Investing $200 Million In Music with Matt Pincus
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 predictions
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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guests: Matt Pincus, @mpinc
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[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, Schu