The Rattle opened a studio in Silver Lake last year, which it operates as something between a startup accelerator, art co-op, coworking space and venture studio. Its goal is to rethink the way musicians and artists are compensated for creating something new or groundbreaking.
"In the music economy, artists are treated like writers of music for some label or publisher, so that the grown-ups can go and sort it out afterwards," said Chris Howard, CEO of The Rattle. "We wanted to see if we could translate the principles of startups and entrepreneurship to artists."
This week, the Los Angeles and U.K.-based creative collective announced its first investments into Los Angeles-based companies.
The Rattle CEO Chris Howard
They include a virtual reality tour guide platform, Animas, created by musician and artist Alexandria Rowan and FINKEL, an artist group that uses film and music to encourage people to explore new cultures.
Roughly 8,000 people have applied to join The Rattle since it launched in 2018, but it's only accepted about 400 artists and white-hat hackers between the U.K. and United States, according to its program director Brittaney Bunjong.
Only about 5% of applicants are accepted into its membership program. Only about 10% of those members receive a capital investment from the organization.
"I've found having outside eyes to provide direction on my choices as an artist and entrepreneur, learning about opportunities available to me, all has been appealing," Rowan said. "The co-working part of the process and getting to hang out with like-minded people has been wonderful."
Rowan uses virtual reality to create tours of cities for new residents and help them meet their neighbors, an effort she sees as complementary to trends exacerbated by the pandemic, when people working from home in shut-down cities opted to move to more affordable locations.
Animas will hold a demo event using its VR in October. The team will pick a small, relatively unexplored city (sadly, Los Angeles is neither) to host and showcase local artists and vendors. The event will also encourage residents to purchase local art and get active by using the technology to do an augmented reality scavenger hunt.
FINKEL's co-founders are husband and wife duo Brian and Jane Spencer, They're musicians who started a band of the same name but wanted to expand into filmmaking. After a failed attempt at recording a concert in Antarctica during the pandemic, the couple began experimenting with other ways to use film to expose local musical talent and culture.
Their first project, called "Islanders," will debut this year; it'll be a multimedia project examining the local artist culture in Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan.
A Finance Model for Artistic Provocation
The Los Angeles group is no more than 150 people who pay a $125 monthly fee to access the office space, engineering support and networking.
Howard said the Rattle doesn't make a profit from membership fees but instead takes equity in the startups it co-founds.
"The goal is to help them become financially independent," Howard said. "We deliberately shifted to an equity business model, so that if we're going in hard with members, then we will only commercially succeed when they commercially succeed -- and that's a philosophical difference between ourselves in the music business."
Eligible startups will receive funding from The Rattle for the first year of their operations plus access to its studio and creative space at the historic Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake. The Rattle declined to provide details on funding.
"We did so many experiments with how to finance an artist early on, so that they can be a great artist and a great business builder at the same time," Howard said, adding that musicians are forced into making money in only one or two significant ways: selling the rights to reproduce the music, or performing. "But if you establish your own company right from the very beginning and build that company as your artist's brand, you can enter any industry you want," he said
Howard told dot.LA it'd been testing the model for about two years before making investments, thought it has helped launch or develop 40 companies to date, he said.
"We partner with specific members in our community who we believe are making the most provocative or the most challenging projects and we co-found a brand new company," Howard said.
The Rattle has raised $3.5 million to date and is backed by Crowdcube, the Future Fund, London-based Dig Ventures and European investment firm LeanSquare. Former Virgin Music managing director Steve Lewis and Outrun Ventures Partner Chris Adelsbach also backed The Rattle as angel investors.
- Elysian Park Ventures' Cole Van Nice On the Future of Sports - dot.LA ›
- The Rattle Adds Music Tech Innovators to Its LA Program - dot.LA ›
Social media has made it easier for musicians and producers to get discovered, but they still have to impress the industry's gatekeepers to make it big -- and those executives are typically white men swayed by their own biases, whether they intend it or not.
A June report from USC's Annenberg Institute found 86% of the music industry's top executives are white and male, and under 20% of executives at the level of vice president or higher are from minority groups.
Little surprise, then, that Snafu Records founder Ankit Desai believes the music industry is overdue for a change in how it discovers, promotes and scales artists' careers — and he's using artificial intelligence to do just that.
Snafu, which launched in 2018, raised a $6 million funding round on Sept. 21 to fine-tune its AI discovery platform. With offices in Los Angeles and Sweden, Snafu will soon launch two new products -- Blurry, a platform for songwriters to find collaborators, and Fine.Art, a system that lets Snafu and its artists co-invest in funding a breakout artist's career.
Desai said the company's revenue mainly comes from taking a cut of the rights to an artist's work after they sign. Snafu has a roster of 45 artists.
Snafu uses AI to scan a million new songs per week and analyze factors that could determine the artist's success -- including song structure, overall popularity and how listeners are talking about them on social media. Right now the platform focuses on Spotify, YouTube and TikTok, but Desai said Snafu's looking to include other audio streaming platforms like SoundCloud and Bandcamp soon.
The company brought in a number of high-profile investors in the round, including Agnetha Fältskog, lead singer of Swedish superband ABBA; Hampus Monthan Nordenskjöld, who was one of the first investors in Snafu; and Academy Award-winning songwriter Savan Kotecha.
"I'm proud to be part of what [Desai] is creating, which is not just an algorithm trying to find hits, but it's actually quite a lot bigger than that," Nordenskjöld said. "We're trying to change music from the ground up, and I think we're gonna make a solid attempt."
When it launches, Blurry will use AI to match producers and artists looking to collaborate. Desai described it like a "Tinder for musicians," where people match based on short music samples and then their identities are revealed to one another after they agree to collaborate.
The Fine.Art service will help up-and-coming artists identified by Snafu's algorithm as potential stars get advanced funding to start their projects. Desai said the AI will pinpoint potential hits and then Snafu will offer existing artists the chance to invest in an emerging artist's success.
"The good thing about streaming is that once a song has peaked, you can be relatively comfortable in predicting how much money that song is going to make in the next 18 to 24 months," Desai said, adding this is how the company will decide which artists to fund.
Shrikanth Narayanan, an AI researcher and university professor of computer and electrical engineering at USC, said AI has the potential to democratize and make the music industry more equitable.
"Personalized experiences are something that AI strives to do in a way that could be very inclusive and equitable," Narayanan said. He added that AI has "a promising potential to empower the music industry" and could "actually enhance and make it even better."
There is a potential the AI could be wrong -- something Desai and investors say they expect. It's possible Snafu could give an artist an advance and never see a return, one or two big hits could make up for it.
Narayanan said that Snafu's AI could have its work cut out for it in calibrating its selection process.
"Naturally there's going to be a lot of variability across people, and so that while we can understand that and study it, this may certainly be a challenge that AI tools will face," Narayanan said. "They have to see enough patterns to understand the range of emotions or things a particular piece of music is conveying (to) or connecting with listeners."
- Music Marketplaces Are Supplanting Record Labels (Column) - dot.LA ›
- Music Tech is Making it Easier — and Harder — for Artists - dot.LA ›
- LA's Music-Tech Startups Are Poised to Reshape the Industry. - dot.LA ›
Designed with TikTok creators and amateur musicians in mind, Mayk.it wants to let you make music -- all on your phone.
The Los Angeles-based company is hoping to be part of the growing creator app space that is reshaping the relationship between traditional studios and aspiring artists. Mayk.it announced Tuesday it raised $4 million in a round of seed funding to expand its user base and develop more tools.
The T-Pain-backed music app allows users to find beats made by other users and sing over them to create their own music, meant to mirror a recording studio-like experience.
Other music-creating apps like Apple's Garageband and Soundtrap Studio also let users create and share beats and songs. But Mayk.it is intended to be simpler. It doesn't require users to make their own beats and doesn't come with the various tools found on other apps.
"There's a lot of sound waves, and faders and buttons and words that you have no idea what they mean," said Stefan Henriquez, the co-founder and CEO of the company. "And it's very, very complicated."
The app launched on the Apple App Store on a waitlist basis Tuesday after testing to a beta community of around 300 users.
Henriquez got the idea for the app at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after he tried to start creating music, but found that most apps were complicated and difficult for amateur musicians like himself.
"If you really want to say something and you have a message and you're a good storyteller, there really shouldn't be any technical hurdles for you to express yourself with a song," said Henriquez, a former marketing head at TikTok. "And that's what we do with the app."
The app also isn't just limited to amateurs. Some artists have used the app as a way to quickly jot down ideas for music or to experiment with different types of music, he said. The app also lets artists avoid relying on music studios, which can be limited in capacity and costly to rent.
Ownership of music created on the app is split between the singer and the beat creator. The app is also setting up partnerships to help creators distribute their music, though Henriquez declined to share details.
The round of seed funding was led by Greycroft, Chicago Ventures, Slow Ventures and firstminute and included rapper T-Pain, former Spotify executive Sophia Bendz and YouTuber Mr. Beasts' Night media.
Henriquez said he's hoping the app helps decentralize music creation for a broader audience.
"Lots of content creators want to be 360 creators and want to be fully independent and do everything themselves," he said. "Having another creative (music) tool really, I think is probably the last dimension that was missing."
Correction: A previous version of the story misstated the number of beta users. It is 300.