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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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The digital copyright management system Pex scored a $57 million investment as it attempts to become a larger player online.
Chinese conglomerate Tencent and its subsidiary Tencent Music Entertainment participated along with investing firms the CueBall Group, NextGen Ventures Partners, Amarinthine and others.
Pex has built what it calls its "attribution engine" — free for rights holders and creators — to identify, attribute and license content on the internet.
The volume of music and video on the internet has grown exponentially with the popularity of social media and other online channels. In 2018, for example, 621 hours of content were uploaded to YouTube every single minute, said Pex Head of Business Development Wilson Hays.
Pex, founded in 2014, would not say what platforms it works with but said that its service helps these companies remain in legal compliance and limit the need to take down unlicensed material. Last year Pex bought Dubset, a rights management platform for music used on streaming services.
Governments across the world are rethinking what responsibility platforms should have for the content they publish. In the EU, for example, a new law coming into force this summer will effectively shift the burden of copyright compliance to platforms, and add new guidelines asking rights holders to make greater efforts to license music and other content that appears on its site. In the U.S., Congress has floated making illegal streaming a felony as part of its stimulus bill discussions.
"We don't see that there's a way to do that currently without some sort of underlying infrastructure that can tie multiple sides together," Hays said.
Beyond working with the typical stakeholders, Pex partners with law enforcement agencies to help them identify and prevent toxic content from appearing on user-generated content platforms, Hays said.
"It's not just enterprise software," said Hays, "It's really becoming more of a marketplace," adding that new partnerships and customers the company plans to announce in the coming months will show that in a new light.
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