UnitedMasters, Alphabet’s $70 Million Bet, Releases a Limited Distribution Service

Google Invests $70 Million to Destroy the Major Label Ecosystem
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One of the most heavily-hyped startups to emerge in the past year has been UnitedMasters.

UnitedMasters blasted out of the gate with a $70 million funding tranche, powered by the likes of Alphabet and Andreeson Horowitz.  That’s a big bang, though we’re not quite sure where that money is going.

The company began with the promise to provide a platform for artists to distribute their music fairly.  Through this, they set a goal to promote creativity and give autonomy back to the artists they work with, both on both financial and artistic levels.

However, these promises were established in November of 2017 — since then, they have provided a service that does little more than allow artists to keep track of social media statistics and their followers.  At best, that’s redundant with numerous other offerings.  But it’s also seemingly counterproductive for those looking to distribute music.

That being said, UnitedMasters seems to be moving on something else.  Eight months after their initial announcement, there’s this: on July 13th, the company marked the official start of their music distribution service.  The service allows artists to upload .WAV files and album art to the UnitedMasters website.

Currently, it looks like United Masters is only distributing to Spotify and Apple Music.  But we’re expecting (or hoping) that expands.

After artists upload their work, the music is then distributed for a 5 percent commission fee on royalties.

This commission fee is relatively small, but certainly nothing new.  However, it’s refreshing to know that this standard of smaller commissions and allowing artists to retain financial control over their music appears to be the norm for many new distribution services.

One of the interesting things about the service, though, is the way in which it also acts as a business coach for artists starting out.  For example, if a user tries to upload a song, it will automatically set the projected release date as four weeks from the upload date.  Ostensibly, that’s designed to encourage the user to feel more comfortable with marketing their release ahead of time.

Of course, for those artists that want — or need — instant distribution, perhaps that avuncular coaching is a bit unnecessary.  As for other competitive advantages, we’re not clear how this beats the ultra-crowded distribution space, which ranges from old-line players like CD Baby to interesting upstarts like Songtradr.

But maybe there’s some special sauce in there somewhere.