February 2017: Music Tech Watchlist
This is the official kick-off of my monthly "music tech watchlist," where I'll highlight my top five picks for music tech companies you should be paying attention to. These aren't just companies that I'm excited about, these are companies showing promise with investors, user growth, building innovative technology and disrupting the music industry in a positive way. Some of these companies have been around for a while, some just launched in the past year.
This list isn't about what's new and hot, it's about companies that are on the path to long-term success.
My first five picks include a company disrupting the way vinyl is produced and distributed, a company modernizing the booking process, a company that created the world's first smart guitar, a company with a fresh spin on event ticketing and a company that makes it really easy for artists to reward their most loyal fans.
Tokyo based Qrates is all about on-demand vinyl. Campaigns are run through pre-order or crowdfunding (so no upfront cost to the artist) and are offered in quantities as small as 100 copies. The best part, your product is pressed and delivered in 6-8 weeks.
Qrates was one of three companies selected for the second round of Abbey Road Red (Abbey Road Studio's Incubator) and have hosted over 2,000 projects. With vinyl on track to be a billion dollar industry by the end of 2017, I suspect we'll continue to see major growth in this space and major growth for Qrates as a company.
Gigwell is a cloud-based booking platform that makes it really easy to negotiate contracts, manage artist logistics, collect payments and track revenue goals.
The Gigwell team was selected for the prestigious Y Combinator and have raised $1.3 million in funding (investors include Beatport’s Eric Marcoullier and StyleSeat’s Dan Levine). Booking companies like Diplomats of Sound are already onboard and there's tons of potential for continued growth in the $200 billion industry Gigwell is targeting.
Mind Music Labs is the team behind SENSUS, the world's first smart guitar. SENSUS is wireless, has 360 degree built in speakers, lets musicians play effects without needing a pedal and is internet connected.
Their team has won awards at every festival from Midem to TechCrunch Stockholm and has taken the stage at every event from Slush to SXSW (coming up this March). This is something you really have to see to believe, so I highly suggest you watch their video below.
The Ticket Fairy is a ticketing, marketing and rewards system used by festivals, concerts and events all over the world. A favorite tool on their platform for concert-goers is their referral marketing program. If you buy a ticket through The Ticket Fairy, you get a custom referral link to share. If anyone buys a ticket with that link, the referrer gets cash back.
The Ticket Fairy is a second company on this list selected for Y Combinator, have over $15 million in ticket sales globally and have partnered with big events like TwitchCon. In North America alone, music ticket sales hit a record $7.3 billion last year. With more people spending money on more events, The Ticket Fairy has a huge opportunity to tap into this growth.
Tunespeak has rewarded over 25,000 fans with tickets, experiences and merchandise through its unique contesting platform. The more fans interact and share content, the more chances they have to win.
Tunespeak has raised $3.3 million and is working with huge artists like Bastille, Wilco and Megadeth. The company was started by two musicians (who are actually twins) and is based in St. Louis, Missouri - making their success story even more inspiring.
The music industry hasn't always been an industry known for innovation and growth. If you need proof that the music industry is not only growing but thriving, these companies are just a taste of the incredible tech I'll be highlighting this year.
There are music tech entrepreneurs all over the world who are re-thinking what's possible. Qrates (Tokyo), Gigwell (San Francisco), Mind Music Labs (Stockholm), The Ticket Fairy (London/Los Angeles) and Tunespeak (St. Louis, MO) all made it on my first list because they've built innovative products and have hustled to get their products in front of audiences where they can have the biggest impact. Despite the odds, they've all achieved great success and that is something to celebrate.
Full disclosure: All of these companies have been past winners of the SF MusicTech Summit Startup Competition (I'm an Advisor and host the competition). I didn't pick these companies because they were winners, they were winners because they have all of the qualifications to be successful.