For B2B music company Tuned Global, years of hard work on its technology platform and music offering have been paying off in 2020 and 2021 so far.
“We’ve had a great last year: we’ve almost doubled as a business,” says managing director Con Raso, in an interview with Music Ally.
That growth has come from an increasingly diverse roster of clients, from telcos and local streaming service to wellness firms and other startups, who have tapped into various aspects of Tuned Global’s software and services.
“In the past 12 to 24 months, the telcos have really come full circle,” says Raso, referring to a cycle that saw telcos launch their own digital music services, then retreat from that idea in favour of partnerships with the big consumer streaming brands.
Now a number of telcos are gravitating back towards their own services again, albeit working with B2B partners like Tuned Global rather than building it all themselves. One example being Thai telco True Digital, which has been working with the company since December 2020.
“Now telcos are usually trying not only to have a music service, but rather a multi-faceted service,” he says. So music will sit alongside video on demand and other entertainment under a brand marketed by the telco.
“We’re seeing that activity often in the more emerging markets, where there’s a real thirst for this,” says Raso. “What they’re trying to do is get a view of their customers, and music and entertainment is a great way to build that relationship.”
“The challenge has been that if they’re going to do it on their own, often they’re starting from ground zero every single time, and it just isn’t that easy to get a service off the ground.”
The emerging wellness sector
Tuned Global certainly isn’t alone in seeing big opportunity in wellness – a catch-all term for sectors ranging from fitness tech services through to mindfulness apps and startups using music as part of medical treatments.
Major labels are excited about licensing to and working with wellness companies, and other B2B firms including 7Digital and Feed·fm have talked about the growth they see in this area. Raso offers similar views.
For fitness, he notes that it’s not just about workout apps and startups. It’s also about anyone offering fitness training online, including all those personal trainers and class leaders who’ve turned to livestreaming during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When you see how they’re doing that, many are putting a music recording on in the background, and getting blocked by Zoom or Facebook. Or they’re not using music at all in their process,” says Raso.
Tuned Global works with the fitness companies who employ these trainers in several ways, including providing them with streaming infrastructure and licensed tracks. Its April 2021 deal with fitness company Psycle London is one good example, and Pure Energy another. There is often more to it though.
“We provide a solution for the business, so that their trainers can use an app to create their own playlists, then use that music in a number of ways in the live broadcast or VODs [videos on demand] that they’re doing,” says Raso.
“Licensing is always the tricky question in this discussion. We have now been able to bring a number of production-music solutions that are turnkey to clients, and we have also worked closely with a number of the larger labels about how we can provide that solution.”
The medical end of the wellness spectrum is also yielding opportunities for Tuned Global and for those rights holders, including several clients using music as part of therapeutic services, whether they be for dementia or mental health.
“These companies are using music to actually change behaviours and make a difference that can be monitored and validated. And this doesn’t always rely on popular music, so it opens up a lot of other labels into the equation,” says Raso.
Hyper-local and niche streaming grows
That principle holds true for Tuned Global’s work with clients who are launching hyper-localised or niche streaming services, with a focused catalogue and a very specific target audience.
One example is PortalDisc, Chile’s biggest music downloads store which recently moved into streaming with its PortalDisc App. A partnership with Tuned Global enabled it to launch with a catalogue of more than 130k Chilean tracks from labels and independent artists.
“What they did in using our applications, they were able to subdivide the Chilean market into a whole bunch of different regions that have quite a different cultural shift in those areas,” says Raso.
Thailand and Indonesia have other examples of successful hyper-local services launched by clients, with Raso seeing lots of potential for these kinds of DSPs in Africa too.
“Indonesia’s a good example. If you’re in Jakarta, in a lot of ways you’re mimicking other countries around the world. The minute you walk out of Jakarta, it changes dramatically in terms of the users and what type of music they’re needing,” he says. “You have to build your service so it addresses geographically what’s occurring.”
“Africa is really exciting: we are seeing at least 5 or 10 people contact us from those markets each week,” says Raso. “Our clients there are also absolutely passionate about their local industries, and looking at ways to put more dollars in the pockets of the local artists, which is great.”
New trends and opportunities
New ways to make money (and distribute it to artists) are one of the drivers of new features in Tuned Global’s platform. For example, in the last nine months it has added the ability to broadcast live concerts.
“Our clients who use our apps can now have live concerts on their services, whether they are free, available to subscribers, or an on-demand purchase,” he says. “From my side, that is an opportunity to put some decent money back into the local economies and local artists.”
Keeping an eye on music industry and technology trends is vital for any B2B company wanting to serve its clients. Raso has been watching the activity around NFTs and blockchain technology in 2021 with keen interest.
“I’m not talking necessarily about the speculative areas of those that tend to go up and down. It’s about how do you actually provide solutions and platforms that can actually assist in the legal creation of NFTs? And then what does it mean for an artist: how does an artist use this not just to speculate, but to increase their fanbase?” he says.
“In the next two years, I think we’re going to see a tremendous amount of innovation in that space, from simple ideas about how I connect rewards and a whole bunch of other items to an NFT, through to things we haven’t even considered yet, because each step tends to show you the next step in that process.”
“I think it’s a real disruptor, and could fundamentally change the way we view a music service. We went from an ownership model [for music] to a rental model, but in some ways this could go back to an ownership model!” he continues.
“How that’s structured with rights holders is really interesting: if the rights holders are the reason for some of these items growing enormously in value, there should be some reward that’s connected for the artists in that process.”
Tuned Global is “in the early stages” of exploring NFTs, and is determined to focus its attention on “how you actually address the fan first” with these products.
“Until now, we’ve tended to replace one medium with another, from vinyl through to streaming. NFTs enable us to actually look at a new type of asset and say: what does this mean?”
Raso is also hopeful for continued progress in the way labels interact with the kind of startups who are also an important part of Tuned Global’s client base. He sees a “thirst to innovate and to explore ideas” from labels which is smoothing over some of the traditional barriers to entry for startups.
“There’s probably more that can be done to facilitate the early-stage startups to be able to experiment, but also give them a clear pathway that if those experiments work out well, it’s not just the unknown,” he says.
Raso praises two of Tuned Global’s clients, music mixes tool Pacemaker and fantasy music app FanLabel, and cites them as examples of startups whose ideas deserve support from licensors.
“You’d hate to see companies that have got ideas and execution capabilities like them not to be able to exist, because they bring something totally different,” he says. “You’ve got to invest in making sure that these ideas can actually be tested in a real way in the market. That’s the only way we’re going to have innovation.”