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How Fanbase Raised $6 Million Without VC with Isaac Hayes III

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In less than three years, the Fanbase social content app has raised six million dollars (without traditional venture capital) and is inching toward the one-million user mark. How did co-founder Issac Hayes III take the app from nothing all the way to this? If you ask him, his life spent in the cut-throat music industry gave him the inspiration AND business chops to thrive within the tech space. 

 

As the son of legendary R&B artist Isaac Hayes, he was made well aware from the get-go of the exploitative practices by record labels toward musicians. Isaac would go on to notice similar exploitation with social media giants and their users, who were creating content and driving attention, but reaping little of the billions of dollars in revenues being reported by the same corporations.

 

Fanbase is changing those optics. On the app, users can post content — written, photo, video, audio chat, and live stream — for a subscription fee. As Isaac sees it, “monetization for every user is the wave of the future.” For a full glimpse of how Isaac is building Fanbase into a disruptive social media force, you’ll want to tune into our interview. Here’s what we covered in the episode:

 

[4:10] Fanbase Raised $6 Million From Crowdfunding — Not Venture Capital

[6:34] The Most Important Investors Of Fanbase 

[8:10] Making Investing More Accessible

[10:30] How Fanbase Is Acquiring New Customers

[11:59] Fanbase’s Biggest Business Advantage (Not What You Think)

[14:13] “Monetization For Every User Is The Wave Of The Future”

[16:18] Why Artists Shouldn’t Sell Their Catalogs

[22:23] What Isaac Loves About Technology

[23:40] What Does Fanbase’s Future Fundraising Timeline Look Like?

[26:38] Size Of Fanbase’s Team Now & In Near-Future

[27:51] Atlanta’s Underrated Scene Outside Hip-Hp

[30:39] Isaac’s Influence For Creating Fanbase

[32:34] Getting The Music Rights Back For His Dad

[33:48] Keeping Black Icons Relevant Post-Death

[36:14] Will There Ever Be An Isaac Hayes Movie?

[41:45] Fanbase’s New Features

 

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

 

Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

 

Guests: Isaac Hayes III, @isaachayes3 

 

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.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Isaac Hayes III  00:00

I think monetization for every user is the wave of the future. I keep saying it, I think that there isn’t a person right now that isn’t subscribed to at least one thing. And one subscription becomes more and more the common vernacular of how we  engage with content. Social media is the last, you know, frontier that’s left. You know, when you think about TV and film with Hulu, and Netflix, and Disney+, and music with Spotify and Apple Music, and print media with Forbes, and The New York Times, and Billboard, and then productivity software like Adobe Premiere Pro, Microsoft Word. Like, you don’t… You’re subscribed to something. You’re probably subscribed to an app on your phone that allows you to edit your photos. And so subscriptions are just the language. And so I think that’s going to be the language of the future moving forward.

 

Dan Runcie  00:53

Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip hop culture to the next level. Today’s guest is Isaac Hayes III. He’s the founder and CEO of Fanbase. Fanbase is a company that helps creators better monetize the content they put out. And on Fanbase’s platform, followers can subscribe for $3.99 a month to get all of the exclusive content from their favorite creators, or they can follow creators and they can spread love. Love is the primary form of engagement on Fanbase, and it’s how creators monetize. The more likes and love they get, the more revenue that they get into their pockets. So Fanbase addresses a lot of the challenges that people have had about social media more broadly. And in this chat, Isaac and I talk about what the journey has been like. He’s been able to raise $6 million through crowdfunding. He did it through this platform called StartEngine, and he’s had many well-known investors on board, folks like Snoop Dogg, Charlamagne The God, Kandi Burruss, Chamillionaire, Roland Martin, and more. So we talked about his decision to go that path as opposed to the traditional VC route. Isaac and I also talked about the trend of music publishing and the catalog sales that have been happening, and why he actually thinks that a lot of musicians should not be selling their catalogs. He is not the only person to say this, but these voices have been a little bit quieter in this narrative. So it was great to hear his perspective on this. And then we also talked about the other hat that Isaac wears. He is the manager of his late father’s estate. His father is the legendary singer, Isaac Hayes. So we talked about what that experience has been like managing the estate, and how his father’s experience in the music industry had formed a lot of the work that Isaac Hayes III himself wants to create and the opportunities he wants to do through Fanbase. We also talked about what an Isaac Hayes biopic would look like, and who Isaac Hayes III would want to play his father in a movie. I think he had a pretty good answer. I’m a big fan of this person. So I think you’ll enjoy who we said. We also talked about Atlanta’s impact, and just how influential that city has been in culture and for Fanbase as well, we had a great conversation, and I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Here’s my chat with Isaac Hayes III. All right, today, we got Isaac Hayes III with us. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Fanbase, an app that helps creators monetize the content that they put out into the world and get what’s there. So Isaac, thank you for joining. And it’d be great to just hear from you how things were going with you and how things been going with Fanbase. What’s the latest been?

 

Isaac Hayes III  03:46

Man, we just closed our second seed round of $2.6 million on StartEngine. So we’ve raised a total of $6 million in less than a year. It’s been phenomenal. We’re adding a lot of amazing functionality to Fanbase. And new features are rolling out in the next couple of weeks, a new version of audio, which is one of our flagship features on the platform that’s monetized for all users. So it’s an exciting time at Fanbase.

 

Dan Runcie  04:10

Can you talk to me about your fundraising process a bit because I know that you crowdfunded the 6 billion. You were able to do it at a few different stages. But what made you go that route, as opposed to the more traditional venture capital fundraising?

 

Isaac Hayes III  04:25

Two things: one was just a recommendation by a really good mentor of mine to do so. And it was in COVID, because, you know, we couldn’t move. And I had a real kind of like off-putting conversation with a VC. And it immediately reminded me of the music business. And so in my mind, I immediately thought, okay, these seeds are like the label. And I’m like an artist trying to get a record deal. And so starting to gave me the opportunity to go independent, and sell my shares out of the trunk of my car to the tune of $6 million, which gives us better leverage, and lets people know that we don’t need venture capital to raise serious cash. And so that’s really how it, you know, wind up that being that way.

 

Dan Runcie  05:06

Yeah, I heard the comparisons from a lot of people. And I think that the thing you often hear from folks that do crowdfund is that it can take a lot of time to get there. But at least from what I’ve seen from your process, you were able to get several thousand investors in a pretty short amount of time. So what were the steps from that perspective to keep the momentum hot, and to make sure that you had a strong pipeline?

 

Isaac Hayes III  05:29

I think the best thing is, when you’re, I think the biggest benefit was the fact that it’s a product that the investors can actually use in real time. So it’s not like they’re giving to something, and they’re investing in something and not knowing what the product will be or what it does. They’re a part of it in real time. And it’s something that’s relatable to them. If I go and invest in a tech startup that does something to do with aerospace engines, cool, when I’m not with it every day. I just sit back and hope that they make the best decision possible with my investment. But Fanbase is something that I think is more personal to people because of where we are social media. So I think that gave it a lot of energy, because people are a part of the process, and they feel part of the platform and part of this journey together in real time. So it’s something that you can use, you know, and then who better, I got to say, to give actual equity in a social media startup into the users themselves that will actually make the platform grow. 

 

Dan Runcie  06:20

And I think you’re able to find some influential folks with that too, right? You got Kandi Burruss, you got Charlamagne. And of course with their platforms, they’re able to help amplify and can connect you with other investors or just other creators, given what they’ve done.

 

Isaac Hayes III  06:34

Yeah, but we honestly haven’t used them in that fashion. And I actually don’t typically want them or to do that particularly yet. And the reason being is because I like the fact that they are silent in their action, because a lot of times when people of notoriety step out in a space where they’re invested in a platform and may turn other people off, that feel like well, I didn’t get that opportunity. And in social media, it’s more about the users. The most important investors on Fanbase, and we have some really big, big name investors, the most important investors on Fanbase are the actual users, the larger, broader, probably a sea of 8000 plus individuals that have put their money in and actually use the platform on a day-today basis, who will be those day-to-day, you know, hardcore super users. But relationships and those investors that are of a high stature like a Snoop Dogg and stuff like that, their time will come later. They all, I know, they all know exactly when they’re going to get on and when they’re going to turn the engine up on the platform. So we’re just, you know, we’re focused on the core audience and the core investors of the platform being what we really focus on at Fanbase.

 

Dan Runcie  07:41

And with 8000 investors, you mentioned $6 million raised, it makes it pretty affordable to, you know, for people to be able to have a stake, because I think that’s one of the challenges that you often see from institutional money that comes through or some of the minimum buy-ins for some investments is that it isn’t always the most accessible for folks that may be interested. So I think you’re able to at least allow that to happen given the amount of people that were able to invest for the total amount you have.

 

Isaac Hayes III  08:10

Absolutely, I mean, the accredited investor rule has kind of been a barrier for all people, you know. I don’t care what race you are, if it’s a law that’s been in effect since 1933, it’s just only given opportunities to rich people to actually invest in early stage companies. So you’re coming out of the Great Depression, if you ever wonder why none of your family members got a call to invest in IBM, or Microsoft, or Apple, or Facebook, and so on and so forth. It’s this accredited investor rule that is given all the best opportunities of wealth to the wealthy. And so I love the fact that Barack Obama and Joe Biden pass the Jobs Act and allow people like myself to go to my peers and the public to actually have the same opportunity that VCs and accredited investors have to get a piece of the American dream by investing the same way that all these other people have been able to do for 83 years.

 

Dan Runcie  09:01

I think we’re gonna see the rules continue to break down on that. I know now they have that flexible option where I think if you take the Series 63 or 7 or one of those tests, then you can become accredited. So that’s one way to pass the income thresholds. But I feel like even that is probably going to break down at some point. That just feels like where everything is at it.

 

Isaac Hayes III  09:22

It should. I mean, one of the seed investors in Uber, a guy by the name of Oren Michels only invested $5,000 into Uber, but when it IPO in 2019 is 5000 was worth 24 million. And I’m like, well, how come we can go to Vegas and spend $5,000 on the crap table or go buy $5,000 worth of lottery tickets, but I can’t invest in Uber. And I think that’s the real crime is that, you know, it’s okay that if you go blow your money gambling in that fashion, but not gambling in in the fashion of investing your money in a startup like Uber, which wound up being very, very successful, so the rules have to change and platforms like StartEngine are breaking down those barriers.

 

Dan Runcie  9:59

Right, especially when so many other people using it and giving these startups their early validation are the ones that believe and see in the future. So I feel like those dots got to connect eventually. But…

 

Isaac Hayes III  10:10

It will for sure.

 

Dan Runcie  10:11

Going back to Fanbase itself and how things are, I read that you have a goal be able to hit a million users in June. And it would be great to hear what your strategy has been in terms of acquiring customers. What’s been the most effective thing that you’ve done to get more creators and users onto the platform?

 

Isaac Hayes III  10:30

I think the biggest thing is actually just word of mouth, right? It’s the quality of the product. And then I think we’re in a very unique time, a very opportunistic time for platforms like Fanbase to emerge, because of this transition from users wanting more access to their following, they’re getting tired of words like shadowbanning and content suppression and stuff like that. And algorithms are becoming the enemy of the common user on the platform, or even the super user on the platform, because platforms typically are profitable off ad revenue. And so for that to happen, you can’t simultaneously provide visibility for every user on the platform, and then run ads at the same time. That’s counterproductive to the business model. Because if that’s the case, then the people that buy ads would just go to the users themselves and run ads that way. And then you would have no business model. And so Fanbase is just you know, emerging at a time right now that I think the conversation is different. And ad based, ad-based revenue social media platforms are going to continue to change that puts us right, at the right time to continue to grow. So word of mouth. And then timing is just helping us, and then we have an amazing creative advisory board of young people. There’s some other strategic partnerships, and I’m really excited to begin working on that, they’re really rooted in community and rooted in the culture of what we want on Fanbase, which is young, centennial people of all races, ages, backgrounds, creating content and monetize.

 

Dan Runcie  11:56

What are some of those partnerships? Anything you can share with us?

 

Isaac Hayes III  11:59

No, because… And the reason why I can’t is because they’re really savvy in the way there’s things that I think, social media startups, I’ll say this, like, I think Fanbase has the best advantage to become a social media unicorn by simply being in Atlanta. And what I mean by that is like Atlanta, is the epicenter of black culture in the United States of America. And what we know about Black culture is Black culture is pop culture. And we know about pop culture, pop culture is what drives social media. So therefore, if you’re right at the epicenter of where the viral challenge is going to happen, or the newest, funny influencer, or the dance challenge, or the artist is at, being able to have them be part of Fanbase, and part of that community gives us a really big advantage. So some of those partnerships are rooted in culture, and community, and music. I can’t announce them or anything, because it’s really dope, though, the way that you have an advantage to do so. And I think a lot of the other platforms know that, which is why they kind of try to pivot in and out. And also try to acquire those users from Atlanta, those the talent, they’re like, oh, let’s pay them. Let’s try to get them, you know, in the same way, but I think Fanbase just has a little bit more of an advantage.

 

Dan Runcie  13:09

I hear that and thinking, too, about making sure that the talent gets paid fairly. I think that’s been the underlying theme for so much of why you wanted to create this. There have been so many people that we’ve seen have become viral sensations, or creators who have a strong following, but being able to really tap into that in a meaningful way hasn’t always worked. And in some cases, it’s everyone else making money instead of them. I think you would have that story about the ghetto Spider-Man and how the person behind that had blown up, but he’s the one calling you like, hey, what do I do? Like, is anything that can help here? And you think about that, and you just think about all of these creators, whether it’s folks on TikTok, that are, like the guy that does the hands video, you know, he is, you know, one of the biggest creators, but he isn’t anywhere on that Forbes list of the top creators. So I feel like you’ll be able to bridge that connection of, okay, there’s clearly a market gap here and how we can have a platform that can close that and how big of an opportunity that is.

 

Isaac Hayes III  14:13

It’s an enormous opportunity. I think monetization for every user is the wave of the future. I keep saying it. I think that there isn’t a person right now that isn’t subscribed to at least one thing. And one subscription becomes more and more the common vernacular of how we  engage with content. Social media is the last, you know, frontier that’s left. You know, when you think about TV and film with Hulu, and Netflix, and Disney+, and music with Spotify and Apple Music, and print media with Forbes, and The New York Times, and Billboard, and then productivity software like Adobe Premiere Pro, Microsoft Word. Like, you don’t… You’re subscribed to something. You’re probably subscribed to an app on your phone that allows you to edit your photos. And so subscriptions are just the language. And so I think that’s going to be the language of the future moving forward. And so I think that’s going to be the language of the future moving forward. And it just, it gives everybody a chance to make money as opposed to the people that the apps highlight to be most successful, because they’re the best vehicles for ads to run in between their content. Think about that, like the larger audience on, the greater audience of a platform like Tiktok, since there’s really only one kind of like channel. It’s literally just a platform of short form video. So the wider audience on their demographic on that platform is a white audience just based off of the United States. So therefore, it would behoove them to have bigger white stars to run ads to monetize that larger audience. So that’s what they kind of have to focus on. So Fanbase doesn’t worry about that. It doesn’t matter who you are. Everybody can be a superstar on the platform.

 

Dan Runcie  15:42

Yeah. And that piece about the subscriptions as well, it just, everyone having that and then seeing who can profit off of it. It also makes me think of an exchange you and I had had recently, we’re talking about what’s happening right now in the music industry and these catalog valuations, too. You had shared perspective that artists actually should not be selling their or publishing their catalogs, because how much room streaming has to grow.  And you just look at some of the demographics on that. What’s your take on it? And how much bigger do you think this market will get?

 

Isaac Hayes III  16:18

Man, I think it’d be massive. Like I said, at the time, last year was 400, I think it was 450 million people were on music streaming services this year, it’s like 525. It’s jumped up. That’s like, you know, almost like 7 to 9% of all the people with the ability to have streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify on their phone, have them over the next decade by 2030, I think it’ll be close to a billion people, so that, that’ll be almost a little over double what is available. So imagine and that’s only that’s only like 1 billion, it’s less than a billion, not even a billion people a music streaming services, but there’s 6.3 billion people on the planet with smartphones, you know, satellite Wi Fi, satellite internet is going to be something that is going to actually be more connected, as opposed to where wires can go. You know, satellites can go to provide people Internet, and then with video, like, there’s like 222 million people on Netflix. And there’s 6.3 billion people, the available market share is massive. So I mean, as big as a company is Netflix is, they don’t even have, you know, they don’t even have 7% of the market of available people that can get on their platform, it’s more like three and a half. So think of the growth potential that Netflix can have or anybody that’s providing subscriptions via content they can have. That’s why we’re focused on person-to-person subscription content, which I think will trump everything in the future. 

 

Dan Runcie  17:42

Yeah, it’s interesting, because I think there’s these two trends happening, because one of the reasons everyone’s buying the catalogs is exactly what you said, people see the upside, were streaming’s going n the other side, you’re also seeing, whether it’s Netflix or Spotify, the rapid growth that they may have had once starting to slow down a little bit. So you do think about, yes, you know, a service like Facebook, if we think of that as being like the most ubiquitous thing out there, you know, several billion people on it, but it’s also because it’s free, right? So it’s like, there’s some number of what are the total number of people that will be willing to pay $999 in the US for music streaming service, or whatever that price difference may be in their respective place. We still haven’t gotten there yet. And I’m curious, you know what that actual number will be. And it’s just so hard to know, because I think some people think it’s going to be a lot higher. And there’s other people that think that we’re close to that peak. So who knows.

 

Isaac Hayes III  18:38

I don’t think we’re anywhere near the peak because it’s the nature, the market will grow as the youth grow. And so as kids are more like, kids are trained and kind of use to subscriptions, and virtual currency, and app purchases, it’s that they’ve known that their whole lives. I remember when I was first discussing building Fanbase, I spoke to someone that was in their 30s, they were like, I’d never subscribed to another person, right? Why would I do that.? And then I was in the Apple Store, and I just randomly asked this 20, I think the young lady was probably like, 21 years old. I think I asked how old she was. She says I’m 21, I was like, if you could subscribe or what her favorite group was, and my first inclination that she was going to name a very famous artist, and she named an indie band, right? What’s your favorite artists? I bet you’re gonna name somebody like, you know, Ariana Grande. I said, if you could subscribe to that person for $3.99 a month, that band for $3.99 a month, and they would post videos and they were working on their album or exclusive photos and stuff like that.Maybe, they might let you buy, you know, tickets to their show before anybody else, would you do that? And her answer was like, fuck yeah, $3.99. And I’m like, that’s when I was, okay, I gotta do this because they don’t care. There was, I remember, there were legions of people that swore they wanted to own a mp3. And I’m like, man, it’s $10 a month to listen to everything that’s ever been created. Only your mp3 is out of here. That’s a done deal. So I think the market will go as the youth decide. And the youth are showing their propensity to spend, or virtually, you know, their Cashapp and Venmo and PayPal, their NFT’s, their crypto, they’re all in that space. So I think it’s going to actually explode way beyond what it is now.

 

Dan Runcie  20:13

Yeah, that’s a good point. The other thing, too, is that there are just so many other services beyond the digital streaming providers that are offering some type of music experience that’s going to drive up the platform, right? Like it doesn’t always have to be streaming. It can be in app purchases, the same way that, you know, these kids go wild about V-bucks or whatever it is in these games, it’s going to be the same thing there. As more and more of these companies getting music licensing, like, we’re going to see that continue to happen. So it’ll be interesting.

 

Isaac Hayes III  20:42

I’m telling you… I’m spending money on Call of Duty to make my gun cooler or wear cooler outfit. Kids are going to spend money to have access to shoes before anybody else can, tickets before anybody else can, experiences that no one else can have for, you know, small amounts of prices, and that give them exclusivity and clout and bragging rights. Trust me, I know exactly what’s going to happen.

 

Dan Runcie  21:07

Let’s take a quick break to hear a word from this week’s sponsor. Let’s talk more about today’s sponsor Intercept Music. The company is on a mission to empower independent artists everywhere. This is a tale as old as time. Artists and labels have often had to choose between their creative freedom and autonomy and access to marketing and distribution that would catapult their careers. Well, that’s no longer the choice, especially today, people can have both and Intercept is one of the companies making that happen. It offers a fully managed advertising and promotional service allows you to distribute your music and you have the opportunity to sell merchandise through its branded online stores. This is your one-stop shop to manage your career and take it to that next level. As an artist or label, Intercept can help you unshackle your monetization opportunities and, as Method Man said himself, you can use this platform and keep 100% of your shit. To learn more, go to interceptmusic.com and learn how this company is helping independent artists like you take their careers to the next level.  You mentioned Call of Duty for yourself. Are there any other personal areas that you’ve been personally where, you know, attracted to, whether it’s a single game or a solo thing where, you know, a majority of your attention has gone to?

 

Isaac Hayes III  22:23

Just call… I only play one game, Call of Duty. I’ve been playing Call of Duty for like 12 years, I like content. So I used to fly drones, like, all the time. Like, not just for the fun of flying, but the fun of capturing the actual content and creating content. But other than that, I mean… Social media is like, it’s a passion of mine because I liked the connectivity. And I liked the potential. I liked the potential of being disruptive. And where we can create unique experiences via technology. That’s one thing I love about technology, technology doesn’t give my brain like a limit. I have conversations with my CTO and say, hey, you know, can we do this? And he’s like, the question is not if we can do it, it’s just how long it’ll take us to do it. How many man hours? Well, we could do it. And that’s the greatest feeling to have, like, can we make this do this and just do this? He’s like, yeah, we could do that. But and so having like, your imagination not being limited. Only the, only limitation is your resources like man hours, and manpower, and funds. And cool. Like, I understand that part. So don’t you know, don’t give me $100 million dollars, move out of the way. You know, no, don’t let me raise $100 million. You want to see an app, like be fly than anything you’ve ever seen? Fanbase is phenomenal. And we raised $6 million. Imagine what we do, and we raised 60, 600 million, it’s gonna be phenomenal. That’s why I’m excited. I’m like, oh, it’s gonna be go time for sure.

 

Dan Runcie  23:40

So what does the future fundraising timeline look like for you? Where do you think you’ll raise again? And how big do you think that’ll be?

 

Isaac Hayes III  23:46

I mean, we’ve been getting calls, which is kind of curious, because I guess the A&R of what a VC is, their version of A&R has been starting to reach out because they see Fanbase making waves and so now, it’s not me going to VCs, but it’s VCs coming to us, which is better. So I feel we still have a lot of work to do in a short period of time. But I would like to raise a significant series, a somewhere, you know, in the eight figure range, really to get us, you know, in eight figure range to really get us where we need to be because there’s so much involved with data and streaming and music licensing. And so these platforms have to be funded to scale and so we’re gonna need it. You know, I love the notion of being able to continue to raise equity crowdfunding with people, and I think I’ll find ways to continue to do that. But you also… VCs also serve a very good purpose of their knowledge, their relationships, their experience. So I’m not opposed to them. I’m just sometimes primarily opposed to the terms. So now we can have conversations that are different than that. I’m not opposed to the VCs, I’m just opposed to the terms. So sometimes we just have to work better and making sure we get fair terms by doing things on our own. 

 

Dan Runcie  24:54

And I think the fact that you’re at the place you’re at now gives you the leverage to do that, right? I think one of the reasons that the unfair terms happen more often is because the founder or the founders don’t come from that place of leverage. They’re more so looking for the help just from being able to be sustainable, to keep the lights on and all those things, you have that piece of it checked off, given what you’ve been able to do with the money you’ve been able to raise. So it’s more so, hey, we’re trying to go a bit faster. We’re trying to do this, this, and this, if you want to be in it would be great. But if you don’t, there’s other people knocking at the door who can make this happen.

 

Isaac Hayes III 25:32

Yeah, I mean, writing your own path, you know, coming from the music business, I look at like, I look at percentages, so I’m on a platform called PitchBook, where I can see like, how much equity was given up for what percentage and I’m like, what, gave up what, for 39% of the company, and like, hell, oh, no, you can’t do that. Because you have to be strategic. And I know, sometimes we want to get our product to market so bad. And we want it, we feel that once we get there, doesn’t matter if I gave him this much, it’s gonna be successful, I’m gonna be able to do this, but you have to be conservative with equity, you can’t be selfish. At the same time, people have got to invest money, they’re gonna want significant portions of your company. But I think the more work you do improving your model on your own, the more advantageous you are as a part of the VCs, because now you can work together. I love my team, my team is brilliant, they’re smarter than I am, I’m just a big idea guy that want to make sure, wants to make sure that the colors look good, and the energy is right. And then the rest is up for us to really, you know, structure this business. So I like writing our ticket that way by being independent, as I like to say. 

 

Dan Runcie  26:34

So how big is the team now? And how big do you think it’ll be end of this year?

 

Isaac Hayes III  26:38

So right now we have a team of 25 developers, and probably 15 other personnel or 40. But I think our development team would probably be 150, given a significant raise, and probably our executive team probably go from like, 15 to 30 people. So it would grow. I mean, you know, and that’s with everything, running it, you know, at best case, you know, if I had it my way, because we can build faster and more simultaneous functionality. And then I love you know, being able to pay really smart people to make Fanbase do amazing things and in the right amount of time. So I’m looking forward to that though, we have a game plan to really scale up to a million users by June, it’s two months. It’s two months, as you know, it’s April, you know, saying April 8, so we don’t have that much time. But I’m looking forward to the grind.

 

Dan Runcie  27:30

And I also got to imagine that the Atlanta community and culture ecosystem you’re around has and will continue to have so much of an impact on you. Can you talk about how beneficial it’s been from that perspective? I know y’all got The Gathering Spot, and you have so many other execs there. How important has that collective been?

 

Isaac Hayes III  27:51

It’s been invaluable, because the first conversations that I had about building a startup social media platform happened at The Gathering Spot, they were members that were in the tech space that I looked at as mentors, their names are Jewel Burks, Barry Gibbons, and Justin Dawkins. They are all accomplished tech professionals in their own right, and the fact that I could sit right next to them, like a kid, you know, being able to talk to like, talk to Michael Jordan or whoever be like, yo, how do you do this? How do you do that? How are you able to do these things, and then lending their ear and lending their voice and their information to me is invaluable. I think that was really, you know, the essence of community and Atlanta, especially in the black tech space. They’re just tons of brilliant people and I’ve met met at those spaces, but those three individuals were like instrumental in helping me shape Fanbase to the company because they told me you know, why it’s important that you have a CTO that has a stake in the in your company, why is important, like what your deck must look like, why you know, when it’s a raise, how you scale, all these things that you have to bring together. And so that’s the dope part about it. So the Atlanta communities are invaluable in that fashion. We’re all like, there’s no ceiling of what you can achieve in a city like Atlanta with black leadership. I was just telling you, I just saw a clip today about Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson being able to be elected to the Supreme Court, Symone Sanders said, if you didn’t elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia, that would have never happened, he wouldn’t have had the votes or the leverage to do so. And so a political community that’s aware, that’s African American that understands how politics play in the ability for you to scale your business and city like Atlanta is invaluable. That’s the probably, the biggest asset to being anybody in the city is, is probably that there’s a political foundation that has been built on for over 60 years that kind of gives people the energy and the confidence to try things that no other people would try. Like Tyler Perry saying, I’m gonna build a movie studio, like L.A. & Babyface, and we’re gonna bring a record company to the city, like someone like The Gathering Spot, or Pinky Cole with Slutty Vegan, or Tracey Pickett with Hairbrella. Like all these amazing startups that are coming out of Atlanta, Georgia, and have come out of Atlanta, Georgia. So it’s a place for you to dream and excel.

 

Dan Runcie  30:02

It really is. It’s remarkable just to see how much of it stems in. I think so many of you as well have roots in music and how I think that has been the core of what you all have been able to do and achieve. And it makes me think a lot about where your inspiration for why this is so important to you came from. You would obviously seen your dad’s experience in the music industry and some of the challenges he had had with unfair contracts and things like that. Can you talk a bit about how that through line was for you in terms of the influence and seeing that inspire where you want to be the most impactful and how that shapes Fanbase?

 

Isaac Hayes III  30:39

Yeah, so I mean, as a kid, getting into the music industry, the first thing I learned, before I learned about music notes, I learned about music publishing, and it’s just because that’s what your family’s gonna tell you is like, look, all this creative stuff is great, but know your business, right? Because you can get taken advantage of, don’t get caught up in it. It’s a joy, like creating music, being a creator is the best feeling in the world, making songs that people want to dance to, and that are part of their lives. And never forget, if you don’t have that business, it’s going to be something that you’re going to wind up having a bitter taste in your mouth about because you’ve created all this great music, but do you really benefit from it, people that exploit you. So content ownership, ownership of your content, exploiting your content to your benefit has always been something that’s been in the back of my mind. So that’s why I say I’ve approached tech with a music industry mindset and nothing gets grimier than in the music business. So like I said, you know, tech is nothing compared to, like, the record business. So if you can handle a record business, you can handle tech, because the deals are what the deals are. The deals are straightforward, you know, the music history just makes up their rules. And so I had a great teacher and my father and my mom who just taught me about the business. So I think that helps a lot. It gave me, it gave me quite a bit of perspective of why artists deserve to get paid more for the content they create. And that’s any user on social media. Those are the people that are making these dances go viral. Also the people that are being funny, those are people that are bringing really great thought-provoking content that gets you thinking, get you inspired, get you to vote, get you to, you know, to protest. So we have to, you know, make sure that those people have an opportunity to really make sure that they monetize their energy in that way.

 

Dan Runcie  32:16

Definitely, and I hear you on how the music industry, there’s so there could be so much lack of clarity on these things. I know one of the things that you’ve also been pushing towards is to get the music rights back from your dad’s music. How has that process been? And where are things right now with that?

 

Isaac Hayes III  32:34

So it’s just a matter of time. I mean, the good thing about Copyright Law is they expire, they return to the original authors. And so we’re just in the process right now of terminating so much as a case publishing, we’ve terminated all the songs that he wrote from 1963, all the way up to 1968 into going into 69. So there’s, you know, his entire songwriting catalog as a songwriter we haven’t even gotten to the Isaac Hayes era, but we’ve terminated you know, one of his biggest works was a song called Hold On, I’m Comin’ that he wrote for Sam & Dave that gets used at commercials all the time. So that process is moving along, you know, very steadily and now there’s new opportunities and new deals for my family, or equitable opportunities, and the ownership is ours. So it’s a great spot to be in right now.

 

Dan Runcie  33:19

That’s good to hear. I mean, because we’ve definitely know how tough it can be especially on your side, whether you’re an estate manager or you’re just more broadly trying to get it back for the sake of your family or loved one so that’s good to hear. And on the estate side of it, I know you do manage that. Definitely heard a number of stories of different people that have managed estates over the years, both the good that comes from it, but also some of the challenges as well. Can you talk a little bit about how your experience has been on that front?

 

Isaac Hayes III  33:48

I mean, well, I was looking at it,I look at a brand, it’s like a hot air balloon. And so the higher the balloon goes, the more people see it. So it’s a job I’m going to stay to get that balloon as high as possible before you try to do things so people say well, how come there hasn’t been a you know, a movie on your father I was like, well, there’s more work the balloon gotta get a little higher. We got to, people got to see a brand and build it. So it’s been tough because I think a couple things like icons, black icons are not always held to the same standard or represented in media the way that white icons are. And what I mean by that and that’s the job above actually the black community to uplift its own icons to do so. And when I tell people all the time I said, look, you go to the grocery store, and you can practice this exercise, you can go, you can go to the grocery store, and you’re always going to see one of four people in a magazine at all times. You’re going to see John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley, or Babe Ruth, at any time. And all of those guys have been dead for quite a long time, but they never let you forget their icons. They never let you forget Audrey Hepburn, they never let you forget Marilyn Monroe, they keep their legacy and their icons immortalized by continuing to push them and elevate them through media. Now in black culture, we typically do that for a period of time, but you don’t typically see Dorothy Dandridge, or Sammy Davis Jr., or James Brown, or Martin Luther King, or people on covers of magazines just cause right, it’s usually in some drama that, you know, some tabloid is trying to bring back up, but just for the sake of doing an amazing pictorial on, you know, Ray Charles, and to let that continue to uplift his legacy. That doesn’t happen that often. So we have to take better care of our black icons, and continue to uplift them in media to do so.

 

Dan Runcie  35:32

That’s a good point about the same faces you already see in the magazines, or you go to the grocery store. I think all the names you mentioned are the ones that you often see. On the movie point, though, I do hope that we do get in Isaac Hayes movie, at some point. I know you’re saying that, you know, these days, you got to wait for the bubble to get a little bit bigger. But it’s one of those things we’re in this moment now where you’re seeing, I’m sure you’ve seen it, too, so many music documented, whether it’s documentaries, or the bio pics themselves, and some of them are a lot better than others. But you still know that they all had a ton of money poured into them. So hopefully, while this run is going on, that bubble can meet and the stars can align to make something like that happen.

 

Isaac Hayes III  36:14

I think so. I mean, we definitely have a documentary that must be told before feature film, I think a biographical nonfiction version of what really happened and what my dad’s life was really like is a story that I think should be told first, and then we could dramaticize that and infantilize that in a way that I think brings young people and old people together. And I have that in my mind of how we merge all these genres together, these generations together to really tell the story of Isaac Hayes because I think he’s probably the most relatable icon to the current generation of any icon that’s passed away, by the way that he looked, by the way the type of music he created because I’m like, it’s like, there’s not too many people that still wear clothes like Michael Jackson, or wear their hair like James Brown, but there’s several black men with bald heads and beards and sunglasses still in 2022. So the relatability is there. And then in terms of evergreen music, it’s just like people continue to sample him to make new records. So I think he has the most connectable thread to the youth coming from his generation to now so we’re definitely going to capitalize on that, expand more on that in 2022 and 2023.

 

Dan Runcie  37:32

Who would you want to play him in a biopic?

 

Isaac Hayes III  37:27

Ah, I’ve said this before. Just off first glance to the surface is probably Jonathan Majors, right? I like Jonathan Majors. Jonathan Majors is a phenomenal actor. I looked at him, I said he could play him. But then there’s like, you know, you never know. I mean, there’s always this sea of amazing, you know, talent out there, especially from people… I always get trouble in saying it but let me tell you something, the UK Brits, the Brits got those actors. Like they come from places like, I’m like,  most of the shows I’ve watched on TV, the actors are British, like what? Like Snowfall? Like All American? The Walking Dead? It’s like, yeah, those are the guys that you wouldn’t know. They’re so good at what they do. You would have never thought that but they’re so classically trained. And then there’s some, you know, amazing actors in the States as well. But you know, even Daniel Kaluuya. I’m like, oh, man, all these dudes? Brits be crushing it. So who knows, though, but Jonathan majors is an amazing actor. And I think he could do a great job portraying Isaac Hayes.

 

Dan Runcie  38:24

He’s a good one. I’m excited to see what he does at this Creed movie coming up. And the range is there, you saw his Marvel thing, and I’ve done of course, Last Black Man in San Francisco. He’s so good.

 

Isaac Hayes III  38:35

Yeah, I’m like, What’s he gonna do a Ceed? I’m like, okay, what’s going on? Like Creed 3? That’s gonna be a good one right there.

 

Dan Runcie  38:41

I know. I know. Yeah. 

 

Isaac Hayes III  38:41

It’s going to be interesting.

 

Dan Runcie  38:42

That will be good.

 

Isaac Hayes III  38:42

Yeah.

 

Dan Runcie  38:43

Daniel Kaluuya, of course, I think he’s one of the best under 40 actors. I mean, period. He’s one of the best folks under 40 we got right now. So I mean, obviously, what he did with Fred Hampton was amazing. So I think he would be legit, but it’s good that you brought up the British piece because it’s one of these things where we both know, if that happened, people would be you know, all up in arms like they are about a lot of black British folks that play American actors, thought or based off of American icons. But it’s like you yourself as the person representing the estate in the family is like no, I would endorse this based on what you’re seeing. We know how that conversation would go.

 

Isaac Hayes III 39:24

Oh, yeah, no. Yeah, I think again, like I said, Jonathan Majors was the first in mind that I had. And again, you never know who’s out there by way, like, even like I watched it just by actors in general. I watch Winning Time, the story about the Lakers and the guy that plays Magic Johnson, they just found him like,

 

Dan Runcie  39:37

He’s so good.

 

Isaac Hayes III  39:40

He’s so perfect for the role. That’s what I’m saying. Like there’s always the right person for the role, it’s out there. You got to find them. But it’s just like I said, I don’t think he’s, he hadn’t been in anything, I think, a lot of stuff. I don’t think he’d done a lot of stuff. But they were like, it’s this guy in California, like, give them a go. See, when we came in the room, he smiled. It did that. Like, it’s Magic Johnson. He’s killing it. So yeah, you always know that and I think, and also, here’s another dream of mine, though, is I do want another Shaft film. I want another Shaft film with a modern Shaft, right? I want a modern, you know, modern day Shaft and the person that I think that should play that is Mahershala. Ali. I would love to see Mahershala Ali as a new Shaft do that. I know he’s about to be Blade, his plate is full. So but again, yeah, I think Shaft go modernize is something else to do, such a big part of my dad’s career. So and I think there will always be an appetite to have a black, you know, superhero in the sense of saying, a person that stood up for his community and fought crime and as a stand up black man. So I think there’s always the ability to do that, too.

 

Dan Runcie  40:41

Oh, yeah, I think he would be great at that type of role. And I think that Blade definitely gives you some of that imagery of, you know, the black trench coat and everything. And the whole vibe, too. But yeah, I think that’ll be good.

 

Isaac Hayes III  40:53

Sure.

 

Dan Runcie  40:53

Even what artists would, you know, cover the version that your dad did, and you know, with that, I mean, thinking about that, too, for the song perspective? 

 

Isaac Hayes III  41:03

Yeah, we have a lot of unreleased, I have a lot of unreleased Isaac Hayes music that was recorded around the same time. And trust me, it’s some Shaft D stuff in there, some stuff. Like I’ve been holding on to it for years now. Like I think I transferred those masters in 2014. For eight years, I haven’t even really let some of that stuff. Like I said, they won’t call about another Shaft at some point. And I’m gonna be ready. I’m gonna be ready to let people check it out.

 

Dan Runcie  41:25

Oh, yeah. You know, the call is coming soon, especially the way that content works right now, the call’s  coming soon. 

 

Isaac Hayes III  41:30

Absolutely.

 

Dan Runcie  41:31

Well, Isaac, this has been great. It’s been great to chat, hear more about Fanbase, hear about some of the other things you’re working on with regards to the estate. But before we let you go, is there anything else that you want to plug or let the Trapital audience know about?

 

Isaac Hayes III  41:45

Of course, to download Fanbase, we have a new version of audio, we have audio chat rooms that are monetized. So a new version of audio is coming in, like, probably, like a couple of weeks, we have our version of TikTok and Reels called Flicks so you can make short form video. And we have stories that are for followers and subscribers. So you can put your stories behind a subscription paywall as well. And I think that’s something that’s amazing, too. baseLike I said, monetizing content for everybody is just something that I think the world is gonna be all immersive in in the future, say right now is that kind of that friction point where it’s like, is it really going to be a thing? And people are going to resist it at first, but once it becomes part of the norm the same way with all these other media verticals, our social media is just a next vertical for subscription.

 

Dan Runcie  42:46

Definitely, we see where it’s all heading right. 10 years ago, people thought it was gonna be crazy, like, oh, you’re gonna pay people at social media to do posts and now influencers do it on the regular. It’s just a matter of timing, platform, and everything. And I feel like you got the right mix.

 

Isaac Hayes III  42:40

Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

 

Dan Runcie  42:42

Thanks, Isaac. This is great. Appreciate it.  If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups. Wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That’s how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you’re at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast, give it a high rating, and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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