If you’re an artist, there’s less and less of a need to be with a record label today, since so much of what a label once provided can now be accomplished on a DIY basis. What record labels are really good at though, is turning an artist into a superstar, since the infrastructure required for that is extremely difficult and costly to reinvent. That said, former president of Interscope Records Steve Stoute thinks he knows what the label of the future looks like, and that’s what we’ll see with his newly launched UnitedMasters.
Stoute raised $70 million from Google’s parent company Alphabet, the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, and 20th Century Fox in order to start the label. What’s more, he managed to keep it totally quiet for about a year until its recent launch. According to an article in TechCrunch, UnitedMasters is hot on hiring product, design, and engineering positions, and the current team of around 40 features recent recruits from tech companies like Facebook and Dropbox. It’s reportedly currently working with around 1,000 acts.
The way it works is that artists pay UnitedMasters to distribute their music across the internet platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, and then takes a cut of any royalties that are earned. The company also provides analytics, demographic info and provides tools to better target the artist’s fanbase.
That all sounds well and good, but as of now I don’t see too much of a difference between UnitedMasters and the list of aggregators like TuneCore, CD Baby and Distrokid, except that you pay a fee AND a piece of your royalty stream. I haven’t seen what the analytics looks like yet, but I think that most acts would prefer to concentrate on the music and not have to worry about DIY if they can help it. In other words, sometimes a label works better than DIY tools after all.