As Yoto secures $22m in funding, here's how the kids' speakers are reaching a new audience for music

As Yoto secures $22m in funding, here's how the kids' speakers are reaching a new audience for music

Yoto’s head of music has spoken about the new opportunity for labels in embracing the physical and digital audio format for children and families.

Yoto revealed last month that it has raised $22 million in equity funding to help facilitate rapid global growth. 

The investment was led by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (launched by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan) with significant participation from DNS Capital. Yoto’s existing shareholders, Acton Capital and Burda Principal Investments provided additional support during the latest funding round.

The platform, app and its screen-free Yoto Player and Yoto Mini speakers are available in the UK, US, Canada, EU and Australia with plans to expand this year. 

It was co-founded by CEO Ben Drury, who previously launched 7digital and is chair of ERA. 

The speakers, which feature a pixel display that changes for each track, are safe and simple for children. Yoto Cards combine NFC technology with downloaded audio to provide a tactile experience. 

Yoto recently launched it first ever musical theatre card, Starlight Express.

Head of music & sound Dom Hodge is confident that Yoto is opening up a new audience for music.

“I know that our partners, the labels, publishers and artists, are really interested in that,” he told Music Week earlier this year. “We really do believe that we are helping create a new generation of music fans. “Yoto gives kids agency; they can choose what they listen to. The idea that it could help to foster that love of music is really important to us.”

In recognition of the increasing activity with classic catalogue, Yoto hwas shortlisted in the Music Consumer Innovation category at the Music Week Awards 2024 for its partnership with UMG. Yoto Cards were launched in November featuring The Beatles’ Red and Blue greatest hits albums, as well as an exclusively curated collection of tracks by Paul McCartney, who’s an investor in the company. 

“Our partnership with Universal has brought some amazing artists, particularly Queen, Paul McCartney and The Beatles,” said Hodge. “For any music fan, young or old, that is amazing music.”

The Yoto platform and speakers first launched in 2020 and grew in popularity during the Covid lockdown. Hundreds of thousands of devices

have since been sold globally. The Yoto Mini sold out in the UK in the run-up to Christmas 2023. 

People can see that direct return, which is a more traditional way of monetising music

Dom Hodge

While the focus has been on fun and educational content, including audiobooks and activities, there is now an expanding music range. 

As well as catalogue from big artists, the offering includes kids’ music such as nursery rhymes, film soundtracks and meditations for sleep and relaxation.

“Music is a really important one for us, but we have consciously been quite careful about what we offer,” said Hodge. “When it comes to these legendary artists, we think very carefully – what is it that kids will love and connect with?” 

He added: “We don’t market to children, so ultimately our audience is parents, grandparents and adults. Either they know an artist, they love the music and want to share that passion with the kids, or they just like the sound of it.

“Also, I just think some of the kids’ music that we’ve licensed and commissioned sounds great – and it isn’t annoying for parents to listen to!”

As well as agreements with Universal, Yoto has deals with Warner Music, Sony Music and independents. Last year it partnered with Warner on recordings from Super Simple Songs, which are distributed by WMG’s Arts Music division. 

“When I joined, I thought there was an opportunity to take music to kids,” explained Hodge. “And that could be kids’ music, but it could also be frontline music and amazing back catalogue. “We’re targeting an audience that isn’t often front of mind. And we’re doing something which is really exciting, because it takes the best of both the tangible physical format with the cards but also has a digital element.”

Priced £11.99, Queen’s Greatest Hits – Vol 1 was the fastest selling music card in launch week ever for Yoto, and the third fastest across all categories. The Beatles sat in their Top 10 for more than three weeks in the Christmas period. Hodge described the model based on sales of Yoto Cards as “transparent” for rights-holders. 

“Some music really connects, and that could be big artists and titles, but also independent artists,” he said. “So it’s great to be in that position where we’re paying out royalties and people can see that direct return, which is a more traditional way of monetising music.” 

As well as partnering with Motown and Disney Music Group, Yoto is launching Bob Marley & The Wailers in the summer. Marley’s music is seeing a chart boost from the One Love film biopic starring Kingsley Ben-Adir.

“It’s music that kids respond to instinctively when they hear it,” said Hodge. “People are always excited about his music but [the One Love film] seems to be giving it another burst of attention, so we’re happy to be part of that.”

He added: “We’ve got some big household names this year, particularly Universal [artists]. They have been a brilliant partner in helping us get the artists and the estates on board. I think they’re equally excited about this idea that it can open up a whole generation of new music lovers.”


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