Independent music distributor UnitedMasters has announced a $50 million investment round led by Apple that aims to help independent artists gain a foothold and career in the music business (via Tech Crunch).
In a strategic partnership, Apple is joined by Google parent Alphabet and A16z, which will provide follow-on “Series B” investments in UnitedMasters.
The distribution platform’s mission is to enable artists to “retain full ownership of their work while expanding their economic opportunities and introducing them to millions of new fans.” To that end, UnitedMasters aims to provide musicians with data on how fans interact with their content and community, allowing them to connect more directly to offer tickets, merchandise, and other business endeavors.
“We want all artists to have the same opportunity,” UnitedMasters CEO Steve Stoute told TechCrunch. “Currently independent artists are less likely to succeed and we are trying to remove that stigma.”
“Every artist should have access to a CTO. Some of the value of what a manager is today for an artist should be transferred to that role.”
UnitedMasters has deals with the NBA, ESPN, TikTok, Twitch and others that give artists access to big brand deals that would traditionally be brokered by a label and manager. It also has a direct distribution app through which musicians can post to all major streaming services, as well as check stream, fan, and revenue data at a glance.
“Steve Stoute and UnitedMasters provide creators with more opportunities to advance their careers and bring their music to the world,” Apple’s Eddy Cue said in a statement. “The contributions of independent artists play an important role in the continued growth and success of the music industry, and UnitedMasters, like Apple, is committed to empowering creators.”
The strategic partnership is relatively unique for Apple, which generally likes to acquire companies rather than invest in them, and when it chooses to do so, it usually does so through its Advanced Manufacturing Fund.
That said, the platform’s mission seems to have a lot in common with Apple Music Connect, the social network for artists that was originally part of Apple Music when it launched in 2015 but quickly fell into oblivion. before officially disappearing in December 2018.