WMG Adaptr

Warner Music Group has teamed up with Feed Media Group – the company behind B2B music firm Feed.fm – to launch an initiative that aims to make it easier for startups to license music.

It’s called Adaptr, and its core is a pre-licensed library of music for developers to use in their apps, for which they’ll pay a subscription fee.

WMG is the launch partner with both recorded music and publishing rights, although BMG Records, Equal Vision Records, Vio Mobile and A-Train Distribution are also part of Adaptr.

The project includes APIs and SDKs to help developers use the pre-cleared music, as well as curation tools. The announcement promises that “rightsholders are paid for every stream” from the resulting apps and services.

To qualify for Adaptr, startups must have raised less than $7.5m in funding, and their app must be earning less than $4.5m in revenue.

Adaptr is launching with three pricing tiers. A ‘starter’ package costs $69 a month, and covers one app and up to 500 song stream; the ‘developer’ tier costs $249 a month for up to three apps and 2,000 song streams; and a ‘teams’ package is $549 a month for up to five apps and 5,000 song streams.

That’s a guide to the scale of startups we’re talking about here: an app with 100 users streaming 50 songs a month each would be bumping up against the upper limit of the top tier – although Adaptr’s website refers to enterprise plans above this, about which startups need to get in touch.

We’ve been here before. Periodically during Music Ally’s history major labels have launched ‘sandboxes’ of cherry-picked content for developers and startups to use. OpenEMI in 2011-12 for example, when EMI was still a standalone major label.

WMG and FMG say that Adaptr is different because it’s not just for prototypes: it’s full licensing for commercial services. The inclusion of publishing rights could be important too: they haven’t always been part of sandboxes in the past.

In a Music Ally report on startups and licensing in September 2019, we talked to a group of startup founders about the challenges of working with music rightsholders.

One of their key complaints was that while the innovation teams at major labels were welcoming, licensing often ran into roadblocks once the startups were passed on to the legal and/or publishing divisions.

If Adaptr works, it will be a positive sign of our industry learning from that kind of feedback. As with any project like this, the quality of the available catalogue – and how it grows over time – will be key. As will the smoothness of the process by which startups who build something inventive through Adaptr can graduate to direct licensing.

Unsurprisingly, both WMG and FMG are making optimistic noises on that front.

“Among other things, reducing frictions around licensing will enable us to accelerate innovation, support the startup community, engender competition, excite our fans with new and evolving ways to interact with music, and deliver additional value for our artists and songwriters,” said Oana Ruxandra, chief digital officer at WMG, in a statement.

“With Adaptr, there’s no need for developers to worry about whether they should ask for permission or forgiveness. Now they can get the commercial music they want without needing to jump through the complex hoops of music licensing, distribution, and payments,” added FMG boss Jeff Yasuda.

Ruxandra will be talking about Adaptr and WMG’s wider startups strategy today at the NY:LON Connect conference, co-run by Music Ally and Music Biz, in a keynote interview.

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