A New LA Company Aims to Give Fans a Way to Invest, Literally, in the Musicians They Love

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

A New LA Company Aims to Give Fans a Way to Invest, Literally, in the Musicians They Love
  • AmplifyX launches next week to offer shares in musicians' future royalty income
  • Its first tranche is two Detroit-based musicians, each of whom are offering 20% of future royalties for $10,000 at an effective $25 share price
  • In the future, Amplify plans to build out a secondary trading market and hopes to expand beyond music and into the broader creator economy

Rising Detroit rapper and singer Rocky Badd has always been about the street, but soon she and her manager Curtis McKinnon will be going public.

Next week, they'll be selling shares worth 20% of Rocky's future royalty income for $10,000. In doing so, they're also hoping to gain a legion of super fans financially and emotionally invested in her success.


The exchange will be powered by L.A.-based AmplifyX, one of a growing number of online investment platforms made possible by 2015 regulatory changes around crowdfunding. An extension of President Obama's 2012 JOBS Act, the new rules eased restrictions on fundraising and investing, enabling the budding democratization of fractional ownership. Non-accredited investors can now add to their portfolios shares of vintage cars, collectibles like sneakers and trading cards, famous artworks and more.

"Music hasn't really changed from a financing perspective in decades," said Adam Cowherd, Amplify's co-founder and chief executive. His platform aims to address that.

Detroit rapper and singer Rocky Badd, aka September Briyonna-Michelle.

Badd, whose real name is September Briyonna-Michelle, is using Amplify to offer 400 shares tied to her upcoming album, "Respect the Writer 2," for $25 each. Each share is effectively a claim on 0.25% of the streaming and digital download royalties generated by the new release and a few additional songs. Jay Vinchi, another musician from Detroit, is also putting up shares for his upcoming album as part of Amplify's first tranche of offerings.

In L.A., Cowherd has been hard at work. A former physicist turned investment banker, he and his small team had built the infrastructure to run a securities exchange by the end of last year. They waited, though, to complete what would be an 8-month gauntlet to gain regulatory authorization from FINRA, a private financial regulator, and the SEC, its public sector counterpart. The company finished that process in August, and is now awaiting final approval to open its first offering, which Cowherd expects to arrive early next week.

He thinks the wait for that regulatory compliance will pay off by helping Amplify to compete with other platforms that offer similar services, such as Royalty Exchange and Vezt, which also allow fans to buy shares of artist royalty streams.

This first fundraise will be open for 60 days and royalty payments will be distributed to shareholders annually; eventually that could shift to quarterly, Cowherd said.

For artists like Rocky Badd and Jay Vinchi, one obvious appeal to selling shares in their future royalties is earning instant cash – not exactly easy to come by for a musician today.

Rocky Badd's deep connection to her fanbase gives her manager McKinnon and Cowherd confidence she'll have no trouble raising the $10,000. In May, she hosted a livestream concert on Zoom that sold over 1,000 tickets. The YouTube video for her song "Vindictive" has over 8 million views.

With the money raised, McKinnon will look to further spread Rocky Badd fever.

"Rocky can post something and easily get thousands of streams and likes, but now we're trying to get to the millions," he said.

The Amplify offering also has the potential to inspire a squadron of fans to become a de-facto marketing department.

"If we get multiple fans [to buy shares], we now have promoters for a lifetime, because the better that album does, the more revenue share for them," said McKinnon, who — in addition to managing Briyonna-Michelle — runs CrowdFreak, an online platform that helps up-and-coming artists find performance and exposure opportunities.

A rising number of artists are eschewing record labels in favor of ad-hoc, artist-support services, many of which are enabled by technology. Cowherd sees AmplifyX one day building further on that trend, morphing into an entire "record label á la carte."

"Long term, it would basically be a record label in your pocket. We'd like to build that into the native mobile app from the artist perspective, where not only do they have their investor data, and their streaming and social data, but they could also say, 'I'm looking for PR', and we give them three options that have already been vetted through us, and they can make those connections and bookings right through the application," Cowherd said.

AmplifyX co-founders Bobby Kamaris (L) and Adam Cowherd.

Even if Amplify remains solely a financing platform, he sees expansion opportunities in working with more artists and eventually selling shares in legacy catalogs.

"How cool would it be for somebody who's part of the KISS Army to actually own a fractional piece of 'Detroit Rock City' or something like that?"

The company also plans to build a secondary market for trading shares, he said.

For investors, getting in on the streaming market could be attractive. From 2014 - 2019, revenue from streaming saw a 43% compound annual growth rate, and Goldman Sachs projects the $11 billion market to quadruple by 2030. And since streaming royalties are generally uncorrelated with investment returns elsewhere, they provide a means for investors to reduce risk across their investment portfolio.

Given these factors, Cowherd expects investment to come from cryptocurrency investors and the growing crowd of young traders, along with artists' super fans.

"There's a growing demand among Gen Z for investing," Cowherd said. "My uncle is the principal of a school in Michigan, and he actually had to ban Robinhood because so many kids were day-trading."

Down the road, Cowherd expects to see a lot of engagement from that younger generation. They may have the chance to invest not only in musical projects but also in other content creators as well, and the businesses those creators and influencers may start.

"I really want to power the entire creator and influencer economy," Cowherd said.

Amplify has raised about $250,000 in pre-seed funding and plans to raise a $2-3 million seed round in Q1 or Q2 next year.

For now, it'll generate revenue by taking a percentage of the capital raised from the revenue-share offering. Later, it plans to take an affiliate fee for its record label á la carte service, and a small fee for transactions through its secondary market. It may also offer debt financing, such as for underwriting concert tours.

Other companies will be competing to provide innovative forms of artist financing. L.A.-based Stem, for example, recently opened a $100 million debt-financing arm to loan artists advances against their future royalty income. Kobalt, a London-based firm, is also in the competitive mix.

Hipgnosis, which has been on a spending spree of late to allow investors to buy rights to songs and musical IP, represents the broader bubbling activity in the acquisition of music publishing rights.

Cowherd said one key way he aims to differentiate Amplify is by facilitating direct connections between fans and artists.

For Briyonna-Michelle, that connection is about more than a financial transaction.

"For a lot of people, especially people in my city, we don't really invest in nothing. You buy jewelry, you buy clothes, you buy cars or whatever and you just keep up, but it's like, at some point, when we get older, you're just gonna say you had it," she said. "I feel like no matter what the album does, it's still, like, at least you tried to invest in something, whether it worked or it didn't. I feel like it motivates people to start putting some money behind something where later on in life you can get something out of it."

    Come next week, a new set of fans will begin hoping one day to get something out of their investment in her.

    ---

    Sam Blake primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at dot.LA

    https://twitter.com/hisamblake
    samblake@dot.la

    🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

    Christian Hetrick

    Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

    🔦 Spotlight

    In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

    Image Source: Disney

    Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

    For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

    🤝 Venture Deals

    LA Companies

    • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
    • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
    • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
    • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
    • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
    • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
    • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
    • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
    • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

    LA Venture Funds

    Actively Raising

    • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
    • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
    • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
    • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
    • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

    If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

    Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

    Christian Hetrick

    Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

    Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

    Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

    Image Source: Anduril

    Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

    Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

    The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

    Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

    Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

    Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

    CB Insights

    LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

    While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

    🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

    Christian Hetrick

    Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

    Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

    🔦 Spotlight

    Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

    Image Source: SpaceX webcast

    What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

    • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
    • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
    • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
    • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
    • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

    Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

    Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

    🤝 Venture Deals

    Just Announced

    Check back next week!

    LA Exits

    • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
    • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

    Actively Raising

    • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
    • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
    • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
    • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
    • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

    If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

    📅 LA Tech Calendar

    Sunday, January 7th

    Wednesday, January 10th

    • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
    • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

    Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

    📙 What We’re Reading

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