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What’s Next for A.I. in Music, the Future of NFTs, and Catalog Sales

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The Trapital Mailbag Q&A:

Q: Where are we at with NFTs in music? Are major record labels still into them? – Ken Pen

A: We had to get through the “dot-com bubble” moment.

Listen, we’ve all seen the stats and headlines. NFT trading volume is down 97% from its January 2022 peak. Madonna, Snoop Dogg, Steph Curry, and other celebrities are being sued for promoting Bored Ape Yacht Club. Plus, there is plenty of drama with FTX and SBF. If the web3 skeptics were waiting for a healthy dose of schadenfreude, this is their moment.

But there are less attention-grabbing stories that paint a different picture. Warner Music Group and NFT marketplace OpenSea announced a partnership in late September. Universal Music Group just created and hired two new SVP roles focused on web3 and metaverse initiatives. And startups in the space are still getting funding.

So what’s really going on?

NFTs went through their dot-com bubble moment. The dot-com bubble era had the infamous Pets.com. The NFT bubble had the EtherRock clip art selling for $1.3 million. The hype and excess have been washed away, but the real builders still remain.

Just as builders like Amazon and Google survived the dot-com implosion and came out stronger on the other side, I predict the same will happen for NFTs. That goes for major labels, indie artists, and new startups. Those that can use the market downturn to create NFTs with actual purpose can create real value for others and reap the rewards.

Q: What’s the full potential for GPT-3 in music? – Joe Edwards

A: I have my thoughts, but let’s see what ChatGPT thinks!

ChatGPT has been all the rage on social media in the past few weeks. If you’re less familiar, it’s a new AI bot created by OpenAI, who also made GPT-3 and DALL-E.

You can ask ChatGPT to answer specific questions or to even write content. ChatGPT is probably writing some of the other newsletters you read on the regular, but not this one!

But to explore the question itself, I asked ChatGPT, “how can musicians use chatGPT?”

It responded in less than five seconds:

“Musicians can use chatGPT in a number of ways. For example, they could use it to generate ideas for new songs or to help them come up with lyrics. They could also use it to help them brainstorm new ways to arrange their music or to come up with unique melodies and chord progressions. Additionally, chatGPT could be used to help musicians write press releases or other promotional materials, or to generate titles and descriptions for their music on social media or streaming platforms.”

The baseline answer mirrors my own. An AI-assisted software like this is perfect for songwriters suffering from writer’s block. More so as a jolt of ideas than anything else.

But I can also see software like ChatGPT packaged up as a $10.99 monthly subscription service for songwriters and musicians.

Think about companies like Splice and Epidemic Sound. Users pay a monthly fee to access their royalty-free music for commercial use. The same can be done with the lyrics for those songs if GPT-3 can use it as its reference point to help artists with any step of the process. Since those songs aren’t owned by the major record label and publishers, they aren’t subject to the impending issues of referencing the music that they own.

These are just a few immediate use cases. As technology improves, new ways to unlock AI’s potential in music will emerge, for better or worse. Music lawyers, for sure, are gearing up for the latter.

Q: Where are we at right now with music catalogs and investments? – Taf from Paris

A: There is still potential, but not at those peak-quarantine prices.

Like many other asset classes during the pandemic, catalog sales “faced the music” after rapid growth and heightened interest. The big deals are fewer and farther between. Pink Floyd wanted $500 million for its music and it’s still waiting. Hipgnosis Songs Fund, the face of the catalog buying spree, has declined in market value and hasn’t made a new public deal in over a year.

But I’m not writing off music catalog investments. Sure, we may see catalogs sell at 30x multiples again. Interest rates have crept back up and a recession is looming, but there are still sensible deals to be made at realistic price points.

Future had a deal with Influence Media Partners that I heard was in the $50 million range. He has a catalog that shares revenue with several other songwriters. That’s a pretty legit number. HarbourView Equity Partners has announced recent catalog deals with Incubus and Sum 41. Iggy Azaela sold her masters and publishing for a reported eight-figure sum. Deals are still happening.

But the notion of a single song is an “evergreen asset” may have been a bit overstated. I’ve said this myself before, but I overlooked the fact that every song has a decay curve. Some are less steep than others, but it’s there. Even Michael Jackson’s Thriller, even Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” They all will get less relevant, and less played, over time.

As I mentioned in The Culture Report, catalog buyers may have overvalued the music that baby boomers grew up with and undervalued the music listened to by millennials (the largest segment of streaming users). But even that’s temporary. My daughter’s generation will have their own platforms that they are the power users for and the market trends that they will inspire as a result.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to watch these interest rates and the catalog multiples come back down to earth. It’s still an exciting asset class, but the price has to be right.

These are just three of the questions from the mailbag. I answered even more on this week’s podcast, including:

–  how can emerging artists build their business like a startup

–  why customer success is so expensive in music tech

–  globalization trends in hip-hop

–  artists wanting ownership

–  the lack of new superstars

Listen to the full episode here.

0:54 State of music NFTs 

4:40 Customer problems as a music startup

8:35 Lack of new music superstars 

12:07 Future of AI-assisted music creation 

17:00 Tradeoff for artists wanting ownership 

22:11 Hasbro selling eOne

26:16 Music catalog investing in 2023

29:41 Globalization of hip-hop 

33:21 Emerging artists as startup founders

 

TRANSCRIPTION:

[00:00:00] Dan Runcie: If you’re an owner of I.P., often times that I.P. may be the most valuable thing that you have. But does it always make sense for you to then be the ones that produce it? Of course, there’s unique examples of this, right? I think Disney is a company that clearly does both, but Disney is such a unicorn in what it does in so many ways, and we’ve all seen that flywheel of what they’ve done, and that flywheel is so relevant because it’s hard to see another company that could really do that to that level. But it’s more likely than not that if you are an I.P. owner or it’s probably in your best financial interest to partner with a company that you can leverage their production because they are skilled at being a production company to do that thing.

[00:00:46] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to the podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Dan Ruey. This podcast is your place to gain insights from the executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level. 

[00:01:04] (Intro) Dan Runcie: From you, the listeners who make Trapital, exactly what it is. So this is a mailbag question where you all sent in your best questions. Some of you emailed them, some of you posted them on socials, but I looked at the questions and picked the best ones, and this is a mailbag episode. It’s been a while since we did one of these, so it felt good to do one. I actually wanna do these more often just because I think the questions were really great and we’re able to address a bunch of topics that we’ll get into A.I, the future of music, globalization, ownership, and all the topics that we love to break down on capital and a few ones. So let’s jump in.

[00:01:41] (Pre Roll Ad Moonpay) 

[00:02:11] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we have our one and only Mailbag episode from Trapital. It’s been a while since we did one of these. I feel, maybe at some point earlier this year we did a mailbag, so it was finally good to dig back in, hear from folks and be able to answer the questions that a lot of you have been thinking. This podcast has grown quite a bit this past year and was in the 1% for the most shared podcast according to Spotify wrap, so that was pretty good. Some applause for that. And I wanted to bring in some of the questions from some of the avid listeners and readers we have. So I posted in social media, posted in the newsletter, and this is a roundup of the best ones. Covered a bunch of topics. We’re gonna talk about the future of A.I and music, the state of NFTs, globalization, ownership, and a whole lot more. So let’s dive into the first question we have here. So, Ken Penn wants to know what is the current state of music NFTs and our major labels as interested in them as they were? So first for some clear context, a lot of people have been asking questions about this because the general trends of N F T discussions from last year to this year is not quite what you would expect. A lot of people saw that Bloomberg report that came out earlier in 2022, I think they said, N F T transactions were down 97% from the peak that they were at in 2021. And if you type in the word NFTs in Google Trends, you’ll probably see a slope that looks quite downward. That is very true, and that’s clearly where that is. But I think there’s a big difference between that, which I think 97% of that was the hype and a lot of the crap that you likely would only see at the height of the pandemic when money was flowing like crazy. Think about the time when like Pet rocks were being sold and Logan Paul was buying his NFTs or trying to sell his NFTs for whatever. If that was the top of the market, then I think we’re seeing things level off a bit more now because you are still seeing partnerships from the major labels and from a lot of artists. I look at Warner Music Group. Warner’s been active, more active than any other major label, I think, when it comes to active investments and being forward-looking and being public about those investments. And it was just six, seven weeks ago that they had formed a partnership with Open Sea, which is one of the largest platforms out there to be able to trade in as a marketplace to be able to buy and sell NFTs. So you also have other deals that we’ve seen. Universal Music Group recently hired two SVPs that are focused on web three with a pretty strong focus on NFTs themselves. And more broadly, you have companies like Public Pressure that just raised $6 million to continue to build in this space. I have said this a few times in this podcast, but I think that Web three and NFT specifically, you had to get through the.com era. You had to get through that heads.com phase of people just starting shit because it sounded like it was something that was gonna resonate, but after a lot of that didn’t work out. You obviously had the.com bubble burst. That era still gave us Google, it still gave us Amazon and all these other companies that have still continued to be successful and be some of the biggest companies in the world today. And I think there was a very strong chance that we will still have that with this current wave. It may look slightly different in music, but I still think that we’re gonna see, and we have seen more of the true opportunities, whether it’s on the artist side of artists that are selling actual NFTs that their fans would find valuable and that others will wanna buy into as well. And I think you’ll see this on the major label side with more investment going into acts that can actually reap the rewards from it. One of the biggest deals of 2022 when it comes to N F T sales was Snoop.  and what he was able to do, just capturing that momentum. After the Super Bowl. We wrote, or I covered a lot of this in the culture report that Trapital put out will include a link to it in the show notes if you haven’t checked it out yet, but still a lot of upside on NFTs. I do not see it quite as much as the bubble that I think was clearly there in 2021. A lot of that quarantine rapid growth needed to calm back down a bit, and I think NFTs are one of the areas that were hit a lot harder than others, but I still think that there’s plenty of upside for people that actually wanna build and don’t just wanna do grifter, whatever the hell else people were trying to buy itself time. Another question here is from David from Santa Monica, and this was actually a reply to a newsletter that I recently put out where I was talking about some of the cost challenges that music startups and music tech companies will face as in regards to working with customers and customer service and working and dealing with unprofitable customers and wanting to move further up. Mark’s question was whether or not I had any data on the customer service costs that these companies have. And I wanna answer that question in a slightly different way. It’s less about customer service in the same way that you know, you or I may go call Comcast or may call Xfinity when we’re having an issue with our cable or our internet, but it’s more so you are a client or customer that is trying to use this particular service, whether it’s free or you’re relying on it to grow your own business, and you are now having some challenges, you’re having some type of question. The thing is a lot of the companies, especially a lot of the distribution platforms, started off being available to everyone, but I think they realized how expensive it is to serve the clients and to serve the customers who are not driving the most business possible. It’s no different than a lot of people see when they’re working with client services. Overall, your $2 million clients in a lot of ways can be so much more enjoyable to deal with and work with than your $2,000 clients or $2,000 clients will chat a nickel and a dime. They have a bunch of questions about this, that, and the third, but your clients that have a bit more money, they normally come in a bit more clear and confident with what they’re looking for, and it can lead to better business in the long run. And I think to a lot of extent, the same is true with a lot of the artists that you end up serving or a lot of the customers that a lot of these platforms end up serving because a lot of their time gets spent with customers that just don’t justify the ROI of how much it costs to have that person on staff continue to work and continue to coach and work directly with someone who’s just not generating enough revenue to be able to justify the spend. And if you think about how a lot of the companies focus on these things, especially if you’re being built out like a tech customer success. This is a role where whether even at the high individual contributor, or the middle level manager role, you’re talking, you know, $150, $200,000 plus for someone that can do that roll on annual basis. I mean, I’m thinking of myself, it was six years ago at this point, I was offered a customer success role from a startup that has, you know, now been acquired. I believe the offer was right around that $150, or maybe it was a little bit more than that K range. And that’s how much you’re paying to have one person that is dedicated to not just you, but to other clients.

 

But if you were to fractionize my time, let’s say that, you know, I was someone that was making $160k a year and I had 12 to 16 clients per year that I was serving, you have to justify, okay, is it worth $10k of the company’s time to be able to continue to serve this person if that’s what I’m spending my timeline, and we all know that it’s less likely that it’s gonna be an even split. So that’s where these things I think, can often come into play, which is why I think you’ve seen a lot of the distribution services and a lot of the others start to be more selective over time. And they start to have cut-offs in terms of who they’re willing to serve and who they’re not willing to serve. And that’s one of the reasons why I think we see that shift where, especially in music distribution, it ends up leaning itself towards just having a low cost option, like Distrokid or a tunecore where it essentially doesn’t cost much at all to upload the services, but it’s a bit more do it yourself or you get something that is a bit more boutique. But by being able to join the boutique offering, it’s much more selective as a result. So the next question here is from Arthur from Twitter. He didn’t specifically say his name, but it was a good question here. He asked, who gets more blame for the lack of consistent superstar X, labels or customers? The answer is neither. The answer is technology. If you’re trying to blame anyone, I personally don’t call it blame. I more so call it the driving factor, but this is more about technology. Technology was the driving force that lowered the barriers to entry for artists to be able to create more music than they’ve ever created, and to be able to release it the way that they’ve done it. And because they’re releasing music the way that they’ve done it, it then becomes harder and much more noisier for new artists to be able to enter the scene and be able to hit the same heights that they did. And because of the increased number of options that are there, it makes it even easier for powers that be to continue to invest more in what they already see proven. Whether that is your superstar artist or ones who have already proven themselves that seem like they’d be most likely to be the next next bets, whether that’s your Taylor Swift or your Adele, or your Beyonce on the proven side or on the artist coming up, whether it’s someone like, Olivia Rodrigo, or like Blast, or Billie Eilish or someone like that. So these things that are, I think, a big factor just based on where things are and barriers continuing to be lower and lower. And there’s been countless reports on just how difficult it is and how record labels are starting to feel like it’s having a harder time to break new stars in the way that they once did. It’s harder to have new superstars reach the levels that they did. I think you see this in some of the analysis that’s been done on charts and stuff like that too. It’s a lot of the same names that have been household names for over a decade that are continuing to stay there and it’s harder for the new artists to really come through. So I guess if there’s anyone to blame for that, we can blame the founders and the product managers from the companies that enabled the barriers actually to happen in the first place.  I know a lot of people disagree. I do think it’s a good thing that people have more options than ever just in terms of the artist’s perspective, but just because I think that it brought a lot of flexibility. But with that, there’s always trade-offs like any new technology brings. There’s good with that. There’s bad that comes with that. I do think that the pros and the cons outweigh them. I do think that the pros do outweigh the cons with that, but still very aware of the downsides of the current timing. This next question is from Joe Edwards and he asked, what is the ultimate potential of GPT-3? This is a hot topic right now, I think for a lot of folks, and it’s a question that I think everyone from record labels to attorneys, to emerging artists are trying to figure out, but here’s my perspective. I think that GPT-3 is a great tool that will be able to give songwriters an extra tool that they can have by their side. I think we recently heard Bruce Springsteen on a podcast talk about how he could use A.I., whether it’s something like something that can help jog his memory or jog his thoughts, specifically if he’s having a better writer’s block and how difficult that can be for a songwriter. You just wanna be able to have a few things that can aid your process of bringing thoughts together. The pen that comes from that would ever truly replicate something that Bruce Springsteen would wanna put out himself. But just give it how advanced these tools get and how better and better they get. It’s likely gonna provide some

inspiration that can be helpful. That said, I think it would be more helpful to help existing artists, and I’m a bit less bullish right now on new artists coming up. I think we all saw what happened with Capitol Records and FN Meka and that whole mess, while I don’t think that that’s all A.I. driven, part of that’s driven by the people that were running it. I do think that that is an inherent challenge that some people may be a bit weary of, at least for now. But one place that I do think A.I. and GPT-3  specifically could be unique for is for giving certain artists or certain people the ability to access a sound catalog or an ability to access a group of songs that they can use to then scour to figure out what they can then glean from that to be able to create the new songs that are able to create lyrics that they could use in the future. The reason I highlight this is because I’m sure if you’re trying to use a song that is based on a song that is owned by a major record label, the record labels and their lawyers will come after you, and it is something that I know that is already top of mind for. But there’s a lot of music out there, a lot of music that people would want to hear that isn’t owned or controlled by the major record labels. And I think in the same way that you saw platforms like Epidemic Sound or Splice and others be able to create, whether it’s monthly subscriptions or other types of opportunities to buy access to a right to use any of the songs in the catalog. I think you could see something very similar to that happening with A.I. and GPT-3  specifically, because yes, if GPT-3 tries to scour all of the songs available, that is a legal nightmare. But if you’re an artist and you wanna be able to pay $10.99 a month or whatever it is, to be able to access this tool where you could type. Any prompt that could help spur your thought, that could be a very great use of $10.99, especially if that gives you the ability to make the next album from your bedroom that could be nominated and win a bunch of Grammys or sell, or, you know, do a bunch of commercial success or just have enough success for you to be a standalone successful musician in your own right. Because I do think a lot of those things are likely to appeal more so to independent artists. I also think that we’ll see some potential with GPT-3 with an artist that breaks out on TikTok in general, I almost feel like it’s inevitable that there’s gonna be some artist in 2023 that has some song that goes viral on TikTok, and people are gonna be like, oh, where did the idea for the song come come from? And the artist is gonna say, oh, I just typed in a prompt. Write me a song about X, Y, Z. And here’s what came up. Because we already started to see little hints of how artists would use name generation or using tools to come up with things, right? You’ve all heard the story about how Lil Nas X used insights from Reddit and insights from Twitter to create Old Town Road and how he essentially engineered that song to reach a type of success that it did grant. A lot of that was outside of his influence, just given things going viral after the whole country music controversy. But a lot of the things leading up to that point were influenced by him. And I think even on a more simpler side, artists like Childish Gambino and Post Malone, I’m pretty sure that both of them got their names from some random computer generators. So there’s been things like that that we’ve seen and I think we’ll continue to see more of that. And I think even the answer to this question is gonna continue to evolve. So you could ask me this question in a year. I think I could probably have this as an end of the year podcast question for some time now. And their law used to be something new to glean. The next question here is from Mercedes G. She wants to know why don’t artists prioritize ownership even though artists have been pushing ownership for decades? So this question is a bit nuanced because I do think that there are a lot of artists out there that do push ownership, and they are clear that they wanna be able to own their masters and own their publishing and understand the value. I think the challenge comes though, when it becomes a trade off and that trade off is likely offering the artist something that they couldn’t have otherwise had because owning your masters and owning all those things sounds great and it sounds great if we assume that the artist could have reached the same heights that they could without giving up something in exchange.

The thing is, when an artist is starting to pop and they are already experiencing what some of the challenges are, being able to really hit that next level and whether that is something that they want to do because of some of the things I answered with earlier questions. With more and more music coming out, it’s harder for everyone to break out. It’s especially harder for artists that are already signed to two record labels to break through. That means it’s gonna be even hard for an artist that doesn’t have the major label resources behind them to break out as well, which could make them even more likely to wanna then sign with the major record label, especially if they are cutting you a check. I’ll look at a few examples of younger artists as well. Look at an artist like Lil Dirk or even NBA Young Boy, I’m pretty sure little Dirk. Posted that he had gotten a 40 million deal recently this year. And I think Dirk is someone that has been popular. I mean, it’s several years ago at this point that he was on double XLS freshman list, but even as an independent artist, it could have taken him quite a bit of time to ever hit that amount of money, especially if he’s trying to cash it in on the moment that he has. So it’s one thing to push ownership and it’s another thing to still be able to say, you know what, no, I’m good. I don’t want that check. Let me continue to do what I’m doing. When someone offers you an eight figure check that’s right in front of you. And I think there’s a bit of that human element that can sometimes get a bit lost cuz it’s easy for the people in the pita gallery playing Monday morning quarterback to go say, oh, why would you do that deal? Or us to focus on some of the survivorship stories of Master P turning down a million dollar record label deal. Different people that may have offered it to him. Because for every success story like Master P, there are other people that turned those same type of deals down but it didn’t take off the way it did for P and then they go back to the record label and being like, oh, hey, could I still get that deal? And the record label’s like, no, like the moment passed and the only reason you’re coming to me is because you don’t feel like you have the momentum that you had before. So there’s a few factors here that I think are important to consider, and there is that human element that I think just changes. It’s one thing to be a Twitter pundit and put your thoughts out there, but it’s another thing to really still say no when a company that you know, they’re rolling out the red carpet for you their show, they’re presenting the seven, eight figure check, whatever it is, and then you still saying, no, I’m good. And then I think you even see us at the highest levels as well. You look at the deals that you know, someone like Drake or the weekend, you’re more so hitting now into the nine figure deals and these artists are more likely to be able to continue to have ownership, but they’re still licensing their masters or licensing their music out to the major company. So there’s still some trade off there. It’s very rare that you ever are really seeing superstar artists that still are hitting those superstar artists levels that is like, you know what? I’m good. Let me just go release everything independently. Cause I think at the end of the day, if you are a priority on these labels, and if you are still getting the best that you can get, you’re more likely to figure out, okay, what trade-off is commensurate at what level? And that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a better way that could be done optimally. My explanation here is more of an explanation of the entire landscape of less of an advocacy for one position or another. But I do think in general, just given how much harder it is for record labels to be able to truly, I think, focus and invest on that artist development piece because they’re expecting artists to come to them when they’ve already hit zero to 60. I think it really puts the onus on the artist to be like, okay, are you happy at 60? Because if you’re happy at 60, you may not need the record label, and maybe you think you could get to 70 or 80 yourself, but it may take some time. But if you’re trying to get to a hundred, it’s gonna be really hard for you to do that independently. So a lot of it requires some questioning on where you wanna go, how far you wanna go, and why that may or may not be as important to you. 

[00:22:52] (Mid Ad): Today’s episode of The Trapital Podcast was brought to you by Revolt. Revolt is on a mission to curate and share the best of the best in hip hop culture and social justice. You may remember a couple months back I had the CEO of Revolt, Detavio Samuels on the podcast scene. He talked all about the mission and where things are going, and I think this is one leading company that is elevating what’s happening in black culture. It was launched by Sean Diddy Combs back in 2013, and the multi-platform Network offers breaking news videos, artist interviews, exclusive performances, and original programming. They have content for everyone, like Asset over liabilities and original podcast with the host of Earn Your Leisure that gives you a behind the scenes look into the business investments of artists like Soulja Boy and Rick Ross. They also have the Drop Revolts weekly newsletter and curation of the latest in hip hop and black news, and they have the black print where sits down with innovators and change makers laying the ground up for the next generation for the culture. You can learn more and sign up for Revolt’s newsletter, the drop@revolt.tv.

[00:24:00] Dan Runcie: All right, this next question here is about a specific deal that’s going on, but it’s gonna be a good one to answer. JB from Atlanta asked, now that Hasbro has sold E-One’s TV and film division, could quality control be a potential buyer? So a few things to unpack here. Earlier in November, Hasbro announced that it will be selling its TV and filled divisions of the comp company. Note that this news, three years after Hasbro had initially acquired all of Entertainment One, which included its music division. And then I think it’s been about a year now. My time may be off, but it’s been about a year plus now that it had rolled off its music division, which then became Monarch, which is run by Chris Taylor and that team. You may remember them because they were the team that was involved with the selling and the acquisition of Death Row records and then that deal with Snoop Dog. But Hasbro overall has kind of been in this, oops, maybe we should have done this deal when they went and bought E-One. And I think the big takeaway away for Hasbro has been that if we want to leverage the IP that we have, and as many of you know, Hasbro toy companies, so it has the IP there, but it also has some brands that were in that production, like Peppa Pig and things like that. They can still own the IP, but they don’t have to own the in-house production to be able to then leverage that IP and make it happen, and then when you own those divisions, it just can be so costly to try to do that. So they got a lot of pressure from Wall Street and other analysts to sell that division and focus on what they do. If you’re an owner of an IP, Oftentimes that IP may be the most valuable thing that you then have, but does it always make sense for you to then be the ones that produce it? Of course, there’s unique examples of this, right? I think Disney is a company that clearly does both, but Disney is such a unicorn in what it does in so many ways, and we’ve all seen that flywheel what they’ve done, and that flywheel is so relevant because it’s hard to see another company that could really do that to that level. But it’s more likely than not that if you are an IP owner or it’s probably in your best financial interest to partner with a company that you can leverage through their production because they are skilled at being a production company to do that thing. So that was a lot of the reason why that sale happened in the first place. Now let’s talk about the QC part of this. I would be very surprised if Quality Control was to go on and buy a TV and film division because I also look at Quality Control as an IP. I mean just given the ownership structure, they may joint own some of that with Motown, give the joint venture there. But they are IP owners that can then use that to leverage, whether it’s the brand or the story of your little baby Migos and even the rise of coach K and P and and things like that. And while QC does do investments, like I know they’re involved with SoundCloud and they have a few other things going. I would be very surprised if they went on to acquire a type of, you know, studio themselves. I know that QC does have a film division, but my impression of that has always been more so, yeah, let’s stay quiet, let’s have that something that we could have that small and manageable in-house, but if they still have a big release, I think they would probably wanna go to shop that and market the same way that any other big time producer would want if they wanted to push something further. No different than, I think you kind of saw with the Little baby documentary that eventually went on, Amazon was released on Amazon Prime a couple of months ago. So I would be surprised there, if anything, I mean, I think QC is one of these record labels that may be looking for an outside investor itself, but I’m not quite sure what the Motown relationship, just given the joint venture ownership there and how that may look, whether or not who the actual company is that owns, whether it’s the brand or the artist or anything like that.

Moving forward from that. All right. Couple more questions here. So is music investing specifically, like in catalogs, is music investing still a good idea in 2023? And my answer is yes, but not in some of those 2021 pandemic era evaluations. And that’s because I think what I liked about the catalog boom is that it brought awareness to something that I think a retail investors in the niche knew, but a lot of others weren’t focusing on, is that there’s a lot of value to be had with owning some of these catalogs because there’s certain artists that I think do have the potential to just feel similar to a evergreen stock or something like that continues. Provide consistent revenue that isn’t correlated with the economy time and time again. But I think there’s a few things that happened that people may have missed. One, there is a decay curve with all of those assets. And even as much as people wanna tell you that the Beach Boys or Michael Jackson or the Beatles are timeless, everything has a decay curve. I mean, you could even go back, you know, decades, even. Frank Sinatra or Elvis. I know that you know that the movie that came out recently, but even folks like that, the discussions that are happening now about those people aren’t anywhere near the type of discussions that you may have heard, at least when I was growing up, and that just shows you how much has changed in several decades since then. So, and I think the music listening would’ve probably aligned with that as well. So there’s that, and I just think that the valuations that were being paid for a lot of these things probably just wouldn’t happen again. One, because interest rates are nowhere near as low as they were, but I think even regardless of interest rates, there was a lot of overpaying for those assets just given the excitement. So smart on a lot of the artists for cashing out when they did and getting a lot of those returns because at least from what we’ve seen from a lot of the reports, You’ve seen some of these financial time stories talking about Hypnosis. And Hypnosis has at least from what the returns have been from their catalog has not been able to generate returns that a lot of the investors feel satisfied with and feel are in line with what they had, which is why I think you started to see more challenges there. There was almost an entire year period where the company didn’t make an investment, and I think you’ve seen a lot of things ring true for others. There are still catalog sales happening. It just may not happen at the particular dollar amount that people wanted. For instance, there was Pink Floyd deal that was being talked about for a while. It’s still being talked about. I believe they wanted $500 million, but based on some of the recent findings that had come out, the offers that they started to get were much smaller than they would’ve liked. So people are still interested in buying Pink Floyd. It may not be for the amount of money that the rights holders wanna sell it for, but there’s still interest there, and I think that rings true all the way up and down the board. Listen, it wasn’t even just music investing. The quarantine era of the pandemic led to a lot of sales for things happening that just probably wouldn’t happen in the same way today. All right. Another question here is how does the globalization of hip hop Influence its business and cultural impact? And this question came from chat GPT. Someone had submitted this question and then it came back as, oh, what do you think is a good question to ask about the business of music or the business of hip hop? So this is a fun one. I know I’ve written about it a few times, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll tackle it in two ways. First, A lot of the Western hip hop artists were able to reach a much bigger audience as a result of globalization, and I think it made it easier for some of them to launch global brands as a result. I look at folks like Rihanna and folks like Jay-Z. Look at some of the deals they’ve done with, whether it’s ACE of Spades for Jay-Z, or the Fenty partnerships with Rihanna. These partnerships are tied in with European companies and there has to be some relevance for how big you are seen in Europe and other areas for those things to really have an impact. And I think you saw that compound as well. When you look at someone like Rihanna and Fenty Beauty, being able to enter Africa and just given the ethos of that brand being able to be inclusive and have shades for all skin tones, it makes perfect sense to be able to do it in Africa, which you just think about the beauty industry. This is an entire continent of people, especially women. Different complexion and skin tones that were largely overlooked by the many other major brands. So being able to have that influence there directly ties into an artist like Rihanna, you know, years, decades earlier, being able to tour in these places and being able to have her name out there, being able to be seen in that way. So I think it affects it from that perspective. And of course, Jay-Z, Rihanna are more so people at the top of that chain that are billionaires, but I think it really made a large impact on everyone else on the other side, I think it’s made a huge impact on international artists too, because we’ve seen in so many other places that hip hop has truly been that connective tissue. It’s really been that gateway that can help. Raise and elevate the voice of the unheard or elevate the voice of the people that may not have either gotten a chance to get their word out there or can really speak to some of the challenges that are happening. And that’s the way that hip hop started. You look at Public Enemy, they saw themselves as the black CNN. They were trying to voice what’s really happening. You listen to songs like Grandmaster Flash, The Message. This is what’s going on in the streets of New York right now. And I think that if you listen to a lot of hip hop from other areas and you hear things translated, you’re hearing a lot of that. And even someone like Bad Bunny, how he speaks about some of the challenges and the oppression that’s happening in Latin America, or even things that are happening in Puerto Rico specifically, or even how we spoke out about disaster relief and even L G B T Q issues. It’s not a coincidence that this is a hip hop artist that is doing this in their own language and that’s happening. So I think we’ve just continued to see more and more influence and we’ll continue to see how hip hop continues to be such a big driver. And it’s not just Latin America. You’re seeing it in France and you’re seeing it elsewhere. And as globalization of music more broadly has made it more possible for artists in local languages to truly rise up. I think you’re gonna see more and more of that coming from hip hop in a lot of those local language areas. All right. And the last question we have here is from Quai Bangs who asks, do I notice similarities in emerging artists that follow the start-up path to start-ups themselves? And I definitely do see a lot of those. And I like the question because I’ve been hearing so much from founders in the space and start-ups in other companies about two things. Truly identifying and seeing artists as founders, not just as the creative talent behind what they’re doing, but they are the ones that are the founding person of this company that if successful as it can be, it’ll be a company built around them to then help focus and really benefit and speak to their strengths and address their weaknesses as well. No different than a start-up would be who is that? Who are your co-founders that you’re gonna find that may not be on the talent side, but can help with the business? Or if you wanna do it all yourself, who are the people that can be around you to at least help support in that way? And I think that you’ve seen some of those things happen, from time and time again. You look at the start of Dreamville, I very much do. Ibrahim Hamad and Jay Cole as two people that are in line with being able to do that and continuing to push forward, which I think has been pretty strong, seeing how they’ve been able to do that over the past decade. Plus, you look at any of these record labels and I think you’re more likely than not going to see some type of tandem there. We talked about Quality Control. I think you see a lot of that too, and I think no different than a start-up may try to get equity for what they’re doing. I think you’re seeing certain artists start to explore this as well, whether they’re trying to explore on chain, we’re trying to sell tokens or they’re trying to get a more formal structure in place. I recently had the investor, Cooper Turley, Cooper Tupa on the podcast, and he was talking about this as well, and how he’s investing in companies that are looking at this investing artist specifically so that he can take an equity stake out of the artists themselves and be a bit, you know, less dilutive than a record label that may wanna take 80% of the cut moving forward in exchange for in advance. So there’s plenty of trade-offs there. I think it’s an interesting thing to continue to explore, but I think that it is a sign of what that path to the future looks like. Cuz I think that artists, our founders, at the end of the day, how they go about that, you know, is one thing or another. And who wears that CEO hat. Whether it’s someone that artist proactively puts in place or it’s someone. It ends up being at the record label that they signed to, or it’s their manager. There’s so many ways that these hats can be worn, so you’ll be interested to see how it plays out. But wow, that was fun.

That was a quick bunch of rapid fire questions there, but this was really great. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you enjoyed the podcast this year as well. Definitely continue to share it with anyone that you think would be in. And let me know if you have any other questions. We can keep this in mind. I wanna do these more regularly in general. So, yeah, if you’re listening and you enjoyed this episode, send us a quick note, whether it’s, you know, on social media or email. And then we’ll keep them rolling so that the next time we do a mail bag podcast, we can keep it rolling.

 

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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