It’s not that long since some (although by no means all) music industry people were wondering whether digital music distribution was being commoditised, in a race towards slim margins and the threat of direct DSP uploads eating their lunch.
Yet now here we are in 2021: DistroKid was recently valued at $1.3bn, and UnitedMasters has just raised $50m of funding at a valuation of $550m, in a round led by VC luminary Andreessen Horowitz. CEO Steve Stoute told The Information that the round will be used for expansion into regions including Latin America, as well as for acquisitions.
It’s certainly an interesting group of investors backing UnitedMasters. The company emerged in 2017 with $70m of Series A funding led by Google’s parent company Alphabet, with Andreessen Horowitz and 20th Century Fox also involved. Then its $50m Series B round in March 2021 was led by Apple, alongside Alphabet and Andreessen Horowitz.
UnitedMasters says that it now has 1.3 million artists using its service, up from one million at the time of that last funding round. It’s very much a message of scale, something that DistroKid has also been pushing. The latter claimed in August that it now accounted for more than a third of new music releases, and had more than two million artists using its service.
3.3 million artists putting out music through just two of the popular distributors is a figure that in itself is worth pause for thought, at a time when arguments about how the streaming royalties pie is split are intensifying. Music has always been a long-tail business of course.
Right now, that tail is creating huge value, in investors’ eyes, at least, for the companies running the pipelines. And besides Silicon Valley royalty, those investors include Apple, Google and (albeit with a reduced stake in DistroKid as of this month) Spotify…