20 music/tech startups we’ll be watching in 2018
This app uses Spotify and Apple Music as the base for a new spin on user-generated radio. Anyone can link their playlist of songs and hit a button to chat live to their listeners. The trick was that each listener was streaming from their own account: if a station has 1,000 listeners, each track picked gets 1,000 streams.
Also known as ‘what Stephen Philips of We Are Hunted / Twitter Music did next’. PopGun is one of the startups exploring artificial intelligence’s ability to create music. Its AI is called Alice, and she listens to your piano-playing, then tries to play melodies to complement it.
Swiftly rebranded from its launch name of Hookd, this company went after the production-music likes of Epidemic Sound, who’ve been providing royalty-free music to YouTubers. Lickd wants to tempt those online-video creators to use music from labels, signing a number of indies to try.
United Masters suffered when the TechCrunch article announcing its launch over-egged the ‘labels are dead’ pudding. $70m of funding from Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz and 20th Century Fox also raised hackles. But a distributor with decent technology could be a boon to the industry.
The Bot Platform
If we learned one thing from British startup The Bot Platform this year, it was to call its products bots, not chatbots. The company worked with a number of labels and artists on bots for Facebook Messenger, demonstrating good engagement rates – and actual money for merch.
Another UK startup, this plans to use artificial intelligence technology to remix songs on the fly for listeners. The idea being that a song might be an acoustic version in the morning; a pumped-up version for the gym, or a jazzy version late at night. Its first public demo is in 2018.
Amuse styles itself as “the world’s first mobile record label”: part distributor for artists to upload their music to get it onto digital services, but part data-mining service that identifies breaking tracks then signs them up. It also provided some actual amusement in September when Will I Am joined as a ‘co-founder’.
After Apple and Pandora snapped up the main music-analytics tools a few years ago, it took a while for a new cluster of startups to emerge. Soundcharts got plenty of buzz this year, thanks to a Midemlab victory and $3.1m of funding in September to continue building.
If you’ve had a bellyful of blockchain startups promising to revolutionise the music industry, how about one that’s training its sights on the ticketing market? Dutch firm Guts Tickets is putting the blockchain to work in rooting out touts while still allowing fan-to-fan transfers of tickets.
The San Francisco-based startup’s system has been built by a team drawn from Apple, Uber and Salesforce, and is geared towards A&R and impact analysis. It was one of the smartest dashboards we saw this year. Taking data from Spotify, SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Jaak’s first public appearance was at our NY:LON Connect conference in January, but the company soon became a regular presence at other events. Blockchain is its focus, and it’s from the sphere of that sector that wants to help the music industry solve its metadata issues, with pilots underway.
Primephonic wasn’t a new company, but its classical-music streaming service was. It launched in June in the UK and US with a catalogue of more than 100k tracks, and licensing deals with Warner Classics and Sony Classical that would swell that total in the coming months. It charged £14.99 a month for its CD-quality audio – 16-bit FLAC files to be specific.
Haawk raised $2.5m of seed funding, and straddled the boundaries of copyright protection and content distribution: it’ll handle YouTube Content ID tasks for its clients, as well as rights management on Facebook, Vimeo and SoundCloud. But it also promises to distribute music to Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora and other streaming services, as well as working in the sync-licensing sphere.
Blokur was founded by former musician Phil Barry, who previously founded the startup (Ujo Music) that worked with Imogen Heap on her ‘Tiny Human’ project. It’s hoping to partner with collecting societies, publishers and artists to help solve their metadata woes, havinghired execs from Universal Music and 7digital for his 10-strong team.
Armed with $4m of funding and the backing of the Techstars network, Amper Music is the American equivalent of Jukedeck, using AI to create music initially for use in online videos, games and other production contexts. The company has grand ambitions for its music to be indistinguishable from human music in the coming years.
“What would you get if you crossed Spotify with video livestreaming apps like Periscope or YouNow?” we asked when we spotted Vertigo Music go live in the App Store. It’s a combination of live vlogging and music drawn from Spotify – and later Apple Music. Similar to Stationhead, each individual listener generates their own stream per song.
The World Airplay Radio Monitor (WARM for short) runs a service to help independent artists, songwriters, producers and managers track radio airplay around the world. It provides access to data from more than 21k radio stations in more than 100 countries, to help with people’s marketing, promotion and radio-plugging strategies.
Bandcamp-on-the-blockchain if you want our high-concept pitch for the merits of this startup. It’s an Ethereum-based “decentralised music streaming and downloading platform that aims to monetise independent artists” which was one of the first music startups we saw running an initial coin offering.
WAV was founded by label veteran Steve Rifkind and former Line exec Jeanie Han, capitalising on both their respective histories. It was an app for sharing video and music content, with WAV planning to support the better examples through label-style deals. It sits within the same group as Line and Snow, providing potential promotion.
Can single-genre streaming services carve out their own niches in a world of Spotify and Apple Music? Gimme Radio is giving it a try. Focused entirely on metal, it’s free to listen to with no ads, but using a radio-style model. Its plans to make money include sales of vinyl and merchandise.