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Charlie Kaplan on Audiomack Supporters, Artist-Fan Monetization, and Streaming Business Models

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Charlie Kaplan

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Charlie Kaplan is the VP of Product at Audiomack, a music streaming and discovery platform that reaches 20 million monthly active users. In today’s episode, he weighs in on Audiomack’s achievements and financial model. He then introduces the platform’s new monetization tool “Supporters” and explains why it matters. He also talks about Audiomack’s commitment to its users, the value exchange experience, and some of the trends he is seeing on social media platforms.

If you’re a strategist who is interested in what’s happening in the creator economy, this is the episode for you!

Episode Highlights:

[02:50] How Audiomack compares to other streaming services

[05:55] Why the platform does not charge artists to upload and share music

[11:48] The evolution of recorded music from file transfers to streaming

[15:45] About Audiomack’s “Supporters” initiative

[20:40] How listeners/fans benefit as a supporter

[27:58] What Audiomack has to offer for artists versus other social media platforms and tools

[37:30] On the company’s key performance indicators

[40:50] Charlie’s observations about a stream-based economy

Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS

Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

Guest: Charlie Kaplan, @ciwk, Charlie Kaplan

Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo

Transcript

Dan: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. 

 

Today’s podcast guest is Charlie Kaplan, who is the VP of product at Audiomack. Audiomack is a music streaming and discovery platform and the company reaches 20 million monthly active users. If you’ve been listening to the Trapital Podcast for a while, then you probably remember the conversations I’ve had recently with other folks from Audiomack.

 

Earlier this year, I had had Dave Macli, who is the co-founder and CEO of Audiomack on the podcast to talk all about the company strategy. And then a few months later, had Brian “Z” Zisook who is the VP of content over there and he’s also a co-founder of Audiomack and he’s editor-in-chief of DJBooth which has joined forces with Audiomack to form Audiomack World.

 

So, the platform itself brings the content and the music streaming together and it’s free to use for both artists and fans. 

 

In this episode, Charlie and I talked a lot about one of the new programs coming through for Audiomack which is called Supporters. Supporters is a monetization tool that allows fans to purchase badges and have other types of clout and exposure that they get in exchange for providing direct proceeds and contributions to artists.

 

So, it’s an opportunity for fans to pay artists directly and to support their work, and the more artists are supported, the more fans get recognized for the work. So, we talked a lot about the vision for this, why they started it, how they feel like Audiomack’s Supporters program matches up with other digital streaming providers who have other competing platforms, how it lines up with other social networks that have other type of tipping and monetization tools.

 

And we talked more broadly about the creator economy, some of the trends happening and more. It’s a really great conversation, especially for the strategist out there that are really fascinated by what’s happening with the creator economy. I think you’ll enjoy it. 

 

Here’s my chat with Charlie Kaplan. 

 

Interview

 

Dan: All right, we got Charlie Kaplan here, VP of Audiomack. Welcome. Good to have you on the podcast.

 

Charlie: It’s great to be here, Dan. Thank you so much for having me on. I’ve been looking forward to this.

 

Dan: Yeah, definitely. And I feel like things are in a really exciting point for you all. You all have this big announcement for Supporters, which is a new program that you’re all rolling out. But before we get into that, I feel like this has been a big year for Audiomack overall. 

 

You’ve had some big licensing deals that have been announced with the major players, a bunch of new initiatives. How has it been and what are some of the things that have led to some of the big moves that you’ve all been able to make this past year?

 

Charlie: Absolutely. I’m so glad to be able to talk about the big picture here because Audiomack has had an unbelievable trajectory recently. As you mentioned, we successfully signed with all three major labels and so when you come on to Audiomack, you’re likely to see the biggest releases of the day every day. 

 

That’s a huge deal for a platform like us, because Audiomack is not like other streaming services, right? We’re not like Apple Music or Spotify in the sense that we started out as a platform where artists upload directly, right? 

 

Our catalog always began with this groundswell of artists who saw the platform as the place where they could directly get their fans to engage. And to be able to supplement that now with folks who decide to go through distributors and, ultimately, folks, the biggest artists in the world, that go through labels means that we have kind of the best of every world. 

 

On one hand, we’ve got an enormous catalog with all this incredible music, day in, day out, you open up the trending page of Audiomack and you’re gonna see the music that you’re looking for.

 

But, on the flip side, Audiomack, I think, is the only streaming music service out there that, (a), does not charge artists for a single thing. We don’t charge artists for uploading, we don’t charge them to monetize music, we don’t charge them for analytics. We don’t charge them for anything.

 

And on the listener side, I think we’re maybe the only streaming music service out there that the vast majority of music you can find on the platform is free to stream, ad supported, and free to offline, ad supported. 

 

So, as a result, Audiomack is a platform that’s built for access and so much of what we do, so much of what we focus on is about bringing more and more and more folks inside the tent who can’t get in here if you have to pay 10 bucks a month or if you’re gonna lose money because you have to pay to monetize. 

 

So, these big changes, each new feature we add kind of fits under that thesis of we are trying to help more artists and more listeners have an incredible listening experience. And the way I always like to think about it is we’re just trying to draw the shortest line between the artists and the listener. How do we get them to be as close as possible to one another? 

 

Because, like two celestial objects, the closer they get, the stronger the gravity is, the stronger the power is. It’s been an amazing period of time for us.

 

Dan: Can you talk a bit more about the decision not to charge artists to put music on the platform and how that may have led to some strategic moves you’ve all made? 

 

Because at least from some of the other streaming services, they do charge, and, of course, that’s a revenue stream. But with it, I think it also does allow them to qualify who then is serious about this and then hopefully that can lead to a more lasting relationship.

 

But how has that been on your end? Because I do imagine that you likely have a number of users who are not necessarily at that same level but you also probably have those that have started at that level and be able to grow with you as well. How has that dynamic been?

 

Charlie: That’s an amazing question. That’s like a fabulous question. So, this goes to like the heart of our beliefs at Audiomack, like about access. So, I gotta put everybody in the streaming music industry like on notice very quickly, like everyone’s gotta be humbled for a second.

 

Nobody comes to any streaming music service, Spotify or Audiomack or any of them, for the streaming music service, right? Everybody comes to Audiomack or any of these other services because of the artist, right? The artist, the music is the attraction of the platform. 

 

The best thing that any of us DSPs can do is present the artists in the best possible light to the audience that wants to receive them the best. So, Audiomack thinks of ourselves as the tech stack for artists and we think of artists as our marketing team. 

 

Like our growth is totally predicated on artists uploading their music and then getting their fans to listen to music on the platform. And when viewed in that lens, we cannot understand why all these other companies charge artists to upload music or to upload over a certain number of minutes of music. 

 

To us, we look at that and we think these companies are all erecting boundaries to their own growth. They’re looking at their artists who are the agent of their growth, the very folks that listeners look to to see value on their platform, and they’re creating ways to deter them from doing the exact most valuable thing that they do on the platform, upload music and share it. 

 

And so we made a decision really early on that we were not going to erect boundaries to the agents of our growth. And on top of that, there is a much larger group of artists and listeners in the world who can’t afford something like a subscription to either listen to music or to upload music than there is who can, and we think that that’s like a deeply unfair layout for the world of streaming music.

 

We just think like, from the standpoint of the size of our opportunity and for just the fairness in the music industry, that there should be no barriers to artists putting up as much music as they want. 

 

Not only should folks not be excluded because maybe they don’t have the means to afford some sort of a subscription, but they also shouldn’t be excluded because they’re the folks who get people on our platform. Audiomack is like 90 percent ad supported. That’s how we make all this stuff happen. 

 

So, the more folks who come to our platform, view ads, buy subscriptions, use the service, the more we grow, the more money we’re able to pass on to artists and, you know, we’ll talk about this a bit later but we’re also diversifying the means by which we monetize the revenue streams for artists. 

 

You know, the decision making on our part is that second point you made, what about showing the artists they’re serious? So, we think that we can achieve that evaluation by other means and the way that we have done that, as we say, everybody who’s uploading their own music, not violating copyright can upload to the platform.

 

For folks who we wanna confer like very special benefits to, so, for example, our new song notification, where whenever an artist uploads a song, we then send a push notification to all of their followers, notifying them immediately that an artist they follow has a new song, those special features are only available to folks who go through our authentication program.

 

Our authentication program is totally free. The only thing that it does is it kind of forces you to prove that you are who you say you are. So, I could create an account on Audiomack and call it Cardi B but if I try to get authenticated, it’s gonna prove that I’m not Cardi B. That’s really important to do, because once we demonstrate that an artist is who they say they are, then we can guarantee a degree of veracity and trust to their fans.

 

And if the fans trust Audiomack and the fans trust the artist, all kinds of other beneficial elements start to come into play. So, the summary, basically, of what I said is, number one, we think it’s nonsensical to charge artists to put music on the platform because they’re our agent of growth and we are their tech stack.

 

And, two, if we want to demonstrate that an artist is serious enough to get our special features, we don’t think that that should be an economic boundary. It doesn’t serve us, it doesn’t serve the artists, and it doesn’t serve the listener.

 

Dan: I hear that. And I think it does follow this growing trend that I’m hearing from a lot of people about how the whole $10-a-month model that has been standard and, in many ways, has been the backbone of the traditional streaming era is being challenged.

 

It’s being challenged by what these services are charging users and subscribers to pay and it’s also being challenged by what the services are charging artists themselves to upload to it. 

 

And I imagine that, yes, having an ad-supported platform is one part of that, but I also imagine that there’s further ways to do this down the road and being able to monetize as well, right? Because if you have the artists that are authenticated or if you then have additional value-add services that you can offer because of the size of the audience that you have, that can be even more lucrative, especially if you’re charging different amounts for things or you’re having some different type of unique experience that’s only gonna go to a select few. Those select few might be willing to pay a higher amount for that unique thing but, in the long run, that will get you further than trying to charge everyone this blanket $10- or $15-a-month subscription to use your service.

 

Charlie: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, you hit the nail right on the head there, which is that the conversation in streaming music right now is, you know, it’s so based around this idea that there is a pot of money that comes from subscription dollars and that that pot of money needs to be divided up more fairly among all of the folks who have an interest in it.

 

So that includes the DSP, it includes the rights holders, which is like this Rube Goldberg machine of like it hits the label, it hits like the publisher, it hits all these folks and, ultimately, at the end of the line, it dribbles down to the artist.

 

And that, as I kind of articulated earlier, if you really think about it, the person who creates the greatest value in this equation is the artist and yet the artist is in a position where they are, we think, very legitimately and with greater and greater force, saying, “Look, we are not receiving fair value for what we actually create in the system. We’re not being compensated fairly.” And there’s a historical underpinning for this, which is really fascinating, which is that — and this is kind of the way that we think about it in Audiomack like how we came to the conclusion we came to, which is that recorded music grew every year from its inception at the beginning of the 20th century up until like 1999 and then Napster happened. The amazing thing about Napster is that it flattened the sort of material requirements for getting music to people from brick and mortar stores putting records on trucks, pressing things, all the way down to just a file transfer protocol so it made the cost of doing business a lot lower, but it also removed all of the sort of like supply and demand dynamics that exist within music and, as a result, the price of music dropped to zero, no one could control this sort of free sharing, and every year from 1999 to 2014, music recorded revenue dropped.

 

And, I mean, this was the era I grew up in. This is the period of time when I was like a kid and it really started to give the impression that what if music stops being a vocation? What if music stops being a way that folks can have a profession?

 

And then in 2015 and every year thereafter, there was an inflection point where recorded revenues went up and up and up and it was all on the back of streaming music. But artists didn’t feel like they were getting paid, and they weren’t getting paid very well.

 

They started to come and say, “Listen, lots and lots of billions and billions of dollars is being made in this space and despite driving the value in the space, we’re not being fairly compensated.” 

 

And the way Audiomack has thought about this is to say, number one, they’re right, the artists should be the best and first compensated figure in the picture of music. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of complexity to this question. And the complexity of this question kinda comes down to the fact that primarily in recorded music now, there’s just one big pot which is how much money goes into streaming. 

 

And that’s like a tug of war, right? You can either charge listeners more for streaming music and, therefore, fewer folks will be able to afford it. You can give artists — the artist will pull on the other side of it, right? And they will try to sort of gain more, but, at the end of the day, a certain number of people paying 10 bucks a month can only be cut so many ways. 

 

And so when we look around the industry, we see the solutions that other folks have come up to with this. We see sort of like a lack of creativity. Folks haven’t thought this through in a way, I think, as you were alluding earlier, to think is a streaming subscription the only way that an artist can be fairly compensated for their work?

 

And, (b), you know, do we need to like cut everyone to the same $10-a-month size? So that’s where the next evolution of Audiomack is coming from, which is the biggest thing I wanted to talk to you about today, which is Supporters. So, Supporters is this new initiative that Audiomack is about to launch. By the time this podcast comes out, maybe it will have launched already. 

 

And what Supporters is is the ability for a listener to directly support an artist. Now, there’s lots of solutions around the internet where, you know, there’s tip jars. There’s — Spotify and SoundCloud have means by which artists can list their PayPal and solicit contributions. 

 

But we think very frankly that that’s a lack of creativity and that’s a lack of empathy for the artists themselves. You know, the reasons why an artist would be soliciting contributions is because the model, the financial model, is not adequately serving them.

 

The reason why a fan would contribute to an artist, it can’t be purely altruistic, because a fan’s love of an artist is so much deeper than just a silent gesture, “Hey, I’m gonna PayPal you 20 bucks.” So, what Supporters does is when an artist puts music up on Audiomack, if they monetize through our AMP monetization platform, which is free to sign up for, their music is now available for support. 

 

When a listener finds a release that they love, they can go and support that release and their profile will permanently be associated with that release forever.

 

So, if I am an artist, right? I put music up on Audiomack, then if you come over and decide, you know, “I love Charlie’s music, I’m gonna support it,” you hit Support, you choose how much you wanna support, and now everywhere on Audiomack where that release ever exists, you’ll always see Dan’s profile in the player, on the album page. You’ll always be able to tap through and see, “Okay, listen, one of the most significant supporters of this artist is Dan.”

 

Why does that matter? That matters because it offers a monetization opportunity that’s unlimited in size to the folks who can afford it and allows folks who can’t afford it to continue to enjoy Audiomack with no changes to their service whatsoever, which is amazing, right?

 

It puts folks in the position, folks with the means of supporting artists directly, in a place where they get to be the impresario. They get to be the patron of the arts. I often think about like, you know, at Lincoln Center, for example, it says David Geffen Hall at the top, this was the person who was able to support the incredible art that happens at Lincoln Center. As a result, he gets his name associated with Lincoln Center and the whole city and all of the artists that enjoy it get to have like this enriched, literally and figuratively, artistic environment. And that’s how Supporters works. 

 

So, the money goes directly to the artist. If they’ve signed up through AMP, then you can just view the amount of money that you’ve gotten in your AMP balance. If you come to us through a distributor, the money goes straight to the distributor. And if you’re on DistroKid or TuneCore or something, then you can pull the money out that way. 

 

But the reason we think this is so important is because, fundamentally, artists are professionals. They think about their music seriously. They’re hustlers. They’re entrepreneurs. They make their own work, they create value, they put it out into the marketplace. 

 

And the only fair, the only like ethical way that we think that we can support such artists, the only way we can think of what we do as not exploitation but enablement of their careers, is to continually look for a means by which they can build those careers. And Supporters is our big — second swing at that, right? 

 

Our first was to launch AMP and have everybody to get on board. But now I think what we’re showing is that Audiomack has this long-term vision of finding more and more and more ways for artists to monetize against their work and really be treated like professionals, like entrepreneurs on the platform. So, that’s Supporters right there for you.

 

Dan: And I think with that, as you mentioned, you are able to create that David Geffen type of experience where, boom, your name is associated with this. And I assume that for a particular artist or for a particular song, there are tiers that are associated with that, right? 

 

So the more that you give, the higher up that you will be on that list. And I’m sure that a lot of that exists within Audiomack as well. 

 

I wonder, though, is there an opportunity for that badge or that supporter recognition to then be transferred if the artist also has their music on other platforms so it’s like knowing like, yes, like they’re a supporter on Audiomack but this lives within the credits or this lives within the — what’s the word for it? Or, rather, it’s in like the longstanding credits for the actual song or the album or the product that they’re supporting.

 

Dan: I mean, Dan, you’re seeing the future here. You’re totally plugged into what we’re doing. I mean, the point for the listener is to create an association with the work. Now, the artist has a job here too, right? I mean, they have to make music that their fans love, that represent them, but with this new incentive built in, they can offer special benefits to their supporters, right?

 

The subset of folks who have put their money aside, extra money aside to support you, they are a really special group of people. And the artist, through Audiomack, is going to have the power to confirm special benefits on to those fans.

 

So, once fans support or supporters support artists on Audiomack, we have built a messaging feature where you can target folks, specifically who have supported you and who have supported you for different projects, at different levels of support, $2, $5, $250, and you can send just subsets of groups specific messages.

 

You can notify them that you have a presale that only they can get access to. You can notify them ahead of time of a promo link, right? Of music that’s gonna come out in a month but you’re giving access to them to hear it first. 

 

And you could do exactly what you’re talking about, which is you could say, “Look, folks who support me on Audiomack, I wanna put them in the credits for my work. I wanna put them in the thank you section for my album. I wanna make sure that they’re acknowledged.”

 

You know, when I said earlier that we wanna treat artists like professionals, we wanna treat them like entrepreneurs, people who are deserving of compensation for the value that they create, part of what that means is giving them a toolkit that is just as powerful as the toolkit that big tech companies like us get to use. And we’re not so big, but we’ve seen what it can be like. 

 

So, what does that mean? That means building out tools that allow them to be the agents of their own fortune. So, Audiomack can be the platform where folks pay for access to the special things that you can give them and then these artists are free to run as hard and as fast as they’re comfortable running. 

 

And what that really means is that if you wanna do the precise sorts of benefits that you’re describing, attributing your success to the folks who financially supported you, we’ve built the tools for that and users of Audiomack should expect that quarter to quarter, year over year, we’re gonna add more and more and more ways to engage your audience, to get music and other benefits to them, and to monetize, to build your career in a way that’s sustainable and rewarding for you.

 

Dan: And a lot of the movement here reminds me so much of what I’m hearing as well with people talking about what’s possible with tokens and other opportunities as well where, “No, your support also gives you the opportunity to get some special VIP access. You get this type of unique thing that the rest of the listening public who are fans of my music aren’t necessarily going to get.”

 

It doesn’t exist in a token or that type of opportunity but I think you’re still offering a lot of those same opportunities for fans and artists to have that connection. I imagine that, eventually, that could be a further evolution of this, especially given where things are going in terms of the ownership for music rights, especially since so many of the artists you serve are independent artists, I could see them, especially if the people who are contributing at some top level wanna also be involved with bankrolling the artist and then, hopefully, that could have them have some stake in a particular song or something like that.

 

Charlie: I mean, this is why I love working in product. This is why I love working for Audiomack, because you start getting into this, “Oh, if I do this, then I could do this. And if I do that, then I can do that.” So, if you can support a project that exists in the future, could there be like a crowdfunding function for releases that aren’t even out yet, you know?

 

What about like crypto tokens, would it be possible to turn these badges within Audiomack into one of one minted tokens?

 

What about the ability to, at some point in the future, have a business relationship with your biggest supporters where their investment in you actually has something to do with the earnings of your work, you know?

 

Who knows which of these avenues we could pursue, but I think once you open the Pandora’s box of if we commit to building more means to monetize on the behalf of artists, if we just accept that premise, which, for some reason, it feels like all the other folks in music haven’t even taken seriously, if you accept the idea that building the artist’s fortunes is building our fortunes, we’re their tech stack, they’re our marketing team, it starts to seem like you’re riding a rocket ship through music, and that’s where our creativity, that’s where our resources, that’s where our focus is going, 

 

is, again, drawing the shortest line between the artists and the listener. Support is an amazing way to do that, you know? It lets the artist directly connect with their fans, the fans who have contributed the most to them, and it literally gives the listener visible association with their favorite artist’s work.

 

It’s amazing. So, it’s opening huge new doors for us that we just kinda — ideas are flowing out from every day.

 

Dan: It’s an exciting time and I know it’s an exciting time for the whole industry just given how so many music platforms as well are tapping into what some other companies are doing with these broader creator economy shifts, right? People wanna have monetization platforms, they wanna create tools to, as you mentioned, make that gap between an artist or a creator and the audience as small as it can be. 

 

And I have to imagine that as great as the work that you’re doing as well, you’re also looking at, you mentioned some of your competitors earlier and some of the things that they are starting to offer, and I imagine that artists likely wanna try to bring their audience to one of those places where they try to minimize the amount of spread just for the ease of managing it all. 

 

So, for you all when you’re talking to artists, what is that pitch? What do you say to get them to be like, “No, Audiomack is the place that you wanna build that stronger fan connection even though some of the other streaming platforms or some of the other competitors have similar type things that they either have or may be rolling out”?

 

Charlie: It’s a great question. The first thing I’ll tell you is when I joined Audiomack in maybe 2018, summer of 2018, we had a few million monthly active users. And now, we’ve got well over 20 million monthly active users. 

 

So, what I’ve witnessed in this period of time has been an unbelievable proof that what we’re building is resonating deeply with listeners, resonating deeply with artists. And the thing that I really attribute that to is precisely the kind of pitch that you’re asking about, which is how do we go to an artist, we can talk about listeners separately but let’s just talk about artists for the sake of the question, and tell them, “Listen, this is the place where you want to build your career.”

 

I think a huge part of why that is so salient is the demonstration that we have their best interests in mind and that we’re not some troll under a bridge that’s trying to charge them for the very effort that is making the DSP itself succeed. 

 

So, our very firm commitment to the fact that like if you want to monetize on Audiomack, the idea that you would charge artists to monetize on a service, virtually any amount, given the size of what streaming payouts are and the long tail of artists, services that charge to put music up, those artists always end up in the red. They always lose money on that deal. 

 

Because, the fact of the matter is, it’s really hard to get enough money in just through slicing up that pot of streaming to justify the cost of distribution. So, first off, we were like there’s just no way that we are going to charge artists to put music up on the platform and we’re not gonna charge them to monetize, number one, because we think it’s incredibly unfair that they would, by and large, artists don’t make their money back on that deal.

 

But, number two, it’s a bit disingenuous to derive all of your value as a platform from an artist going out into the world and sharing your links and then charge them for doing so, you know? I think artists really feel that the way that we have designed our business model is to enable them, is to give them power and strength, to make them feel like, “Listen, Audiomack is a platform that is specifically built for me to improve my career fortunes. As an artist, I show up there and they ask me for nothing but to get out into the world and succeed.”

 

And I think that’s incredibly apparent through what our business offering is. But I think it’s also very apparent for just the quality of our tools. So, the fact that we never charge artists for anything means that there is no strata by which we differentially benefit artists who can afford it, like the richest artists in the world and a brand new artist who’s never earned a dime have the exact same access on Audiomack and it’s just always gonna be that way because we don’t think that they’re any different. They’re both folks trying to get their music out to the world., they’re both agents of their own success, and they’re both agents of our success. So that’s the first thing. 

 

Second thing is we have absolutely world-class tools. So, the analytics on Audiomack are nose to nose as good with anything that any other folks in streaming music can provide. And I think once artists realize that we’re building world-class tools for them but we’re not sort of hanging over them an unfair business deal, they really start to recognize that we’re in their corner and we’re trying to grow with them as opposed to at their expense.

 

Dan: So that’s the pitch to the other, at least, against the other competing digital streaming providers. And that makes sense, given for the reasons we talked about, but what is your pitch to the social media platforms that are offering tipping and monetization tools and things like that?

 

Charlie: That’s a great question. So — and I should probably point out that there’s a couple of different classes of folks who are interested in tipping. So there are social media platforms, like on Twitter, for example, they recently added tips.

 

There are other content platforms, like TikTok or YouTube or Twitch, right? They all have sort of creator tools that can be monetized against. And then there are tools out there that are sort of like the 1.0 of these ideas so tools like Patreon, for example.

 

You know, I think that we’re very unique within music as being the tool that actually creates a value exchange for this sort of support. So, if you look at all the other folks in streaming music, what they focus on is a purely altruistic, “Tap this button and it’ll go to my Venmo” type experience, you know?

 

The folks like TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, they’re much more the vanguard in their spaces about how to diversify revenue streams for artists and it’s been amazing to watch them find their success. 

 

I think that some folks have done this better than others. So, a service like TikTok, for example, it’s been very cool to see them roll out a TikTok gifts tool. That’s great. But they haven’t built that reciprocity that Audiomack is building.

 

So, again, when you support a project on Audiomack as a listener, now that artist who you supported has the ability to contact you directly, right? They can send you a push notification and an email where they notify you about exclusive opportunities and deals, and the sort of virtuous cycle, right? Both allowing a fan to support an artist but then allowing the artist to confer special benefits upon that fan is so much what makes this thing exciting and what makes it work. 

 

And that third class, that sort of Patreon class, when they launched, primarily, what they launched with was just the simple ability to support a project. So, what does that attract? That attracts artists who want to monetize, but those platforms, I think, by and large, have not succeeded in becoming destinations for consumption.

 

So, the really hard part about pulling something like this off is getting artists and listeners in the same place at the same time. So, it’s easy to get one or the other, right? So, I would argue that something like Spotify or Apple Music has listeners but because their music comes from distributors and not from artists uploading, they don’t quite have artists.

 

And something like Patreon, they’ve got the creator, right? But they don’t really have the consumer. They don’t have the listener on their site because other than an artist linking you to that platform or checking out like a profile maybe by accident, why would you ever end up there?

 

But the cool thing about Audiomack is that because we’re an upload platform that’s also a consumption platform, because those two things are in the same place, we can get folks there at the same time. A lot of artists, a lot of listeners, and that’s a lot of collisions and a lot of opportunities to make transactions actually happen, have that value exchange not only be meaningful for the artist, them getting paid because a lot of listeners are seeing the listing, but also for the fan, right? For the supporter. Them having supported a project now gives them very public exposure as a supporter of a work.

 

So, the fact that Audiomack has tens and tens of millions of listeners on the platform means that if you’ve supported the most popular album on Audiomack in a month, if you’re the number one supporter, a lot of people are seeing you there.

 

So, putting both folks in the same place at the same time is really valuable for us. So, I would say that we’re differentiated from each of those three classes of services in really unique ways and I think we found something that is really specific to music, really specific to being like a UGC platform that has both artists and listeners in the same place, and we’ve got a great deal of vision kind of associated with that. 

 

So, it’s definitely a special case but we see a huge amount of opportunity.

 

Dan: That was a great breakdown of where each of the companies fall in that, you know, the one, two, and the three different levels. And, yeah, I think based on that vision, I see how that ties in, especially when you also look at the content that you all create on the platform, you have that as a destination for all those things and that naturally does lead to more involvement and adoption there. 

 

So, yeah, I definitely see that vision there. I feel like that lines up with a lot of the conversations not only here but I know that both Z and Dave Macli had shared on past podcast episodes as well.

 

And you being able to bring it all together does ultimately help lead to more of it, especially because the platform is open and will just continue to attract more and more, both fans and artists over time.

 

Charlie: Which is, as you can see, why access is so important to us. Because if we make it harder for listeners or artists to connect on this platform, if we put a single thing in their way, that’s a missed opportunity for us. 

 

That’s a missed opportunity for the artist, right? To increase the sort of value exchange for their work. It’s a missed opportunity for the listener, right? To connect with music they want and to create a visible, meaningful association with it. 

 

So, we just gotta get everybody under the tent. Our goal has never been to be the streaming service that gets like 100 million people to pay 10 bucks a month. That’s just a little conventional for us. 

 

Our goal has always been to get like billions of people on the platform, however they get in, build something that’s world class, that’s great for them, that’s amazing regardless of what you’re showing up with, and find the most valuable opportunities for the listeners and for the artists and for us, all in one place to connect. That’s what Audiomack is all about.

 

Dan: So how will you measure success for Supporters? Looking back after the first quarter after it launches, what are those key performance indicators that you’re looking at to hopefully see that it lines up with what you had in mind?

 

Charlie: That’s a great question. That’s a great question because there’s a lot of ways you can think about it, right? Like you can think about it like how much money did artists make on Audiomack? 

 

Or you can think about it like what’s the average amount of money that artists made on Audiomack? Or you can think about it like what — I think looking at like the median experience, you know? That middle of the road artist who is like really striving on the platform, isn’t part of the absolute elite, have their fortunes improved? 

 

Similarly, thinking about listeners, right? You know, to what extent do the listeners for whom this is accessible, right? Which is ultimately a financial question. You know, to what extent do they see the value of participating in this? So you could ask the question, what percentage of our listeners have done this or what percentage of folks who have done it once have done it more than once, right? 

 

You know, there’s all kinds of ways that you can think about it. I’ve always felt that the biggest way to think about analyzing performance on Audiomack is to recognize, number one, that artists and listeners, they have different ideas of success but their ideas of success have to actually serve one another, right? 

 

Because, at the end of the day, the thing that a listener is trying to do, by definition, is listen to an artist’s music. And the thing an artist is trying to do, by definition, is get their music to listeners. 

 

So, thinking about how that relationship is kind of interwoven and to not sort of be fooled by the bias of just the most successful people doing the best but sort of broad based, are we making this community sort of more economically rich? And sort of, in general, are we making the idea of being an artist professionally, entrepreneurially, right? 

 

Are we making that more feasible for more people? That’s really the metric that we’re thinking about. 

 

So, I love music, right? If I feel like supporting something financially on the platform is gonna benefit me by buying a badge on the platform, that’s a huge win. For an artist, if they’re seeing, “Oh, man, all of a sudden now, my sort of economic picture is different because I have this new avenue by which folks can support me,” if they start thinking about that differently, then it’s a huge win for us.

 

Dan: Right, and something you said there made me think of how this may line up with the artist’s mentality and how they think about a lot of these things, because no different with a company, there’s always this balance of focusing on growth versus focusing on strengthening the ties that you have with your existing customers, and artists, in very much the same type of way, whether you’re trying to grow streams or you’re trying to build relationships with the people who are already fans with you, and I think, traditionally, at least the way things have been the past few years, streams and music is looked at as this numbers game where people are trying to just amass as many as they can, more followers, more viewers, etc., and so on.

 

However, they wanna monetize that in real life or through things like that. Because this is bringing it together on the same platform where they listen to and stream their music, I wonder, does this shift at all the mentality that some artists may have with how they are approaching their goals or how they are looking at what success looks like for them on the platform as well?

 

Charlie: We hope so. I mean, that would be a huge sign that we were on the right path would be the idea that if artists now think that, by using Audiomack, getting folks to listen to their music and monetizing in that way but then also utilizing Supporters and really kind of getting value out of that direct connection to their fans, that they can monetize that way.

 

If you think about it, the fundamental behavior that a stream-based economy incentivizes is to get folks to stream more. That’s what you just said, right? If each stream has associated with it a certain fraction of a penny, then folks are just trying to get as many of those fractions of a penny in the door as possible. 

 

The behavior that Supporters incentivizes, it says, “Listen, let’s get as many folks in the door associated with me by creating really special ways for me, the artist, to connect with my fans after they get in the door,” that’s an amazing new thing. 

 

That means now the artist is thinking about, “Listen, if I can think of more and more valuable ways for me to connect with my fans, for me to create special opportunities for them, to communicate with them, to get them music early, to get them into my concerts, to build up our relationship,” all of a sudden, now, the fundamental new thing that an artist is trying to do is to connect more closely with their fans, right? Bring them closer, create more opportunities for them to get value out of the relationship. And that’s incredible. 

 

And I know I sound a little bit like a broken record, but I cannot believe that all of these big tech companies out there, these big streaming music companies, they put all of this time and effort into trying to figure out how they can increase their own forms of revenue, how they can increase their own profits, how they can increase their own monetization opportunities, but they do it at the expense of the artist as opposed to thinking about how to create more opportunities for the artist which they can share in growth with. 

 

It’s amazing to me that like everybody treats it like this tug of war as opposed to trying to grow together. And growing together is way, way more valuable than that zero sum game that so many folks see just by plopping a subscription fee on an artist’s ability to put music on a platform.

 

It’s — the thing that Audiomack is doing and is gonna continue to do and I think has done really since we were founded and certainly ever since we’ve launched as apps in 2015, the big thing we’re trying to do is to say any benefit, any tool that a big tech company or any other company out there, anyone with the sort of an enterprising entrepreneurial mindset has, how can we provide that at scale to artists, you know?

 

And thinking about revenue diversification is a huge way to do that, but there’s all kinds of other like non-revenue ways that we’re thinking of doing that. You know, what are ways that companies market? What are ways that companies monetize? What are ways that companies advertise? What are ways that companies get out to their consumers? 

 

How do we provide that for free for artists? Because if artists succeed in getting value out of those things, then we succeed in getting value out of those things. And that’s like a doctrinaire, completely unshakable attitude that we’ve got as a company.

 

Dan: And something you said there, that’s the irony of so much of the focus on the creator economy. There are so many of these major companies that wanna invest more and more in it but they’re approaching it as a zero-sum game where everyone is trying to compete for this attention, compete for eyeballs, what they can get you to do and keep time away from you spending time on other platforms, as opposed to doing the very thing that they’re trying to help creators themselves do, which is finding their own niche and opportunity to monetize in unique ways. And I —

 

Charlie: Or that they say that they’re doing. Who knows what they’re really doing.

 

Dan: Exactly, exactly. Well, Charlie, this was great. Really appreciate the breakdown and excited for Audiomack and everything that you all have planned. But for those listening that maybe this is their first time learning about the services that you have and first time learning about Supporters and they wanna learn more, where should they go and how should they find out more?

 

Charlie: So, head on over to audiomack.com or look us up as Audiomack in the app store or in the Play Store. Audiomack, you know, we have a monetization page which you can easily find either through searching Audiomack AMP or through our website. That is gonna be your pathway into all of your FAQs about how Supporters works. 

 

Also, please hit us up on Twitter or on Instagram or any place where social media is pervade. We’re also Audiomack in all of those places and we are gonna be up late answering any questions that you folks have. 

 

I’m sure we’re gonna make lots of opportunities to proselytize to the world. So, yeah, that’s the story. Come hit us up at audiomack.com.

 

Dan: Great stuff. Good stuff. Thanks, Charlie. This was great. Thanks for coming on.

 

Charlie: Dan, pleasure was mine. Amazing questions. Thank you so much for making the time.

 

Dan: Of course.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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