Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood / President / United Masters
Years with Company: 1
Address: Brooklyn, NY
Clients: NLE Choppa, Lil Tecca, Lil XXEL, Future Kingz
Founded by music industry veteran Steve Stoute, UnitedMasters has arisen as the digital distribution platform of choice for over 400,000 artists. With more than five billion streams and a catalog of a half million tracks, the high-powered startup also offers a comprehensive suite of tools to help artists connect with fans. Having previously boosted the successes of Instagram and Zynga, Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood came aboard as President in March of 2019.
A Mission to Change the Business
One thing that has become important for me is making an impact on the music business ecosystem. It’s hard to do that at a lot of companies, particularly legacy companies that have a set way of doing things. The appeal of UnitedMasters was to come to a start-up that is fundamentally built on the notion that we can change the way the music business works, the way artists can find success, and grow that. The music landscape is changing every day and I want to be a part of that change.
Steve [Stoute] has been thinking about this idea for a long time. Up until a few years ago, the way the music [industry] worked hadn’t changed in 50, 60, 70 years. And [Stoute’s] idea was rooted in the fact that there is an unbelievable amount of opportunity for artists to grow and succeed in a way where they can retain ownership of their IP.
Revenue Splits Versus Paying Up Front
UnitedMasters launched in November of 2018 and was a platform in which artists could have the ability to distribute their music to every DSP. They were automatically agreeing to a 90/10 revenue split—they keep 90% and UnitedMasters takes 10% from whatever revenue they get.
We heard [from] our community loud and clear. Many said, I’d rather pay a few bucks up front and keep 100% of my revenue. And if you’re an independent, you need to keep every dime you possibly can to sustain your business. In response to that, we launched the subscription option in early July. If you prefer not to pay any subscription dollars up front, you choose the 90/10. If you want to keep 100% of your revenue, you can pay the $5 a month subscription.
When Creating Apps, Think About
Any time you build a product, the key to success is building it for what users need. And the only way that you do that is if you listen to the community and make sure you’re providing them with solutions that solve their problems.
It’s hard to track down your analytics across all DSPs and all your socials to really figure out what it means and how it works together. So, our analytics are really easy to digest and understand. We’re hopeful that artists are really looking at those analytics as a way to figure out what’s working for them. It’s the way that they’re delivered that’s most important.
MasterLinks and Modular Webpages
We have a couple tools that are incredibly valuable to artists, particularly when you’re an independent and don’t know where to go, what to use, how much to pay, etc.
We have what we call MasterLinks, which are free. [They] essentially give artists a custom short link they can use to drive fans to their music or pre-save a song that hasn’t yet been released. Ultimately, you are providing the quickest way for someone to go from, say, your Instagram to your Spotify. Smart links are incredibly valuable in general because you need to find a way to figure out not only how to drive fans to consume your streams but also to track who’s clicking, where they’re clicking the most and hopefully a way to retarget them over time. [If] you know who your fans are, you can then send them a reminder when your next track comes out.
We also have artist pages, which are also free. If you don’t have a website and just want something out there that represents who you are, we have a very simple, easy way to add content and promote yourself.
We have an unparalleled number of partnerships with brands who are looking to use artists and music in various ways. And the ability for an independent to get in front of an NBA audience or an ESPN audience or 2K Games or Cash App is incredibly valuable. Many artists are excited about UnitedMasters and the continuous flow of opportunities we’re able to push in front of them.
We’ve had a deal with the NBA for the past year and a half in which the NBA’s using music from UnitedMasters artists for all their digital content. Obviously, this year’s season has been quite different, but they still are pushing out content on a regular basis. Oftentimes, we see artists whose songs are used in those campaigns have quite a bump in audience just by getting that exposure. We recently launched our ESPN deal, which is similar to some degree. We worked very closely with Twitch and a bunch of others, so there are constantly new brand opportunities being offered. And we’re continuously working on bringing more brands to the table.
Rise of the Independent
The industry has changed. Independent artists had absolutely no relevance to the music industry ecosystem just a few short years ago. Now, you’re talking about a sector of the industry that’s going to make more than two billion dollars this year. That’s like 10% of the global recorded music industry. And that number is going to keep growing and growing.
The power of the independent is real. Artists are savvy. They are no longer in the dark. There are no more unknowns around how you succeed as an artist. You know that you have to build a following and have a direct connection with your audience. You know that you have to do things in order to be successful and many artists are taking the path to independence very seriously.
We are constantly working to make the distribution process that much more seamless, easy and meaningful. A lot of times, the things we’re doing may be under the hood but there are always things being built specifically to support the independent artist’s journey.
UnitedMasters quickly built a brand that has recognition and authenticity. So, when you layer on top of that opportunities with big brands, it becomes incredibly interesting for artists. And quite frankly, we’ve had a number of successes in a very short period of time.
We have a platform that is growing. We’ve got that hockey stick growth where it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and faster and faster. That’s a testament to the fact that we are building a service that people need. And this is the right time for them to use it. We see ourselves becoming the go-to distribution solution for new and existing artists. The future is just more—more artists, more services, more support, more opportunity.
What Really Counts
It all starts with good music. And it’s just about believing in yourself, your craft and building your brand. It takes a lot of work and if you’re not ready to put in the work then you should put your efforts on the table until you’re ready. You have to be able to understand how to communicate with your audience, how to keep going and build on that audience day in and day out. It takes an incredible amount of focus but, for many, it pays off.