Family In Music has been making an impression so far this year with its plans to help protect the rights and boost the revenue of songwriters.
With a growing streaming economy, it’s a rapidly expanding market of potential customers - independent artists - for the tech start-up. Family In Music has started rolling out tools to DIY artists, including a royalty advance option for streaming income.
The Finnish company has also recruited a pair of well-known industry figures: Kevin Bacon and Tim Delaney (pictured, left-right).
Kevin Bacon, founder of the original AWAL as well as a producer and former member of post-punk band the Comsat Angels, is chief innovation officer. He was recently CEO at blockchain-based start-up Blockpool.
Tim Delaney, formerly part of U2’s management team, is managing director. Over the last 15 years, Delaney - also a label veteran of Island, Mercury, RCA, Arista and J Records in the US, UK, Australia and Asia - has been involved with a variety of music tech start-ups.
The growing awareness of the royalties data gap, and the vast sums that creators could collectively be missing out on, has prompted the rise of several tech start-ups, while others are creating businesses to help execs and creatives navigate the vast amounts of music now available. Music Week has recently profiled companies including Audoo, Utopia Music and Musiio, which was recently acquired by SoundCloud.
Now it’s the turn of Family In Music to make their pitch to the industry and artists. Here, Kevin Bacon and Tim Delaney reveal their vision for the company in the growing streaming economy…
What does your experience of working with tech and music creators bring to this start-up?
Kevin Bacon: “I've spent over 30 years in the pure creator space, firstly as an artist and songwriter in a moderately successful 80s band followed by 15 years as a moderately successful record producer. But my overarching conclusion was that no matter how good the technology got, it never seemed to give me much financial benefit.
“A chance meeting with Denzyl Feigelson in 2004 sparked a new career development into the tech space with AWAL, which lasted until our Kobalt exit in 2012. This was a chance to create change - and we did it with the first one-page agreement and 30-day term, which was ridiculed by most at the time. Initially we thought we were a services company, but we soon started building our own technology too, because we couldn’t find the technology we needed. AWAL was based at RAK studios, a place to show off our innovative analytics software, where you could also bump into Jimmy Page in reception and hear the Arctic Monkeys recording in the studio below. But that was more than 10 years ago and the creators' space has exploded and mutated again. Another chance to create change.”
Tim Delaney: “I started out in the music business in Dublin as a result of my passion for music. I quickly found out that I had little musical chops, and like so many this meant I drifted into being a band manager. This largely meant finding gigs and being a roadie. Making progress was really tough and it was very much hustling, ‘trial and error’ and hoping someone would pass on gems of knowledge. It was the classic ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ situation. Later, I was lucky enough to join a record company in Australia, where I developed a deep knowledge of artist development and marketing and also worked with great people. I have been involved in almost all areas of the business, so I’m very clear on the many challenges artists and their teams face.
“Technology has always advanced and disrupted our industry and now is no different. But there are winners and losers in the process too. My experience helps Family In Music focus on the ‘areas of pain’ in the artist development process and help navigate them. We will use our collective expertise and the FIM network to provide real solutions, so that the creator journey is less challenging and more rewarding. We can’t guarantee success but we can help improve the odds.”
We can’t guarantee success but we can help improve the odds
What is the business model for Family In Music - how do you profit financially out of ensuring a fair deal for songwriters?
KB: “We are a mainly low-cost, subscription-based platform, so we'll live or die by the quality of our market fit and value we provide. The advantage we have over profit-share models is that we can develop tools that don’t need to provide direct revenue - they can be opportunity driven. We're developing ideas for building virtual songwriting camps in a Family In Music meta-space environment, providing for non-privileged songwriters to participate in any persona they wish, without making expensive and climate-destroying flights to luxurious destinations.”
TD: “There is always money to be made in helping solve points of friction in an industry. We want to provide all the tools and knowledge necessary to help address the issues. We believe the songwriter is particularly underserved in so many ways, and it is not surprising that they have benefited the least from technological change in terms of financial reward.
“We are building technology-based tools that help protect [the MgNTa song identifier tool], educate and commercialise songwriters and their output. Our industry is built on the song and the creators that bring them to life and we want tech to help them not hinder them. We are also acutely aware that creators may view the songwriting process for a traditional rock song to be very different to a composition written for a TikTok clip, and our approach recognises that.”
We've heard a lot about blockchain - how significant will it be for the music industry and rights-holders?
KB: “I was known as a blockchain sceptic running a blockchain business [Blockpool] for a while circa 2017-18. I think that’s a healthy principle in this noisy and often ugly space full of get-rich-quick schemes. My belief is in blockchain for good, not greed - and as such, yes, we do use blockchain as part of our tech stack. Our MgNTa platform runs partly on a custom side-chain, and we use NFTs to define copyright participation. I wrote last year that 2022 would be the year that regulators jump on the bigger scammers, bringing legal action for copyright infringements due to NFT exploitation.”
TD: “Blockchain has the ability to ‘democratise’ the business as it provides the means, in simple terms, to manage rights and collect income. It is undoubtedly going to be part of the future. We talk a lot at Family In Music about not wanting to ‘fix’ the past but rather we are focused on building for the future and empowering creators in the process. Blockchain will definitely be part of that future and we already use blockchain for the MgNTa rights tool.”
How is the business financing its growth?
TD: “Family In Music is a Finnish company and we have worked closely with Business Finland and seed investors out of Finland to finance ourselves up to now. As we begin our commercial and international journey, we will look to broaden our financing and this will be a big focus for us through 2022.”
My belief is in blockchain for good, not greed
What's the reaction been to the model and your plans? What do you think of potential rivals in this space, such as Utopia Music, serving the interests of music creators?
KB: “We are still very early - we’re only just opening up and starting to roll out. We are ambitious in our user acquisition, but we will be closely monitoring the reactions to our roll-outs. There are many ‘fair-to-creator' propositions out there - and I support them all - but we aren’t trying to fix the past by processing historical data sets and extracting missing revenue. We are trying to provide the know-how and tools to stop it happening in the first place.”
TD: “It is very early days for Family In Music. We are just embarking on our journey. The fact that there are other players focused on this area reflects the need and the opportunity. At the moment, no one competitor has the ‘right’ solution. We are certainly developing hard to be a big player in this market and feel confident about our mission. We are very focused on the early DIY market and we do not take a share of income, but rather are a subscription service. We can focus on building the right tools and if we do our job well, these tools will see artists through their careers.”
What further plans do you have in 2022?
TD: “Our main goals are to successfully build the Family In Music platform. We want to grow our user base and the company as a whole, and secure a group of investors who share our vision and enable us to achieve our goals.”