UK firm Lickd is one of the startups trying to make it easier for YouTubers and other online creators to license commercial music to use in their videos.

Now it has raised £5.1m of funding from some very interesting investors: Warner Music Group, Fortnite publisher (and Apple nemesis) Epic Games, and the investment firm of Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, which led the round.

The WMG investment follows the major label’s licensing deal with Lickd in August 2020, which itself came a few months after the startup signed a similar agreement with Universal Music Group.

Lickd says it will use the funding to continue growing its library of tracks, developing its technology and expanding internationally.

The company first emerged in 2017, initially called Hookd before changing its name to Lickd later that year. It joined the Abbey Road Red incubator in early 2018, was a finalist in the Midemlab startups contest that year, and then raised £1.7m of funding in early 2019.

Creators can sign up to its service and use a tool that analyses their YouTube viewing figures to calculate a per-track licensing fee: ranging from $8 for a creator averaging 50k views per video to $330 for someone averaging more than 2m.

Lickd also has a tool for intercepting Content ID claims on YouTube, to ensure that its customers don’t get their videos taken down or demonetised for using the music that they have licensed.

It sells separate ‘brand sponsored’ licences for creators working on sponsored videos with brands, and will soon add a ‘branded content’ licence for agencies and brands to make use of themselves.

Lickd is not alone in its field. In recent years other startups targeting the creator sector have emerged, including Thematic, Uppbeat and Slip·Stream.

These are all competing with production music libraries like Epidemic Sound, one of the earliest companies in that space to identify YouTubers as a target market, as well as labels like Monstercat and NCS that have also spotted this opportunity.

Epic Games’s involvement in Lickd’s new funding round is interesting. Fortnite has been one of the most popular titles for gaming creators on YouTube, Twitch and other platforms, so the company has a good insight into some of the challenges they face around music.

Those include videos based on Fortnite’s own musical events. In October 2020, Epic Games negotiated a licence for members of its ‘Support-A-Creator’ program to include music from J Balvin’s Halloween Fortnite concert in their content, giving them a week-long window to make money from their videos before they were demonetised.

The model was also used for an Easy Life concert in Fortnite in June this year. Does Epic’s decision to invest in Lickd hint at plans to do more to help Fortnite creators license commercial music? We suspect there may be more developments to come on that front.

It has been a long road for the startup, with CEO Paul Sampson talking frankly in May 2019 about having been in licensing talks with major labels “for coming up to three years” without yet managing to sign deals.

“There needs to be an understanding from the labels that startups have limited runways and limited time,” he said then. However, in 2021 Lickd has two majors signed up, with one of them investing in the company. That’s encouraging progress.

“We are thrilled to have closed this round at what is a pivotal time for Lickd. As the content creator space continues to expand, there is a huge opportunity for all types of business to invest in new areas and to work hand-in-hand with companies such as ours to positively transform the music industry,” said Sampson today.

“The ongoing support of the Nick Mason Group, combined with Epic and Warner coming on board, delivers a win-win for all – for Lickd as we continue to expand, for the creators who want commercial music to better monetise their content, for the artists who want to be paid fairly for their work and for the broder ecosystem as we create new ways to grow.”

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