MBW’s Entrepreneur Of The 12 months is a brand new annual award that acknowledges a founder who has, over the previous 12 months, led an organization that guarantees to vary the face of the music enterprise lengthy into the longer term. The award, gained this yr by Meng Ru Kuok, is launched in affiliation with Goldman Sachs‘ Leisure Banking Workforce.
It’s almost all the time the founders, isn’t it?
Each time the tectonic plates of the music enterprise are shifted – or upended altogether – it’s sometimes powered by pioneers who merely aren’t used to doing issues the best way they’ve all the time been performed.
Take a look at the progenitors of right now’s blockbuster document enterprise for proof: from Berry Gordy to Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen, Chris Blackwell, and Rick Rubin/Russell Simmons.
Ditto, tech legends whose innovations have collided with the music biz: from Steve Jobs (Apple/iTunes) by way of to Steve Chen/Chad Hurley/Jawed Karim (YouTube), Mark Zuckerberg (Fb), and, oh sure, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker (Napster).
Founder-led disruption in music hasn’t fizzled out over the previous 20 years, after all – because of tech experts like Daniel Ek (Spotify) and Alex Zhu/Luyu Yang (Musical.ly, now powering TikTok), by way of to rights-side innovators like Bang Si-hyuk (HYBE) and Willard Ahdritz (Kobalt).
It’s as true now because it ever was: when essentially the most visionary founders launch an organization inside (or reliant upon) the music enterprise, the music enterprise is commonly by no means fairly the identical once more.
To acknowledge and rejoice these trailblazers, Music Enterprise Worldwide, in affiliation with Goldman Sachs, right now (December 31) launches a brand new annual award: our world Entrepreneur Of The 12 months.
This award doesn’t merely acknowledge business efficiency, or different conventional metrics of enterprise development. As an alternative, it’s bestowed upon a person whose firm has proven severe potential to irrevocably alter the best way the music enterprise works for many years to come back.
Having consulted with an skilled judging panel over the previous few weeks, MBW’s Entrepreneur Of The 12 months winner for 2023 comfortably fulfills this criterion: Meng Ru Kuok, founder and CEO of Singapore-based Caldecott Music Group, house to music tech firm BandLab Applied sciences – and its flagship music-making platform, BandLab.
MBW defined again in January simply how disruptive BandLab was changing into – with over 60 million registered customers on the platform, cumulatively producing round 17 million new tracks every month.
Based on Meng, that is merely scratching the floor of a future whereby the variety of music ‘creators’ on the planet turns into akin to the variety of music ‘customers’ – and the place these two phrases change into considerably interchangeable.
As Meng explains in our Q&A beneath: “I believe there can be over 1 billion music creators by 2030, doubtlessly even sooner.
“Nevertheless, that is with the caveat that I additionally consider the definition of a ‘music creator’ or ‘musician’ will change, simply because the definition of a ‘photographer’ has modified with the appearance of smartphones.”
BandLab has made a number of strikes this yr to strengthen its place within the music trade – together with the acquisition of (and integration with) beat market Airbit, and the launch of straight-to-streaming distribution through a partnership with FUGA.
Along with Airbit and the flagship BandLab platform, BandLab Applied sciences’ portfolio contains refined music manufacturing software program Cakewalk – acquired in 2018 from Gibson Manufacturers – plus artist companies platform ReverbNation.
By way of this suite of platforms, mainly BandLab itself, BandLab Applied sciences has not solely pushed ahead music’s burgeoning creator financial system, however began spawning hits too.
Artists who began their journey by making music on BandLab embody d4vd (Spotify month-to-month listeners: 25.2m) and Luh Tyler (2.4m), in addition to Cl4pers, whose viral hit Need Me! has over 10 million performs on YouTube.
As Maria Egan of Riot Video games put it earlier this yr: “It’s actually apparent that BandLab-type instruments and generative AI instruments are going to fully change the definition of what a music creator is.”
In Might, BandLab introduced a USD $25 million Collection B1 funding spherical that elevated the corporate’s valuation to $425 million.
That adopted a profitable Collection B spherical in April 2022, the place BandLab raised $65 million and achieved a valuation of $315 million.
Unsurprisingly for a music-tech enterprise making waves in 2023, BandLab has developed a set of generative AI applied sciences, together with SongStarter – an AI-powered software that presents customers with musical concepts to encourage their creations.
But BandLab has been cautious this yr to evolve its AI tech in accordance with moral tips which are respectful of the ‘conventional’ music rights enterprise.
In August, BandLab turned the primary music creation platform to help the Human Artistry Marketing campaign, which goals to defend the ‘irreplaceable function of human artistry’.
Then in October, BandLab went one additional, asserting a strategic/pleasant partnership, centered on AI, with the world’s largest music rightsholder, Common Music Group.
Beneath, MBW questions our Entrepreneur Of The 12 months 2023 – Meng Ru Kuok – on BandLab’s disruption so far, its transformative final 12 months, and what the corporate has up his sleeve for the longer term…
Why did you help the Human Artistry Marketing campaign, and what does ‘accountable’ generative AI in music imply to you?
Supporting the Human Artistry Marketing campaign was an extension of our dedication to guard and empower creators globally.
To us at BandLab, ‘accountable’ generative AI in music means leveraging expertise to reinforce human creativity, to not overshadow or exchange it. Our SongStarter software provides creators a place to begin whereas nonetheless guaranteeing the ultimate creation stays a product of human creativeness. There’s a motive why we named it SongStarter, not SongFinisher.
We’ve seen a surge in customers empowered by our AI-powered instruments over the previous yr — 15x development over the previous 12 months alone — which is a testomony to the optimistic influence expertise can have when thoughtfully employed.
With over 60 million creators on BandLab, what elements do you consider are contributing to the platform’s development? And what does it inform us in regards to the kind of creators which are becoming a member of BandLab?
Past the laborious work of the wonderful staff we have now at BandLab, I consider our consumer development is a direct results of the maturing of our platform, which has been years within the making. It’s not an in a single day success however a gradual climb fueled by our deep understanding of the wants and behaviors of our Gen Z demographic, which is our core consumer base. This demographic isn’t just tech-savvy but additionally seeks a collaborative, intuitive, and accessible music creation expertise, which BandLab offers.
We’ve been meticulously refining our instruments and companies to cater to this technology’s need for immediacy and social connectivity throughout the artistic course of. Our insights present that these younger creators are usually not searching for remoted software program options, however a dynamic neighborhood that helps their development and publicity. Therefore, our built-in platform that mixes music creation, social networking, and artist improvement alternatives hits the mark for them.
“The shift we’re witnessing is profound: Music creation is changing into a social exercise, very like gaming or content material creation on different media platforms.”
The shift we’re witnessing is profound: Music creation is changing into a social exercise, very like gaming or content material creation on different media platforms. By tapping into this pattern early and repeatedly evolving our platform to help it, we’ve been lucky to have the ability to place ourselves because the go-to ecosystem for the subsequent technology of musicians, producers, and followers.
There’s nonetheless a lot to do, and there’s extra we have now deliberate — however that is the actual tailwind behind our development. And as we glance to the longer term, it’s these creators who can be driving not simply our platform, however our complete trade ahead.
Many within the music trade – Sir Lucian Grainge included – have voiced considerations over the ‘flooding’ of streaming platforms with ‘low high quality’ music, resulting in latest bulletins from streaming companies to restrict the uploads/lucrativeness of so-called ‘noise’ on their platforms. An enormous quantity of music is created on BandLab every month, so that you’ll have an attention-grabbing perspective on this. What’s your view?
I personally consider there are modifications wanted — philosophically and financially — to the present world music panorama, streaming companies included.
I believe there may be typically a mischaracterization or misunderstanding that the required transition of the present system – into an ‘artist-centric’ mannequin – is one which [must be] exclusionary, or eternally limits incomes alternatives for potential artists all over the world. For music, I consider that is the one trade the place this isn’t the case in any respect.
Right now, with the maturity of the web and the multitude of tech and social media platforms, distribution isn’t the issue anymore — differentiation is. In different industries or types of media, I might maybe see extra validity to that assumption [of distribution being an issue], however music as a type of artwork and content material is the one ecosystem that really permits each asset mobility for its merchandise and sophistication mobility for its human creators.
“The way in which we see it, in music, ‘customers’ and ‘artists’ aren’t distinct separate units of individuals, they’re simply individuals at completely different phases of their artistic journey.”
Music isn’t like sport, for instance, by which absolutely the majority of individuals watching knowledgeable sport on tv may by no means have an opportunity of being on the identical stage or competing on the identical degree [as pro athletes]. The way in which we see it, in music, ‘customers’ and ‘artists’ aren’t distinct separate units of individuals, they’re simply individuals at completely different phases of their artistic journey.
In my private opinion, I strongly really feel that the music trade must evolve the enterprise mannequin to a extra artist-centric method as a way to reward and higher incentivize the pursuit of artistry. However on the identical time, we must always all be targeted on creating extra methods for creators to mature on their journey. There are leaders making nice strides across the former, and the latter is what we’re making an attempt to realize at BandLab. Irrespective of the definition and the place the traces are drawn between them — it doesn’t have an effect on us making an attempt to widen the online of people that may take into account themselves ‘customers’, and serving to extra of them change into ‘artists’.
The thought that there’s a have to evolve the streaming mannequin isn’t an opposing place to our imaginative and prescient of breaking down obstacles for music creators all over the world. The truth is, each could be true directly. If each are achieved, your complete trade will develop considerably in a wholesome method and everybody, ‘customers’ and ‘artists’ included, will profit.
Speaking of Common Music Group, you latterly inked a strategic partnership round AI with them. What profit is that going to deliver BandLab and its customers?
I’m optimistic; I consider that every one events, at each the highest of the pyramid and the highest of the funnel, taking a collective method in the direction of empowering and defending creators within the face of this new section of technological innovation, is important. The profit can be a working and sustainable ecosystem for music for hopefully generations to come back.
The creator who’s damage essentially the most if AI isn’t dealt with appropriately – from both an moral or legislative perspective – isn’t the one on the prime, it’s the one who hasn’t even had an opportunity to place their first foot on the ladder but.
BandLab has pushed huge tracks for quite a few artists together with d4vd, Luh Tyler, Cl4pers and extra. How huge part of what you do are you anticipating that ‘hits’ space of the enterprise to change into?
The worldwide world success tales that we’ve seen within the final 12 months serve to spotlight the potential of BandLab in nurturing hit-makers and being a part of their journey.
With each step ahead and milestone we obtain, the chance to serve tens of millions of creators worldwide is one thing we by no means take with no consideration. I’m frequently humbled by the eagerness and expertise of our customers, and each hit and success story is a reminder of the collective effort that makes this all doable.
“The ‘hits’ space is an thrilling a part of our enterprise, and lengthy could it proceed to develop — however it should by no means be as massive because the half targeted on democratizing music creation and offering alternatives for all artists to create music.”
Whereas we’re after all pleased with these achievements, our focus stays on offering instruments, platforms, and companies for all ranges of creators.
The ‘hits’ space is an thrilling a part of our enterprise, and lengthy could it proceed to develop — however it should by no means be as massive because the half targeted on democratizing music creation and offering alternatives for all artists to create music, share it with the world, and launch their careers by discovering their viewers on BandLab.
Are you able to clarify for many who don’t know the way creators generate income from BandLab, after which how you as an organization generate income from BandLab?
Although it’s free to make music on BandLab, it’s not free to get your music onto Spotify or to main streaming platforms with BandLab Distribution, accessible through our paid subscription product — BandLab Membership.
That’s one instance of how creators on BandLab are in a position to earn and monetize their creativity by way of BandLab, in addition to how we generate income, on prime of different extremely well-liked BandLab paid companies like Increase or Promote, which let you run devoted advert campaigns to advertise your profile on and off our social community.
SensorTower introduced in 2021 that BandLab had caught up with Apple’s GARAGEBAND when it comes to whole cell downloads – some milestone! What’s your imaginative and prescient for the final word scale of BandLab for music-makers?
MIDiA Analysis simply revealed a terrific report on the state and development of the music creator financial system and forecasted 198.2 million music creators in 2030. I extremely encourage everybody to get their palms on that report and skim it. I’ve the utmost admiration for Mark [Mulligan] and his staff at MIDiA… however on this quantity I’d cheekily and respectfully disagree.
I personally suppose there can be over 1 billion music creators by 2030, doubtlessly even sooner. Nevertheless, that is with the caveat that I additionally consider the definition of a ‘music creator’ or ‘musician’ will change, simply because the definition of a ‘photographer’ has modified with the appearance of smartphones. That’s to say hopefully we are able to and can each be proper!
Are you stunned, as I’m, that relating to serving indie artists, the ‘main music corporations’ have to this point targeted on distribution and advertising and marketing companies – however haven’t acquired or constructed a music-making platform?
Not notably. I believe within the latest music tech panorama it really has made lots of sense that main music corporations have primarily targeted on distribution and advertising and marketing for indie artists, particularly these within the enterprise of signing artists and creators. Empowering creators to distribute had genuinely been an issue that was needed to resolve and there have been undoubtedly provide chain benefits to be gained.
“BandLab wasn’t constructed in a single day, and in our wider Caldecott Music Group community, we’ve been within the enterprise of devices and music creation for over a decade.”
It additionally takes a considerably longer gestation interval to holistically concentrate on the music creation house, which so far had all the time been a considerably smaller market. BandLab wasn’t constructed in a single day, and in our wider Caldecott Music Group community, we’ve been within the enterprise of devices and music creation for over a decade.
How do you envisage AI-created music/loops altering the face of the trendy music enterprise, and doubtlessly altering BandLab itself?
I believe AI, GenAI particularly, could have a profound influence on music. If performed appropriately, I really consider creators can be empowered in ways in which had been unthinkable earlier than, and the pie that feeds our distinctive ecosystem will develop considerably as effectively.
“We hope we could be a part of a needed choir that collectively pushes decision-makers and legislators in the correct course that can defend people and profit the world of music.”
We’ve seen a major rise in baseline statistics, such because the probability of latest customers to obtain or full [the creation of] a observe with the assistance of SongStarter on BandLab. These alerts level to how instruments can break down extra obstacles for aspiring creators worldwide if you empower them with new expertise, particularly these from international locations that wouldn’t have the identical alternative or entry to fundamental music schooling and concept that many people have had the nice fortune to profit from and infrequently take with no consideration.
That being mentioned, I do genuinely consider there are concurrently profound and existential dangers to the music ecosystem, which is why we’ve actively taken the method of being vocal about our considerations. We hope we could be a part of a needed choir that collectively pushes decision-makers and legislators in the correct course that can defend people and profit the world of music.
How has your acquisition of ReverbNation in 2021 modified and improved what BandLab does?
Some options, corresponding to BandLab Alternatives accessible by way of BandLab Membership, have already surfaced a few of the facets and advantages of the deal that we accomplished in 2021, however a lot of the progress has been behind the scenes.
With the completion of our model replace earlier this yr, stay up for some extra seen bulletins. There can be much more surfacing as we transfer into 2024 and I’m enthusiastic about how that can drive the 1+1=3 between the 2 corporations and throughout our group.
You raised $65m in 2022, and an extra $25m earlier this yr, elevating BandLab’s post-money valuation to $425 million. Do you’ve got a plan to scale right into a unicorn? How are you utilizing these investments?
Jokes apart, I clearly was – and needed to be! – quietly assured that it was not a matter of if, not when, BandLab customers would have Billboard-charting hits. However the truth that it occurred a lot before anticipated, coupled with the altering tech panorama and our place in with the ability to lead the dialog round music creation and AI, has meant we’ve needed to concentrate on accelerating and maturing many areas of our enterprise that we thought would come a couple of years down the highway.
To the query of valuation, we clearly wouldn’t have the world-class set of traders who joined our staff – and cap desk – 24 months in the past if we didn’t collectively – and mathematically – consider there was a tremendously worthwhile potential alternative forward.
“we clearly wouldn’t have the world-class set of traders who joined our staff – and cap desk – 24 months in the past if we didn’t collectively – and mathematically – consider there was a tremendously worthwhile potential alternative forward.”
I’m clearly biased, as a co-founder, operator, and investor into [BandLab] all on the identical time. Nevertheless, with all of the progress we’ve made in even the final 24 months and the staff that I’ve been lucky to develop and develop alongside over the past eight years at BandLab and our wider group, I really and genuinely consider the chance for us and the broader music ecosystem is much larger than I even imagined at first of this journey.
I’m invigorated and impressed every single day seeing how extremely passionate our staff is about our unbelievable neighborhood of tens of millions and tens of millions of proficient creators all over the world.
Nobody is aware of what the subsequent 12 months will deliver, however there’s by no means been the next degree of conviction and dedication for us at BandLab. I couldn’t be extra excited as we tie up this yr and launch into 2024.Music Enterprise Worldwide