“Artists have had probably more time on their hands to focus on these revenues,” Songtradr founder and CEO Paul Wiltshire says
In 2014, music producer Paul Wiltshire got an idea: There had to be a better way for artists to get their music noticed and licensed for commercials, film, TV, etc. Thus Songtradr was born. The company provides a platform for artists, publishers or any music owner to upload their music for music buyers to license for use.
Now the platform is working on fixes to help artists capture as much revenue from their work as possible. And in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, Wiltshire’s company is seeing a boom in activity of artists, stuck at home due to shutdowns, uploading their work on the site. While live music has suffered immensely during the pandemic — threatening the future of the industry — recorded music like what Wiltshire and Songtradr are helping to promote has been a bright spot.
In fact, Wiltshire reports that monthly earnings paid to its artists has doubled over the last six months. In a recent interview, he also explained how he’s built the “Amazon” of music licensing and why the amount of music available on the platform has spiked 200% since the pandemic. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
So how does Songtradr differ from traditional ways of licensing music?
What we’re building is a is a music rights ecosystem and licensing marketplace. On the supply side, it’s artists, songwriters, composers, but also labels and publishers — anyone who owns or controls music. And our marketplace licenses music to all the verticals of music buyers — from brands and advertisers to film and TV, streaming video on demand to gaming platforms to independent filmmakers, YouTubers and influencers — anyone who uses content or music in content is our buyer audience.
We’re agnostic in that any rights holder can be on our platform, the same way any retailer can be on Amazon. What we’re building and how we see the market is connecting the rights together so that labels and publishers can work together but also songwriter and songwriter can work together artist and songwriter can work together and making it much easier for the music buyer. We also automate some of that transaction. So for our music buyer coming to the platform, they’re able to choose a piece of music and in some instances, they can license it there on the spot without any human involved, makes it a very efficient process.
And why was this the route? Why music licensing?
It came directly out of my experience as a songwriter and record producer. I felt that given the two key drivers: One that music creation was becoming much simpler — technology was really making the whole process of creating a track simple and accessible. So there was a massive increase of supply. And then demand equally was rising to meet that supply through new channels of content, the YouTube explosion, the Netflix explosion. So it seemed to make sense that this was going to be needed by both sides of the of the marketplace. If not, then, when we started, then now and it certainly into the future.
I think you mentioned you guys have seen like a 200% growth in, I guess, artist usage on the platform?
The data point you’re referring to before refers to the number of music releases that our artists have been uploading, for us to send to Spotify and Apple and those other streaming platforms. As soon as COVID hit, there was a significant increase in just uploaded music generally, so the music being available in the platform and music releases, which generates income over time just from consumer consumption.
So there’s been 250,000 tracks uploaded so far this year. The number of new music released by artists distributed to Spotify and Apple Music has increased three times since the onset of COVID. So I guess that’s the 200%. And the monthly earnings paid to our artists has doubled over the last six months.
There’s a number of obvious reason to assume for that increase, but what have you seen?
It’s probably three key drivers: One key driver is time. Artists have had probably more time on their hands to focus on these revenues. The second driver is those who are performing live would absolutely be experiencing hard times if they if they make their living from life performance. So if they’re able to turn to digital income, it certainly is a compelling driver. The third one is we actually created a free product this year as well. We wanted to make it free for artists so it was easy for them to to upload their music, so we waived all charges to uploading their music and releasing the music to Spotify and Apple through the end of the year.
I’m curious from your vantage point how you think this pandemic has and will continue to impact the music industry and music licensing.
From the current music licensing perspective, I think what’ll happen is that there’s such a demand for content that film and TV will just work around it. It’ll just figure it out and work around. That’s already happening. Whether it’s social distancing on sets and sort of rethinking scenes, so that they’re written in a different different way to be able to do it in a safer way or whatever that involves. We’re not seeing any real signs of the licensing business slowing down, I think we’ll see more content made.
As far as the live thing goes, that that troubles me… It’s gonna come down to the vaccine. You know, how that’s deployed, when we feel safe again. I don’t think things are going to return to any kind of normality until 2022.
I’ve heard through reporting that there is a lot of revenue that artists unknowingly leave on the table. Do you all deal in that as well?
There’s so much income that artists are not even aware of. I mean, there will literally be so many artists sitting at home now who have been deprived of their live income, who are unaware that there is actually money that’s identifiable and collectible with just with some technology and with some process. We’ve been looking at this very deeply over the last six months in particular, we’re launching a new product at the end of the year, which does identify this.
This is a very sensitive subject so I’m traversing it carefully. But the reality is there are a number of organizations in each country that are responsible for collecting these royalties. It is a system that was designed with a 20th century model where a broadcaster needed to have a relationship with a local agency in order to agree to collect royalties on behalf of rights holders or music rights holders.
The digital age changed all that. The sheer volume of music that’s uploaded to say Spotify today, I think it’s more than 40,000 tracks a day. And the underlying data to that music in terms of who the songwriters are, who might publish it, gets a little lost in this multi-country system of different stakeholders all trying to collect in different areas. There’s many other parts of the problem but it does ultimately equal a large chunk of unclaimed and identified money that is, I would say, largely independent — not predominantly but largely independent artists.