandemic definitely kind of accelerated the priority or like top of mind of creators to take it more seriously or to kind of, you know, explore more serious options for monetizing their music. So it's been a blessing to kind of see the platform and marketplace grow globally all over the world, and yeah, the marketplace is still booming and still going crazy. And I think, you know, we'll achieve over 70 million this year for sure. That's kind of our projection, could be more. So yeah, the licensing activity is continuing to go great. I'm excited. I'm excited about the future, man.[00:25:06] Dan Runcie: That's good to hear because I am not surprised to hear the growth in the pandemic. I think there's so many things we can look back on the past two and a half years where especially something like this, where the art of doing it is something that people could do at home. So many people that are creating products, or creating services, or music, or medium putting out into the world, so much of that picked up and there was so much that was successful. And I think we saw that with the way the stocks went and the way everything was. So you had this run from March 2020 pretty much up until let's say November 2021, when everything was booming, right? The past six months, we saw certain things come back down to earth a bit. And I think there were a lot of the pandemic stocks and a lot of the companies, even the ones in the music industry that had had sky-high valuations, coming back down to earth a little bit, but at least for you all, I'm getting the impression that that hasn't necessarily impacted you from that perspective, given I think you have a different business model than a lot of the companies that had, you know, challenges there, but how the past three to six months been specifically?[00:26:10] Abe Batshon: Yeah, I think our growth has kind of leveled off a little bit. We're kind of, you know, I guess, the normalization of things are happening for sure. And we're having to work harder to like retain our subscribers and users. It's just shifting our approach and adjusting and pivoting to more accessible business models for this time and this moment in our history. I mean, it's for sure a recession. It's happening globally. It's impacting a lot of people's lives and we need to make sure that we kind of still factor that in mind and create products that are are still useful and accessible and functional for anyone with any economic status that they're in, you know, because it breaks my soul if someone can't afford a BeatStars subscription and can't explore their art and can't develop themselves and meet those goals because of this current space that we're in right now. So we're definitely pivoting and adjusting and thinking about new and better accessible business models that can cater to anyone with any kind of economic status. So, we're definitely adjusting things though. [00:27:11] Dan Runcie: I could imagine. I do think though that these things aren't permanent and, of course, we'll see things pick up, again it's just a matter of the timing there specifically. I do feel like for you all, it's interesting because the future of where this all is heading right now, you, as you mentioned, I think that you were a bit ahead of the curve. So, you know, growth in the early days may not have been as fast, but now we're in this place where people saw the success you have, people see the potential of where things going and now more companies are starting to launch their own beat marketplaces and ones that we're establishing other places. Have you seen that impact, what you've seen in your businesses? Because I know that, at least from other people I talked to that are in streaming of the DSPs, they've talked about how we've switched from this herbivore market where everyone's just capturing people that are generally wanting subscriptions to now they're in this carnivore mode of competing with each other. Have you seen any of that where you feel like the people who are beat makers now, it's not so much capturing new ones. It's essentially positioning yourselves from the competitors who have come after you. [00:28:20] Abe Batshon: Yeah, I'm definitely, you know, definitely aware of the competitors, and a lot of these guys were admirers of what we've done. And you know, I know them personally. It's flattering, you know. It's flattering to see in terms of people being inspired by the things that I create and build and what we do here as a company as well too. And it's part of being in a capitalistic society that we're in, you know. Monkey see monkey do, you know. I feel like it's increased our kind of our competitive spirits here at the company to want to be more innovative. I think it's a blessing that there's other folks trying to come into our space. For me, I've been doing this for almost 15 years, right? So it's, I need a kick in the ass in terms of where I want to go in my career and the aspirations where I want to see BeatStars. I mean, we've always been driven and always been the hardest working and most caring community that you'll ever see in terms of the music producers. But yeah, I just use it as a competitive chip to keep moving and pushing and pushing for our creators to provide even more fair and useful products for them. I haven't seen a shift in like our business or anything like that because of the competitors, you know. It may take a while for that to happen. If they do something super unique or whatever it is that they're doing, but I haven't seen anything that's like, exciting from an innovation standpoint. It's just monkey see monkey do, copycats. [00:29:38] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That was going to be my next question, you see, if are there new things that you're seeing the competitors do that make you say, oh, that's interesting, right? 'Cause that would definitely validate the ass-kicking or the bit of the push there. It reminds you of that sports analogy, right? Like how. Michael Jordan had to go create these demons out of thin air because there was really no one at this level, and anytime someone tried to say, oh, Jordan or Drexler, he just like squash it that immediately. So you all having that, yeah. [00:30:04] Abe Batshon: I've always had that. You know, I'm a sports guy, huge sports guy, played sports my whole life, too. And so I definitely was competing with myself in terms of wanting to be better and extract more capacity of myself and see myself and my team's dreams continue to grow. But yeah, I just use those as just another factor into, and I'm not to say anyone's intentions are bad or anyone's intentions are good, but it's a little suspect. It's a little suspect. It's a little bit, I don't know, what's the word, but it feels ingenuine. It feels like a land grab. It feels like a money game. And for us, it's never been about the money. It's always been about these young people all over the world and old people, creators from everywhere. Like, can we liberate the idea of songs? Can we help push people to be more experimental with their words and their messages and their art and something that's so personal for them. I don't see any of these like venture- companies or big invested type of companies actually having a genuine approach to how they treat or deal with their community. So I'm really not worried about it. I definitely keep them in mind in terms of continuing our fight to liberate music.[00:31:13] Dan Runcie: How do you feel in general about the amount of VC money that has entered music and music tech and the platforms and companies that have been launched? [00:31:22] Abe Batshon: Dude, where was this money when I was in, like, Silicon Valley? You know, I mean, I'm from the East Bay, Hayward, California. And you know, Silicon Valley was just right down the street. And when I was building BeatStars, man, I couldn't even get a meeting with these guys. Like, I created 12 of the most amazing decks throughout my career that no one ever actually saw. Like, I couldn't sell anyone on the concept of investing into music. But like I understand that at that time, the music industry was going through a huge transitional moment. Like, everyone was really scared about the future of music. So it was pretty disastrous in terms of where music was at that time, and if I wasn't an investor, I probably wouldn't have invested in me either. But I never even got an opportunity to even you know, meet investors or pitch the ideas of BeatStars. We had to bootstrap this thing the whole way. And our creators invested in us, our customers did, we built this thing together with them. We just continue to reinvest every little penny that we made back into the platform. And so I think it made the journey a lot more satisfying, but it's exciting that there's much more investment and people willing to believe and other entrepreneurs and their ideas. I think it's cool. It pushes all of us, you know, pushes our creative boundaries and it's cool to see money flow. And I I'm happy that, you know, other entrepreneurs are not going to have to struggle the way that I did for 13, 14 years before I was, you know, able to kind of like sustain ourselves. So it's like, but you know, we kind of always figured out ways to sustain ourselves build organically, which has been beautiful. And we've been profitable since day one and we just continue to run lean, you know, and just not be wasteful and just, yeah. So it's exciting. I don't know where it's going to go. I mean, I don't know where a lot of the money is actually flowing in music tech, really. You probably know more than me, Dan. I don't pay attention to a lot of that stuff. [00:33:06] Dan Runcie: You're too busy building to track this stuff. [00:33:08] Abe Batshon: I'm busy, man. [00:33:09] Dan Runcie: That's my job. [00:33:11] Abe Batshon: Busy, dude, too busy. [00:33:12] Dan Runcie: Yeah. With that though, do you get more interest or offers from any of these tech companies now, because I've started to hear from a lot of the companies that rose up the same timeframe that you did that. Now, when all this money pours in, now they're getting the attention, too, and the interest, too, from these investors that wouldn't have paid attention before, but now it's much less about the initial investment. Now they're trying to either acquire and now they're trying to do a joint venture, do these things. What have those conversations been like? [00:33:48] Abe Batshon: It's definitely getting aggressive for sure. And I think because of where we are right now, economically, you know, investors feel like they can come in and get a good deal right now for all these startups or companies that have existed even prior to the pandemic that are still thriving through it as well. I'm seeing a lot of acquisitions happen, a lot of private equity stuff happening. And it's interesting. It's interesting. We don't need the money, Dan, in terms of like where we are financially. We're, you know, we're self sustaining. We've got a ton of money in the bank and we have our investment plan internally to kind of finish our, you know, not finish, but continue our roadmap of all the things that we dream of wanting to do and build within our goals at BeatStars. So, thank God I'm healthy. I'm feeling good. I'm in remission. I I battled cancer the last couple years during the pandemic. And you know, that was a shaky moment for me during that time. It was really up and down. I didn't know where my future was and still kind of in it, but I'm thankfully feeling really well and just energized and I'm enjoying independence, I'm enjoying independence. And I really feel that we're in a good spot to kind of push through this kind of down moment of the economy and head down and focus on our creators while everyone is just focusing on profit and revenue. And we're going to do the opposite and just build something that's going to be a utility for people for many years to come, hopefully. [00:35:07] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely, I mean. [00:35:08] Abe Batshon: They're coming though. They're throwing checks. They're, you know, they're throwing checks at us. They're making offers, but, yeah, we're just not ready right now. We're just not ready. [00:35:15] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And like you said, you have the vision for this and the amount that you've poured into it, the amount that you've gone through, as you mentioned, especially in recent years, like all that comes through with the story, and I think that is what connects with both the artists and what connects with anyone that may be interested from a business perspective. And I think you do have the control, the autonomy to make those shots when you want to, and that's the power of bootstrapping, right? We all know the trade-offs where, yeah, it can take time as you very well know. But if you're able to get through the other side, the autonomy you have. You could make decisions like you don't have to have, you know, the investors reading it out of your deck or anything else are trying to wonder why you're not pumping more Facebook and Google ads to go do this or that, right? Like, you're able to do the things on your terms and to clarify, is the ownership a hundred percent you for the company or? [00:36:03] Abe Batshon: No, it's not a hundred percent me. Some employees have ownership in the company. We did take a minor, a very small, minor investment from Sony music publishing when we did our joint venture together. They've been great partners. They've been awesome. And they've been helping us kind of strategize and scale our publishing business, which I believe in the last 16 months, we've had 26 Billboard 100 hits that are from our BeatStars publishing roster of creators. One of our producers has two songs on Beyoncé's new album. And I know we had Megan Thee Stallion's new single, Pressurelicious, with one of our producers, I believe, it was HitKidd with Future. So it's like, it's so cool to see that our business is touching so many different parts of the music business. It's not just the independent creator like we're powering songs, even for the major, major superstar artists, which is awesome to see. So yeah, I'm excited about the future, man. I think we're just getting started, Dan. [00:36:53]Dan Runcie: Yeah. and it's always fascinating to hear how companies like yours think about the compensation and things like that for employees because with a lot of the other competitors or even others in the space, especially with the amount of money that support and people are getting, you know, equity in these companies and they are getting them because if they're VC backed, then they have an exit in the mindset and you aren't coming from that perspective. So it's always interesting to hear, okay, what are the other things you're doing? So, yeah, it sounds like you're still doing equity, I know. [00:37:22] Abe Batshon: Oh, I forgot to mention like there's 400 creators as well. 400 creators that invested in BeatStars when we partnered with Indiegogo back in 2016 to be one of their, actually their initial kind of equity crowdfunding launch partners. And it wasn't because we needed funds or needed money at that time. We did it because I loved the fact that our creators can actually, like, buy ownership into the company, and I can like, continue serving them, man. I can continue feeling like, you know, I have to make sure I'm reporting to these people because these are the people that keep me grounded. These are the people that keep me focused on, you know, how we impact all the other creators' lives. So yeah, we have 400 other creators from the platform that invested like $150,000 total during that campaign. So it was pretty cool to know that they're also on our ownership structure.[00:38:11] Dan Runcie: That's great to see them on the cap table. That's great. I'd like to close this conversation out. [00:38:16] Abe Batshon: Hopefully, make some money at some point. [00:38:19] Dan Runcie: Well, I mean, that depends how some of these conversations go with these, you know, companies breathing down your back. [00:38:23] Abe Batshon: Exactly. [00:38:24] Dan Runcie: So we'll see.[00:38:25] Abe Batshon: For sure.[00:38:26] Dan Runcie: But I like to close this conversation out of it and talk about focus because you talked a lot about creators and how you're focused on serving them. We're talking primarily about the people who are buying beats, the people that are selling beats, and anyone involved with that production or engineering process. But for you, I know what it's like to build a company. I'm sure there's been plenty of times where not just you or some of the people you're working with are like, oh, what if you did this? What if we did that, right? But you've been able to stay focused on I'm sure, part of it was likely a function of you're building as fast as you can. Given the fact that you're bootstrapped, some of your focus is by design, but then on the other hand, now that things are starting to come in, you're starting to see the success in reaping the rewards. I'm sure there's likely some thoughts of maybe that thing that you had in the back of your mind for a few years, but now maybe it's a little bit easier to do if you're going to be, you know, hitting nine-figure payouts annually soon enough. What are some of those things, if there are, that you have on the roadmap for where things are going for other things you might be doing?[00:39:30] Abe Batshon: Yeah, we definitely want to make some acquisitions for sure. We're exploring some of that too. We're exploring some potential acquisitions, and I think maybe we'll do our first one by the beginning of 2023. Never know. So we're definitely thinking about how can we acquire some technology or companies or communities that really would help elevate what we're doing. So definitely, definitely thinking about that. We're investing a ton in technology, man. We're, I mean our engineering team, we're probably, we'll double by next year. I think we're at like 40, 40 people on the engineering team now. So we have all of these cool projects that these engineering pods are working on and it's exciting to see. So you'll definitely start seeing a lot more innovation more frequently from BeatStars soon. We have spent, and it may look like focus, but really it's been just kind of a restrain of our technology for the last four or five years. We've been rebuilding our whole tech stack, the back end, front end, the whole thing, because, you know, we were still using legacy platform from 2008 when it was just, you know, me and our founding members of the company, Joseph Aguilar, one of our engineers, you know, building it together and we're just some kids, you know, just going crazy. We didn't think that this thing was going to scale to millions and millions of creators all over the world. So we had to kind of pivot four years ago. And we're about 95% done in terms of the full platform rebuild. And from a technology standpoint, we're competing with some of the biggest music services in the world in terms of our tech stack. Now we're prepared to really do some damage now and build on top of what we're doing and optimize our offering and also get into some different verticals as well, too. So, yeah, it's kind of like a new rebirth of BeatStars in a sense, a whole new team, a whole new technology stack, a whole new drive, and purpose. And we're building out our executive team right now, too. It's been just me in terms of executives. I was wearing all the hats, and I don't know why I was doing that. And we just hired a Head of People, Sarah Simmons, who just joined us. We have our CTO, Nader Fares. We hired Damien Ritter as our President of Label. [00:41:37] Dan Runcie: My guy, Dame. [00:41:38] Abe Batshon: Yeah, man, Dame is legend and legend to me in terms of what he's done on the independent record label front, you know, and what he's been able to do, the dude's one of the smartest guys I know. And I'm excited to have him lead the initial kind of kickoff of what a BeatStars record label can look like. Like, so many amazing artists have been discovered on BeatStars, even just from our competitions. You know, like we discovered Ali, Ali Gatie, won one of our song contests and he's got billions of streams, you know, Joyner Lucas, and Anees. Anees is an independent artist right now that's doing some amazing things, touring, you know, he's got a hit song called Sun and Moon and just killing it on TikTok and just so cool, man, just so cool to see all of these amazing artists take and utilize the platform the best way and build careers. And, yeah, so it's cool to see all these different things happen and finally bringing some like seasoned leadership to, you know, bounce things off of and build with and collaborate with. And I think I've come to a place in my career now. I feel like almost 15 years in, I can let go of some control and I think I've matured enough as an executive to now understand and articulate what the company needs and what we want in our dreams and now do it in a collaborative way with a bunch of amazing people that have the same kind of mission. So it's exciting to see what this new phase of BeatStars goes into. [00:42:55] Dan Runcie: Making moves. Love to hear it.[00:42:57] Abe Batshon: Trying to, man.[00:42:58] Dan Runcie: Hey, hey, that says that's the journey. That's the journey. Well, Abe, this has been great. Appreciate you for coming on, and before we let you go, we want to make sure that people that are listening know to find you, so where can they go to either follow you or to follow BeatStars if they want to tap in more? [00:43:14] Abe Batshon: Thanks, Dan. Dude, I'm some big fan of yours, like I told you before the podcast. Congratulations. Amazing to follow your journey as well. Follow BeatStars at @BeatStars, B E A T S T A R S everywhere. My personal social media shut down everywhere for the last few months. I shut it down, but I'm going to bring it back, just @AbeBatshon and excited to hear the feedback from this episode from folks listening to it. Appreciate you having me on man. [00:43:37] Dan Runcie: Of course, and best luck to you and best luck to you from health, most importantly, and with the business too. [00:43:43] Abe Batshon: Thank you, sir.[00:43:45] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Post Malone is the definition of a streaming-era superstar. He exploded onto the scene with the viral hit, “White Iverson” that was uploaded straight to SoundCloud. That was followed up with a record deal with Republic Records, four feature albums, world tours, and now he’s one of the world’s most popular artists. My guest on Trapital this week is Cheryl Paglierani, a partner at UTA, who became Post’s agent a few short weeks after the release of “White Iverson.” The duo, along with manager Dre London, have engineered one of the fastest and most successful come-ups for an artist during the streaming era. The keyword in the last sentence is engineered because Post’s resounding success was deliberately planned out. Cheryl prioritized live exposure early in Post’s career. “To see him was to fall in love with him,” she said, which meant getting Post in front of as many different people as quickly as possible was the key to building a fanbase with longevity. This live strategy helped make Post a must-see attraction — whether it’s on his upcoming 33-city Twelve Carat Tour or at music festivals, including his own-created Posty Fest. For a first-hand look at Post’s enormous rise over the past seven years, you’ll want to listen to my interview with Cheryl that covers strategies on touring, social media, sponsorships, and more. [3:15] Cheryl And Post Malone’s Joint Rise-Up[5:13] Post’s Upcoming Twelve Carat Tour [6:44] Exposure Was Key To Post’s Early Success [9:11] Post Malone Being Genre-Less By Design[10:32] Dynamic Between Post, Dre London, and Cheryl[12:42] Post Headline Strategy [13:52] Factors That Influence Festival Headliners[15:50] Touring vs. Festival Shows[17:57] Main Trait Cheryl Looks For When Signing With An Artist [21:29] Philosophy Of Artist-Branded Music Festivals [23:07] Post Malone Brand Deal Strategy [24:18] Correlation Between Social Media Followers & Ticket Buyers[26:01] TikTok’s Value-Add For Artists [28:00] The Trap Of Overperforming At Nightclubs[32:03] How To Prevent Artist Burnout [33:28] Could Virtual Experiences Help Avoid Burnout? [34:43] Cheryl’s Personal Wishes For Post’s CareerListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Cheryl Paglierani, @cherylpags  Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Cheryl Paglierani: I always say, like, you need to start the build from the beginning because you're not going to want to go backwards. So I think that's where the disconnect can take place if you're not building and doing it all. Like, you have to be smart enough to strategize and say, okay, I'm going to go play the 500 cap or the thousand cap. I'm confident that I can sell it out. And when I do that, I'm going to make the club the after party. And I'm going to kill two birds with one stone, but they don't always do that. And I think that's where you see certain artists that will stream really well and have a lot of hits but have never built proper touring history fall into that trap. [00:00:37] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:57] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Cheryl Paglierani. She is a partner at UTA where she represents some of the biggest names in music. She does booking for Post Malone, Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, 21 Savage, Offset, Flo Milli, Dominic Fike, and many more. But today's conversation. We talked a lot about her rise with Post Malone. Back in 2015, she met Post at South by Southwest after hearing his music and wanting to meet him in person. And she knew that there was the opportunity then to help develop a superstar. And since then Post Malone has grown into one of the artists that in many ways represents what's possible in streaming. Here's an artist who doesn't necessarily fit in one specific genre, but he's collaborated with so many and his music identifies and resonates with the vibe that is so relevant for today. So we talk about the journey with Post Malone. What it means for artists like him that are doing festivals versus touring and how she looks at some of the opportunities and advantages with both. We also talk more broadly about touring and how artists can make a tour off of a strength of a single, the importance of that. We talk about how she views social media, some of the pros and cons there. And so many other future trends with artists doing live performances. She shared a bunch of insights in this one, very relevant to where the industry is right now and where things are heading post-pandemic. Here's my chat with Cheryl Paglierani. [00:02:24] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we are joined by Cheryl Paglierani, who is a partner at UTA, represents a number of big artists in hip-hop and music more broadly. But today I want to talk to you about one of the artists you've been able to see rise up the ranks and that's Post Malone, and he sticks out because I've talked to many agents over the years and so many of them talk about that dream of finding that one artist that they can rise up with. And you found that with Post Malone and it was really inspiring hearing the story of you meeting him at South by Southwest, back in 2015, but it would be great to see and hear since then. What was the moment that it hit you that, wow, we did it. The dream and the vision that I had seen back in 2015, we accomplished it and here we are, let's keep going.[00:03:15] Cheryl Paglierani: Right. You know, that's such a funny question because we all started together, right? Like, Post was essentially my first client, like, on my own. And so through rising, like, trying to pinpoint one moment, almost every moment every step of the way felt like that because you had never been there before, so take it back to just him supporting Justin Bieber. I remember being at the Madison Square Garden shows and you're hearing thousands of kids singing White Iverson, and you're looking around and you're in an arena. And even though you're not headlining that arena yet, you're thinking, wow, this is really on the right track. And then I remember on the Stoney Tour when he played in his hometown in Dallas and we played the Bomb Factory, that was a 4,000 cap room. And at that point we were like, my God, we just sold 4,000 tickets in Dallas. We're like, we're popping, right? So you feel then that feels like a really special moment. Up until, you know, we're playing two nights at The Hollywood Bowl, that felt really special. And you look like, wow. It never feels like the end, if that makes sense. It always just feels like a new height to be reached, and it just makes us more excited for what's next. Two nights at Madison Square Garden felt amazing, like, wow. Now we just sold out Madison Square Garden ourselves or AT&T Stadium was then another one of those moments. Every time we reach one, there's another one to be reached. And we're always looking forward to that and, and planning and just excited for what the next one will be 'cause that feeling just never gets old. [00:04:33] Dan Runcie: Madison Square Garden, it was a great one because that's such an iconic venue. And I think for so many musicians, being able to sell there, being able to sell out there is huge. It's one of the biggest arenas and the most notable arenas in the country. And when looking at where a Post is now, he recently announced a tour that he has over 30 cities, whole arena tour. He's done them before. This one, I'm sure, probably felt a little bit different though, because you're booking in the middle of the pandemic. You're hearing so much, from cancellations and what venues are being available. What was it like finding space for him just given everything that happened with touring in the past few years? [00:05:13] Cheryl Paglierani: Yeah. I mean, well, lucky for us, like, we had been planning throughout the pandemic, right? So, you know, it's like there were certain tours where I had to rebook them and rebook them 'cause you wanted to be ready to go when tours were back. I think we had a little bit more leeway on this one for when we were planning, but it definitely got challenging with in terms of just avails. Because you're not only competing with all the other tours to be going out at this time but competing with sports and just different things that's all coming back at once. And so, I mean, that made it a little, a little bit more challenging, but also just making sure that, as we're booking, we're following all the right COVID protocols and that we're being cognizant, too, of just where people are in their lives, and how we're going to price it. And, and just trying to think of it holistically of where, not just he's at, but where the fans are at and what's going to set us up for success. And I think that we did a pretty good job. We had a very successful on sale and we're looking forward to starting in just about a month from now. [00:06:04] Dan Runcie: Yeah. He's one artist where I see the tour go up, I'm like, I know that tour is going to sell out. There's other artists, not going to say names, but you'll see the announcement and you're like, I hope they can sell that one, but he's not one that I ever have that thought with. And I'm sure for you, obviously, you'd seen the, from the beginning, but in those early years, like, especially in the Post, White Iverson era, I'm sure there was a lot where you, Dre, him, you see the vision, but likely may want to sell and get people to see the potential of where it's going. What was it like selling at that perspective and trying to build the image when not everyone on the outside maybe was fully bought in and saw things the way that you may have seen it? [00:06:44] Cheryl Paglierani: I mean, I can't really say that I remember selling Post ever being hard. I think it was always about how can we get him in front of the most amount of people as quick as possible because to see him was to fall in love with him. I think the second that anybody saw him live, they would always come back to me and be like, wow, this guy's the real deal. The performance was never really a factor. I mean, I think it was really just finding the right opportunities and making sure that we were strategically building him to be able to be in a position to really build the right fan base and build to longevity I think a lot of people don't know this, but Post actually supported three times before we have a headline. So he supported a DJ called SBTRKT. It was only a couple of shows, but it still, it was like EDM. It wasn't what you would expect him to be doing at that time. And then we went on tour with Fetty Wap and so that was a hip-hop tour. So he supported Fetty Wap through, through that tour. And then it went straight from Fetty Wap into Justin Bieber. So we had built a foundation that would almost touch multi-genres before he ever even went out and headlined. So I think that it was just being strategic in terms of how do we get him in, in front of not only the most people but different types of people, because he really is so eclectic. And we wanted everybody to be able to see that 'cause he really does have something to offer to everybody. [00:07:50] Dan Runcie: That's the piece that sticks out to me the most 'cause I've had so many conversations with people and they'll ask me what type of genre do you think Post Malone is? Do you think Post Malone is hip-hop? And it's always this ambiguous question and I think that's by design. He can go and have different types of collaborators. You see it with who he's worked with. You'll see it with who's featured on his album. Can you talk a little bit more about how that piece has helped shape his career and maybe his ascension as well? [00:08:19] Cheryl Paglierani: Yeah. I mean, I think that, like, you just hit the nail on the head, right, in terms of who he works with. Post is going to work with artists that he's actually genuinely a fan of. I think that you'll see sometimes artists will work with people just because, oh, this is the new hot guy right now. You should go make a song with this person, or this is who everybody expects you to work with so you should go work with this person. But Post is going to work with artists like Fleet Foxes 'cause it's his favorite band ever, who I didn't even know who they were until him, so he's putting us onto them or he's going to work with artists that, that really touch and resonate with him. I think, I don't if you saw but this was record a while ago, but it kind of just started going viral. It's his video singing a Brad Paisley song, like, his videos have gone viral singing country songs, but, you know, then he can, can go make songs with, hip-hop artists. And we always laugh when we see like a headline will write hip-hop, where he gets categorized as that because he's so versatile that it, it isn't that. But to pinpoint it is difficult because he touches so much. [00:09:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I also think that his position highlights what makes the streaming era work in a lot of ways. I've heard people refer to him as a post-streaming era artist or someone that's a symbol of what's possible now in streaming. And I was talking to a friend about this recently about, in a lot of ways, we're moving past in genres. We're moving towards moods and vibes. And I think that in a lot of ways probably captures Post Malone, but it also captures what people are looking for. You see that in how Spotify looks at playlists, right, it isn't just genres. It's moods that what you're after. And I feel like he speaks to this piece a lot. [00:09:48] Cheryl Paglierani: Absolutely. I mean, he, he completely does. It just goes back to, I think, his love of music, right? He really loves so many different genres of music and you see that come through in his music. And I think that's why he makes music that that's so relatable to so many people. [00:10:03] Dan Runcie: And I think a lot of this, too, is the management of leadership behind. So it's you, who's the music agent, you also have Dre London, who is his manager, and you have Post as the artist himself. And it seems as if the three of you have a very strong dynamic that's been intentional and clear about how you're growing him as an artist. Can you speak to that in the different roles that you all have beyond the obvious pieces of where you stand there, but how you all work and how that dynamic clicks together?[00:10:32] Cheryl Paglierani: No, absolutely. I mean, yeah, of course, it's like me and Dre. And Dre has become one of my best friends in the business, like a brother to me. I mean, we have like the best dynamic, of course. It's me and Dre and Post, but we have a whole team. There's Bobby who's Post’s day-to-day, and Jay who manages everything on the road, and Austin Rosen who's Post's co-manager with Dre. And I think really we've become like a family. And I think what makes us work so well is that we all have a role and a pivotal role, but everybody's role is different. And I think, like, we all trust each other to be able to handle it. It's like if you're building a house, right, you need to be able to trust that the pillars in each position are going to hold you up and prop you up. We've been able to build like this beautiful foundation, this beautiful house together, just off the foundation of our, trust for each other and, and how everybody works together.[00:11:17] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it seems like it because I think it's so rare that you can see all three of you really be able to work in sync because we know how many times changes happen in this industry and how many times things shift as well. And I do think that continuity is one of the things that get so underrated. There's so many aspects of music that can be a revolving door or things change quickly. But the fact that there is, in many ways, a tight unit where the three of you can work together. I honestly wish we saw more of that in the industry because I think sometimes the continuity hurts the potential of or the lack thereof hurts the potential of a lot of artists and how far they could go.[00:11:55] Cheryl Paglierani: What's also interesting, I think, Dre and I have our birthdays are a day apart, so it's almost like, even though we're so different in a lot of ways, we're actually so much alike. We can literally look at each other almost and know what the other one is thinking and not have to say a word which has become just this beautiful dynamic between us and I mean, just, you know, working with them, their whole team, I couldn't have asked to be on this journey with better people. I just feel really lucky that they let me be a part of it. [00:12:17] Dan Runcie: No, that's special. Speaking specifically about his live performances and how he goes about things, we talked a little bit about festivals in the beginning piece, and obviously Post is headlining several festivals in the US. When people reach out or you're looking for spots now, do you even consider anything that isn't a headline slot or this point, or you're like, no, if we're not getting a headline slot, sorry. [00:12:42] Cheryl Paglierani: No, not Post anyway. I mean, he's just a bonafide superstar at this point. I can't even really think of any acts that would make sense for him to play in front of. So for him, definitely not. For others, I mean, of course with other acts, it's really just a strategy and sometimes more about the look than necessarily the exact position. You know, you want to obviously be billed properly and be in the right slot. But for someone like at Post-level, it's a headline or it's not at all.[00:13:06] Dan Runcie: That's what I figured because sometimes I'll see for certain music festivals, again, I'm not going to say a festival or names, but you'll see people slotted in. You're like, really? Well, they must have a superstar agent that made that happen because I would think that they would be a third row or there's people that are also on that lineup that I think could have been in that headline spot instead. And I'm sure that, you know, the mechanisms of so many of those things more than anyone, and probably think a lot about that, too. What are your thoughts on that piece of it and how the artists do get chosen for headline slots? And I'm sure you sometimes may see it yourself when the festival Posters come up and you're like, okay, that makes sense, but, huh, really, that person? Interesting. [00:13:52] Cheryl Paglierani: Yeah. And like, look, I think every market's different, right? A lot of it comes down to hard ticket sales usually, and I mean, when, when a promoter's booking a festival, there's two, usually, two things that they're looking at the closest and that's how many tickets have you sold in the market and how fast can you sell them? So while you might look at a lineup and scratch your head and say, how is this person headlining? It could be because it's that person's hometown or because that person's show in the market blew out, there could be a number of different reasons. But you know, there's certain artists that can blow out a show in LA that might not blow out that show in New York. Or a certain artist you might see headline in New York festival because they're from the East Coast or they're from the Northeast that would never make sense to headline in LA. So I think some of it has come down to digging a little deeper as to what's that artist's connection to the city or to the festival, to the market, what's their history, have, they done there before 'cause plays a lot into it. [00:14:38] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That makes sense. Certainly, there are artists that just aren't going to work everywhere. Again, you mentioned the venues that Post Malone has sold out, whether that's his hometown, doing the stadiums, or even the arenas in other places, this isn't as much a discussion point for him. So I do think that that does play a factor. There are other times where I still do see wow, you know, great agent, you know, hats off to them. But it's fascinating though. [00:15:03] Cheryl Paglierani: I think that sometimes, too.[00:15:05] Dan Runcie: It's fascinating though. And I think the broader growth. And as we've seen, especially the past decade-plus proliferation of music festivals has been great. And I think it's created more opportunity for the bigger artists to really decide how do you want to prioritize the opportunities. Of course, there's some artists that are strictly for the most part, only doing festivals. They may get the bigger guarantee up front, but there's a chance they may not be playing in front of as many true fans as they could have if they did their own concert. And there are plenty of pros and cons there, but I'm curious from your perspective, what's your philosophy on balancing touring versus doing the festival shows, and how do you look at it for the artists you represent?[00:15:50] Cheryl Paglierani: You hit it right on the head with the word you just used. It's a balance, right? So I think you never want to say, like, I don't believe it's ever too early to play a festival. Sometimes people are, you know, you'll hear that said, or it's too early for you to play or you need more momentum. But I think there's certain opportunities and certain festivals to be targeted when you're a new artist and through your journey. So let's say you're a new artist and you're ready to go do that 500 cap tour and you're ready to go, you know, start selling tickets at the bottom level. Yeah, you're probably not ready to then go pitch for the Coachella slot 'cause you want to be in the right position when you play a festival like Coachella or a major one, but you could still be perfect for the Thursday night at Bonnaroo. That is great for showcasing new artists. So I think you want to find that healthy balance of like, okay, what festivals can we target that might be in a market that we wouldn't necessarily go headline, but could still put us in front of a lot of bottoms in that market. And that's what I usually try to find from the ground up is, okay, what festivals are we targeting this year? What's going to be our target next year? What's your plan with the music and how are we building our headline shows around that so that we can be growing as a headline artist at the same time? And then with every artist, it's different too, right? 'cause some, it might not be you're building festivals into, headline or some artists it's going to be, it makes sense for them to find a support slot first. You might need more time to develop your show. You might need, you know, you might not have a full set that's long enough to headline. You haven't put out enough music yet. So I think every artist is different. It's just about your strategy to where the artist is at in your career.[00:17:12] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And especially with the balance piece of it, too. And I know that you represent a number of artists that are at different stages of their careers as well. Do you have any that lean more into the festival-heavy and touring light because I know that's another thing I've heard from many artists where they feel like touring is a bigger risk and they don't necessarily want to do that. They would rather do things a bit more on-demand or do things a bit more when the opportunity comes up, as opposed to having a set time to have an event where, yeah, they're doing a 500 or 2000 cap event that they go around. Are there any artists you have that lean towards that way? And how does the strategy shift at all for any of them?[00:17:57] Cheryl Paglierani: I just think it through my personal roster, I actually don't think I have anyone that's more only a festival-centric artist. I think, you know, just for me personally, too, when I'm looking at artists that I want to sign and who I want to work with, it all first and foremost starts with passion. Like, to me, I'm not really looking at streaming numbers. I'm not really looking at stats that most people would. I'm looking at do I love the music? Do I believe in the artist? And do I think that they can grow into arena selling headliner? So I'm always looking for that from the start. So it's almost like it would be very strange for me to end up with artists that only play festivals 'cause I always try to get involved, you know, very early. There's some artists I work with now that haven't been day one, but almost my whole roster has been day one and, and builds from the ground up. And even though every strategy is different, the goal is pretty much always the same in terms of how are we going to build longevity, how are we going to build a real fan base that wants to keep coming back and keep seeing you over and over again. If maybe the live show's not great from the beginning, the things that we can do to help you amplify your show, can we help with connecting with performance coaches, can we help with bringing production people into the team? Like, how can we help add value to get the artist where they need to be so that there's not a ceiling because if you've reached a point where you can only go play festivals, you've hit a ceiling. If you can sell the festival yourself or you get to that point, you want to be able to get to the point where you can book the area out yourself and, and do an open-air show and sell it all on your own. That's where you want to get to. So there's always going to be a ceiling, I feel like if you cap yourself there. And I say it's kind of similar to, like, artists that you see only play nightclubs because I think it can be hard, in the beginning, to turn down nightclub money. If you're a new artist and you come out and you have a song that's big and all of a sudden, clubs, want to throw a check at you to come play your song and three songs in a nightclub. Like, sometimes that's hard to turn down and they'll take that over, playing the small venue and trying to sell the tickets 'cause the money isn't the same. And so I think like that's just always the trap that I tell every artist avoid, avoid, avoid. You have to go build a fan base if you want longevity. [00:19:50] Dan Runcie: Where do artists starting their own music festivals fit in this dynamic? Because Post obviously has Posty Fest. He's had it, it's a success. And obviously again, now that we're at least coming on the other side of the pandemic, where do you see that fit in with this dynamic in that balance? [00:20:07] Cheryl Paglierani: There has to be a connection. There's so many festivals now, right? That if you're an artist and you want to start your own, you have to have probably a good amount of the draw, or I would like really advise against it. But I think that, you know, with Post and creating Posty Fest, he just had such a strong connection to Dallas and a passion for wanting to build a lineup that was multi-genre like him and, give artists an opportunity that he believes in and kind of create something where his fans could really step into his world. And we have an incredible brand team who is able to help us really turn Posty Fest into what Post world would be and bring in all of his partners. And create that without it feeling like overly branded or forced, it felt very authentic to him. And yeah, we're excited to just see how we can keep growing it.[00:20:53] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And especially with a festival like that, the hometown, the audience, the fan base is there. I'm curious how it's viewed from a business perspective because I've talked to some folks in the industry that feel that the artists-run festivals are almost more of a passion play project. The economics may not be necessarily better than what they could do elsewhere, but it's just actually a unique opportunity to be able to create something like that. But then others feel well, people run their own music festivals for economic gain, obviously. And if you have it there, then there is plenty of upside to be had. So how do you view it? [00:21:29] Cheryl Paglierani: Listen, what you said is absolutely right. I think for starters, you need to start it off as a passion project because to have a festival that's profitable year one, year two, usually isn't very realistic. You have to be able to build it up. With Posty Fest, I mean, we were pretty smart about it. And like I said, his brand team and my partner, Toni Wallace absolutely killed it. We were very lucky to be able to make Posty Fest profitable. And both times that we've done it, just because Post has so much love in the brand space, but it's expensive. It's expensive to create an event like that and to book talent and you just have to be willing to make sacrifices in certain places and be willing to really put in the work to build it year after year, to get it to a place where it's going to be economically profitable.[00:22:10] Dan Runcie: You mentioned the brand piece. And I imagine for Post that's huge. Can you talk a bit about how that factored into the profitability? [00:22:19] Cheryl Paglierani: Of course, as we're selling tickets, but, you know, every time we do a brand deal with Post, we would build Posty Fest into it. So it's like, okay, you're going to do your deal with Bud Light. Bud Light, we're going to need you to come onto Posty Fest. You're going to do your deal with, we had Nerf, we had Crocs, there was just a laundry list of all of his partners, but every time we would be doing deals, we would be building the festival into it. So come time for the festival, we had economics and, and money from all of his partners to come in and create activations for us, so it's authentic to him, but they're coming and they're creating activations and they're helping us create the experience. And that just took a huge cost off of us to have to create those things organically.[00:22:55] Dan Runcie: His brand partnership with Bud Light feels like one of the most authentic artist-brand collaborations. I can't think of anyone else. Like, so many people are like, oh, Post Malone being the ambassador for Bud Light is perfect. [00:23:07] Cheryl Paglierani: Perfect. Like I said, he is not faking it. He really drinks Bud Light. That's his drink. And you know, he's always going to do what's authentic to himself.[00:23:14] Dan Runcie: I could imagine what the success of that. Something else that I think has been fascinating with touring has been the influence of social media. And I think there are a number of people who have strong social media followings that people couldn't actually assume that, okay, you had millions of fans that are following you on Instagram or TikTok or wherever that would then translate to those millions of people coming out and buying tickets for your show. And while there's some correlation there, I've always thought there's a bit of a disconnect to some extent because while having a large number may be great, your followers on socials may not always be the fans who are buying tickets for your show, but I know that when you're making decisions for these shows, there's all the data. There's also that instinct factor that you have when deciding who to pitch in, book where, but for you, how important is social media and the numbers or metrics you see from social media in the live performance decisions you're making, whether that's for touring or for festivals?[00:24:18] Cheryl Paglierani: It's definitely a factor, but it's by no means the factor because there are artists that have millions and millions of followers who can't sell a ticket and there's artists who can stream really well, but also can't sell a ticket. Like, there is definitely not any proof of a direct correlation between the two, but I do think that being on socials is really important. It also depends on how you are using your socials. Are you using your socials to connect with fans or are you just posting when you have to post something, right? Are you just posting a flyer to a show or you're not going on your Insta stories and talking to them, or you're not responding in the comments and they don't really feel like, for artists, I feel like we use it as a connection point. We'll see it translate more into, you know, the live side. But I haven't seen yet where I feel strongly enough that, like TikTok specifically, like if you have millions of followers on TikTok, are you going to be able to go sell out a show? That I don't think directly correlates. I think that to build yourself and start being successful in live, there has to be the live piece there. You have to have the live show, you have to have the music, you have to have the connectivity with an audience more so than just creating like cute Insta videos that are going to go viral. But it is going to be interesting to see, I think, as we're getting back into touring and more tours are going out and if that changes at all, but I haven't seen it be directly correlated just yet. [00:25:36] Cheryl Paglierani: I'm glad [00:25:36] Dan Runcie: you mentioned TikTok because there's been so much talk about how influential TikTok has been in the music industry. It is the place where so much music gets discovered that ends up performing well on streaming, but given the way the algorithm works, you can have tons of followers or tons of engagement proposed, but like you said, it doesn't exactly translate to having fans that are actually going to buy tickets. [00:26:01] Cheryl Paglierani: There's no question, right? There's no question at all that TikTok has become super important to breaking new music and bringing awareness to new music, whether you're a brand new artist or your Post Malone, the label's going to try to push TikTok because that's where so many kids are. And that's how you can just make things more visible. When you talk about breaking records and stream, like, I think TikTok can really add value into the streaming side of things and just being heard. But in terms of it, like, translating over into hard ticket sales, I don't think there's a direct, I think it helps, but I don't think there's a direct correlation where you can say, oh, okay, if you have X amount of views or followers on TikTok, you're going to sell this room now. It's not realistic. [00:26:37] Dan Runcie: And Post has talked about this too. I saw a quote from him recently that was like if I was a new artist that was being pushed to use TikTok right now, maybe there'd be a little bit of pressure to try to find a natural way to use it or even he himself wanting to find a natural way to use it. How have those discussions been? Because on one hand he already has the fan base that was there long before TikTok blew up, but there's so many established artists that are leaning into the platform now. [00:27:03] Cheryl Paglierani: Yeah. I mean, lucky for us, Post has an incredible creative director, Bobby, who is also his day-to-day. I'm not really involved so much in the what goes on his TikTok, but Bobby's really good at finding authentic ways, whether they're out somewhere and Post is just there doing some of capturing those moments and then helping translate them over to TikTok. But even though it wasn't around while Post was on the come out, so it's a relatively new thing. I think they're figuring out really cool ways to still have him featured on the platform, and there's been a number of videos they've put up there that have gone viral. [00:27:34] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. There was something else earlier that you mentioned about streaming specifically. We talked about how there's some disconnect between social media and being able to sell tickets. But you also mentioned that there's some artists that stream well, but can't necessarily sell tickets as well. What are some common or things that can have that type of dynamic exist or that is the reason why that can happen that you've seen? [00:28:00] Cheryl Paglierani: The nightclub situation, I think is one that can be a total killer, right? So like, there's so many artists you'll see that will come out. They'll have a song that will get really hot in a nightclub. And instead of going out and doing the work and building the fan base, they'll go take the 10, 20, 30 grand to go to the club, just play the song. It's not their real fans. It's just people that want to party. And then they'll feel like, you know, they'll get to a point where, okay, now you've had two hits. Now you've had three hits. But going backwards to start at the beginning, to really build the fan base and sell the rooms and the money you're going to make to play a 500 or a thousand cap just feels to them like a step backwards. And so they hit that ceiling. I always say, like, you need to start the build from the beginning because you're not going to want to go backwards. So I think that's where the disconnect can take place if you're not building and doing it all. Like, you have to be smart enough to strategize and say, okay, I'm going to go play the 500 cap or the thousand cap. I'm confident that I can sell it out. And when I do that, I'm going to make the club the after party. And I'm going to kill two birds with one stone, but they don't always do that. And I think that's where you see certain artists that will stream really well and have a lot of hits but have never built proper touring history fall into that trap.[00:29:07] Dan Runcie: That lines up with something else I've heard you say, which lines up with how artists now can build a tour off of a song or off of a single that does really well. And you don't necessarily have to always rely on going after the short bag or trying to do the short-term things. No, if you have the single that works, you can build on that. Can you speak a little bit more about that? [00:29:30] Cheryl Paglierani: Yeah. I think like when you're a true artist, like, I remember when we first started building out Dominic Fike's first tour and his EP was incredible. He had a real fan base. We had no doubt that the shows were going to sell. But I think the whole thing was under 30 minutes. Like it was almost going to be a struggle to get a show to where, you know, you want to be at least a 45-minute set if you're going to headline. But having the creativity that, okay, I'm going to throw in a couple of covers that are unexpected so that I can stretch this out and really go, build from the ground up and do that tour, and that's what they did. They figured out a way to make the show entertaining and interesting and with the band and to fill that time, even though it was only one project and, you know, 3 Nights was a big radio hit for him. We were able to still get out there and, and do that tour and start building it the right way with him as a headliner from the start.[00:30:14] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that's great. I mean, I think, now, especially just because there are so many hits where you can clearly tell that, okay, I don't know if that one's really going to last, but other times he'll hear hit, be like, no, you can truly build something off of this. And that's what I think is unique about this era. And that's what I think is unique to see artists like Post and others as well who've literally been able to say, okay, I have the awareness. I have the exposure. How could we continue to build on whether you're taking your time for whether it's the album or the launch, whatever it is. There are so many unique ways to be able to continue to just build momentum and build the fan base today. And I think that's one of the more exciting things about where the industry is right now. [00:30:55] Cheryl Paglierani: Yeah, absolutely. Shout to Dre and to Post, we talked about this a lot in the beginning because of course when White Iverson came out, we were getting all the clubs that were reaching out and me and Dre were totally aligned and on the same page of like, that's not what we're going to do and we're going to build this the right way. And here we are. [00:31:11] Dan Runcie: For sure. And I'm sure part of this, too, with the artists you represent is that so much of the booking and so much of the time can be reflective of just them feeling burnt out, right? Maybe burnout isn't as much of a piece on the touring side, at least for Post, just given the fact that you're touring in arenas now. He's not necessarily doing 200-plus arena shows a year, but there are other artists that are doing nightclubs or doing smaller venues that are doing that clip or potentially even. How is it with some of the artists who that clearly is the phase that they are in their career, but there's just so much more awareness right now in this industry of how do we prevent burnout, how do we support the artists without having them be on the grind that, I think, in many ways became so standard for artists in the industry? [00:32:03] Cheryl Paglierani: Absolutely. I mean, I think that's actually really important. And I always, personally, when I'm putting together a routing or I'm thinking about what are we doing, I try to put myself in the artist's shoes and think would I be able to handle this? Could I play four nights in a row? Like, am I going to get burnt out if there's not a day off after this many shows in a row? We think about that a lot with Post 'cause even though you're not playing 200 arena shows a year, even playing two nights in an arena back to back and be really exhausting, and that's going to take a toll on him and on his voice and on his body. And I think, like, if you're an artist and you're getting up on stage and you're giving it your all. That's going to wear you out. So, it's always something that we're thinking about when we're routing of, like, okay, let's not make sure that we got this amount of time. We're going to fit this amount of shows in. We're going to make sure that there's a proper amount of days off. And I'm always thinking about that when I'm routing as to how is this going to physically be on the artist because that's first and foremost is keeping them healthy and keeping them wanting to do it. We never want an artist to start feeling like, oh, this is just too much. I can't take it. So we try to make it as comfortable as possible. [00:33:03] Dan Runcie: Do these VR and metaverse experiences help with this to some extent? I know he recently had the VR experience for his project, the Twelve Carat Toothache, and I know that he had had the Pokémon collaboration that he had recently. Do these types of things help a bit? Because there obviously is less travel and you could still reach an audience and potentially a growing audience based on the way things are heading. [00:33:28] Cheryl Paglierani: Absolutely. I mean, I don't think it helps per se in a sort of like taking anything off the touring side 'cause the touring's still going to be there, but those opportunities are just easier to pull off because you can do them in LA or like he did the Nirvana live stream from his house in Utah, things like that, where through the pandemic and we were able to still stay out there in a real way without having to go anywhere. So that definitely helps when there is something like that that can be done and adds so much value to your album rollout and just be really cool and really different. The VR experience, I mean, they built out different sets almost for every single, so like that was a full two-day production to film all of that. So it was still a lot of work, but it was again, staying in one place made it easy to pull off. [00:34:09] Dan Runcie: So five years from now, when Post is still headline status and is booking all the top festivals and touring around the world. What do you think shifts? Because obviously so much has shifted in the industry since White Iverson came out, streaming and all of the other types of opportunities for artists to go direct with their fans or anything else has expanded as well. And we'll continue to see more evolution on that front. What do you think will change specifically in the live performance or, more broadly, how Post and some of your other artists may go about it? [00:34:43] Cheryl Paglierani: What do I think is going to shift? I mean, I hope that one day with Post and you say, what will change, well, he's always been a one-man show. He's never played with the band. It's always him. And he gets up there and he kills it. I kind of hope that in the future we're seeing him, he might hear this and say, why would you say that? But my personal wish, I hope that like one day we see the show shift into him playing with a full band or maybe playing, you know, everyone always says to me, when's Post making a folk album? When's Post making a country album? I almost hope that maybe we see him shift and actually take a stab at a different genre completely. And just do something that's completely unexpected. Does that happen? I don't know, but it could be a shift. And I also think he has the potential and will reach stadium status. I hope somewhere in the next five years we maybe see. Like, we're able to go into baseball stadiums or something of the sort. Maybe it's not a full tour, these are just like my aspirations and my, my goals and what I want to see, whether, you know, that aligns with him, we have to discuss, but I think those are a few shifts that could be really interesting and cool.[00:35:39] Dan Runcie: Well, Cheryl, this has been great. I think that there's just so much that's happening in this space and I'm excited for you. I'm excited for Post and all the other artists you represent, but before we let you go, is there anything else that you'd like to plug or let the capital audience know about?[00:35:57] Cheryl Paglierani: Anything else I want to plug? I probably should have something for that, but nothing comes to mind. I'm not much of a self-promoter. I don't know what I have to plug.[00:36:04] Dan Runcie: Or where people can find you if they want to follow you.[00:36:07] Cheryl Paglierani: People can find me on Instagram. I'm just @cherylpags. [00:36:10] Dan Runcie: Okay. And then big things coming up for Post, obviously, we mentioned the tour, a few festivals coming up as well. [00:36:17] Cheryl Paglierani: I don't know if you saw, but we also announced we'll be doing stadiums in Australia with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in January. So we're really excited for that also. [00:36:24] Dan Runcie: Oh, that's awesome. That's awesome. Another collab that makes a bunch of sense. All right. Well, Cheryl, this has been great. It's a pleasure. Thanks again for coming on. [00:36:32] Cheryl Paglierani: Thank you so much for having me.[00:36:34] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Music exec Benny Pough has shaped the hip-hop industry in a career that’s spanned from Motown Records to Def Jam to Roc Nation and now his own entrepreneurial pursuits. Benny joined me on Trapital to discuss his 30-year journey and where it’s heading next.The defining feature of Benny has been his ability to spot and develop musical talent. He’s responsible for signing the likes of Future, Jeremih, and Yo Gotti, among others. That skill was initially forged from having an ear for what would catch on the radio, but has evolved in the streaming era. Despite this radical shift in music consumption, Benny says “stars will always be stars.”After working at seven different record labels, Benny left the corporate world in 2019 and dove full-time into entrepreneurialism. He runs two separate companies — DVERSE Media and Kandiid. The former is a global music distributor and publisher, while the latter is a mobile app for creators to monetize their content. Benny also manages a diversified real estate portfolio. Like Benny’s own career, our conversation covers a lot of ground. Here’s our talking points: [3:13] How Benny Developed His Eye andEar For Talent[4:42] Differences Between Hit-Makers andSuperstars[6:10] How Has Streaming Changed Superstar Development?[7:33] Record Label’s Role in Talent Development [13:07] Inside Def Jam’s Business Turnaround During Mid-00s[16:02] Aligning Business andArt at Def Jam [18:15] Teairra Mari and Rihanna Coming Up at Def Jam[21:37] Balancing Short-Term andLong-Term Business Goals[24:39] How Did Benny Adapt To Working At Different Labels?[27:00] Why Benny Became a Full-Time Entrepreneur [28:34] How Does Benny Split Time Across His Business Ventures?[31:26] DVERSE Media’s Pitch To Artists[33:15] TikTok’s Role In Talent Development Today[34:43] Monetizing Content On Kandiid[36:07] How Benny Got Into Real Estate[38:54] Benny’s Upcoming BookListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Benny Pough, @bennypough Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Benny Pough: You can have a star, but if you don't have people who can market it and promote it and put the music together, then it's going to take that star a little more time. Or you can have great executives, but you have artists that don't have drive. They're kind of confused on who their identity is. They write good songs, they don't write great songs, then it's kind of off balance. It's that marriage of really strong executives and really great artistry.  [00:00:35] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:55] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is Benny Pough. He is a music industry veteran. And when I'm talking about people that understand promotion, understand what it takes to make an artist go from sixty to a hundred, this is the person to talk to. He has identified talent over the years, working at Motown, Perspective, Arista, MCA, Def Jam, Epic, and Roc Nation Records. He worked at Def Jam during one of the turnaround eras for the record label from 2003, all the way up to 2011. So we're talking about that stretch where you had Rihanna, and Jeezy, and Kanye, and so many artists that made a huge impact there. Then he also worked at Epic where he was able to see Future, and Jeremih, and Travis Scott, and Yo Gotti. And so many of the artists there. And now he is building his own company. He works at Diverse Media, which is a music distribution and global publishing platform. He also has an app called Kandiid, which helps content creators and artists connect more directly with their fan base. We also talk about some of the ventures he has outside of music. He does a lot in real estate. We're talking about some of the real estate he does, even in my hometown, which was pretty dope to hear how he understands the neighborhoods pretty well. So this is a great interview. If you want to talk about a mogul that understands each point of this industry, and with this upcoming book where he is sharing these insights as well. This is the interview for you. Here's my conversation with Benny Pough. [00:02:27] Dan Runcie: All right. Today, we got one of the music executives that has seen this industry and seen hip-hop through so many pivotal moments at some of the most storied record labels. Mr. Benny Pough. Welcome to the pod. [00:02:40] Benny Pough: What's up, Dan? Been waiting, man! I don't know why you kept me out here so long, but thank you for having me today.[00:02:47] Dan Runcie: People have been asking for this one, people have been asking for this one. [00:02:51] Benny Pough: Yeah. Yes, sir. [00:02:52] Dan Runcie: And I mean, I think one of the reasons that people have been asking is because of your track record. You have identified some of the best talents in this field. Yo Gotti, Future, Jeremih, could go on with the list, but it's clear that you understand what you're looking for and you have an eye and an ear for this. What are you looking for when you spot talent? [00:03:13] Benny Pough: So, you know, being a promotions person is how I started in the business. Like, my first entry point was at Motown records, doing college promotions. And at that point, I realized that, you know, music changed my life when I was able to take a song, and from a college level, and have it played across the airways, 'cause you have to think about over the decades, the mass means of communication was radio. So that changed everything. If you got on the radio in any capacity, you know, it could take you from zero to sixty. So for me, listening to the radio and listening to music one way or another, my ear just got refined to what sounds good on the radio. So with the artists that you mentioned, I heard their music before I even met them. So it's something about, you know, obviously the spirit, you know, that ooze through them that comes out in their music that always just resonated with me. So the next step would be, you know, to meet them and obviously the artists that you mentioned, you know, from Future to Jeremih, Gotti, F.L.Y., it was something special about them that they'd already created for themselves. They just needed, you know, that opportunity to present itself for them to move on to the next level. [00:04:23] Dan Runcie: And I'm sure meeting that adds a whole nother layer 'cause you could have the voice but you're not just building someone that can record an audio track. You're trying to identify stars. What is it from meeting them in person that adds to it? Or is there something extra that you see when you're face to face? [00:04:42] Benny Pough: I think what's probably problematic now is that people can become instantaneously popular just from streaming. But never been in, you know, never really been in a studio 'cause you can record in your house. Never performed at a dive because that's not what's required. Never actually performed in front of an audience. So they're great songwriters, maybe producers, but the bar is so much lower on the entry point now, because any and everyone can do it. The difference between the people who make just hit songs or records, and the ones who are superstars is that they have the full package. Not only do they write or they perform, but you know, they have that whole je ne sais quoi, something special about them that people want to hear more and more, see more and more of them. And that's what the key is. And always has been, you know, since the beginning of music, of those people who attract and draw you in.[00:05:37] Dan Runcie: You mentioned streaming and how it is easier and how it's very different from having a hit record as opposed to being a superstar. But do you think that even some of the visual aspects are becoming easier to replicate, too? Thinking about how someone could do so much of the production of music videos, or even the visual of what they can do, whether it's through Instagram and developing a following, but there's still, there could still be a disconnect between having that piece of it as well and really being someone that can push a record label and push themselves. [00:06:10] Benny Pough: So the power is probably the best time, music and arts, the power's in the creator. You know, ultimately as a consumer, we'll choose what we like at the value point that we will or not. But ultimately as a creator, you can get in where, before you couldn't, because there were, you know, gatekeepers. So now that you have the access and the ability to take your art to the masses. It's great. Now the level of what you have, meaning, you know, whether it's your music or your visual, if people like it, they're going to like it. And if they don't, if they feel it's inferior, then that's your presentation to the masses. So ideally you can't look at it as a negative, but, you know, obviously, as you grow, and you develop, and you have success. All of those levels start to heighten as well. [00:07:02] Dan Runcie: And do you feel like this has made it easier or harder or how different it is for the people that clearly have superstar potential, but they are coming up in this era where there is more noise? But on the other hand, because some of that noise can filter away some of the artists that don't necessarily have that potential and let the cream rise to the crop, I've heard people use both arguments about what it's like for superstars right now, but what's your take on the current stars now?[00:07:33] Benny Pough: Stars will always be stars, and we're going to find them if that's the true course of action. You know, I worked with L.A. Reid, and I remember him always just telling me the story about Outkast. He didn't sign them the first time they performed for him. It might have been the second or the third, but because they had it and when they finally brought it back to him, you know, the rest is history. Did it make them lesser stars because they weren't signed the first time? No. What they went back and did was hone their skills, hone their craft. And at some point, the rubber hit the road and the rest is history, and that's happened countless times. Look how many times Michael Jackson was passed on. So I don't think the internet or that we're in a technological, you know, era that it changes the pursuit and the passion for people who truly have the desire and commitment to their art. You know, it just doesn't happen that I designate myself to be an artist today. And since I'm going to be an artist today, I'm going to be a star tomorrow, right? It doesn't quite work that way. And the people who have the wherewithal and the gifts, they're going to find it. [00:08:38] Dan Runcie: Do you think it's harder for people to hit those Michael Jackson levels though? Because I do think that he, of course, I can't think of anyone that was more famous at that particular time. And even some of the artists that you have now. Yes, some of the biggest stars you've seen, they're breaking records and streaming, but culture is just so much noisier and there's so many other things like it's hard for any one artist to reach those same levels. Or do you think that that's still possible? [00:09:07] Benny Pough: It's just different iterations of it. And I don't think you can ever take the greatness of one artist and measure other artists to that, right? Now you can look at stats and go, well, did you, did this person have this many accomplishments as is that one? Then you start getting to the, you know, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe, right? It's just all different. So it's not the same measurement, but also just realize everyone has greatness and in their time of what was available and what the market was, they exceeded everyone's expectation. So that exists and it's going to exist beyond, you know, today until tomorrow. So it's really about, you know, how do you maximize the moments and all of that is really consistent on how much you commit to your craft.[00:09:56] Dan Runcie: I agree because I think about some of the stars right now, we still see it. It just may not be necessarily the most traditional sense the way people see it. I look at what Bad Bunny is doing right now. We haven't necessarily seen someone like him do what he's doing at the level that he's doing, whether it's the streaming records or even the sold-out concerts. Or even if you look at BTS, I think there's something to be said there for just how popular and strong that fan base is. And then you have your Drakes and your Taylor Swifts, these artists that I think even in 10 years will still be some of the biggest artists of their generation. [00:10:33] Benny Pough: And that's all catalog. You know, artists that have great music, amazing songs, and are true performers. So, you know, once you get to that level, it puts you in a category by yourself, [00:10:47] Dan Runcie: Right. And so much of this goes back to the work of these artists working with record labels, and a lot of the names that we mention, they got big pre-streaming. And because of that, I think they entered a phase where record labels did do a lot more of the development to help bring them along to the area that they are now.[00:11:07] Dan Runcie: But I think what we're seeing now is, because of all of the tools and all of the do-it-yourself functions that we're seeing that artists have the ability to do, by the time you're ready to join a record label, the hope is that you at least have some footing behind you, right? This isn't necessarily the place that's going to bring you from zero to a hundred. But if you could get from zero to sixty, you sign with them and then that can hopefully get you to a hundred. And I think that's the piece of it that's a little different than even what we may have looked at 10, 15 years ago with some of the names you mentioned where it was still a bit harder for them to break out without having the additional support earlier in their career. [00:11:49] Benny Pough: That's the equivalent. I don't disagree with you. The entry points probably are, you know, different, but in some very similar. Ideally you are a thousand percent correct. You can't look to a label to develop you at this point, but when you think about, you know, some of the earliest stars they were developed outside of the label as well, right? So, you know, that kind of overlaps in that perspective. I think the root of all of this is starting with talent, regardless, whether you were, you know, in the past and things weren't as technologically advanced or right now, you know, you have the ability of all of technology. But you don't have all of the components that are going to help you, i.e. great songs, great producers, you know, and all of those true means that are going to really push you to the next level. [00:12:35] Dan Runcie: Agreed. And I think, for you specifically, you've seen it with so many of the labels you've worked out, whether it's Motown or even the run you had with Def Jam as well. And I do want to talk specifically about the Def Jam run because, as someone that loves business case studies, this is a turnaround story and you had a front-row seat to push that forward. Tell us that story and let's walk through that process. What are the key things you think that really helped Def Jam turn things around from that '93 to, you know, going on into the 2000s run?[00:13:07] Benny Pough: So the crazy thing was, you know, for me getting into Def Jam was, it was amazing. The fact that they were a closed shop. You have to realize Def Jam never really let outsiders in. Everything was homegrown. They were one of the very few labels that was truly closed shop, right? Like, the people who started there from interns elevated all the way up, you know, into the higher senior positions, I mean, i.e. Kevin Liles, who is, you know, the person who reached out to me to come over to the organization. So given that opportunity and I was on the West Coast and wanted to get back home, I was at MCA Records and I wanted to get back home. So when I got the call, I was like, wow, I can go for one of the most renowned hip-hop labels in the world and get back home. So it was a no-brainer. Shortly thereafter I came on, Kevin and Lyor exited the building and L.A. Walked in. And that was, you know, an interesting dynamic because, one, I'd, you know, heard a lot about him and knew, you know, his abilities, but I didn't, wasn't certain on what my outcome would be because he didn't bring me in.[00:14:10] Benny Pough: It was a great union because he was an amazing, as we all know, music maker, hit kind of guy. I was a promotion guru, you know, at that time in my career. So, it gave me a great opportunity to, one, work with one of the best, which also made me one of the best, great music, strong promotions, i.e. put it all together in a pot, stir it up, you got to hit artists, right? And the talent was insane. We had one of the best A&R teams in the business, one of the best marketing teams in the business, one of the best promotion teams, publicity, et cetera. And then we all played as a unit. And I think that's, what's really important in any business, including the music business. When you get a real starting fire and the goal is to really bring on the gold, it's unstoppable with incredible artists and amazing music. So, you know, that's how all of that came together. And through that, you know, between Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Rihanna, Ne-Yo. We had Fabolous, Justin Bieber walked in, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It was just an amazing, amazing time in music for us and that component of those artists, that team, and everyone wanting the big win put us right exactly where you have in this conversation. [00:15:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. And the other key thing with this, too, is that you also had a few leadership changes, as you mentioned. You had Kevin Liles, and then you had L.A., and then you were there during the Jay-Z stretch as well. And I'm sure with each of those, you were able to keep things moving just with the amount of talent that was coming through, but I'm sure that there were different things, whether it was leadership styles or things that the label needed at a particular time that was able to help it get to where it was during those 2000s. [00:16:02] Benny Pough: So what's important, what people have to realize, and, you know, we put entertainment as though it's its own kind of business. It's still business. And you know, you have to learn how to manage up and manage down. And obviously, all the bosses have their own idiosyncrasies, but all of their goals is about winning. And obviously, you know, the people component is very important 'cause they're all specific on identifying the right talent, but also the right executives because true leaders understand, in the music business, the combination of both is what's going to help. You can have a star, but if you don't have people who can market it and promote it and put the music together, then it's going to take that star a little more. time Or you can have great executives, but you have artists that don't have drive. They're kind of confused on who their identity is. They write good songs, they don't write great songs, then it's kind of off balance. So when you get that real true alignment of both business and talent, that's when you have, and you look back at it, like go through the history of all of the strong labels. It's that marriage of really strong executives and really great artistry. So it doesn't change, right, where our business isn't different. We have just a non-traditional product. [00:17:22] Dan Runcie: Exactly. I mean, at the end of the day, there's something that you're trying to sell. You understand the customer, you're trying to get what you can get out there. [00:17:29] Benny Pough: Yes, sir. [00:17:30] Dan Runcie: Looking back and you talking through some of these stories with these leaders making me think of that time as well. One of the stories I know that often gets talked about going back to around 2004, 2005, Def Jam is figuring out, okay, who is the artist that we want to propel, especially who is the woman artist we want to propel. And there was so much about whether the label is going to push Teairra Marí, or if the label was going to push Rihanna. And so much of that, I know that you were, had a front row seat in, what was that process like? And what is it like now just thinking about how it went and how, whether you could discern what we eventually saw play out, or if it was still tough to know at the moment how either career would've went?[00:18:15] Benny Pough: So let's be very clear. And especially in my upbringing in the music business and how I've always been disciplined and even in just me as an individual, I don't play sides. I have to give my all to each and everyone because we don't know. Like, I can't say this one is a hit and this one isn't. My responsibility in the pipeline is to make sure that I do my best to expose the product to the marketplace. In both of those scenarios, the company was behind both artists. Ultimately, the public is going to decide who are they going to weigh in more or not. But sitting here today, I wouldn't tell you I did more or less for either of those other than provide an amazing system for them to go through in order to have the opportunity to live their dreams.[00:19:04] Dan Runcie: And that makes sense. And I think that's the most fair way to do it. [00:19:07] Benny Pough: Yeah. [00:19:07] Dan Runcie: Were you surprised at all by the outcome or how things played out in terms of the public's response? [00:19:14] Benny Pough: Rihanna's one of the greatest in the world. I mean, it speaks to its own, right? That speaks to itself and also realized she had, when you think about it, and there's very few artists, when you talk about classics, right? When you can go through hip-hop or R&B, like, classic albums, her first album was a classic album, right? So ultimately the people weighed in on what they appreciated from her at that point. And that in turn is about once where we started in this conversation, the artistry, it's the music and it's the team. So you got to think about a lot of artists who came through Def Jam through those years. We talk about the ones that, you know, went on and had massive success, but there were artists, too, that had great success. There were artists that make a good living and then there are artists like, it didn't work out because, obviously, the people did decide, not us.[00:20:06] Dan Runcie: Right. And that's what makes it so tough, I think, in any type of business, whether you're looking at other areas of entertainment, everything else, you could do the best thing that you think you want to put out. But there has to be some type of demand. There has to be something that is pulling artists through. And I think we saw that with the other singles that came off of Music of the Sun, Rihanna's first album. So fascinating times, it's really special to go back and think about it, especially now. I mean, who knows when we'll see the next album, but hopefully sooner rather than later. One of the things that stands out to me though, with the Def Jam time specifically, is just how much market share the record label was able to grow as well. And I wonder from your perspective, we're talking so much about balancing the business versus the art, so much of the work is focused on, okay, who can you promote? How can you push things? But there's also this zero-sum game of how can you get more market share than the other record labels that you're competing against and all of that. Was it ever a feeling like a bit of a tug of war between the art and the business of pushing these things knowing that there's this ultimate metric that the label's shooting for. But there's this longer-term aspect of trying to build and grow artists 'cause I know with other companies, it's kind of one of these things where you have the long-term goals, but how does that work with the quarterly earnings and I do think that market share is essentially that for record labels in the music industry. [00:21:37] Benny Pough: So, a lot of that's going to be predicated on leadership. And, you know, the companies that I worked for were very artist-driven. And what was most important about having the artist was making sure that the artist got their best shot and performance. And so that was a driving force for us at Def Jam. You know, it's not being irresponsible, it's just a matter of, you know, investing in giving the music, the artists enough time to breathe. Everything is not going to just be determined in black and white. Everything's not going to be determined in dollars and cents. And the people who are aligned right from the business end, gas on, gas off. Someone has to read it, how much to invest in this artist because of what the tea leaves are versus investing in this artist, predicated on what the tea leaves are. If you have something that's not talking back or something that's not performing, then you can't throw enough money at it. They don't like it, but if you have something that's incrementally or even starts to just explode, then, you know, that's a better bet to hedge your money on. And the executives in the leadership, in the companies that have a really firm grasp of knowing when to gas on and gas off on which particular artist, as well as you know, the whole perspective of the business unit are the ones that have wins in both the artistry, people want to come in because, with the success of the artist, that's what people are excited about. No one signs to a label going, oh, you have the largest market share. They go, oh, Future's over there. Travis is over there. Gotti's over there, you know what I mean? That's what they're going to say. Khaled's over there. They're going to say that they're not going to go, oh, you guys had 11 share? No, they're not going to do that. [00:23:22] Benny Pough: But in essence, all of it does work hand in hand, right? And on the other end with having successful artists, you have more market share, bigger profits. You know, now the executives, you're going to attract executives 'case they want to be there, right? Because good bonusing, good salaries, et cetera. So, a lot of that is really, really determined by the leadership. [00:23:43] Dan Runcie: I'm glad you mentioned the Future, Travis, and Gotti 'cause that is your time at Epic. You were able to see this run. You were able to see those artists just push through as well and, obviously, a different record label. I'm sure things were likely different there, but you had worked at several beforehand. What is it like when you obviously know exactly what you're doing, you understand what's required to succeed in your role, but you know, that you're shifting into a different culture, shifting into a different environment? How do you adapt yourself as someone that has already seen success in different labels, but you're moving on to other companies and still understanding that, yes, you know how to make this artist pop, but there's different folks in charge and there's different things that are happening that you also need to be aware of as you're wanting to execute the best promotional campaigns possible?[00:24:39] Benny Pough: So Benny Pough is a brand. I'm not interchangeable in that way. My core values are my core values. And if people are hiring you or bringing you into their organization, they want the best of you. And obviously, and it's no different from going from, you know, the high school football team to the college football team. You have to learn how to adapt, but football is football. And in essence, you just learned in different plays from a different coach, and what they expect you and why they recruited you to bring you over is to bring your talent and show us exactly what we need to be done in order to win. So it doesn't become that complicated and don't forget once again, it's learning how to manage. Like, you can't come in with a crazy ego. You have to be adaptable, amenable, and willing to learn in someone else's environment, but also bring your best game to play. [00:25:28] Dan Runcie: Were there any of the record labels you worked at where you feel like the culture or the way that they operated things was very different than the others? I know you were at Roc Nation Records after Epic but was any of them truly unique in this area? [00:25:41] Benny Pough: I worked at seven different labels. All of them were different 'cause it's seven different leaders. And I think, like, the common thread with all of them is that they had an insatiable desire to win. So every person that I worked for wanted to win and they all saw a different path to winning, but that was the common thread. And then systems, you know, obviously, the ones who were successful had winning systems, and the ones who kind of meandered out had different kinds of systems. So I think a lot of it comes into play to the individuals, right? If everybody could you know, coach the New England Patriots, then everybody would be doing the job, right? It's the best of the best it's going to get, you know, to do that and sit in that seat. [00:26:29] Dan Runcie: Right, exactly. And I know that sitting in that seat and having so much control over understanding what needs to be done is key with this. But I also recognize that you specifically with where you are in your career right now, you've worked at many different labels, but you're no longer working for a label. You've since left, you've left Roc Nation Records a few years back, and you are now building your own companies. Can you talk to me about that process, that transition, and why this was the right time for you to make that leap?[00:27:00] Benny Pough: Man, it's an amazing time in my life because now I have the opportunity of everything I learned, right? Think about the talent that I've identified over the years, the executives that I've groomed over the years, and realizing business and talent is something that I've been blessed to do. So now I can take all of that, what I've learned, and now apply it and reap the benefits for my family and friends. So I'm super, super excited about this time and being in the marketplace and having the freedom and flexibility to chase different and identify different kinds of talent, you know. Had I been at a major label, I wouldn't have invested in an app, right? Had I been in a major label, I wouldn't be launching my first conference. Had I been in a major label, I wouldn't be releasing a book. So it gives me, you know, the freedom and the latitude. But since I'd spent so much time learning the system, I am now approaching this from both a corporate perspective and entrepreneurial perspective, blended to now give the artists that I've signed as well as the ones that, you know, I manage and the business that I'm involved in, you know, the best opportunity to win because I've seen a lot of winning along the way.[00:28:19] Dan Runcie: Exactly and for you right now, you have Diverse Media, you have Kandiid, you also have real estate, and a few other business interests. How do you split your time right now? And writing a book as well, how do you split your time between each of these?[00:28:34] Benny Pough: Organization. It's no different than anything else. You know, whether you're working for someone or working for yourself, it's all time management, allocation of, you know, what needs to be done for this particular company today. You know, the things that need to be responded to, but most importantly, making sure that I'm reading the tea leaves properly because I'm the one that's investing. So it's, you know, being fiscally responsible is important and also taking the signs from the marketplace. As we talked earlier, the things that you learn along the way, just because I love it and no one else does, at some point I got to go to what they say versus how I feel because it's my resources, but I'm having a great time in this section of my life.[00:29:15] Dan Runcie: I got to imagine that's the biggest change as well, right? You're working for these record labels, part of these bigger corporations, someone else is always giving the final checkoff. And some of that may line up with what you want. Some of that may line up with what you don't want, but here, the buck stops with you, and there's sure there's so much freedom with that. How has that piece of it been? Because I know that that is likely one of the bigger changes or bigger shifts that comes with being able to run these types of businesses yourself. [00:29:46] Benny Pough: It's exhilarating and scary at the same time. You know, what you realize or what I've realized along the way is, you know, was always indicative of having someone on the team to go, what do you think, or let's go through this one more time, you know, to help you formulate that opinion because all the opinions aren't yours and all decisions aren't just made by you. The buck stops with you, but you know, you can lean in and on other different resources inside of the company. When you're independent, it may not be as rich as far as having those qualified people to assist you in the decision-making. So I'm very tactical on how I approach things. Obviously, you have to get more analytic in determining, you know, how to proceed in situations in the companies that I'm invested in. And at the end of the year, it has to make sense, right? It's the bottom line. It has to make sense in order for it to continue. [00:30:39] Dan Runcie: So let's walk through each of these 'cause I think there are ways to talk a little bit more about each of them, with Diverse Media specifically, global music, distribution, and publishing. This is your insights you're bringing. And you're like, I've been doing this for decades. I'm one of the most experienced people here. And I know what it takes to run the ship. What is the pitch then to artists who may want to, as you kind of put it yourself, they see the superstars that are still at the major record labels? You may not necessarily have the stable of the superstar yourself, but you're pitching yourself as your experience as well. How has that pitch been? 'Cause I'm sure that pitch is a little different when working for yourself as opposed to having the major label behind you. [00:31:26] Benny Pough: So it's not for everyone, but it's for the right people. I've worked with some incredible talent as an independent now that I have been able to help groom them, teach them, develop them in a process that, one, a major label wouldn't look to them for. So we have different needs. It's a smaller investment for me in investing in someone who's at the beginning of their career. And we are more of a partnership because I'm going to be very specific as well of who we're going to give my time to. And for them, they get direct contact to someone who, guess what, can make a call and help them move a little bit further and faster than they would've on their own. So I enjoy that, that element of it, and it gives me the ability to stay very connected in the music space, but also grow and develop talent at the pace that they primarily would not get at a major. 'Cause once you get on the conveyor belt, it's your time. It's your time when they say it's your time. And I think what we're lacking now is the development, the true artist development. So that's what artists get the benefit from. And it works.[00:32:26] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And I think, especially with the type of artist, you're looking at the sweet spot as well. There's so many artists that look at the technology medium as the means of growth or the means of exposure, right? I got to get on the streaming services. I got to get on TikTok. I got to start making reels and things like that. How much importance does that play for the artists that you serve? Because on one hand, as we're talking about at the beginning of this conversation, there can be so much emphasis on just having these songs or having these videos that are being put in this place, so you can write it up in numbers, but that still doesn't quite develop you as an artist, but it is one of these chicken and egg things. So how much of a focus is TikTok for you with the artist that you're working with? [00:33:15] Benny Pough: TikTok is pretty much the hand were dealt in the music at this point. So you can't ignore it because that's what everybody's leaning into, but then there's a whole other means of developing talent outside of TikTok. And it all depends on what's specific for what you're looking for as someone in the executive seat. I mean, if I can see it on TikTok and everybody at a major label can see it on TikTok, okay, it's cool. But everyone's not going to see the same thing. Like, although it may have all of the mechanisms, it's making all of the growth, you know, week over week. It just may not be something comfortable for me unless you're doing, you're in the commerce game, right? You're just chasing money and that's fine, right? People do that well. I've always been someone who's been more about the artistry and people who are going to have staying power. So, you know, if you get lucky and you get one that becomes lightning in a bottle, that's great. But more importantly, you know, I'm a time over money kind of guy. You know, I'll develop you, you know, spend time with you, you and I like, yo, we figured out, you know, we committed to each other. And when it's okay, we might not have made the billion dollars, right? But we lived a good life and that's equally as important as those who, you know, get a couple million, then they go away. [00:34:31] Dan Runcie: Right. And I feel like this lines up as well with Kandiid, which is your social media platform that you have. What role do you see it playing for artists and content creators? [00:34:43] Benny Pough: It's the equalizer. It gives artists the opportunity to monetize on their content, which was crazy. When the pandemic started, we were one of the first platforms to actually introduce that, that people could actually pay to monetize their content. And obviously, you know, OnlyFans took on a whole other different dynamic, but also, too, that was web-based that wasn't an app. Like, we were an app that was in that space, you know, to put us into a different ball game and then having Soulja Boy come on and endorse the company and is also one of the co-founders involved, just opened up all kinds of vehicles and avenues for us as we started to grow and develop in the space. [00:35:23] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's crucial. It's needed. And I think having the artists themselves as backers helps push it into a whole other level 'cause it goes back to the why does someone want to sign with the record label, they see who's involved with it. Why would they want to use a social media app or a new platform, they see who's involved with it. So that makes sense. The other piece of this, though, and we're talking about this a little bit before we recorded is what you're doing in real estate. You own a number of properties, even in my hometown, which I thought was pretty dope to hear about. Talk to me about that piece of it 'cause obviously very different from music, but there's so many wise reasons why it's a smart investment, but we'd love to hear what that journey was like for you, how it started and how you see it continue to develop.[00:36:07] Benny Pough: Mentally, I fell in love with real estate. If there was a passion, first thing I ever wanted to do was be a truck driver, just like my dad. And then the second thing was to own a home because we lived at a five-family home in White Plains, New York, where my parents had an opportunity to purchase this home from the owner who was moving back to Kansas. And when I realized the freedom that having a multi-unit at that time, you know, what it gave our family was exceptional. My father had the freedom, didn't have to work. My mother worked at the post office and was able to take care of us with, you know, the benefits from the health perspective and the building paid off the mortgage and put money in their pocket. So one day I said to myself, you know, I just want to be like my parents like when it's time for me to retire, I don't want to have to worry about how to make ends meet per se. So that was the impetus to this. Once I got into the music business and realized that, you know, it's one of the few businesses, especially for us as minorities, where, you know, you walk in and six months or a year, you could be making six figures, right? As a young person, there's no guidance, there's no financial planning, you know, there's no one telling you what the value of six-figure you might be making more than your Senator, right? [00:37:23] Benny Pough: As a music person, so for me, staying in lockstep with what my parents were doing, I realized making this money, I had to prepare for my exit. So every bonus I bought a piece of property, you know, I bought a single family. I bought a single condo. I bought multi-units. I bought buildings. And to the point we were talking about, you know, I had even owned up to a city block at one point. So the benefit of the business was very, very giving to me and realizing that at one day it would end, that you'd have to create no different than any other entrepreneur, people who are out on their own in their own small business, you have to create your own retirement because one day you can be making a six figures or a seven-figure salary. And then the next day that's gone. It may never come back. So you can't live in the moment of just what you're receiving. You need to think about what you're receiving, also to be planning for the day when that's not there, right? So it's important, very, very important for young people or old people who are now, in their careers, figuring out the next steps is that you should always plan for the future. [00:38:33] Dan Runcie: Well said, and I feel like I can hear some of the insights already that you're likely going to be sharing in the book you have coming out.[00:38:40] Benny Pough: Oh, absolutely. [00:38:41] Dan Runcie: So talk to me a little bit more about the book. I'm sure that this conversation highlights some of those things that you want to share, but what are some of the things that we may not have covered that are the key themes from the book that you have coming out? [00:38:54] Benny Pough: So On Impact spawned from a near-death car accident that took place in 2014, hit a tree at 90 miles an hour, sustained a level two concussion. That's when you black out from one to five minutes, L3-4 vertebrae fracture, bulging disk in my back, lacerated liver, and severed two feet of my small intestine. And in that moment, God put a book inside of me called On Impact, which is an acronym for intuition, mastery, pivot, authenticity, connection, and teamwork. And what it does is takes the reader for me with my first job that was, at 11 years old, delivering newspapers to modern day with an undercurrent of music because the majority of my life, I spent in the music business. And at the end of each chapter, I put together what's called a hit list or takeaways from each chapter for an individual to now apply to their daily lives and say pretty much if Benny could do it, I could do it, too. So it's a roadmap for interns to CEOs because I've done both. [00:39:52] Dan Runcie: Nice. When's the date for it coming out? [00:39:57] Benny Pough: September 27th, 2022. [00:39:57] Dan Runcie: Exciting stuff. Exciting stuff, man. I feel like it will be, and I'm sure it already feels like it's going to be a ton of work leading up to it, but I am sure that once you're actually in the thick of it, you're seeing people resonate with it, like that's where the real reward comes from, right? You wanted to be able to share these insights, of course, life-changing and life-threatening challenges and accidents that you have to go through. But that's what gives you the clarity to be able to share this. So hopefully it can provide someone else and hopefully many others with the same insights.[00:40:31] Benny Pough: I think what happens for us is we don't get an opportunity to get the lessons when we need them. So, what I want this to be is a roadmap of giving people an opportunity to see, guess what, there are a lot of similarities for others just like myself. And now you don't have to struggle to figure it out. This is here for you. So I'm excited to share this with the world and give those who just need that little extra push and insight. Come get it. [00:41:00] Dan Runcie: And they're in the right spot. Good stuff. Well, Benny, this has been a pleasure. We covered so much in your career, what you've been doing since then, especially on the entrepreneurial front, and also with other ventures, but for anyone that wants to keep tabs on you and follow what you're doing. Where could they follow and keep up with you? [00:41:19] Benny Pough: All my socials are @bennypough, B E N N Y P O U G H. And come visit my website. bennypough.com anytime. [00:41:27] Dan Runcie: Good stuff. Benny, it's been a pleasure. Thank you. [00:41:29] Benny Pough: All right, Dan.[00:41:31] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Best-selling author Zack O’Malley Greenburg and I took a break for a new Dad-girl duties to talk about the latest headlines in the music industry — namely Irv Gotti selling a 50-percent ownership stake in Murder Inc.’s past music recordings. He got $100 million from Iconoclast for the deal, plus another $200-million credit line to fund future media endeavors Irv has planned. After the sale, Irv did an interview with Billboard and quipped that monetary-wise, the music industry is the “lowest form” in entertainment compared to film and television. Zack and I debated that during our episode comparing top-line revenues for each entertainment vertical, plus how Irv’s deal compares to other splashy catalog sales in the past two years. We also dived into a guest post on Zack’s Substack about how “moods” has become the new classification for music, not genres anymore. Discovery algorithms deployed by streaming services have pushed listeners toward moods — and away from regionalism (e.g. Houston-style “chopped and screwed”) and loyalty to particular record labels. It’s also another tell-tale sign that Gen Z is more fluid, less rigid than prior generations with their labels. Below are all the music-industry topics Zack and I covered throughout the episode, plus a special segment on becoming Dad’s in the past two months:[0:55] Baby Duties For Zack & Dan[4:11] Irv Gotti Calls Music Industry “Lowest Form” In Entertainment [6:09] Zack Still Gets Royalties for “Lorenzo’s Oil”[7:52] Top-Line Revenues: Music vs. Movie Industry[8:59] New Artist Perspective Skewing Perception Of Music Business[11:04] Did Irv Gotti’s Deal Get Made Before Market Correction? [13:08] Irv’s Deal Was For Masters, Not Publishing[13:50] Crowning Jewel of Murder Inc’s Catalog[18:23] Why Mood Is The New Musical Genre[19:26] Gen Z Uses Labels Less Than Prior Generations[25:53] Post Malone The Genre-Agnostic Artist[27:10] Did Streaming End Regionalism In Music? [29:53] Fan Attachment To Record Labels Has Disappeared[32:30] Stories From Two New Girl Dads[38:21] First Music Show For The New Babies?Tiffany Ng’s article on music being categorized by moods, not genre: https://zogblog.substack.com/p/why-mood-is-the-new-musical-genreListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Zack O’Malley Greenburg, @zogblog Sponsors: MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Our generation, in general, is pretty hung up on labels. You know, everything from music to sexuality, to whatever, you know, it's like things have to be classified and, you know, there's kind of an obsession over putting things in buckets. Whereas I think Gen Z has a lot more about fluidity and sort of like, you know, questioning why we need these labels at all to begin with, or at least, like, maybe we should just loosen up a little bit about them, which I think makes a ton of sense, you know? [00:00:34] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:55] Dan Runcie: This episode is the first one I'd done in a little bit, took a quick break from recording. My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world last month, so took some time, focused on family, and finally, ready to get back into the swing of things. And there's no better person to do it with than my friend, Zack O'Malley Greenburg, who recently is coming back from paternity to leave himself. Him and his wife just had a kid in May, and the past couple of months, Zack and I have been talking about our journeys, both leading up to this moment and after. So, and given what we cover in both music and entertainment, it was a good time to catch up on a few recent headlines. First, we talked about Irv Gotti and the $300 million deal he did for selling his Murder Inc. Catalog, doing a deal with Iconoclast for further stuff in media, TV, and film. And this statement that Irv Gotti made about music being the lowest-monetized form of entertainment. Zack and I had some thoughts, so we broke that down. We also talked about one of the articles that was a guest post in Zack's ZOGBLOG that he had published that was about moods in music and how moods and music are definitely taking over genres, especially in streaming, and how that may shape the future of how music's released and monetized. We're getting away from these genre legacy terms like country, rap, and pop and moving more so into chill vibes, or other things that are named by hyperspecific Spotify playlists. And Zack and I saves a little bit of time at the end for Girl Dad Life, where we chatted about some of our mutual experiences and some funny moments that we've experienced so far with having kids and what's that's been like with newborns specifically, so hope you enjoy this episode. Here's my chat with Zack. [00:02:42] Dan Runcie: All right. We're back with another episode. And I'm joined by my guy who is also probably with limited sleep, fresh off of paternity leave himself, Zack, how are you holding up these days, man?[00:02:54] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Not too bad. I think we got eight hours last night out of Riley, little Riley. So life is definitely getting a little bit more normal but it's, it's all good. sleep or no sleep. It's just a blast. [00:03:06] Dan Runcie: Ah, love to hear it. I'll hopefully be at that eight-hour stretch soon, a couple of weeks behind you with a newborn, but we'll save some time at the end to catch up on Girl Dad Life. [00:03:16] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: All right.[00:03:17] Dan Runcie: Let's start things at the top though. We got some big topics we want to dive into, but this first one that caught my eye, and it sounds like it caught your eye, too. This quote is from Irv Gotti, who just did this huge deal. Of course, Irv Gotti, CEO, one of the founders of Murder Inc. He was able to do a $300 million deal recently with Iconoclast, where he was able to sell his share, his 50% share of Murder Inc.'s masters for $100 million. And plus he also got a $200 million line of credit. That's going to be specifically used for future TV and film projects that are likely going to be based off of some of the Murder Inc. IP or other things. But in an interview that he did talking about this deal with Billboard, he said this quote, and I've been thinking a lot about it.[00:04:11] Dan Runcie: He said, "Entertainment industry is music, TV, and film," right? "The music business is the lowest form, and I just bagged a hundred million dollars for some shit I did 20 years ago." And the interviewer then follows up and it's like, you know, can you say more? And he says, "It's just the facts. More money is made in TV and with movies than music. It’s a non-disputable fact. We love the music industry and I love the music industry. There’s money to be made. But [it’s dwarfed by] the money made from TV and film. If I have 100 episodes of television and I own it, they’ll probably put a worth on it at $300 or $400 million. With $300 or $400 million, I could sell it at a 10 to 20 multiple. That’s three to six billion. This is why Tyler Perry is a billionaire. That’s why I sold my masters and did this deal with Iconoclast." So I pause and, although I get what he's saying and I think there is some interesting discussion there, I think there's a lot of nuances there. And I'm not quite sure if I'm completely on board with him on this. That said, I think Irv Gotti is great. I always loved what Murder Inc. did, but I think that this particular statement is a bit more nuanced, especially with what we've seen happening in music the past few years. [00:05:29] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. I mean, you know, and I think he got into some fuzzy math there at the end. I mean, I don't know, you know, to multiply what by 10? And we're talking how many billion dollars? Like, when Disney pay a billion for the entire Star Wars library, so, I know that was a great deal for them and it's worth a lot more now. I think the math might be a little bit off, but I would kind of flip it and say, you know, sure. You know, there are movies that gross billions of dollars or, you know, hundreds of millions or into the billions, low billions. But like, there aren't albums that do that. Okay, but, you know, in terms of libraries, I mean, we just saw Bruce Springsteen get half a billion dollars for his.[00:06:09] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: I mean, we're seeing, you know, masters in publishing go for hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that Irv Gotti got a hundred million dollars for half of the Murder Inc. catalog. I mean, that's a wild number. No, not to sort of sleep on the Murder Inc. catalog, but, you know, it's not Bruce Springsteen. So, you know, I think that actually, the fact that he was able to get a hundred million dollars shows that the music industry is actually alive and well, right, in terms of the valuations. So yeah, I'm not, I'm not sure how much I, I, I agree with that, especially when you look at, you know, like for example, I was in a movie when I was a kid. The movie's called Lorenzo's Oil and I played Lorenzo. It's a, a big role, and I still get checks for 60 bucks, you know, every few months. And that's nice. And I'm sure that Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon who were in it get much bigger checks, but, you know, they can't really go and, like, sell that catalog. You know, you don't have masters as an actor. I suppose you could go and sell the royalty streams or companies let you do that now, but it's not the same in terms of intellectual property. There's not like an equivalent to, you know, songwriting you know, like the sort of, the same kind of IP that, you know, at least, if you are an actor or an artist, or, you know, you would have access into your, to your masters in a way that you wouldn't as an actor unless maybe you're Tom Cruise and you negotiate some crazy backend deal. So, I think the grass is a little bit greener on the music side than Irv is, is giving credit for. [00:07:42] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I think the difference that you're highlighting is that it's not so much the top-line number. It's more so just how the business model under that number is distributed between who owns the underlying content and who doesn't. And I think if you're Irv and you're trying to compare this from this perspective of, if you're in music and you're trying to do a deal with Universal, whether you're an artist or you were an indie label at the time, trying to do a distribution deal or some type of joint venture. I forget exactly what Murder Inc. had at the time. But comparing that isn't the same to comparing what Tyler Perry is doing because even what Tyler Perry's doing, he is very much a unicorn in that right. There's not that many actors that are owning the underlying IP of the work that they're doing. Tyler Perry is the writer, the director, the producer for all of these things. That's why he is getting those things. And that is a very unique use case because in most cases, those are all different people in television. And I think, to be honest, TV is likely getting even murkier now because so much of the money that was going into these projects was based on this concept that these video streaming services could just have infinite growth and just keep growing and growing.[00:08:59] Dan Runcie: And now we're kind of reaching this point where people are like, okay, Netflix had 220 billion people paying $10, $15, almost $20 a month. Maybe that was as high as it could potentially go. I mean, I think there's plenties to break down there, but if those dollars aren't going to be as high as they may have been in that perspective, then we're going to see the shift. I did look at some top-line numbers, which are, I think, a good way to kind of balance things out. The music industry almost made $30 billion last year. I think it was around $28 billion last year for recorded music overall. So that does not include concerts or any of those things. I know that Irv isn't referring to that, but then if you look at the box office, I mean, that's more money than the global box office made, granted last year was a pandemic year so I know it's a bit tough to compare these things. And there's a lot more other things there, but it's not so much that this industry itself doesn't make as much money 'cause, yeah, you mentioned Bruce just got half a billion for all of his stuff. He owns this stuff and you know, that, you know, Born in the U.S.A. is going to be playing for decades, at least with, you know, as long as your Baby Boomers, and Gen X, and I guess even Millennials that are big Springsteen fans continue to listen. But I think that's different than how Irv might be looking at it. The thing is though it's not just Irv. I think that has its perspective. I think a lot of other folks have that perspective too, but I think it stems from when you are at the lowest rung of being the talent in the particular industry, I think music at that stage is likely a bit less advantageous than it may be for, you know, an actor per se. And maybe that's a bit of the difference where if you're a musician that's just signing on for a deal, it's going to take a lot longer for you to maybe recoup that money than an actor would, you know, signing on for an equivalent level size of something. But that's definitely very different than putting that as a global claim about the broader industry. [00:11:04] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: That's true, but I, I would still argue that if you are an artist getting into the game as a, as a musician, the default would be that you would probably have shared ownership of your masters. If you were an actor getting into the acting game, the default is like you get an okay chunk of money for one movie, you know. It doesn't come with IP in the way that it would. And so it's not until later in your career that you can start to say, Hey, I want to be a director. I want to be a producer. Until you start to get, or, you know, or maybe you're kind of DIY from the beginning and, and you're doing it, all of it yourself, but that's, that's so unusual. You know, I don't know. I mean, I, I think the other thing too, is that like, and maybe this is part of what Irv was alluding to, I mean, that a hundred million dollars that he got, that to me seemed like a number that was more along the lines of the stuff we were seeing, you know, six months to a year ago before interest rates doubled. And we kind of stopped hearing about these big deals. So I wonder if that deal, and I kind of asked around a little bit and I couldn't get a, a firm answer, but I would suspect that that deal, you know, was agreed upon you know, like last fall or something before the economic environment changed and, you know, and it just didn't close until now 'cause these, these deals can take six months to a year to close and, and that's why, you know, you've got such a good multiple. But like these days, you know, when the interest rate is, like, gone from 3% to 6% or whatever, I guess it depends on the kind of deals you're doing, but, you know, that's a huge difference. And it sort of like makes buying music assets a lot less interesting because you know, when just, like normal financial instruments, you know, and not to get, like, too nerdy about it, but, you know, in the bond market are generating something closer to what a music catalog would do. I think, like, these big financial institutions are going to be more inclined to kind of like lean on their expertise rather than trying to, to do these exotic things or, you know, get involved with, with music catalogs and intellectual property and that sort of thing. [00:13:08] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I could see that. I think the other piece of this, too, that may get lost in some of the details, especially, is that this isn't a publishing catalog deal. This is masters, at least partial ownership there, or not partial ownership, but at least the revenue generating from at least half of what Irv had, and at least in streaming, your recorded revenue from the master side is at least three to four times higher than what the publishers are getting. Of course, there have been some, there's some recent changes where the publisher royalty has increased. I think increased from 10 and a half percent to 15.1% recently. So that'll help, but still, that piece of it does in many ways, so even, let's say you were to compare this number for the Murder Inc.'s masters to let's say what Justin Timberlake got for his catalog deal. You can't necessarily compare that because Timberlake's was for the piece of the music sound recordings that were less valuable, relatively speaking, at least currently than this. So I do think sometimes, like, those things do get lost in it, but it would be interesting to see, yeah, what would that be like now if those deals were starting to shine a closer look if those conversations were happening? I think it would be interesting and also a bit unique because this deal is with Iconoclast. This isn't one of the standard players that we've seen that are handing out, you know, the nine-figure checks to these companies. Who knows what the conversations could have been like with Hipgnosis or Round Hill or some of the others. I feel like he may have alluded to that to some extent in the interview, but it was hard to get a sense specifically.[00:14:52] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. And you also wonder, I mean, how much, if it was about, you know, being able to say, oh, now we have a catalog that, like, there is some Jay-Z in there. There's some DMX in there. I think there's some J.Lo in there. You know, in addition to like a lot of Ja Rule and Ashanti, and you know, but that's kind of like a trophy to have that. You know, I don't know that it's quite so often that you know, anything by Jay-Z comes up. I think it was, there's a piece of Can I Live on there, which, which is pretty cool, so, you know, that that might have added, you know, a certain premium to it. [00:15:23] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I was going to ask you that. What do you think is the crowning jewel of this catalog? I mean, every one of these catalog sales, it has the typical 80- 20 or the power law thing, where there is a few big songs that are really generating everything. I mean, you mentioned J.Lo. I mean, I'm Real has to be one of the biggest Murder Inc. songs they had, or maybe Always On Time with, you know, Ja Rule and Ashanti. Are there any others that stick out?[00:15:48] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: I mean, the Jay-Z one for sure. Which DMX song was it? It was a pretty big one. I think it's What's My Name? [00:15:54] Dan Runcie: Oh, What's My Name. Oh, that, that was on X's catalog. That was Ruff Ryders and Def Jam. [00:15:58] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Oh, that was. Okay. [00:15:59] Dan Runcie: But Jay-Z, they, they were on It's Murda though, right? It's Murda from Ja Rule's Venni Vetti Vecci that had Jay and DMX. [00:16:07] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: That's right. Okay.[00:16:08] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Is that right?[00:16:09] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: It was, it was some, it was like somewhere in the discography. I was looking at it though. Oh, well, I'll track it down someday. We'll have to talk about it the next time. But there was, there was a big DMX single that somehow ended up on there that caught my eye. But, you know, like a lot of the Ja Rule stuff, I think. I think maybe Livin' It Up was on there. [00:16:26] Dan Runcie: Oh, yeah, that was big.[00:16:27] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: That's a huge one.[00:16:29] Dan Runcie: Yeah, like Down 4 U, like Down Ass Bitch, like, you had a few of those that were in it. I think Ashanti had some big ones, too, like Foolish. Foolish was huge. [00:16:38] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. Oh, yeah, here. Okay, it says What's My Name. It said that he produced What's My Name. So that's why, even though it wasn't...[00:16:45] Dan Runcie: Oh, interesting.[00:16:47] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. What's Luv? That's a huge one. [00:16:50] Dan Runcie: Oh, that's a big one. Yep. With Fat Joe and Ashanti, yep. [00:16:53] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. Yeah. Can I Live, Holla Holla, you know, so there's, there's some really good stuff on there. And I think you're right. It's probably, there's a couple, you know, without us having a, a look at the statements, it's hard to know, but it, it wouldn't surprise me if one of those songs is just like a sleeper hit that just continues to, I mean, we know it's a big hit, but it, it could be, like, way more lucrative than we ever imagined. Or one of those could have been in a movie, you know, more, more than the others or something like that. So, you know, I think a lot of these songs are going to be, actually, that's what one of the lawyers I reached out to about this said. He was like, you know, there's a lot of stuff in there that is very interesting from the sync perspective. You know, to the sort of like Millennial, Xennial crowd that grew up on that that would love to see it in movies, and TV, and video games, so yeah, that could be part of it, too.[00:17:38] Dan Runcie: Big on sync. Also, big on the likelihood of being turned into some viral TikTok trend. I don't know if that is a quantifiable metric they're using, but I would, I think it is. I just think of so many, the TikTok things that blow up and that era of early 2000s, late 90s hip-hop has done really well in a lot of ways. And sometimes it's so random, but I do think that that Murder Inc. sound captures so much of that. It's only before long that someone finds some, like, weird thing that happened in one of the music videos, and then that then becomes viral, and then it becomes like a whole TikTok viral campaign. [00:18:16] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yep. Yep. Although don't know how, how much they'll be getting paid from TikTok, but that's a whole other, that's a whole other story.[00:18:23] Dan Runcie: We'll have to save that one for our next, for the next chat. We got to see how that whole situation firms up. But so the next topic that we want to talk about is a fascinating piece that was a guest post that was written by someone that you had worked with, Tiffany, and she wrote a really interesting essay on why mood is the new musical genre. And when you picked me on this, I read it, and it stuck out because I was like, you know what? It's a hundred percent right. If you look at Spotify and you look at how all these streaming services have shifted, how music is being consumed and listened to. Yeah, it isn't rock, pop country, hip-hop. It's a lo-fi chill vibes. It's, you know, backyard barbecue hang. It's all of these super niche things that reflect a lot more of where music listening is going. And I could only imagine there's so many broader implications that it can have, but I'd love to hear what you think about it. [00:19:26] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah, absolutely. So I've been out on paternity leave and, you know, not really writing, but Tiffany who's a really great writer and, and was doing some research for me while she was a senior at, at my alma mater, at Yale. And, and she and I were actually, we worked on the same, basically, arts and culture desk on the school newspaper, you know, whatever it was, 15 years apart. So she, while I was out, she wrote this great long piece kind of talking about how, you know, from her generation's perspective, this idea that, yeah, that you would classify things by genre or really identify yourself as like a hip-hop fan or a rock fan or whatever, is all kind of moot. It's like an old people thing. And that her generation is more about moods and, and like you say, it's backyard barbecue or whatever it is. And people don't, you know, really care about genres so much anymore, you know, amongst the sort of Gen Z crowd, and she, you know, really kind of dug into some, I think, great examples of it and talked about Spotify classifications and how they put together, Audio Auras that give you your kind of, like, yearend picture of your listening tastes. And I think it's a really great point. And I think that, you know, our generation, in general, is pretty hung up on labels. You know, everything from music to sexuality, to whatever, you know, it's like things are, have to be classified and, you know, there's kind of an obsession over putting things in buckets. Whereas I think Gen Z is, is a lot more about fluidity and sort of like, you know, questioning why we need these labels at all to begin with, or at least like, maybe we should just loosen up a little bit about them, which I think makes a ton of sense, you know? I mean, I remember when Halsey put out that song, New Americana, and she talked about being raised on Biggie and Nirvana. And I was like, yeah, that's me. Like, I get that. But that always felt weird when people were like, well, what kind of music are you into? And I was like hip-hop, and grunge rock, and like some other stuff. That was always sort of weird, but I think it's good to see the next generation kind of embrace that more and that's what the article kind of dug into.[00:21:22] Dan Runcie: The label and generation identification is a huge thing. Do you remember growing up when the labels of how we were and folks were in middle school and high school was such a thing that people went down the road, it was like, oh, you're a skater? Oh, then you listen to Linkin Park. Then you listen to this and you dress, and you wear like JNCO jeans, like with the chain hanging from the back of your pocket to the front or whatever. You're a prep? Okay, you shop at Abercrombie & Fitch. You're probably wearing Adidas Superstars and you probably, I don't know, clothes from, like Structure or like Express, and stuff like that. Like, there were all these buckets, too, and then it extended as well. If you listen to hip. You probably wore Timberlands. You probably had Nike Air Force 1s, Ecko, or whatever the popular clothes were at times. Like, all of these things and this generation and timeframe is just like, no, that's not the case. And I think this mood thing factors in a lot of that. I think we're almost seeing this to some extent with things we've kind of just seen, like regionality as well. [00:22:29] Dan Runcie: Like, I've heard a lot of people talk about how from, you know, certain generations it's like, oh, like, well, people in Seattle, they dress like this. Like, you could go to Seattle, walk or like, you know, the Pacific Northwest and everyone's wearing flannel like it's a Nirvana music video or whatever. Or if you go down south, like I would visit my cousins in Florida growing up and they would be listening to Ying Yang Twins and all these other songs that were popular at the time. And we just weren't listening to that stuff nearly as much growing up in the Northeast. And it hit that vibe. And I think now, too, because of the internet, so much of that generationality piece just, or not the generationality, the geographical identity is also dissipated, too, where people in Seattle can, you know, feel no different, especially from a youth perspective, could feel no different than someone growing up in Miami or Fort Lauderdale or whatever it is. So I'm curious to see how is that going to shape? Even the legacy labels that we do have on things. I think that the Grammys is, you know, clearly an institution that has prided itself on the number of options that it's given particular artists to have and celebrate their particular genre of music based on these legacy labels. I think it takes a lot of time for those things to change, but will we see that? Could you eventually see things where I think pop radio in a lot of ways? And radio, in general, is still one of the things that's still holding onto this generational, you know, label divides much to a fault because I think there's still certain types of artists that are precluded from being heard on Z100 or being heard on your mainstream stations, so, I think that it may still take time to get there, but I'm curious to see what did that look like 20 years, 20 years from now? Will we still see the same restrictions on radio and in award ceremonies? 'Cause I think those are the two areas that feel harder to disrupt than the broader culture that already has been disrupted by it.[00:24:32] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. And one of the other things that Tiffany wrote about in this article which you, oh, you can read it, just it's zogblog.com, and you can go through the newsletter. It's the latest post. I'll be back writing in a week or two, I think. But anyway, it's up there on zogblog.com and she said, she pointed out the IGOR one for best rap album, even though it's not really a rap album. Like, it's already happening, right, like, in categories at the Grammy's. So, right, like how, how soon until we start to change that or, or even have sort of like, broader, you know, kinds of labels. Like, what if it's like, you know, best chill album, you know? Best barbecue album? I don't know. So I'd love to see how that, how that kind of turns out. But, man, I remember, you know, in the nineties, when you would sort of put on your AOL profile what kind of music you listen to. A lot of people sort of also define themselves in opposition to certain genres. They're like, I listen to anything but country and rap, you know? That, I remember a lot of people that, anything but rap, anything but country. That was sort of their battle cry. And you know, I just don't see too much of that anymore. And I think that's a great thing, you know, like, why should you have to limit your taste? It's like, you know, you don't want to be a traitor to, to your emo, whatever, by, by listening to hip-hop. But now we have like emo hip-hop. It's great. I think it's cool that we have, you know, all these kinds of like mixings and subgenres.[00:25:53] Dan Runcie: Yeah, if anything, I think I'll see the angst more for particular artists themselves and not necessarily the broader genre, right? Like, I know there's people that, you know, they just don't like Post Malone for a number of reasons. And it's like, I get it, but you can't put Post Malone in a musical category to be like, oh, I don't like this type of music 'cause I guarantee you, whatever, you know, genre of music, you want to put him in, there's going to be an artist that sounds like him, may not look like him, may not have a fan base that, you know, vibes the way that his does, but you're probably going to like something of that, you know, type of thing, right?[00:26:30] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I've gotten into so many arguments about how to classify Post Malone. Some people say he is hip-hop, which I don't really, I wouldn't classify him as hip-hop. Is he pop? I guess. I guess that's what you'd call it, but, you know, I wouldn't really say that he's rock.[00:26:45] Dan Runcie: I would call him pop, yeah.[00:26:47] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Pop yeah. Pop or sad frat party or something, you know? I mean, mood. I think mood is a great way with him, too. [00:26:54] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I mean, is there any other broader implication that you can think of with how moods will just continue to shift over time and how moods may play a bigger role in music, either how it's consumed or how it's monetized? [00:27:10] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: You know, I mean, I think really what's on my mind about that right now is I go back to what you were saying about regionalism. And, you know, I wonder if sort of this movement away from labels of genre, more toward labels of mood has to do with the fact that you know, there's sort of like, you know, national moods almost that you can attach to music in a way that you couldn't when things were sort of regional. And, you know, there was that whole moment where radio, sort of like the consolidation of radio, that kind of switch over to like the clear channel model. And you, you had sort of like the same, you know, whatever it was, KISS-FM or something like that, and you had these big playlists that were just kind of on rotation, the same playlists like all over the country, and you kind of lost a little bit of that local flavor. But actually, you know, as people were lamenting that the whole thing shifted over to streaming. And there's no regional streaming, right? And so I think it sort of follows that mood would sort of like become a new means of classification because once you eliminate the regional aspect to it you know, I don't know, it's, it's sort of like it maybe unnecessary movement to happen over time. And I think, you know, There's some cons to losing the regionalism and, you know, you get some unique sounds and certainly within hip-hop, it was really cool to see like Houston versus Bay Area, you know, like very specific microclimate-type sounds that you could get that, that, you know, within kind of bubble up and percolate into different like more mainstream hip-hop sounds. But you know, then again, I think it's cool to just other genres meld into other genres and have that be kind of the mixing that happens too. So, you know, pros and cons, but I think, I think there are a lot of pros to the mood thing over the genre label thing.[00:29:00] Dan Runcie: So before long, we're going to have to pour some out for the dirty south hip-hop playlist. Got so much play over time.  And maybe this regionalism trend or trend away from regionalism is just the way things are going. This is a sports analogy, more so, and there's other reasons behind it. But I look at what's happening in college sports right now with these major teams joining the Big Ten, joining the you know, or the Big East no longer really being a thing, and how so much of that is just a sign of where things are right now. And so much of what people really appreciated about what these conferences could tell you about a particular place in the country, that's not necessarily going to be the case if, you know, Texas and its whole culture is coming and joining, you know, joining the ECC, right? It's just very different. [00:29:53] Dan Runcie: And I think to bring this conversation full circle, too, it's like, I've heard through the grapevines about record labels that had wanted to start their own metaverse experiences and being like, okay, this is the record label's metaverse experience. And then someone wisely told them, Hey, no one cares about your record label. Like, that's not the draw here. Like, I mean, in the folks that are inside the industry, of course, you can share the accolades and stuff like that. But the fans care about the artists. They're not going to be drawn. Like, the days are done of people being like, oh yeah, no Def Jam, like, in the heyday, I'm there. Like, that's just not how it works anymore. [00:30:29] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. You know, I mean, if you're really in the business, you know, which labels have which ethos. But, you know, it, it really has blurred together more and more. And yeah, I think in the old days, you know, people would be like, oh, I'm an Atlantic records fan. You know, because when they pulled out that vinyl, you know, they saw that logo, and they knew that there was a certain type of artist and that Atlantic Records were a curator of the type of music that they liked. And maybe it wasn't the same genre always, but there was, you know, they knew that it would be good. But if you're a casual listener, there's not really even an opportunity to easily know what label anybody is on. So why would you care? And I think, especially since you know, I mean, I think there was a heyday in the nineties of hip-hop artists shouting out the record labels that they were on or that they owned and that was sort of, you know, important. Definitely, like Ruff Ryders had a very different ethos from Bad Boy. And, you know, you might classify yourself, you know, more in one bucket or another and identify with that. But I think so much of that has just dissipated in the streaming era, 'cause yeah, you're not looking at a physical thing. So you know, who knows, who cares what labels anybody on, and why the hell would you really want to go to an individual label metaverse thing? I'm glad somebody told them that they shouldn't be doing that anymore. [00:31:43] Dan Runcie: Definitely. No, definitely. All right. Well, we saved some time at the end for the section that's near and dear to both of us, as, you know, if you followed either my writing or Zack's writing recently, you know, that we both had kids very recently. So Zack had his daughter in May. I had mine in June, and it's been great to just, you know, connect and bond and hear more about how things were for both of us leading up to this point and now after. So I figured now that we're on the other side of it with relatively newborn and young children, we could have a little section here called Girl Dad Life, where we each share one interesting or funny experience that's happened for both of us trying to navigate fatherhood here. So Zack, I'll let you start. What's your experience been like? And what's yours?[00:32:30] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. You know, less than a, like a specific story, it's really more about an overall vibe mood, if you will. Man, I know it sounds corny, but the moment you become a parent, this compartment opens up inside of you and it's just filled with a new capacity to love that you didn't know was in there. And it just is like overwhelming and beautiful and is, is the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I think that one of the things, you know, like I think the best advice I would give is, is that there's no, like, right way to do it. And people have been having babies for a very long time without all the gear and whatever, and we've survived, as the human race. But I think the thing that, that always surprises and delights me is that you know, Riley, despite being eight weeks old, I mean, from the very beginning, has been a little human who, who knows what she wants. And it's like pretty straightforward. If she's crying, you know, she needs to go to sleep. She needs food or she needs a diaper change. And if she doesn't like that, it's time to put on, like, any number of different songs or albums that she likes. And she's, talk about a musical omnivore. Oh, my God. She loves, like, Shirley Bassey, Big Spender. She loves Biggie, Mo Money Mo Problems. You know, she's really like, no genre constraints when you're an infant. And I think it's just really cool to see that, you know, she could be crying and then that beat comes on and she starts smiling, you know?[00:34:00] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: I would also say like, I, I read this book called Bringing Up Bébé, and it's all about the French method of child-rearing. And they're really big into this idea of, like, the baby is a human with thoughts and preferences the minute they come out of the womb and sort of just like paying attention, you know, and, and also giving them a second to try to figure whatever it is out. Like, if your baby starts to cry, you know, don't necessarily just, like, drop everything, rush in and, you know, give your baby a second to try to figure it out. And sometimes they won't. And then you go and tend to them, but, like, if you don't give them a chance to figure it out as babies, then they'll never be able to sort of figure it out on their own as adults. So I thought that was a really cool insight. How about you? [00:34:43] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It's funny. You recommended that book to me, a couple of other friends did too. And I read it and yeah, it was a really an interesting read and it was a good reminder of, like, yeah, people have been doing this for plenty of years, and just because your baby doesn't have the newest, fanciest insert whatever, stroller, bassinet this and that, like, the fact that you're thinking about this to this extent means that you'll probably be fine and the baby will be fine. But a few funny stories that we have that I could share, so one of them when we were in the labor delivery phase, one of the folks that was in the room with us, she was a volunteer doula that was helping with a few things. She had asked me, she was like, oh, did you want me to take pictures? Because she could see I was trying to, like, multitask. My wife had wanted me to take some pictures and I was like, yeah, sure. So then not only did she take pictures, she took a video of everything, from like the moment of, you know, when my wife started pushing to everything after. And then I remember like when, you know, my wife was still recovering, I watched it, and I was like, oh wow, I did not realize she captured everything. And then my wife was just like, I do not want to see that. And then I think she heard me watch it. And then she was like, okay, I have to see that. She was like, was that me? Like? I was like, yes, yes, that was you. But it's okay. You know, completely normal, unexpected. So that's, what's there. But, yeah, I mean, I couldn't agree with you more on, you know, everything from the love, life-changing perspective, you know, something we had wanted, and, you know, it's been so good from that perspective and just pick it up on cues and stuff. There are definitely a few funny moments that we'll always crack ourselves up as 'cause you have to, right? It's like, I mean, you know, we both know what it's like with the whole sleep deprived, everything and, and all that. But you do start to notice the baby's patterns and stuff. And like how they'll react to, you know, when you're either about to feed or when you're about to give a bottle or any of those things and just the instant reaction, so. It's something else. But, you know, it's been good. I mean, we're recording today. Today's actually one month since she was born. [00:36:38] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Oh, my gosh. [00:36:39] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Time has is flown by, time has flown by. And this is, like, the first podcast I had done since then. Everything else up to this point had been pre-recorded stuff we planned, so slowly getting back into the swing of things. I think I'll most likely be back in like a full-time perspective, maybe sometime later this month, but I think, you know, just going slowly week by week there. It feels good to have the work stuff to mix in with everything, but like, life-changing in the best way.[00:37:03] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah, well so you're coming up on five weeks and actually one of my favorite moments so far happened at five weeks. My wife and I went out with Riley  and we went out for dinner at a sidewalk cafe in New York. And, you know, Riley's, like, sleeping, we're having a great time and chatting and eating. And you know, after maybe like an hour, she starts crying, and so I take her out and I'm kind of rocking her, and she's crying. And there are these ladies sitting next to us  and I was like, oh, I'm so sorry.  And they're both like, no, really don't worry, we have babies at home. And my wife goes, do you have any advice for us? And the one lady goes, how old's your baby? And Danielle says five weeks. And she goes, honey, you don't need any advice. You're at a restaurant with the five week old.  Like, God bless you.  And that was exactly, exactly what we needed to hear. And I think it's also like a great indication of, you know, your old life isn't over. You could still do stuff. You just have to plan it a little more carefully and be flexible. And  I was shocked like if you had told me a couple months ago that I'd be doing that at five weeks, I wouldn't have believed you. But it's been really cool to just have the summer to chill out and spend time with Riley, and it's so cool to be having like the same timing as you would kind of like  go through the milestones, so. [00:38:18] Dan Runcie: Definitely. When do you think you'll bring Riley to a music festival or some type of event like that where she's wearing the headphones and you and Danielle enjoying yourselves?[00:38:29] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: We already got her headphones.[00:38:31] Dan Runcie: Ear muffs, I should say. I said headphones.[00:38:33] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, right, right. Ear muffs. Well, we put them on, we did a trial run on the 4th of July. And initially, she smiled a lot and I think she thought they were pretty cool. And then she was like, get this shit off of me. So I don't know. We actually were thinking of venturing into Central Park to SummerStage. A couple of weeks ago, I think Trombone Shorty was there. And then our plan just got blown up with like the various feeding schedules and things like that. So I don't know. I think we're ready to try. I think it just has to be a SummerStage thing, and it has to be like not too hot or too cold, and go for it. But I think the first time we're just not going to buy tickets. We're just going to stand outside, and see how it goes, you know, for like a half an hour. And then if that's okay, then maybe we'll work our way up. But yeah, I mean, so great to be in a, in a place where live music is just, you know, a short walk away. She hates being in the car, so it's a good thing we're in New York. [00:39:29] Dan Runcie: Perfect. No, that's great. [00:39:32] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: When's your first concert plan? [00:39:34] Dan Runcie: It's funny because last year Outside Lands here in San Francisco was in October. So in my mind, I was like, oh yeah, we could do it in October. But then I forgot that it was a pandemic year and Outside Lands is in August. So that's like two weeks from now. It's, like, the first weekend in August that Outside Lands is, and a concert might be a little much in, you know, two weeks if you're listening to this one week from recording. But I'm hoping that, you know, some early fall, hopefully, we could do something. [00:40:00] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Yeah. Fingers crossed for both of us. [00:40:03] Dan Runcie: Definitely, definitely. Well, Zack, this is a pleasure. Appreciate you coming on. We'll make sure that we link to Tiffany's post in the show notes and, yeah, so next time, we'll hit you up and then, you know, we can definitely save some stuff for our next Girl Dad Life quarter, and I'm sure there'll be plenty of stuff happening in the industry. Everyone's on vacation right now, relaxing, but soon enough things will be ramping back up. [00:40:26] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: Amen. Well, thanks for having me on Dan as always, and best of luck on fatherhood on your end, too. [00:40:31] Dan Runcie: Likewise. Thanks, man. [00:40:32] Zack O'Malley Greenburg: All right.[00:40:34] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. 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Twenty-four years after their debut album, Black Star — the duo of Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey — is back with its sophomore release, “No Fear Of Time.” Talib joined Trapital to discuss the long-awaited return album (which dropped in May) and why it was released exclusively on the paid-subscription podcast platform Luminary. Spurning traditional streaming platforms like Apple Music or Spotify was about serving its true fans, Talib told me during our interview.The pair was already in business with Luminary, hosting an original podcast “The Midnight Miracle” alongside Dave Chappelle. The way Talib sees it, the group’s most dedicated fans — one’s that care about them on a personal level beyond just spitting bars — were already rocking with them on Luminary. And after a career that’s spanned four decades, Talib is more interested in engaging his core fanbase rather than reaching the masses. Disruptive art is on-brand for Black Star. Similarly, Yasiin’s latest solo album was exclusively distributed inside a 10-week art exhibit in Brooklyn. For Talib, he’s blended different musical genres and sounds his entire career. “As an artist, it’s my duty to try everything I can,” he told me on this episode. For a closer look at Talib’s creative and business approach, you’ll want to hear our interview in full. Here’s all our talking points during the episode:[3:16] Black Star’s New Album “No Fear Of Time”[4:10] Why The Album Released Exclusively On Luminary Podcast Network[8:07] Why Talib Moved Away From Patreon[10:37] Art Vs. Business[14:11] What Talib Has Learned In Different Creative Pursuits [15:55] Yasiin Bey Makes Talib “Step Up”[19:23] TikTok’s Influence On Modern-Day Music[23:00] Why Talib Avoided Clubhouse [25:12] Talib Doesn’t Miss Twitter[29:41] Speaking Out Against Online Trolls[33:51] Putting Out Music On “Own Terms”[35:24] Talib Did 200 Shows A Year For Two DecadesListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuests: Talib Kweli, @talibkweli Sponsors:beatBread is your music platform to get funding and stay in control. You can get advances from $1,000 to $2 million, and you keep your masters. To learn more, go to beatBread.com MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Talib Kweli: Most of my music is available for free on YouTube. On Kweliclub.com, you can get all my mixtapes for free. You can get the album Fuck the Money for free. My biggest song Get By, you could, if that shit came on in the store, you could Shazam it and listen to it on Shazam for free, you know what I'm saying?[00:00:16] Talib Kweli: Like, it's got 15 million views on YouTube. You could go listen to it on YouTube for free. You mean to tell me I can't get $10 or $5 or $30 with a new Black Star album with all this free music you're getting? What are we even talking about? You know what I'm saying? Like, how are you ignoring all of this, to complain about this?[00:00:42] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:01:03] Dan Runcie: Today's guest is the one and only Talib Kweli. He is one half of Black Star which is back with its second album since their debut 24 years ago, 24 years. It's crazy how long it's been. But it was great to talk to him about why he chose to release it now and also why he chose to release it exclusively on Luminary.[00:01:25] Dan Runcie: Luminary is a paid audio platform, specifically known for podcasting. So we talked about that decision, why it was important for him and Yasiin to release it on a platform where they already had a podcast and what that means for him moving forward. And what it ultimately focuses on is the quest for autonomy and control and independence in being able to reap the rewards that come from it.[00:01:49] Dan Runcie: This is nothing new to Talib Kweli. He's released music on his own website, Kweli Club. He's used Patreon as well to release his music. So we talked about what the decision was like to release on Luminary and more broadly what this means for him as an artist. He's someone that has toured a lot over the years.[00:02:07] Dan Runcie: So we talked about what it's been like since the pandemic. What it's been like finding the right sound and themes given so much of the conscious rap that Black Star and Talib himself were known for over the years. And we talked about a whole bunch of other trends in the industry. Great conversation, really insightful.[00:02:24] Dan Runcie: Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Here's my chat with Talib Kweli. All right. So today we have the one and only Talib Kweli, one half a Black Star, which is back with its latest album, No Fear of Time. So the album's been out for a little bit, man. How are you feeling? How do you feel about the response? [00:02:41] Talib Kweli: I feel grateful and blessed, and I'm happy that the fans have gotten a chance to hear it. I've been listening to it or iterations of it for a number of years now. And I'm just happy to have gotten it out. [00:02:53] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I bet. I think too, I'm glad that the fans are hearing it 'cause one of the big discussion points about the album, which stuck out to me, was how you chose to release it. And I give you so much respect for doing it on your terms and not necessarily following the main path because we all know that artists have their own autonomy and independence. Like, you don't have to just do the standard thing. So credit to you on that. [00:03:16] Talib Kweli: Well, yeah, you know, all praises due to the most high and really, I give the credit to Yas he was the one that really stuck to his guns on that. You know, my music is widely available or many platforms, not all of it, you know, some, some things I have exclusive, but we've had offers as you can imagine all through the years to ways to put out the Black Star album in a more traditional way.[00:03:37] Talib Kweli: Yasiin stuck to his guns on that. And by default, just me, me being in a group with him, I benefit from that. Because the situation absolutely was a beneficial situation to me and, to be frank with you, one of my most favorite situations I've been in business-wise in terms of my relationship with my art and how it gets out to people.[00:03:59] Dan Runcie: That's good. That's good to hear because I know that you've done a few different things independently. You've released albums on your own website before, you've done Patreon. What made you choose Luminary this time? [00:04:10] Talib Kweli: Well, we were already in a very fruitful relationship with Luminary due to the fact that we had the podcast on Luminary with Dave Chappelle, the Midnight Miracle Podcast.[00:04:19] Talib Kweli: And it was attractive to us, the idea that fans who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, fans that are already spending money with us, fans that are following us enough to know where we at, fans that are interested in our conversation, right? Fans that are interested in us as men, as human beings and not just like feed us, feed us, feed us art, feed us content, but fans that are really interested in what we think and how we see the world and how we see art. [00:04:50] Talib Kweli: Those fans, I feel like, that niche was either already on Luminary rocking with the Midnight Miracle or if they had heard about the Midnight Miracle, that would be exciting to them. And so just automatically it weeds out the people who are like, Nah, I'm not interested in you as a human being. I'm not interested in how you feed your family.[00:05:11] Talib Kweli: I'm not interested in your, your thoughts on the state of the industry. I just like them bars and the beats. I just want to hear the music. But that's not the fan I want, you know, and that's not a fan. That's pop music. Pop music is like a blanket, trying to blanket and cover everything and get every single ear.[00:05:28] Talib Kweli: And I don't need every single ear and I don't need all eyes on me. I just want to rock with the people who want to rock with me. And that, that's the first thing beyond the fact that, you know, the business of Luminary is, that we're in is a fair arrangement. It's not, you know, it's not ownership.[00:05:45] Talib Kweli: It's just fair. It's the antithesis of what happens with most of these streaming networks, most of these DSPs. So it's, it's just a, it's a good situation. And it's not, you know, the news was, was announced that Dave Chappelle at other people had been invested in Luminary. So it's not just something where it's like, we're asking people to come to something that we personally don't put our money where our mouth is, you know what I'm saying? [00:06:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Because that's what I saw. I saw that Dave Chappelle was an investor. I assumed that maybe you and Yasiin were as well. And 'cause I know some people, I wondered, okay, well, if I was going to do $5 a month, is that $5 that I could just put directly in Talib's pocket?[00:06:25] Dan Runcie: But you're like, Hey, we also want to support the people that have clearly been with us, paying for Midnight Miracles, paying for our content. So it's not just about the monetary aspect. It's about being able to share and celebrate with the people that have already been with you. [00:06:39] Talib Kweli: Yeah, exactly. And I can't speak for Yasiin's investment to what he do with his money. You know, that's, that's really his business. I really don't know. But for me, I, I have Kweli Club, as you mentioned, and I'm very proud of Kweli Club, but people are not there. You know, I've never been on Bandcamp. I just started a page on Bandcamp this week for the first time because I've heard about Bandcamp.[00:07:02] Talib Kweli: But in my mind, I'm like I could do that with Kweli Club. I could have my own Bandcamp. And Kweli Club is still rocking and is a unique experience to sell books there, there's product and information and things you could get from me there that you can't get no place else. But now you can also get my music, some of it on Bandcamp and the Black Star album is on Luminary. And I think I'm going to probably do some more things with Luminary. [00:07:23] Talib Kweli: It has all these other podcasts and it's like, whether you're into those podcasts or not, right? Like, you might not want to hear Trevor Noah, or Roxane Gay, or Russell Brand, or some of the other podcasts they have there, or the People's Party, or Midnight Miracle. But you can't say, well, we're just asking you to pay for this album. You can't say that 'cause that's not accurate. What you're paying for, you're getting a lot more than an album. [00:07:47] Dan Runcie: I agree with that. And I think the distinction here, too, that I think about, I know you mentioned on your website, of course, you could do it there, but that's not necessarily whereas many of the fans are, as you mentioned, how does this compare to Patreon? For instance, I know you've used that in the past to release art and release your work specifically.[00:08:07] Talib Kweli: I respect the Patreon audience, and the Patreon people, and the people who started it. It's a very good idea. That is very artist-centric. But for me personally, it was Patreon just like everything else is based on your level of engagement. It's a social media platform, right? So the more you engage there, the better it's going to be.[00:08:25] Talib Kweli: And they got, what, the Discord. They're plugged in LinkedIn with, and it's just for me, we're already engaging on other social media apps to then take that time. And I engage where I enjoy, right? I don't do it just for business. Like, I'm talking about things I enjoy. And also that, because I enjoy the engagement, it's also rewarding to me.[00:08:45] Talib Kweli: It brings followers and listeners, whatever, but you just to add time to do it on Patreon, I didn't, I couldn't get into the engaging in the social media part of Patreon. And I feel like for me personally if you're not going to, I feel like if I wanted to engage to the level of some of the other creators on Patreon, I probably would've done better there, but my interest never, never quite got to there.[00:09:11] Talib Kweli: And so that's what this is, there's no disrespect to that platform. I just think it's a personal taste or what you enjoy doing. And I see, I see people who do very well on Patreon. [00:09:20] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I feel like for you specifically, we are talking about being able to invest in a platform, not just with your money, but with your time as well.[00:09:32] Dan Runcie: And if you're going to get the most out of a platform, you got to put a lot into it. And you already had work in luminaries. So I feel like that connection was there for you. And this also makes me think back to when you had released your Gutter Rainbows album. This was back in 2011, and I feel like at least of what you had written at the time, this was a bit of a, a turning point for you because I think what we're talking about is the autonomy, and the independence, and the impact of that, especially from an economic perspective where you're like, you know, you put up your own money, you tripled your investment in a few months, and you're like, even at the more commercially successful albums you had before that, you never saw something like that. And I feel like that shaped a lot of your experience and outlook forward.[00:10:15] Talib Kweli: Yeah. And it's even in 2022, it's even more like that. I'm still learning, and growing, and bending, and shifting. And the space I'm in now is even a lot more independent than I was when Gutter Rainbows came out. Now it's just like the industry's completely broken down. Like, when Gutter Rainbows came out, it was like on the way to really, really breaking down.[00:10:37] Talib Kweli: But now it's completely broken down. It's like the wild, wild west. And it's like really about what you invest in yourself. It's really about focusing on the business aspect of it, like where you completely leave the ego out of it. And that's so difficult for a lot of artists because a lot of art can be, for better or for worse, ego-driven. And it can be, you know, people say that art is reciprocal. You want people to like your art, you put it out in the world, and you search around to see who's feeling it. And that could really have an adverse effect on your ego and what your value system is, right?[00:11:10] Talib Kweli: And, you know, me as an artist personally, I've spent money. I've invested in things that I knew I wasn't going to see no return on, over and over and over again, just for the sake of the art, just for the sake of the culture. And I'm not just talking about my art. I'm talking about other artists on Javotti Media, you know, there's things that I've invested in and I'm like, I don't see a path to making a profit here unless by some stroke of luck or miracle, something, someone feels as strongly about this art as I do.[00:11:39] Talib Kweli: And it gets a placement somewhere. Someone picks it up for a movie or something, like that's possible, or use it in a commercial, stuff like that. But I mean, those are long shots. That's not a guarantee. That's not like a plan for success, unless you're going into those situations where you're, you're knowing how to pitch those things and have those relationships, which I did not and do not, you know, so yeah.[00:12:02] Talib Kweli: My thinking on it now is not that at all. Because I've done that. I've done the artist thing for so, so, so, so long, and I'm not really a businessman at all. I'm a businessman by default. I'm a businessman because I have to be, I love, I love this art so much. I love this culture so much. And in order to sustain myself, in order to live the life I want to live and to feed my family, offer this art I had to learn a certain degree of money management, time management, business management in order to just do what I do, but I don't enjoy it.[00:12:32] Talib Kweli: and this is why this conversation was in, in doing this podcast was interesting to me because I think it's very important whether I enjoy it or not.[00:12:41] Dan Runcie: I think that's an important distinction, because I do think that we see artists now that clearly you could get the sense that music is an afterthought for the bag that they're trying to get. But at the end of the day, I still believe that most of the people in this want to do it primarily because they love the art and they are much more aligned with you where it's like, they had to do this because they didn't want to get, you know, taken advantage of by the system.[00:13:05] Dan Runcie: They didn't want to not have things work out in their favor. So by default, you have to have some, you know, cursory level of knowing what works and what doesn't. And as you kind of mentioned earlier, that bar has increased a lot since Gutter Rainbows, that has increased a lot since so many of these things.[00:13:22] Dan Runcie: So the landscape forces you to do that, or else you may likely get taken advantage of unless things work out luckily in your favor.[00:13:31] Dan Runcie: I think, too, for you, something else you mentioned with this, just thinking about needing to reach so many fans, if you are relying on this major system, so much of that relies on taking you away from the core people that are really rocking with you, because if you're trying to reach the masses and you're trying to do what a major label may want you to do to try to reach the masses.[00:13:53] Dan Runcie: then you may have, they may want you to either shift your sound. They may want you to try to do all these things, which further take away from the autonomy and control that you clearly want to be able to have. So I get the sense that this more recent stage of your career has likely been more freeing from that perspective.[00:14:11] Talib Kweli: Yeah, I mean, as an artist, I really, really, really want to try everything. I've definitely tried in my music to make music, to take aspects of what I do, who I am as an anti-racist person, as a pro-black person, as a person who likes a certain type of what they call underground hip-hop and take those sensibilities and stretch them, expand them and find global audiences.[00:14:34] Talib Kweli: And I've worked with artists all over the world from different genres. I've tried many different styles. I've sang. I've done double time. I've done, you know, I've round over trap beats. I've done it at all. I've tried every single thing because as an artist, not only is that my right, feel like it's my duty to try everything I can.[00:14:52] Talib Kweli: But in that trying, what I've learned is is that the more I try different things, the more I start to lean towards being comfortable in being the best at what I do, finding that thing that what it is that's unique about me and finding that. And I've tried that through my career.[00:15:09] Talib Kweli: People, there's albums of songs, things that people are, like, maybe be like, I don't like when Talib did this, or I don't like when Talib did that. And some of that, some of it worked and some of it didn't. There's some of it that I love that people hate. And some of it that people hate that I love, I don't even know if I just said the same thing twice, but you know what I'm getting at.[00:15:27] Talib Kweli: But in this state, business-wise and creative-wise, I'm closer to the vest and more about what is it that I do best. And try to put that on display. [00:15:40] Dan Runcie: Right. And that last piece you talked about in terms of doing things you loved that the fans didn't like, or the fans not doing things you liked, but then you actually liked it yourself. Did any of that influence how you and Yasiin went about this latest album? [00:15:55] Talib Kweli: Well, the good thing about Yasiin is that he try, he does try as much as I do. He tries different styles. Absolutely. I've heard him rap and sing on all different types of things. But what really helps shape the Black Star sound is I'm the steward of the beats and the administration.[00:16:12] Talib Kweli: Like, I'm going out and finding the beats, and looking for producers, and booking studios. I'm doing all that. But what Yasiin is doing is he's trying to get closer to God in his lyrics. You know, all his albums, all his projects start with Bismillah and all his bars and where he is trying to go lyrically is always about a higher level of self. And trying to get closer to God, whatever that is for you. And so it makes me step up, frankly, and it doesn't make me just step up, but it makes me because let's not get it fucked up. Like I don't slouch from my, on my other projects. You know what I'm saying? So it's not just about stepping up, but it's also about the focus.[00:16:54] Talib Kweli: It's just different. And it's like that when I worked with Styles P, it was a different type of focus. When I worked with 9th Wonder in them, it was a different type of focus. When I work with Hi-Tek, it was a different type of focus and, you know, even on my solo albums, even the producers I work with, whether it was DJ Scratch or Kanye, will.i.am, whoever. Like, wherever I go with that person is is pulling some out of me. And what Yasiin pulls out of me is wanting to be closer to God. [00:17:19] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I definitely get the sense of that. And even listening to y'all two conversations, hearing it from the album and even just, you know, his own evolution with religion, I always got the sense that, for you two, like spirituality and the importance of that was always going to have a theme through its music.[00:17:36] Dan Runcie: And it's been interesting to see how, like, that piece from a tonality has evolved over time as well. The debut album you had, there were so many things that were timely to that era. And I think in this album, too, we're kind of seeing so much of it because I think that there's a lot of things, whether it's about, you know, black liberation, freedom that I think were relevant then, relevant now. However, it looks different in a way that I feel like you all are able to keep a lot of the same themes, but have more of a modern shift to it, which I don't think necessarily applies to a lot of people that are still creating music from the late nineties and putting it out today.[00:18:13] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I hear you. And I think that was very intentional on our part. This album was formed over a lot of conversation and, you know, it's 24 years since the last project in them, you know, there was a lot of attention to detail. A lot of attention to detail, but also with the idea that it's got to sound loose. It's got to sound organic, and raw, and loose. It can't sound overproduced. [00:18:37] Dan Runcie: Right. And it has to be timely as well in a way that it can both stand, you know, the test of time. But it also, you know, whether you're talking about millennials and how people are relating to particular things, it has to relate to that piece.[00:18:51] Dan Runcie: And I feel like that resonated with me, at least, for being able to hear things as well. But there was something else you said even earlier in this conversation that I was thinking about in terms of doing things and you always willing to try things, whether it's going with EDM, working with different producers. I'm curious, how does that shift with looking at different formats as well to put out music? Because I know that there's this ongoing debate right now about artists and whether or not they should be forced to use TikTok or not, and whether or not people like to use TikTok. How do you feel about that?[00:19:23] Talib Kweli: Yeah, I was watching the Billboard Awards and that's when I first, I knew in the abstract that everything was moving towards TikTok, right? But watching the Billboard Awards, it hit me when they were introducing every single artist that was popular. Most of them I hadn't heard of or heard their song, but every single thing they were announcing was like, this is how it performed at TikTok. And for how I grew up, that was the radio.[00:19:43] Talib Kweli: And so I was like, now we're an era where the radio is not on his way to be obsolete, but completely obsolete. And let me be clear. I don't mean radio as a concept. I mean, commercialized pop radio and that system. Because clearly what you're doing is radio, you know, what I'm doing with People's Party and in Midnight Miracle is radio. So that's driving, right?[00:20:04] Talib Kweli: I feel like we're in almost in a golden age of radio, but as far as, like, with the music business, man, oh, man. Yeah, TikTok is, I just posted something today from, or that Earn Your Leisure poster about Isaac Hayes Jr., for Fanbase, talking about the algorithms and Instagram, and how, when it first started, you could gain 300,000 followers, very quickly, a million followers very quickly, but then once they had video and once they had ads, well, now you could be a network and now, the advertisers are going to come to you instead of coming to Instagram. So now they've made it so, that's why they shadowbanned people and limit content. I have a million people following me. If I post something, maybe 5,000 people will see it or like it, I don't know who, how many people see it.[00:20:44] Talib Kweli: I have to look at the insights, but I'm definitely not reaching everybody who I'm supposed to reach. And they'll be like, oh, well you could, if you pay us, you know what I'm saying? And so it's just interesting to see how with TikTok, which is Chinese-based if I'm not mistaken, I don't think they're doing that. I think they're allowing the content to reach who it's going to reach, or I might be mistaken about that. I don't know. [00:21:05] Dan Runcie: I think that's going to shift with TikTok as well though, because I think we kind of saw the early stage where you could put up a song and, you know, like a Megan Thee Stallion song could blow up or whoever song could blow up.[00:21:16] Dan Runcie: But I think now they got over a billion people using it every day. I think we're going to see or using it every month rather. I think you're going to see the same type of shift happen there, too, eventually. [00:21:27] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I mean, I post on TikTok and no one follows me on TikTok. It's like 4,000 people following me on TikTok. But again, it's the same thing with the Patreon thing. I'm not there, right? I'm not engaging with the people. I'm not clicking on videos, and scrolling through it, and, like, commenting. And I'm not doing anything. I'm just posting things, trying to get some engagement because people are there. I'm putting things up. But that's not really where my fans are looking for me yet at this point.[00:21:54] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah. And especially with the demo that you're reaching, and they're not looking at you to go do some TikTok dance or something like that, right? [00:22:01] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I saw The Game doing a TikTok dance. I mean, I hope that that's what he really wanted to do, you know what I'm saying? I hope that he's like, yo, I think that dance is hot, and I'm going to do that dance. Instead of like, damn I got to get on TikTok and do a dance, you know what I'm saying? [00:22:15] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I do think even that piece of it's going to change too, though, because kind of like we saw on YouTube, right? Like people avoided YouTube for a while because they're, okay, I'm not going to go out here and go dance like Soulja Boy and try to do some viral video, but it eventually matured. And I think we're going to see the same with TikTok where, yeah, you don't have to do some dance that could fit in a vertical video, but you're going to see, you know, folks that you know, are trying to reach your demo, doing whatever the version is that's relatable to them. So it'll take time. In some ways, I feel like it's already happening. Yeah.[00:22:47] Dan Runcie: For you, I do think about even, you know, we're talking about spending time on different platforms. Did you dip into Clubhouse, especially when, you know, the hype on Clubhouse was big or? [00:23:00] Talib Kweli: Oh no. They kicked me off at twitter for, they didn't like the way I was talking on Twitter. If they can't take what I write in text, they damn sure ain't going to be able to take my voice, you know what I'm saying? Clubhouse got popping right when I got kicked off of Twitter, and so I started getting like, you know, you got to invite people, right?[00:23:17] Talib Kweli: So I started getting like, literally I would get 15, 20 invites a day of people like, you got to join. People would take time out of their day to call me, be like, yo, you should be at Clubhouse. It's perfect for you. And because of that, I was like, there's no way I'm ever going on Clubhouse. because nah, like me talking to these things? Nah. That would go left quick. [00:23:41] Dan Runcie: The wild thing is I do think that people can get away with saying wilder shit on audio than they can on written text on Twitter, at least from some of the stuff I've heard. [00:23:51] Talib Kweli: Yeah. That's exactly right. That's exactly right, which is why I don't need to be on it. That's exactly right because here's the thing, here's the problem with me, right? I'm a very intersectional person, you know, I'm not out here, slut-shaming. I'm not here calling women bitches and hoes. I'm not out here using the R word or using the F word. I don't do none of that. I'm not a bigot. I don't use bigoted language.[00:24:14] Talib Kweli: But I'm very good with words. And so with the shit that I write in text, and I'm very blunt and direct. And so the shit I write in text, I feel like it triggers a lot of people in terms of, like, because I'm like, Hmm, nah. And I'm just very blunt and direct. If you come at me wrong, I can be insulting without lowering to this vibration of bigotry, right? Or, that's not true. Every man has fucking bigotry issues, but I try my best. I feel like I try more than most of the people I converse with, right? And so, that me, that shit just comes off as snark, bro, and people just be upset, 'cause they feel like you making 'em look stupid and they get very upset and very tight. And that's what it would be for me at Clubhouse. I would say some slick shit and people would get very upset very quick. [00:25:04] Dan Runcie: No, I hear that. I hear you on that. It's been, what, almost two years since you've been off Twitter. [00:25:09] Talib Kweli: Yeah, it's been since 2020. [00:25:11] Dan Runcie: Okay. Do you miss it? [00:25:12] Talib Kweli: No, I don't. It was time. I had been on Twitter for 10 years. I don't miss it at all. I enjoyed my time there though. But, you know, I don't miss it because I honestly, for real, in my heart of hearts, I really, truly, truly, truly do not want to be someplace where I'm not wanted. Like, I stand by that. Like, mm-hmm. Like, if they don't want me there, I don't have no desire to be there.[00:25:35] Dan Runcie: Yeah. You're not missing much. I'll be honest with you. As someone who spends too much time on that place, you're not missing much. [00:25:42] Talib Kweli: Yeah. What I do realize is that being on Twitter, as much as I was on Twitter and then not on Twitter, is that the things that I was talking to people about on Twitter, and these things, let's not get it twisted, right?[00:25:53] Talib Kweli: These are things that are shifting the culture. And these are things that are shaping the world. The things I was talking about in particular, I wasn't talking about frivolous shit. I wasn't talking about rat beefs or whatever I was talking about, you know, real things. The things I was talking about on Twitter became mainstream news years later, things that I was ringing a bell on, and a lot of us were ringing a bell on and people were just not paying attention.[00:26:14] Talib Kweli: But what I realized was a lot of the things that were elevated in my mind to a level of super I importance that we have to talk about this, people who are not on Twitter, not thinking about none of that shit, not talking about none of it. And so that's why a lot of the stuff that I was going through on Twitter, a lot of stuff that became so ugly and toxic, part of it that I wasn't understanding was when I was like, yo, how is this happening? How's the community letting this happen? Because the community really didn't care, really didn't care. And I'm not saying that to disparage anybody on Twitter. I don't want to seem like now, now, cause I'm not on Twitter, like, haha, oh, y'all whack up being on Twitter. I'm not saying that because Twitter is still a very important tool.[00:26:57] Talib Kweli: That's why all the conversation about Elon Musk and all that stuff is so prevalent and so important. There are people who still use Twitter in amazing ways. Absolutely. But I agree with you. Twitter is a cesspool and it was a cesspool when I was there. It's just a lot clearer not being there and a lot more understanding for why people didn't give a shit about it, you know, now looking at the engagement. I'm glad I was there. I learned a lot. I gained a lot. It was a gift and a curse, but mostly a gift for me. But yeah, it was time for me to go and they decided that before I did, but they were correct. [00:27:31] Dan Runcie: And I think with that, too, it's a bit of that double standard that I think public figures like yourself are kind of put towards, right? People can, you know, reply at you and talk all sorts of shit to you and take what you say out of context. But if you go back at them, then they're going to say, okay, he's putting his fan base back at me. He's doing this. [00:27:47] Talib Kweli: Yeah, that's such an important part of this conversation, right? And I want to be clear here because like I said, I'm an intersectional person. So, you know, I don't want to be the guy that he's here to protect black women. And, well, what about men, you know what I'm saying? Because as a man, I'm a member of a privileged, oppressor group, I'll go as far to say. But there's a phrase, black men are often the white men of the black community, right? Now that phrase is funny, is hyperbolic, right, but it's based in some truth. And I understand why people would say that. When women be like all men are dogs. Yeah. I get it. I don't personally feel like I'm a dog. I've done some dog shit before, but I don't personally look at myself like that. I don't feel offended by that, but just because black men can and often are the white men of the black community, if we're going to be hyperbolic, right? [00:28:37] Talib Kweli: Doesn't mean that we're not still part of a marginalized group of people. It doesn't mean that we're not still under attack. Doesn't mean that we're not still faced with many threats and that we don't still need protection, 'cause we absolutely do. And the conversation in our community has to be about the black community, has to be about women, and children, and men, and gay people, and disabled people, and rich people, and poor people, has to be about all of us.[00:29:07] Talib Kweli: If we're talking about the conversation around systemic oppression. And so the idea that because I've earned an extra layer of privilege, 'cause I'm already born with some privileges. I'm already born in America, born as a man, but because I've mastered my craft, worked hard to master my craft. And it's earned me a degree of fame, and a degree of celebrity, and a degree of money that a lot of people can't earn or not in a position to earn resource and all that, because of that, I'm now supposed to allow people to disrespect, not just me, but my family and particularly the women in my family?[00:29:41] Talib Kweli: And I'm not allowed to be a human being and want to respond and have a response? The things that people say about celebrity is that they're disconnecting, that they don't engage. I don't view myself as celebrity. I view myself as an artist. Well, as an artist, I'm going to talk to the people and for better or for worse, you know? What I realize now is that me talking to the people has put a target on my back because a lot of these people don't even deal with these people. They just block people, look and call 'em trolls.[00:30:10] Talib Kweli: They don't even talk to anybody. And I'm not built that way. And I understand the logic behind it, but I also, there's also a method to my madness as well. And so the idea, I push back hard against the idea that you have a pass to undervalue my humanity or to not treat me like a human being because you haven't earned what I've earned in terms of cultural currency, you know, because you choose to be anonymous, or because you are not famous, or because you are not, I don't know, whatever, like, I can't abide by that. I can't. I find myself inclined to speak out against that idea that we lack humanity, or we are less human, or we deserve to be treated less than because we're famous, or because we have a million followers, or whatever the metric is, I don't know. [00:31:00] Dan Runcie: And I think this point brings the conversation full circle, right? Because so many people, when you and Yasiin decided to release the album on your terms, they're like, oh, well, you're not going to put it on streaming. You're missing out, that you shouldn't be doing this. And y'all are like, This is our music. You can't tell us what to do. Like, this is our craft. And I think it just goes back to the entitlement of people feeling like they have the ability to dictate what you do when you are the one that is in control of what you do. [00:31:31] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I mean, that's, I'm glad you brought that up 'cause for me, those conversations are difficult, right? Because I'm an advocate for artists. I'm a fan. So when we talk about fans, right, we're not talking about, I'm not separate from that group. When you see me post on Instagram videos of me with Bun B, and I'm jumping up and down just like any fan would. I'm not playing it cool, you know what I'm saying? Like, so I'm a fan as well. And me as a fan, I'm a fan of these artists as human beings. That's why I wrote that article In Defense Of Ms. Hill ' cause it's like, if I'm a fan of her music, then yo sis, take your time. If you don't feel like showing up at the show tonight, Hey, I guess we got to eat that one tonight.[00:32:09] Talib Kweli: But you're still Ms. Hill, you're a human being. You're not some product that rolls out on stage. You press a button, it just goes. If you're having a human issue, you're a human being that's having a human issue. Let us know when you got some new shit and I'll be happy to support. I likely, if you give me an option, I'll overpay for it.[00:32:25] Talib Kweli: How about that? Because I can't quantify what you've given me, and that's honestly how I feel. So it's hard for me to relate to these fans, be like, I want, first of all, that's even the wrong language to be using with me, talking about what you want, you know what I'm saying? If you want the Black Star, I'm going to make the Black Star out.[00:32:41] Talib Kweli: And if you can't, then meet us halfway, bro, and come to where I'm at, because guess what? The first Black Star album, Universal says they own and they don't own it. We've never signed a contract for that album. So they've been profiting off of that. So if you bought that or listen to streaming, you've been paying some rich white company that has nothing to do with Black Star.[00:33:01] Talib Kweli: Every song in that album is available on YouTube. Most of my music is available for free on YouTube. On Kweliclub.com, you could get all my mixtapes for free. You could get the album Fuck the Money for free. My biggest song Get By, you could, if that shit came on in the store, you could Shazam it and listen to it on Shazam for free, you know what I'm saying? Like, it's got 15 million views on YouTube. You could go listen to it on YouTube for free. You mean to tell me I can't get $10 or $5 or $30 with a new Black Star album, with all this free music you getting? What are we even talking about? You know what I'm saying? Like, how are you ignoring all of this, to complain about this?[00:33:39] Dan Runcie: Right. It's like, you've had so much up to this point. It's not like you haven't had anything, you know, like, if you want to be able to put this one out on your terms, then yeah, here it is. You know, you don't owe anyone anything. [00:33:51] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I find it hard to relate to the people who don't understand that, which is why, if you notice, when I've been on social media and people ask about it, my response has been, well, this album is not for you.[00:34:00] Talib Kweli: And maybe I should stop doing that because that's such a triggering thing to say to people. And I've been saying it a lot 'cause I mean it. But then it starts these long arguments with me. Fuck you and you're mean to the fans. It's like, nah, my fans are listening to the album. Now whether or not they like it or not, that's subjective. [00:34:18] Talib Kweli: My fans were listening to Midnight Miracle. And if they weren't, if you are a fan, who's watching this podcast right now and you didn't know about Midnight Miracle, go listen to it because you're a fan. You want to hear what we got, you want it. If you are a fan of us, be a fan of us.[00:34:33] Talib Kweli: I don't believe to separate the artists from the music. I don't do that. I feel like that's a cop-out. Let me not say that because, let me just speak for myself. You can't do that with me because I am what my music is. All them lies they be telling about me, it doesn't go with my music. It doesn't go with my actions.[00:34:51] Talib Kweli: It doesn't go with the truth. i I am what I say in these bars. I stand on that. I'm very proud of that. [00:34:57] Dan Runcie: Right. And I think the other piece of this, too, that I think has now just become the norm in music is that so many artists are predispositioned to be like, okay, lemme just put my music out on streaming.[00:35:07] Dan Runcie: Treat it like it's marketing, get it out there. And then let me make my money when I go on tour. But the way that you all have it set up, I mean, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. You can get the money from the art, and you could also get the money, you know, if you and Yasiin choose to do a tour together.[00:35:24] Talib Kweli: I mean, I was touring, I was touring before the pandemic. I was doing 200 shows a year. So that's more than anybody, you know, like I was, that model right there. Think about it. I got 16 albums out, doing 200 shows a year. So that's what, 'you're describing my life. That's exactly what I was doing. And I don't do that anymore, and I don't plan on doing it again.[00:35:43] Talib Kweli: But when I look at pictures or videos for myself from that time, I don't even recognize that person. Like, how was I doing that? That's not sustainable. I was on some super human shit. I don't know what, I don't know how I was doing this. I don't know how I was dropping music and touring at that pace.[00:35:57] Talib Kweli: And still, like, doing activist work, and supporting my family, and just being me, and being on Twitter, you know what I'm saying? Like, all of it, I was doing all of it and I don't know how I was doing all that. [00:36:06] Dan Runcie: How many shows do you think you'll go back to? If 200 was a lot, what do you think is the ideal range?[00:36:13] Talib Kweli: As you're saying, as I'm saying this to you, I'm thinking about it. I'm like, damn. I got a lot of shows coming up, but I can't let it get back to 200 a year. [00:36:20] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I mean, 'cause at that rate, yeah, I mean, you're talking, I mean, like more than half of the days of the year you are out there putting it all out there. I mean, yeah.[00:36:29] Talib Kweli: 20 years straight, I did that for 20 years.[00:36:31] Dan Runcie: And it's wild. It's wild. I mean, I think at least the position that you're potentially in now, you can earn more money from the actual music you're putting out. You clearly have, you know, a bit buy-in with a platform that has other people that are invested in it as well.[00:36:45] Dan Runcie: And then with any other business interest that you may have, like, this is something to build up on, right? It's clearly, like, recurring revenue that you have and if you and Luminary continue to grow, then you can also tour and do any of that other stuff on your own terms. [00:36:59] Talib Kweli: Absolutely. Yeah. [00:37:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I feel that's the way to go with it. Well, Talib, this has been a great conversation. I feel like we covered a bunch just in terms of the importance of autonomy, importance of independence, and where you see things going. But for the people that are listening and they do want to follow, I'm sure they already know if they're listening, but where should they go to check for the latest of what you got going on?[00:37:18] Talib Kweli: Man, just follow me on Instagram. If they don't kick me off Instagram, 'cause they be threatening to kick me off Instagram too. They don't like when I talk about racism on Instagram. So for as long as I'll be on Instagram, follow me there. I just joined Fanbase today. So I'm looking forward to exploring Fanbase.[00:37:32] Talib Kweli: But I mean, you got to come see me in the flesh or don't actually, you know, like just, I don't know. Like, I've been out in the flesh a a lot, man. I don't know. I don't know. Just holler at me when you see me, and I'll try to make my presence known. For the near foreseeable future, I'm definitely going to be at Luminary. So I definitely encourage people to subscribe to Luminary. [00:37:52] Dan Runcie: Sounds good. And I appreciate the Fanbase shout out too. Shout out to Isaac Hayes III. I had him on the podcast couple of months ago. Love what he's building. [00:37:59] Talib Kweli: Yeah, me too. I've been knowing about it for a minute, but now as I'm starting to, like, really assess what's valuable to me, I'm, like, starting to look at things a little different, and I'm like, yeah, Fanbase. We can't keep talking about it, right? At some point we got support. [00:38:14] Dan Runcie: Right. Exactly. We know that this is the culture that pushes it forward. It's our culture. I mean, have the people that are about it to be the ones that actually own it in, we can see what happens.[00:38:22] Talib Kweli: Yeah. Word up. [00:38:24] Dan Runcie: Yeah. All right, man. Appreciate you. [00:38:26] Talib Kweli: All right. Peace. [00:38:27] Dan Runcie: All right, man. Thanks. [00:38:29] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share with a friend, copy the link, text it to a friend posted in your group chat, post it in your slack groups, wherever you and your people talk. Spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple Podcasts, go ahead, rate the podcast, give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you like the podcast that helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
This week’s special guest on Trapital is entertainment lawyer Karl Fowlkes. As part of his own The Fowlkes Firm, Karl represents entertainers across many domains — from music to sports to media, including hip-hop’s rising star, Blxst. He pulled double duty, not only appearing on the podcast, but guest-writing for the newsletter about the need for the artist contract to evolve.In particular, Karl predicts shared equity between not only artists and record labels, but also with other parties like distributors or fintech companies. The days of record labels having 100-percent ownership of an artists’ masters could slowly be phased out over the next decade in favor of a split much more friendly toward the artist.Karl also has advice for an artist, or any content creator for that matter, signing a new contract — LOMO. The acronym stands for length, obligation, money, and ownership. These are the top-line items creators should prioritize when inking deals, according to Karl. Karl has a ton more insights into how artists and creators can maximize their long term value, plus how deals will change in the near and distant future. Here’s everything we covered during our interview:[4:13] The Future Of The Artist Deal[5:50] Changes With Major Record Labels[7:36] Will Record Labels Exist In 10-20 Years?[11:20] Artists Wanting A Partnership, Not Signing [15:50] Karl’s Advice To All Content Creators Signing Contracts[19:18] The Issue With Music Royalties[22:42] The Hip-Hop “Middle Class”[24:47] Building EVGLE Brand Alongside Blxst[25:08] Blxst Partnership Status With “Major” LabelsListen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSSHost: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.coGuest: Karl Fowlkes, @esqfowlkes, Fowlkes FirmEnjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo. TRANSCRIPTION[00:00:00] Karl Fowlkes If you're making $20,000 to $30,000 a month off music. I mean, damn, that’s pretty, you know, that's solid money. No, that's nothing to shirk off. And some of these people, if they were independent, they might not be the global superstars that they are, they might be a little bit more in control, they might have less obligations, and they might still be able to put out the music that they want to put out. And all that stuff sort of creates sort of a concoction of, man, and maybe I will be happier, maybe I wouldn't have to get fake teeth, get a bunch of gold chains. I wouldn't have to do that because I'm living a lifestyle that's conducive for long-term success. [00:00:38]  Dan Runcie Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. [00:00:58] Dan Runcie Today's episode is all about the deals that artists sign. There are so many more options and ways that artists can level up and types of companies that they can partner with. It's no longer just the record labels. There's alternative finance options, their distribution platforms, and more. And I broke this down today with my friend and well-respected entertainment attorney, Karl Fowlkes. And he runs an entertainment practice called The Fowlkes Firm where he represents artists like Blxst, producers, entertainers, athletes, and more. [00:01:30]  Dan Runcie So I talked to Karl about his experience with this and what he sees as the future landscape. And Karl has this phrase that I think he needs to trademark, he has this phrase called LOMO, which is focused on the four key elements that artists should be focusing on when they're signing deals. The important thing about LOMO. And more broadly, this conversation is that this doesn't just apply to artists, look at all the different types of creators right now. There's so many deals that they're doing, there's so many opportunities from different companies that want to partner with them. And whenever those things happen, there are more and more contracts that aren't always set up in the easiest way for you to be able to understand and break this down. So we talked about that and where things are heading and how it really is shifting to a place where artists aren't just giving the keys to a big corporation to handle everything. Let's have them, build the businesses around themselves, partner with the different companies to fill in the different roles you need, and build up from there. This was a great conversation. I think it's really insightful for all the creators out there. So I hope you enjoy it. Here's my chat with Karl Fowlkes. All right, today, we got Karl Fowlkes with us who's back on the podcast from The Fowlkes Firm, you represent Blxst and a bunch of other artists. But we're here to talk about this guest piece that you wrote for Trapital, a really great piece about the future of the artists deal. So let's start at the top. Why did you want to write this piece?[00:02:56] Karl Fowlkes  I think right now, you know, historically, there's, there's been a few players. And those few players are really just record labels. So it kind of pigeonholes what the what the deal is going to look like, you know, now, there's so many different players out there. Technologies is infused all through the music industry. So there's, you know, there's distributors, there's advanced companies, right, they're just trying to like, you know, model what they can give you based on streaming algorithms, you know, companies like beatBread, for example. And then you still got those major labels, they're sort of offering a lot of those services. So the landscape is so different, I think, because there's so many different parties and so many different solutions. I think the deal has to change with the times that we're in. And oftentimes, you know, what I'm seeing, you know, I'm not seeing, you know, those changed deal terms. And, you know, I just think it's something that we need to get ahead of.[00:03:48] Dan Runcie  Yeah. And I feel like now you're hearing more than ever, people talk about ownership artists, whether or not they may have enough behind it, want to make sure that they're owning everything when they're coming to try to negotiate contracts. Do you feel like that's shifted the landscape? I mean, I feel like it's definitely improved the conversation around it, but do you feel like that's actually having an impact on the deals that are being made?[00:04:13] Karl Fowlkes  Yeah, and it's been quite effective. You know, I think most people who are in my position, you know, doing deals on the attorney side are seeing contracts that, especially if there's any built-up leverage that almost exclusively, you know, have a license period, right? So instead of the full transfer of ownership or work-for-hire language I've seen in the past, I'm seeing a lot more 20-year licenses, 25-year licenses, 15-year licenses. So the artist is you know, almost exclusively, you want to get the masters back. Now some of the other top line terms might not be that different in terms of the royalty rate, or some, you know, the ancillary income. But you know, the ownership paradigm is definitely, definitely changing. And I think that's the unique thing about it today.[00:04:59] Dan Runcie  Yeah, because I feel like, especially with the major record labels is kind of two things happening, right? On one hand, you're streaming revenues are continuing to grow. And you have all these other revenue sources from outside of the digital streaming providers, whether that's with Peloton or Roblox and all these other partners that want a license deal. So while that's increasing, but on the other hand, more and more artists are not going to want to  just give up their masters in perpetuity. So the labels are also counteracting that piece of it. So I see them in a lot of ways, they're hoping that the revenue from all of these areas can offset the loss that's eventually going to come from the masters, because eventually you can earn money from the back catalog forever if the current artists are going to keep that back catalog, and the labels aren't going to be able to have it.[00:05:50] Karl Fowlkes  3,000%. So I think, I almost wonder why some of the record labels out there don't sort of take from their publishing counterparts, right? Because the co-pub deal is sort of set up as a joint ownership structure, 50-50, right? So the songwriter usually owns half the composition, and the publisher owns the other half of the composition. And, you know, when the term is up, the kind of, the songwriter can go do what they want with their 50%. And they can have, you know, whoever collects on it, and then you know, the record label can, sorry, the publisher can take their 50% and go collect on it as well. So it's a shared equity model. It's something that I think tends to work for better parties. I know, there's some mechanisms that are a little bit different, you know, as it relates to distribution of music versus collection of music. But I think that's sort of a precursor to, you know, maybe something we'll see, you know, happen over the next 10 to 20 years.[00:06:46] Dan Runcie  What do you think the next 10 to 20 years will look like? Because I often have this conversation with a lot of people, some people go to the extreme of being like, no record labels will be extinct by then. And I've never quite gotten to that perspective, just because the people still ignore the desire that people have to be the biggest star in the world and where they feel like they need to go in order to do that. But I do think that we'll likely see more of these shared equity or more of these flexible options because I feel like one of the things you highlight in the piece is that it's great that there's so many distributors and places that you can release your music, but it's still a pretty big difference where it's like, okay, you either got to give up everything, and we'll make you a superstar, or you try to do it your own. But it's still hard to get to that level without some additional support.[00:07:36] Karl Fowlkes Yeah, I think the next 10 to 20 years are going to be a very interesting time. And I don't think anything's going to be figured out in the next 10 to 20 years, just because I think there are so many different emerging business models, right? Like, I keep talking about these music tech companies, kind of coming in and offering using algorithms and, you know, formulas to sort of create an estimate on, you know, what your royalties could be, will make in the next three to four years. They'll give you a big advance, right, and now to reference beatBread, because, you know, I just saw they did that for a massive artist recently. And they're, they're not really they're not offering service or anything, we're just going to give you that funding element. And I think historically, if you look at startups, and you know, there's always been a lot of artists, our founders’ conversation in the past five years, but when you look at a lot of startups, it's really hard to scale a business without capital. So capital is always going to be sort of the driving force on any decision I think you have to make in your business journey at a certain point. So I think what will happen is labels will realize I think the all-or-nothing approach of sort of either doing a license deal or completely owning the masters isn't really probably in anyone's best interest, including theirs. And I think we'll see more shared equity, right, and more investing in artists, you know, being in business with an artist forever, like in a tasteful way, right? Like, owning 20% of somebody's master for perpetuity seems a lot better than owning 100% of someone's, you know, master in perpetuity, right. There's, there's like a natural, if you’re an artist, you might be able to live with that, hey, this person gave me a million dollars. They have different access, resources, and funding opportunities throughout and they have a history of helping artists, you know, why don't I, we can we could share this thing forever, but you know, I'll be in control. I think that makes a lot more sense.[00:09:32] Dan Runcie  Yeah. And what I think it does is it itemizes how to look at the value add that you're either getting from a record label or from another type of partner, right? Because at its core, a record label deal is very similar to a private equity model. I know a lot of people make the venture capital comparison. But I think it's a bit more like private equity or even more so an M&A deal where you are essentially selling yourself as the business, at least to the recorded music business of what you're doing, to this company. And then in return, they are paying you for the services, and they're obviously going to try to maximize it as much as they can with everything they offer, from marketing to promotion to all the other services that you can essentially get counsel advice, so on. But I think the shift and what we're seeing a lot more artists do, more so I'd say on the independent side, I think we'll see some of the bigger artists do it, too, they want to create the business, they want to be the one that is doing the actual tasks, and how can they have, you know, things set up around them in order to do that. And it's something we see with all creatives to some extent, right? I feel like some people are always going to, maybe they want to gravitate more towards the business side of things, maybe they want to gravitate more towards the art that they actually do need to make. But still, if you're going to take the business side of it, then yeah, there is likely going to be a company you go to for marketing support, there's going to be a company you go to for PR or for distribution or for those things. And if you do it that way, then you're likely going to have a better approach about how you're making deals. And I feel like this is one of the key things that, like, you and I've been talking about for years now, just in terms of like how these things get set up, and how these things should be set up, especially for the artists that are willing to put in the work.[00:11:20] Karl Fowlkes  Yeah, I think what artists and their teams, too, are realizing are, you know, they're still doing a ton of work, even after they signed to the record label, right. And I think some of those things, historically, that we may be thought or attributed to regularly, but whether it's right or wrong, are things that in this generation, you know, teams, managers, other team members on that direct artists’ team are being tasked with, and, and they're executing, you know, to some extent, right? We're seeing TikTok campaigns being launched. And then that being the driving force of, of an artist being signed to a multimillion-dollar license deal, right, because that artists and their team leverage, you know, that music technology to create some moment, momentum and drive the price of that deal up. We're seeing a lot of that. So I think all that's making artists and their teams do is say, hey, if we're going to do a lot of the strategy and, and work to get signed, maybe signing doesn't necessarily make sense, maybe we're looking for, for something else, maybe it's not traditional, we signed to you model. It's like, let's partner, I need you for a few things. The rest we can take care of, we need some funding, and you know, we need some support on you know, a radio, we need some money, some of your tools that you might have and your staffing, but you know, eventually, we think we'll be able to do that stuff down the line. I think that's kind of the fut ure more and more sort of artists’ companies. And you see some of these catalogs, you're like, yeah, that's like, that's, you know, that's a mini-company. You know, I know, we talked, we saw Justin Timberlake’s catalog sold for, I believe, roughly $100 million. But you think about companies that could sell for $100 million, like, they have more than, like, two employees, where it's actually a company. Like, there's people driving marketing campaigns, there's the Human Resources Department, there's, you know, so I always think it's funny, because when you actually look at the valuation of the IP, and what something is actually making year over year, and, you know, that's like, that's a pretty sizable company, that that's probably not staffed correctly. I think that's probably what we'll see in the future is, hopefully, these companies and they can get staffed correctly.[00:13:35] Dan Runcie  And it makes you also think about, okay, let's take the Justin Timberlake example, obviously, someone that had a very successful and still has had a very successful solo career. But how much more value could there have been if he had created things in the way that, you know, we're talking about here? Obviously, there's a trade-off there, because I do think he's clearly someone that benefited more than the average person for a number of reasons from the major record label system and the broader media system that we're in. But yeah, $100 million, like, you think about a startup that is reaching $100 billion, you already have the idea of how big that startup is, what’s that startup’s trajectory looks like. And obviously, this is a little bit different because it's based on that recurring revenue stream. But still, I mean, it's huge,[00:14:22] Karl Fowlkes  Right? And I think like it's when we talk about sales and you know, when a company has to do get due diligence done on them, right so you look under the hood and you know, you're trying to see what that company actually owns. Do they even own the rights? Do they own the pub rights? Do they own the likeness? Do they own the trademarks, right? But if a company, for an artist, you know, driven company It doesn't have to be one artist. I think, you know, obviously, there's going to be a lot more collective and smarter labels, I think, in the future that are successful and, you know, running this model. But, you know, if you do due diligence on a company, and they do own all the IP, they do own all the trademarks, they do own the pub, and they do own the record, and there's employees in place, and there's procedures in place, and there's a history and books to sort of show what's happening over the past 5 to 10 years, you know, you're right, like, you know, these, these evaluations are probably being done on just raw numbers. But if you were to factor in some of this other stuff, it's like, man, this is like a, this is a well-oiled machine, this might be worth a little bit more.[00:15:22] Dan Runcie  Yeah, for sure. And I feel like once we were able to get there, a lot of it is focused on the type of deals, people can make and how specific they're getting about these. And you have been pushing and promoting this acronym about how artists, and I think this even extends beyond artists, how anyone that is creating content or making any type of deal should be looking at things. So what's the advice there that you give for that? And what are the elements to look out for?[00:15:50]  Karl Fowlkes  Yeah, yeah, you know, a strategy I've sort of been using and I created, I believe it was about a year and a half ago in talking to a few clients was, you know, length, obligation, money, and ownership. And those four key things are sort of the top line things you need to worry about when you're forming a contract. And also, I like to think about, you know, clients and people I'm talking to, when I'm discussing LOMO, just prioritizing those things, right? Because you're not going to have, you're not going to have the perfect deal where you have a short term, you get, you get a lot of money, your obligations low, and you get to own everything. That's just not, that's just not realistic. But what I do think is realistic is, you know, putting together a strategy that you can sort of, you know, put those things in order and you know, 5, 6, 7 years down the line, be happy with whatever sort of business you set up for yourself because you knew what you were getting into. You knew what your priorities were and you knew what you were signing. So I think those four top line terms: length, obligation, money, and ownership are the driving force of, they’re for sure the backbone of every contract, and for better or worse, I think those terms have decided whether an artist is going to be on Twitter in five years, talking about how they hate their contract, or they're going to be, you know, being able to sell their catalog for $50 to $100 million in 10 years, right? So I think LOMO is really important, and they'll help you sort of prioritize your needs if you are an artist. And again, that's not just for the artists, that's for the artists’ team. That's where these collectives that are coming up, I think those are probably will be the ones enforcing that strategy. But you know, LOMO is very, it's very useful, I think.[00:17:35] Dan Runcie You got LOMO trademarked?[00:17:37] Karl Fowlkes I haven't gotten LOMO trademark, man, that's crazy. Maybe after this episode.[00:17:42] Dan Runcie  I mean, I feel like you got it, I mean, because that's so many of these things, right? How do you, like, simplify things to just make it clear and take away so much of the legalese that I think is in there, and many times as a tactic itself to confuse artists?[00:18:00] Karl Fowlkes  Yeah, I mean, and again, like some of the legal, you hire an attorney to do the hard legal work, right? That's like the job of, you know, when people are generally saying artists, you need to understand your deals, we're not saying you need to become an attorney overnight because you still need an attorney, you need someone who's, that's someone else's job. Your job is to sort of run your company, you know, have a little bit of insight on some of these objectives and stuff that you're building. But you should really have a key indicator of those top line terms, that's what you really need to know. You're not going to know what the indemnification clause is, or you're not going to get into the warranties and representation. That's not the best use of your time. But you should know how long the contract is. You should know how much money, how much royalty you're going to get, or how the royalties are even paid out. You should know what you're required to do. You know, all those good things are the core of a contract. And I think that artists need to focus less on some of the nitty-gritty of the contract. You're not going to read too much legalese in a contract. But you know, those four things will help you sort of, you know, understand what you're signing.[00:19:03] Dan Runcie  Yeah, I agree. And you mentioned earlier about the artists that are going to be on Twitter complaining about their deal. Is there an area of LOMO that you think they're most likely to complain about or have an issue about?[00:19:18] Karl Fowlkes  Oh, yeah, that's a really good question. I think oftentimes, it's a combination of usually two things, but I think it's the maybe the way royalties are paid out. I think once you really understand recoupment, you know, it's not like a net profit. It's not like an off top thing, and what I mean by that is, if you're recouping at the royalty rate, I mean, If you have a 20% royalty rate, you got to make five times, you know, to recoup, right, to get even, right? because, you know, you're, if a dollar of money is generated, only 20 cents of that dollar is counting toward, you know, paying back the label, right? So you got to make five, you got to make 25 times over. I think that's the part that really rubs people the wrong way, right? Just because if it was a net profit situation, or an off top, right, you know, all costs go toward recoupment,, and then you get 80. And I get 20. and still be bad, but it'd be a little better, it'd be, it'd be a little less bad. So I think it's that part of the money that really, really gets people upset, because I'm not even sure that, you know, these companies really don't have to do that. Like, that is just, and I'm not, I'm not in the business of, I don't care. Like, that's just stupid. That's a bad business model. I think that's the reason why a lot of disruptions happen, because that just so that's so one-sided.[00:20:36] Dan Runcie  Yeah, it makes me think of Meek Mill, when he had posted, at some point earlier this year, I don't know when I'm going to get paid, or I haven't gotten paid for this. And this is someone that, you know, could sell hundreds of thousands in his first week with, at least to do with Championships, or whatever the album was when he, llike, first came out of prison, but he still doesn't know, and he's also someone that runs a record label himself, or he has the joint venture with Roc Nation for his Dream Chasers. So it's like, even at that level, artists still don't know.[00:21:08] Karl Fowlkes Yeah, I mean, Benny The Butcher, definitely a favorite rapper of mine. But you know, I was listening to a Freestyle yesterday, he did, I think, with Charlie Sloth on London. And he said, these rappers, you know, they're doing 100k first week, but you know, he's still not recouped. And I always, that is interesting, right? Because, you know, we all care about these sorts of, these first week numbers, but, you know, how much money is it taking to get to those first week numbers? And, you know, still, you're still probably in a hole, depending on the advances you've got. Advances are good, but it's also a way for you to continue to be locked in that contract, right? Would you rather. have some people want that $5 million check. But you know, you lose leverage me the more money you take. That's just the reality of it.[00:21:56] Dan Runcie  Right. Yeah. I, I think that Benny, of course. And I think Griselda overall, they figured it out in a model that actually works for them. And I think Russ probably falls in this category as well, where it's like, okay, you know, we don't care about the first week numbers. We actually want to have a business that runs, right? So Griselda could sell $75 or $100 vinyls or, you know, butcher cleaves, or whatever it is, in order to, you know, have, like, high-end merch that people are going to want to buy. And I think for a lot of artists, yeah, there is at least a bit of a trade-off to some extent, like, do you care more about the revenue? Or do you care more about the fame and the accolades and the media and stuff? And I don't think that's as black and white for most artists as they think it is.[00:22:42] Karl Fowlkes   Yeah, because like, the real metrics that people should care about, you know, we're not in this all for money, but I think money and ownership, if you have those things, and you're building a model that sort of is conducive, and not just because you're doing shows all the time, like, you know, I'm not sure Russ passed pop out ar nightclubs, you know, just to pay his bills, I know for a fact he doesn't have to do that, right. And that sort of the flexibility and freedom that I think guys really want when they hop into the rap game. They want to be able to, you know, sit down sit by the Dame Dash Calls it that “by the pool money,” right? You know, I want to be able to put my feet up by the pool, have their residual income coming in, and you know, and really be a boss really be a CEO not have to perform in Shreveport, Louisiana, you know, at a nightclub to pay my bills because I'm not getting any money from my music. Streaming is not the best model yet, from a payout standpoint, but because of how often and consistently people are streaming music, it's still an effective way for you to get money, right? So I think, when Russ posts TuneCore statements, you know, that is, obviously not everyone's going to have that sort of consistency and hard work. But you know, a lot of that's real, I mean, if you have five, I always talk about that, that hip-hop, middle class that needs to emerge, and you need to be happy and we need to celebrate those people. And because if you're making $20,000 or $30,000 a month of music, damn, I mean you could talk, you know, that's solid money. No, that's nothing to shirk off. And some of these people, if they were independent, they might not be the global superstars that they are, they might be a little bit more in control, they might have less obligations, and they might still be able to put out the music that they want to put out. And all that stuff sort of creates sort of a concoction of, man, and maybe I will be happier, maybe I wouldn't have to get fake teeth and get a bunch of gold chains. I wouldn't have to do that because I'm living a lifestyle that's conducive for long-term success. So I think that I think that's really important, too. I mean, that's, that's kind of where I am. And that's not the sort of education that I'm putting out.[00:24:47] Dan Runcie And I feel like that's also how you're building the businesses that you have and what you're associated with, right? I look at what you and Vic and the team are building, with Blxst as well, and what you're building with Evgle, and I feel like this is exactly that. Like, you're building the company that structured around this. Can you talk a bit about how you all have things set up?[00:25:08] Karl Fowlkes Yeah, so Evgle is a company that I am an equity partner in. It's me, Victor Burnett, who was the president and is also Blxst’s manager. And then you obviously have Blxst, who is the key cog, the creative genius, and really someone who's sort of, you know, been patient, and made this all possible. But, you know, the way we're set up is, you know, we were, we're a company, privately-owned, and we've been able to partner with entities in, you know, retain 100% ownership of IP, make sure we're getting, you know, some of that mail, that by the pool money at all times, and in putting ourselves in a position for us to, you know, not just build vertically, but horizontally. We're building out, you know, we have a full staff, you know, we have health care for everybody. We have office space, all those, all that fun stuff, that I think that, you know, isn't probably celebrated enough in building a company and particularly in hip-hop. So that's kind of how we're building. And I think long term,  we're empowering our artists and the people that come next, to do the same thing. It's not going to be, hey, you signed with Evgle, or we're taking your masters, and you're taking ownership and control of everything. That's, that's just not what we're doing. And, you know, I think Vic and Blxst in particular, are very, very cognizant of that. And so I think, I think we're trying to lead the way in that regard.[00:26:34] Dan Runcie  So is the plan to continue to build the company solely around the brand of Blxst himself as the creative or do you also want to bring on other artists, too?[00:26:46] Karl Fowlkes  Yeah, so we already signed another I’ll call a multi-hyphenate, you know talent as well. He's an artist and producer. So we'll be rolling him out sometime later this summer, maybe early fall, then we have another producer signed on or partnered on, sometimes I use old terms, but partnered on the publishing side. So there are two other creatives already, you know, in-house, and I think the goal will be to get bigger, you know, as time goes by[00:27:14] Dan Runcie  And then in terms of Blxst specifically, what does his relationships look like with the major record label system and being able to amplify the work that he does?[00:27:25] Karl Fowlkes  Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. You know, we obviously have a public relationship with Red Bull Records, who's our partner on the record side, and it's been a super fruitful partnership. You know, Blxst has, you know, elevated his career. They've been really helpful in allowing Evgle to stay, you know, 100% independent, and building what we built. So, kudos to Red Bull. And those guys over there, in Red Bull’s distributor, is The Orchard. So we do have a, I guess, major label tie, righ?. So you know, but that's really kind of, you know, I think all three of us, you know, Blxst is a multi-hyphenate to the truest extent ever, you know, he's, he can edit his own videos, he does his design work, he can produce his songs, he engineers it. You know, Vic, similar type of talent, you know,  he's, you know, he's, he's a merch guru, you know, great leader, great manager. And same with myself, obviously, I'm a lawyer, but, you know, as an operator, and someone who builds businesses on the sort of technical and admin side, you know, I love that part. So we're talking about three people who are multi-hyphenates. I think when you have people like that, you don't have to outsource as much throughout the different phases of growth. And we've been able to resist some of the pitfalls that other companies have had to go through because we've been able to scale to  2x to 5x by doing a lot of stuff in-house and I think I don't think that's going to change. And you know, our growth has been incremental and positive, you know, year after year and I think that's because we're taking the steps and we're not trying to build something really quickly.[00:29:11] Dan Runcie  Yeah, you're trying to build for the long haul, right? And if Blxst’s someday going to have his triple-figure catalog sale, if he want ever wants that, that's going to be done by, you know, building step by step. You're building for the long term, even though I'm sure, right now, especially after the Kendrick feature, and he's just been blowing up especially I feel like for the past two years now, but I feel like especially the past, like, 12, 18 months, you've been seeing more and more, at least publicly, I feel like, it may seem like it, you know, things are going fast, but I feel like, you know, talking to you all, yeah, you know, this is a long game.[00:29:46] Karl Fowlkes  Yeah, it's a long game. And you also know, like, you know, behind the scenes, we've been aggressive, in know, diversifying our company profile and our portfolio and what we're trying to build, you know, outside of music. You know, I think all of us also realize the entertainment industry is also just a vehicle, to impact the world. So, you know, at some point, your vehicles change. And I think we're also we also realize that, you know, everything that we're building today, you know, has to be bigger than, bigger than just the industry that we that we exist in. That's just not, it wouldn't be fulfilling for for any of us. So, I think that's it, we're very cognizant of that.[00:30:23] Dan Runcie  That makes sense. That makes sense. Good stuff, man. I am excited to see not just more change in the industry, but obviously, I think you wrote this piece for a really timely reason. And we're gonna continue to see the impact of that. So yeah, if you're listening, definitely go check out The Future of the Artist Deal. It's up now on the Trapital website. And Karl, before we let you go, anything else that you want to plug? Or let the listeners know about now?  [00:30:50] Karl Fowlkes No, man. I mean, honestly, just keep your eyes out for everything we're doing at Evgle, I think there's going to be a lot of fun, disruptive stuff that we announced, and we do over the next couple of months to a year. And, you know, personally, you know, The Fowlkes Firm is growing as a disruptor in the law firm space. So, you know, look out for those two things. And, you know, I just challenge everyone to challenge the status quo. You know, that's, that's what we're all here for.[00:31:17] Dan Runcie That's the only way the industry grows, right? [00:31:19] Karl Fowlkes Yeah.[00:31:19] Dan Runcie  Exactly. I appreciate you, man. Thank you.[00:31:22] Karl Fowlkes All right.[00:31:24] Dan Runcie  If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That's how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you're at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week. Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
Comments (3)

Precious Udegbue

loved this interview!

Apr 17th
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Kyle Zeigler

this podcast is extra dope.

Jul 16th
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