Australian music director Paul Wiltshire believes the music world is experiencing a renaissance, but so many opportunities are limited because it’s inefficient and overprotective.
Wiltshire is the CEO of Los Angeles-based content licensing and service company Songtradr.
From the outset, Wiltshire’s strategies for growth and opportunity have relied on evolving trends within the creator community and the latest technologies to make them seamless.
It enabled Songtradr to expand and shape its vision in the new era in the past two years.
Q: Covid rocked the music industry. While many companies went to sleep during the pandemic, Songtradr appears to have doubled its growth plans. What motivated you in these ‘unprecedented’ times?
PM: “We have observed a clear trend during the Covid lockdowns, with music creators being encouraged to spend more time creating and focusing on generating digital monetization.
“From a Songtradr perspective, after the initial disruption of our company’s transformation to remote work, we have focused on pursuing our objectives and have happily adapted to remote work successfully.
“I know that for my Los Angeles-based colleagues, less time commuting to and from the office meant more time to achieve work-life balance, so at least this had a positive impact.
“The past two years have been an extraordinary time; from a reliance on tech perspective, the world has progressed at least five years in a span of two.
“In terms of motivation, we are obsessed with democratizing music licensing and managing digital rights.
“The music industry is experiencing a renaissance, but so many opportunities are limited due to the lack of innovation and interoperability, along with a culture of protectionism, resulting in data problems and inefficiencies across the industry, especially in the B2B space we target .”
Q: We’ve heard you talk about a ‘music licensing renaissance’. How did that come about and what is the opportunity for artists and their teams?
PM: “Music has always been at the center of culture, defining the human experience in a unique and universal way.
“With the continued proliferation of consumer technologies, that human experience is expanding and becoming more sophisticated.
“The music of the world is now available with a click, and with enhanced search and recommendation technologies, artists can find opportunities to discover and engage with audiences across many different platforms and experiences.
“From innovators like TikTok and Netflix that are now mainstream, to platforms like Robolox, Discord, wellness applications to the emerging technologies of the Metaverse, the opportunities are expanding.
“They all rely on music to deepen and personalize the user experience and create new opportunities for music creators and rights holders to connect with audiences.”
Q: The way music is licensed has changed, thanks in large part to technology. What does the process look like now and what will it look like in five years?
PM: “We see that the industry is increasingly opening up to technology to make everything more efficient. It really has to.
“Technology has created an exponential demand for music and the industry is struggling to keep up, especially from a data perspective.
“Songtradr focuses on developing tools that remove the friction of licenses for both the licensee and the licensor and in particular for digital platforms.
“We approach this holistically from both points of view, what music makers and rightholders want and how music users get the most value from the music they use.
“Our mission is to protect the value of music in this process, as we (and the rest of the music industry) don’t want a future where music is so standard that music licensing transactions are reduced to a penny.
“In some cases, bundled subscription access to music is absolutely appropriate, especially for the individual creator community that is fully conditioned to subscription-based access to music.
“In the future, all music licensing will be facilitated using technology and I don’t mean lengthy negotiations over email and a phone.
“The way the industry currently operates is inefficient and too protective. Technology can both solve efficiency and protect value, increase capacity, unlock more value – this is inevitable.”
Q: Songtradr has evolved at a rapid pace over the past two years, with some significant new hires, partnerships and even acquisitions. What are the best performing parts of the company right now?
PM: “Our core business is licensing and digital rights management. With licenses, we look segmented by dividing this into three main groups and user experiences.
“(a) creators – content creators who use platforms such as YouTube and twitch to broadcast content;
“(b) SMBs – small to medium-sized businesses using music for commercial purposes;
(c) “Enterprise – major brands and platforms (advertising, gaming, TV/movie, digital platforms).
“Most of our business is our corporate clients as we work with so many of the biggest brands in the world.
“With offices in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia, we are unique in providing a complete solution for major brands, from sonic branding, custom composition, licensing music from around the world, rights management and a complete technology platform to ROI on music releases, manage and track music usage with comprehensive data insights.
“We have purposefully built our global footprint by focusing on acquiring the highest quality companies in key areas specializing in music delivery for major brands, including Song Zu, Big Sync Music and MassiveMusic, and today we are the largest music for brands company in the world.
“We have also developed unique user experiences for content creators and live streamers (pretzel.rocks), along with digital rights management solutions for rights holders to ensure they optimize royalty collection from platforms such as YouTube.”
Q: Looking for more partnerships and acquisitions? If so, what are you looking for?
PM: “There is a lot to solve in the music industry from a B2B perspective.
“(They include) issues of poor data and lack of interoperability between the wider music industry in terms of usage and royalties reporting on the significant barriers to entry new digital platforms face if they want to use music as part of a user experience.
“Our goal is to deliver solutions that unlock and enhance the value of music, and we look to strategic mergers and acquisitions and partnerships to accelerate our mission.
“We’re looking at opportunities that expand our corporate licensing customer base, so we’re licensing more music, technologies that extend our existing stack to meet our long-term goals of providing a complete digital rights management solution (music inventory, rights, data, and royalty management) for both sides of our market, and AI/Data technologies that increase our ability to scale and inform how we recommend/match music to a brand or content (music search).”
Q: In addition to the music licensing renaissance, there is a boom in catalog sales. What’s your take on this, and should artists with enough hits to pique buyer interest be wary of ‘selling out’ their music?
PM: “The investment coming from the financial sector in the music industry is extremely positive.
“Over the past three years alone, more than $12 billion has been invested in acquiring music rights at record valuations.
“Music as a whole is therefore intrinsically more valuable.
“The decision to sell is inevitably a personal decision for the rights owner, although there has never been a better time to sell.
“From a licensing standpoint, I think the one thing rightholders need to think carefully about is that they’re likely to lose control over how their music can be used once it’s sold.
“Music is becoming more and more commercialized and commoditized as there are more and more environments that use music.
“Big brands in particular are leveraging the power of music more than ever to connect with their customers.
“Music investors are forced to look for every opportunity to increase the return on their investment and will therefore look to any commercial opportunity that increases that return.”
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