Santa Monica-based business-to-business music licensing marketplace Songtradr is diving deeper into livestreaming with its acquisition of Pretzel, a Washington-based startup.
Pretzel focuses on licensing music to livestreamers on Twitch, Youtube and other platforms where gamers and influencers have flocked during the pandemic, often setting their live videos to music. According to Twitch representative Samantha Faught, the total number of streamers making money on its platform doubled in 2020 from a previous all-time high in 2019.
During that time, Pretzel has licensed over 6 million tracks and provided over 12,000 hours' worth of legally cleared music to those creators. And increasing its revenues by over 600%.
"Our goal with Pretzel has always been to allow broadcasters to stream the music they want to listen to, while compensating artists, songwriters, record labels and publishers fairly," said Pretzel chief executive Nate Beck in a statement. "By joining forces with Songtradr, we will be able to accelerate our progress, developing a platform that revolutionizes the way music is licensed."
Launched in 2014, Songtradr has now made four acquisitions in just over two years. In early 2019 the company bought London-based Big Sync Music, an agency that helps brands license music. Cuesongs, another UK-based track-licensing company, came under the umbrella in late 2020. And earlier this year Songtradr acquired SongZu, a self-styled 'music and sound design' company based in Australia.
In July 2020, Songtradr closed a $30 million Series C funding round, which brought its total fundraising to more than $51 million, according to Crunchbase.
"Music and gaming have always gone hand in hand and gamers are some of the most engaged and valuable fans," said Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire in a statement. "The explosive growth of lifestyle and gaming live streams opens up an array of opportunities for our artists and our clients."
Further terms of the deal were not disclosed.
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Who run the world?
For Beyonce, the answer is "girls!" But, it doesn't feel like that in the male-dominated music industry where sexism and ageism reign supreme, according to a new report. Despite megastars like Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Madonna, women in the industry still feel it's difficult to climb the ladder of success and that it's causing women artists to quit.
MIDiA Research, in collaboration with digital music company Believe and its subsidiary TuneCore, released "Be the Change: Women Making Music 2021," a report on female creators' experiences in the music industry.
While most female creators surveyed believe transparency and discourse about gender equality have improved, over 80% of the respondents surveyed said it's still harder for female artists to receive recognition than their male counterparts.
"The main challenges are sexual harassment and objectification," said Mark Mulligan, MIDiA's lead music analyst who worked on the report. "Those are two different things, but they're also causally linked… [and they] are amplified or magnified within the music business — so many female artists are presented in a way that male artists are much less so."
MIDiA surveyed 504 respondents — of which are 401 female creators — around the globe. These respondents are all part of the music industry, as singers, songwriters, DJs, artists and producers. They have different degrees of independence as well — some are independent artists, others are their own managers or are signed to labels.
The vast majority of the women surveyed find that the music industry treats women differently. Eight out of 10 women surveyed experienced sexual harassment at some point in their careers.
"The representation of women in music, even at the top of the charts, has not improved in the last decade ... in some cases it has actually gotten worse," said TuneCore Chief Revenue Officer Andreea Gleeson.
Over 90% of women experienced unconscious bias — one singer-songwriter was told another female singer-songwriter on the festival bill was her "serious competition," when there were plenty other artists on the lineup. A female sound technician says she was told she was unable to move up in her career by male counterparts who were no more skilled.
As a result of their experiences in the industry, many women choose to work alone or exclusively with other women. Dominique — a singer-songwriter that participated in a panel presenting the study's findings — said she decided to work alone after being brushed off by male producers.
"You don't feel like your ideas are being taken into account, and you always get shot down," Dominique said. "Regardless of how bad my music may come out, I want to be the only person working on it."
She wound up writing a hit song called "Girls Can't Produce," which went viral on TikTok; the song's title was taken from a snidely sexist comment posted beneath a video she made detailing her aspirations.
These biases and attitudes toward women translate into experiences that make female artists uncomfortable, less confident, and ultimately, more likely to leave the industry, the report found. One anonymous respondent cited in the report said: "Why do women leave music or not go into it? For some, there's 'only so much sh*t you can take.'"
The study was partly inspired by TuneCore's examination of the artists that use its digital music distribution services. The company said it found only 28% of its artists are female. Although that percentage is higher than the 11% of female artists represented in the industry as a whole, TuneCore found it surprising, said Gleeson. Because its artists are pursuing a DIY distribution path by using their platform, they might expect a lower barrier of entry.
The survey asked respondents what urgent changes are necessary to improve the music industry for women. The most popular response was "more equality and opportunity."
"Now that might sound like a fairly self evident thing, but it's also really quite subtle," Mulligan said. "They just want to have the same opportunity to succeed — their male counterparts have the same aspirations, they work in the same industry — but the industry treats them differently."
After a public spat with Universal Music Group, Triller has bounced back with some serious star power.
The short-form social video app's parent company, Triller Network, acquired Verzuz, the online music battle platform launched last March by rappers Timbaland and Swizz Beats on Instagram Live.
As part of the deal, the two musicians will become "large shareholders'' in the Triller Network and will split some of their equity with the 43 artists who have already performed on Verzuz, including John Legend, Brandy, DMX and Alicia Keyes.
Since Verzuz debuted, just as lockdowns upended live music, it has gained 5.5 million Instagram followers and forged temporary partnerships with Apple Music and Twitter. Until now the program's premise has been dueling pairs of artists flaunting portions of their discographies to compete for viewers' adoration. The Verzuz brand has plans to expand beyond music, however, into sports, comedy and live events, the statement said.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Triller recently sparred with Universal Music Group, which pulled its extensive song catalog from the app and called Triller's statement about the situation "removed from reality."
Triller was sued in November by Wixen Music Publishing for copyright infringement, though that case was recently dismissed on a legal technicality. The company has also had several public spats over whether it has juiced Triller's user numbers.
Following Triller Network's expansion into boxing late last year, sources familiar with the company floated Triller's intentions of going public via a SPAC. These sources said the valuation of the potential move would be dependent on a prospective acquisition by Triller. It is unclear whether Verzuz was that acquisition target and whether the SPAC plan will still go through.
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