Watch: Film, Music Execs on What the Future of Streaming Means for Artists
Annie Burford is dot.LA's director of events. She's an event marketing pro with over ten years of experience producing innovative corporate events, activations and summits for tech startups to Fortune 500 companies. Annie has produced over 200 programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City working most recently for a China-based investment bank heading the CEC Capital Tech & Media Summit, formally the Siemer Summit.
Streaming has dramatically changed how consumers view Hollywood and hear music as theatrical release windows shrink and social media replaces radio and television as a source of music discovery.
In our latest Strategy Session, dot.LA spoke with three talent representatives about how new platforms, models and the pandemic are shifting the ways artists reach their audiences, and what might be in store for the future.
Q&A co-founder Troy Carter has worked on providing new tools that allow musicians to gauge the future success of their songs, and to take care of back-office needs once provided by record labels. UTA Independent Film Group partners Rena Ronson and Jim Meenaghan bring new directors and filmmakers to light and help them get financing and distribution deals for their films. Each plays a role in helping artists navigate bringing their work to market.
Carter said where once record companies and radio stations, MTV and BET picked who would be played and who wouldn't, now a whole new world has opened up to artists on social media, streaming apps, as well as entire new industries such as gaming and streaming video.
What hasn't much changed, Carter said, is the way that artists are compensated. Those who own the music copyright are paid well by streaming services such as Spotify, but that money often doesn't trickle down as quickly to artists. "And that's where, you know, things need to be fixed," he said.
"If an artist is releasing music independently, they still run a label, essentially. So they should be organized with the same tools," he said. "Everybody's a label, essentially."
The question for artists has become 'how do you cut through the noise'. His goal is to give them — as well as record labels and agents — the tools to reach listeners.
"The idea is to, you know, can we make the music industry run more efficiently, and be able to allow labels and artists to make smarter and more informed decisions?"
For filmmakers, the marketplace is getting to be more difficult, especially for those who — like many independent directors — would like to see their films on the traditional big screen, Ronson and Meenaghan said. The pandemic has accelerated trends within the industry that favor streaming services, which were already able to offer larger sums for films.
"Everybody in our ecosystem still wants there to be theatrical releases," Meenaghan said. "COVID has just put a pause on theatrical releasing during the pandemic, but I don't think any of us believe that theatrical releasing is going away."
Much of that may depend on whether the pandemic has created new habits for audiences, who are now used to watching movies on demand and at home. Meenaghan said he's also heard questions about whether theater chains will consolidate or become part of large studios such as Netflix or Disney.
"That was the speculation," he said. "The studios would buy out the exhibition chains, take the real estate, presumably, and then use the theaters for captive marketing and releasing venues."
Ronson said viewers can probably expect the 'theatrical window' — the time when films are available only in theaters, before they're released online — to shrink.
"The big question is going to be 'how is the windowing going to look? Will people stay, you know, continue to go to the theaters?'," she said.
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Troy Carter, Founder and CEO of Q&A
Troy Carter, Founder and CEO of Q&A
Troy Carter is the founder and CEO of Q&A, a technology and media company focused on powering the business of music through distribution, services, and data analytics. Formerly, Troy was the founder and CEO of Atom Factory, where he rose to prominence, nurturing the careers of global superstars including Lady Gaga and John Legend. He most recently served at Spotify as its global head of creator services, overseeing the company's growth strategy for artists and record labels. In 2017, Carter was also named entertainment advisor to the Prince Estate.
His interest in the intersection of technology and culture resulted in the formation of AF Square Investments. Early investments include Uber, Lyft, Dropbox, Spotify, Warby Parker, theSkimm, Blavity, Gimlet Media, Thrive Market, PlayVs, and FazeClan. Troy currently serves as a trustee for The Aspen Institute, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and CalArts.
Jim Meenaghan, Co-Head of the Independent Film Group and Head of Business Affairs - Motion Pictures
Jim Meenaghan, Co-Head of Independent Film Group and Head of Business Affairs, Motion Pictures
As co-head of UTA Independent Film Group, Meenaghan is actively involved in structuring and negotiating film financing and distribution deals for independent films across all media. Meenaghan also oversees day-to-day business affairs operations for the motion picture departments across the agency and works closely with many of UTA's high-profile clients including Wes Anderson, Joel and Ethan Coen, Drew Goddard and Noah Baumbach.
Prior to joining UTA, Meenaghan served as executive vice president of Anschutz Film Group/Walden Media ("The Chronicles of Narnia," "Charlotte's Web," "Ray") and was in charge of all aspects of the company's business and legal affairs. Prior to that, he was senior vice president, business affairs at Icon Productions ("What Women Want," "We Were Soldiers," "Passion of the Christ").
Rena Ronson, Partner and the Co-Head of the Independent Film Group
Rena Ronson, Partner and Co-Head of the Independent Film Group
Rena Ronson is a partner and the co-head of the Independent Film Group at leading global talent and entertainment company United Talent Agency (UTA). One of the industry's pre-eminent packaging and finance executives, Ronson specializes in global film finance, distribution and marketing strategies for independent and co-financed features, helping the world's most acclaimed independent filmmakers see their work reach global audiences.
Throughout her career, Ronson has helped package, structure financing for, and sell numerous high profile films, including Oscar-winning "I, Tonya," "Room" and "Icarus," and Oscar-nominated films, "Hidden Figures," "The Big Sick," "Lady Bird," and "Call Me By Your Name," among many others. She is also known for working with acclaimed filmmakers on their directorial debuts, including Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird," Haifaa al-Mansour's "Wadjda," Don Cheadle's "Miles Ahead," Marielle Heller's "Diary of a Teenage Girl," Jill Soloway's "Afternoon Delight," Crystal Moselle's "Skate Kitchen," and Emerald Fennell's "Promising Young Woman." Additional upcoming films include "The Father" starring Anthony Hopkins and "The Mauritanian" starring Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Kelly O'Grady, Chief Host and Correspondent
Kelly O'Grady, Chief Host and Correspondent
Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, she also served on Disney's Corporate Strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.
Sam Blake, dot.LA Entertainment Reporter
Sam Blake, dot.LA Entertainment Reporter
Sam Blake is dot.LA's entertainment reporter. Prior to joining dot.LA, he had a writing fellowship with The Economist, where he wrote primarily for the business and finance sections of the print edition. Sam previously interned at KCRW and hosted a podcast at UCLA's college radio station while completing his dual-degree MBA and Master's in Public Policy. A native of Detroit, Sam previously lived in Madison, Wisconsin and New York City. He studied history at the University of Michigan and speaks four languages.
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Though Silicon Valley is still very much the capital of venture capital, Los Angeles is home to plenty of VCs who have made their mark – investing in successful startups early and reaping colossal returns for their limited partners.
Who stands out? We thought there may be no better judge than their peers, so we asked 28 of L.A.'s top VCs who impresses them the most.
Mark Mullen, Bonfire Ventures<p>Mark Mullen is a founding partner of Bonfire Ventures. He is also founder and the largest investor in Mull Capital and Double M Partners, LP I and II. A common theme in these funds is a focus on business-to-business media and communications infrastructures.</p><p>In the past, Mullen has served as the chief operating officer at the city of Los Angeles' Economic Office and a senior advisor to former Mayor Villaraigosa, overseeing several of the city's assets including Los Angeles International Airport and the Los Angeles Convention Center. Prior to that, he was a partner at Daniels & Associates, a senior banker when the firm sold to RBC Capital Markets in 2007.</p>
Dana Settle, Greycroft<p>Dana Settle is a founding partner of Greycroft, heading the West Coast office in Los Angeles. She currently manages the firm's stakes in Anine Bing, AppAnnie, Bird, Clique, Comparably, Goop, Happiest Baby, Seed, Thrive Market, Versed and WideOrbit, and is known for backing female-founded companies.</p><p>"The real change takes place when female founders build bigger, independent companies, like Stitchfix, TheRealReal," she said this time last year in <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/greycrofts-dana-settle-on-closing-funding-gap-for-female-founders-2019-12" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an interview with Business Insider</a>. "They're creating more wealth across their cap tables and the cap tables tend to be more diverse, so that gives more people opportunity to become an angel investor." Prior to founding Greycroft, she was a venture capitalist and startup advisor in the Bay Area.</p>
Erik Rannala, Mucker Capital<p>Erik Rannala is a founding partner at Mucker Capital, which he created with William Hsu in 2011. Before founding Mucker, Rannala was vice president of global product strategy and development at TripAdvisor and a group manager at eBay, overseeing its premium features business.</p><p>"As an investor, I root for startups. It pains me to see great teams and ideas collapse under the pressure that sometimes follows fundraising. If you've raised money and you're not sure what comes next, that's fine – I don't always know either," Rannala wrote in <a href="https://www.mucker.com/more-funding-wont-magically-fix-your-startup/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a blog post for Mucker</a>. </p><p>Mucker has a portfolio of 61 companies, including Los Angeles-based Honey and Santa Monica-based HMBradley.</p>
William Hsu, Mucker Capital<p>William Hsu is a founding partner at the Santa Monica-based fund Mucker Capital. He started his career as a founder, creating BuildPoint, a provider of workflow management solutions for the commercial construction industry not long after graduating from Stanford. </p> <p><a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/3048173/the-unexpected-and-hard-earned-lessons-from-a-dot-com-flame-out" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In an interview with Fast Company</a>, he shared what he learned in the years following, as he led product teams at eBay, Green Dot and Spot Runner, eventually becoming the SVP and Chief Product Officer of At&T Interactive: "Building a company is about hiring correctly, adhering to a timeline, and rigorously valuing opportunity. It's turning something from inspiration and creative movement into process and rigor."</p> <p>These are the values he looks for in founders in addition to creativity. "I like to see the possibility of each and every idea, and being imaginative makes me a passionate investor."</p>
Jim Andelman, Bonfire Ventures<p>Jim Andelman is a founding partner of Bonfire Ventures, a fund that focuses on seed rounds for business software founders. Andelman has been in venture capital for 20 years, previously founding Rincon Venture Partners and leading software investing at Broadview Capital Partners.<br><br>He's no stranger to enterprise software — he also was a member of the Technology Investment Banking Group at Alex. Brown & Sons and worked at Symmetrix, a consulting firm focusing on technology application for businesses.</p> <p><a href="https://dot.la/la-venture-podcast-jim-andelman-of-bonfire-ventures-2648143780.html" target="_self">In a podcast with LA Venture's Minnie Ingersoll</a> earlier this year, he spoke on the hesitations people have about choosing to start a company.</p>"It's two very different things: Should I coach someone to be a VC or should I coach someone to enter the startup ecosystem? On the latter question, my answer is 'hell yeah!'"
Josh Diamond, Walkabout Ventures<p>Josh Diamond founded Walkabout Ventures, a seed fund that primarily focuses on financial service startups. The firm raised a $10 million fund in 2019 and is preparing for its second fund. Among its 19 portfolio companies is HMBradley, which Diamond helped seed and recently <a href="https://dot.la/hm-bradley-2649022900.html" target="_self">raised $18 in a Series A</a> round.</p><p>"The whole reason I started this is that I saw there was a gap in the funding for early stage, financial service startups," he said. As consumers demand more digital access and transparency, he said the market for financial services is transforming — and Los Angeles is quickly becoming a hub for fintech companies. Before founding Walkabout, he was a principal for Clocktower Technology Ventures, another Los Angeles-based fund with a similar focus.</p>
Kara Nortman, Upfront Ventures<p>Kara Nortman was recently promoted to managing partner at Upfront Ventures, making her one of the few women – along with Settle – to ascend to the highest ranks of a major VC firm.</p><p>Though<a href="https://upfront.com/thoughts/announcing-upfronts-new-co-managing-partner" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Upfront had attempted to recruit her</a> before she joined in 2014, she had declined in order to start her own company, Moonfrye, a children's ecommerce company that rebranded to P.S. XO and merged with Seedling. Upfront invested in the combination, and shortly after, Nortman joined the Upfront team.</p><p>Before founding Moonfrye, she was the SVP and General Manager of Urbanspoon and Citysearch at IAC after co-heading IAC's M&A group.</p><p><a href="https://dot.la/moving-from-the-passenger-seat-to-the-drivers-seat-upfronts-kara-nortman-named-managing-partner-2648493740.html" target="_self">In an interview with dot.LA earlier this year</a>, she spoke on how a focus for her as a VC is to continue to open doors for founders and funders of diverse backgrounds.<br></p><p>"Once you're a woman or a person of color in a VC firm, it is making sure other talented people like you get hired, but also hiring people who are not totally like you. You have to make room for different kinds of people. And how do you empower those people?"<br></p>
Brett Brewer, Crosscut Ventures<p>Brett Brewer is a co-founder and managing director of Crosscut Ventures. He has a long history in entrepreneurship, starting a "pencil selling business in 4th grade." In 1998, he co-founded Intermix Media. Under their umbrella were online businesses like Myspace.com and Skilljam.com. After selling Intermix in 2005, he became president of Adknowledge.com.</p><p>Brewer founded Santa Monica-based Crosscut in 2008 alongside Rick Smith and Brian Garrett. His advice to founders <a href="https://crosscut.vc/team/" target="_blank">on Crosscut's website</a> reflects his experience: "Founders have to be prepared to pivot, restart, expect the unexpected, and make tough choices quickly... all in the same week! It's not for the faint of heart, but after doing this for 20 years, you can spot the fire (and desire) from a mile away (or not)."</p>
Eva Ho, Fika Ventures<p>Eva Ho is a founding partner of Fika Ventures, a boutique seed fund, which focuses on data and artificial intelligence-enabled technologies. Prior to founding Fika, she was a founding partner at San Francisco-based Susa Ventures, another seed-stage fund with a similar focus. She is also a serial entrepreneur, most recently co-founding an L.A. location data provider, Factual. She also co-founded Navigating Cancer, a health startup, and is a founding member of All Raise, a nonprofit that supports and provides resources to female founders and funders.</p><p><a href="https://medium.com/@John_Livesay/when-google-bought-my-startup-81f1ee21488c" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In an interview with John Livesay</a> shortly before founding Fika, Ho spoke to how her experience at Factual helped focus what she looks for in founders. "I always look for the why. A lot of people have the skills and the confidence and the experience, but they can't convince me that they're truly passionate about this. That's the hard part — you can't fake passion."</p>
Brian Lee, BAM Ventures<p>Brian Lee is a co-founder and managing director of BAM Ventures, an early-stage consumer-focused fund. <a href="https://dot.la/brian-lee-los-angeles-venture-capital-2645125301.html" target="_self">In an interview with dot.LA earlier this year</a>, Lee shared that he ended up being the first investor in Honey, which was bought by PayPal for $4 billion, through investing in founders and understanding their "vibe."</p> <p>"There's certain criteria that we look for in founders, a proprietary kind of checklist that we go through to determine whether or not these are the founders that we want to back…. [Honey's founders] knew exactly what they were building, and how they were going to get there."</p> <p>His eye for the right vibe in a founder is one gleaned from experience. Lee is a serial entrepreneur, founding LegalZoom.com, ShoeDazzle.com and The Honest Company.</p>
Alex Rubalcava, Stage Venture Partners<p>Alex Rubalcava is a founding partner of Stage Venture Partners, a seed venture capital firm that invests in emerging software technology for B2B markets. Prior to joining, he was an analyst at Santa Monica-based Anthem Venture Partners, an investor in early stage technology companies. It was his first job after graduating from Harvard, and during his time at Anthem the fund was part of Series A in companies like MySpace, TrueCar and Android.</p><p>He has served as a board member in several Los Angeles nonprofits and organizations like KIPP LA Schools and South Central Scholars.</p> <p>"Warren Buffett says that he's a better businessman because he's an investor, and he's a better investor because he's a businessman. I feel the same way about VC and value investing. Being good at value investing can make you good at venture capital, and vice versa," Rubalcava said in <a href="https://moiglobal.com/alex-rubalcava-interview/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an interview with Shai Dardashti of MOI Global</a>.</p>
Mark Suster, Upfront Ventures<p>Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, is arguably L.A.'s most visible VC, frequently posting on Twitter and on his <a href="https://bothsidesofthetable.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blog</a>, not only about investing but also more personal topics like weight loss. In more normal years, he presides over LA's biggest gathering of tech titans, the Upfront Summit. Before Upfront, he was the founder and chief executive officer of two software companies, BuildOnline and Koral, which was acquired by Salesforce. Upfront backed both of his companies, and eventually he joined their team in 2007.</p><p>In a piece for his blog, "Both Sides of the Table," <a href="https://bothsidesofthetable.com/finding-an-investor-who-is-in-love-with-you-d0badf1a3998" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Suster wrote about the importance of passion</a> — not just for entrepreneurs and their businesses, but for the VCs that fund them as well.<br></p><p>"On reflection of the role that I want to play as a VC it is clearly in the camp of passion. I really want to start my journeys only with people with whom I want to work closely with for the next 5–7 years or more. I only want to work on projects in which I believe can produce truly amazing change in an industry or in the world."</p>
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