UnitedMasters this morning announced the completion of a $50 million funding round led by Apple, and the music distribution company’s founder and CEO, Steve Stoute, has declared that “the power in the music industry has shifted back into the hands of the artist.”
UnitedMasters, which the former Sony Music president of urban music Steve Stoute founded in November of 2017, also attracted a second investment from Alphabet in the Series B. The Google parent company led UnitedMasters’ $70 million Series A, which drew additional support from Andreessen Horowitz (another Series B participant) and 21st Century Fox. Also worth noting here is that Apple previously partnered with UnitedMasters and the NBA.
Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, Eddy Cue, acknowledged the investment via a statement, noting his company’s ambitious vision for indie creators in the contemporary music landscape. “The contributions of independent artists play a significant role in driving the continued growth and success of the music industry, and UnitedMasters, like Apple, is committed to empowering creators,” he said.
Steve Stoute, for his part, has addressed the Series B on social media and in a multitude of interviews. Plus, the Translation founder and CEO is set to appear on Clubhouse this evening with Ben Horowitz, artist Tobe Nwigwe, and Joe Budden.
But the 50-year-old specified in a discussion with TechCrunch that the capital influx will go towards hiring new team members and attracting more artists, as part of an overarching worldwide expansion. And in a sit down today with Yahoo Finance, Stoute didn’t hesitate to tout UnitedMasters’ agreements as preferable alternatives to major-label contracts, emphasizing the point at the interview’s start.
“Look, what we believe is that artists should have the option. I mean, they put the time in to make incredible work and invest in themselves. And either you should, if you want to, sign with a legacy label, which is the option that was always available for the last 50 years if you were lucky enough.
“Or, now, you can sign to UnitedMasters, or partner with UnitedMasters and we distribute your music for you. You can upload the music right from your phone, anywhere you are in the world. … But the thing that’s very, very important is that the artist owns their rights. They own their IP. This is not a situation that when you sign something, just when you take the money you also give away your rights, which is what legacy labels have done historically since the inception of recorded music.”
From there, Stoute described Apple as “the greatest partner in the world,” blamed the major labels for the small payments that many artists receive from streaming, and indicated that artists stand to benefit from digital-focused partnerships (not necessarily record deals) today.