Abbey Road Red, the startups accelerator hosted within London’s famous Abbey Road Studios, hosted its latest pitch event last night, for the three startups in its last cohort.
Qrates, The Audio Hunt and Scored all took to the stage to pitch their services to an audience of music-industry execs and investors. Meanwhile, Abbey Road also announced the next two startups participating in its program: Vochlea and AI Music.
Here’s our report on the pitches, as well as a little more on the two new companies who’ll be spending the next six months working with Red.
With vinyl sales continuing to grow, Qrates is hoping to help more artists and labels manufacture vinyl, but also run crowdfunding / pre-order campaigns for fans to buy it.
Pointing to a global vinyl market that’s expected to reach $1bn by the end of 2017, with 20 million buyers, Qrates’ Taishi Fukuyama outlined the company’s aims.
“What if the vinyl market can still grow? How can we grow it, and what are the existing limitations?” he said.
Those limitations include costs for consumers – “a box-set of vinyl records can cost more than a year’s subscription to a streaming service” – as well as the often slow and costly production challenges for an artist or label.
“We exist so that every artist can make records easily and profit from them,” said Fukuyama. Qrates has already hosted more than 3,500 projects, with its top markets being the US, UK and its native Japan.
Clients can design the colour and packaging of their vinyl, then upload their artwork and audio files; publish crowdfunding and pre-order details; then ship the vinyl directly to fans, as well as to retailers.
“Crowdfunding is definitely a game-changer for many of the artists on our platform today,” said Fukuyama, outlining Qrates’ terms: a minimum run of 100 units, and an average turnaround time of six to eight weeks.
Qrates already has a partnership with digital distributor ReverbNation, which has made it part of its marketplace for artists. Yesterday, Fukuyama announced that Qrates will also be TuneCore’s preferred partner for vinyl manufacturing.
“The future? It’s more artists selling more vinyl,” he said.
The Audio Hunt
Launched by experienced music producer Stephen Bartlett, The Audio Hunt is trying to connect musicians with studios around the world, helping them to book sessions and equipment, and ultimately to make use of some of their facilities remotely.
“The average studio in the US has $500k of income but only three employees. They are probably engineers, so who does the invoicing, the SEO, the websites…” said Bartlett.
“And for musicians, more and more people are creating the content, and they’re realising they have to stand out and be the best at what they do. That’s causing them to return to studios, but there’s no way to find studios and book them.”
The Audio Hunt’s solution to both problems is a service called Studio Assistant, a set of software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools to handle invoicing, customer management, website building and customer newsletters (among other tasks) for studios, while helping musicians book sessions and equipment.
It already has more than 9,000 musicians and 500 studios signed up. “70% who book return within three months, and we have 100% transaction satisfaction at the moment,” said Bartlett, who cited stats suggesting that annual recording studio revenues are more than $1.1bn in the US alone.
The company has ambitious plans though. “We’re currently working towards beta-testing instant, real-time, studio-quality streaming, and remote analogue hardware control,” said Bartlett.
So, a musician would be able to use a piece of equipment in a studio thousands of miles away, generating more income for that studio during its downtime. “You’re not competing with plug-ins because you have the real thing,” he said.
The Audio Hunt is currently raising a $1m round, with $550k already committed. “That will take us for 12 months into a cash-positive position,” said Bartlett.
The third startup to pitch at the Abbey Road Red event was Scored, a London company making film-scoring software that helps filmmakers and advertising creators dynamically adapt music to fit their visuals.
“If you’ve got a chase scene, you can direct the music to match the on-screen intensity,” said co-founder Ryan Dzierżek. “It’s just a really fun way to create your soundtracks.”
The software requires a library of music created to be adaptable in this way, but Scored is keen to differentiate itself from startups like Jukedeck and Melodrive that are tackling this challenge with artificial intelligence.
“We are working with a host of talented artists and composers to create a really rich library of adaptive music content. This isn’t the sound of AI-generated music composition. It’s the sound of real human composers, full of originality, talent and passion,” said Luke Dzierżek.
Scored is starting by focusing on filmmakers and ad agencies, but it also sees potential for its software in the gaming and virtual reality worlds.
“The support from Abbey Road has really helped us refine our business and look at the bigger vision,” said Luke. Scored is raising a seed funding round of around £400k, while running a private beta test with some production companies.
Abbey Road Red’s next cohort
Finally, Abbey Road Red’s Jon Eades introduced the next two startups taking part in Abbey Road Red: Vochlea and AI Music. Both are focusing on artificial intelligence’s use for music, although in different ways.
Vochlea’s technology combines machine learning with audio analysis, using musicians’ vocalisations to create accompanying music on the fly. The aim being to help musicians get ideas out of their head quickly and easily, for further work.
“Imagine a device where your beatboxing can be translated to drums, or your humming into a controlled and intricate brass melody,” is how its website explains it.
AI Music is trying to apply the latest AI techniques to music composition, meanwhile. It’s promising to “change the way in which music is consumed by using the latest in social, digital and artificial intelligence”, although for now, the details are under wraps.