Following a successful round of funding last year, which was led by Google's parent company Alphabet, there is now a new alternative to record labels called UnitedMasters, which intended for use by both seasoned professionals and budding musicians. More directly, UnitedMasters is poised to take up the slack resulting record labels having consistently failed to adapt to changing conditions in the music industry. Namely, most people no longer buy CD's or full albums and placing management of a musician under a record label tends to limit the growth of modern artists. The effort is led by a former president of Interscope Records, Steve Stoute, who believes that the industry needs to adapt to be more targetted and analytics-driven. Aside from Alphabet, Stoute managed to raise a total of $70 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley Investors Floodgate, and 20th Century Fox.
Stoute explains that UnitedMasters approaches music sales similarly to how gaming sales are approached by that industry. He says that the focus needs to be on monetizing those consumers who are most engaged and that can best be accomplished by technology-focused companies. The biggest fans are also the biggest source of income. To address that, UnitedMasters charges what it calls a "competitive rate" and distributes an artist's work across web-based services such as YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify. The royalties are split between the artist and UnitedMasters, and the rights to master recordings – unlike with traditional labels – is held onto by the artist themselves. Meanwhile, the company pulls back in the data it has collected about listeners and builds the artist a customer relationship management tool. That tool allows the more engaged listeners to be targeted more efficiently with advertisements for event tickets and merchandise sales – making artists more profitable and allowing them more control over their art.
Meanwhile, this is not Alphabet's first foray into the music industry itself. Larry Page, the current CEO of the company, is reportedly a drummer with a soft-spot for musicians. Page was also reportedly taken aback by the fact that record labels don't already have some of the mechanisms in place that UnitedMasters is offering. The company has also previously backed the music distribution and rights service Kobalt, though that service didn't also help artists with merchandising or event marketing. Furthermore, the company's subsidiary Google has its own music distribution service for Android with Google Play Music.