For many years, the music industry has been accused of being behind the times, even while pop stars and musicians work tirelessly to find what’s “next”. Technology-wise, the business of music is typically late to the party, always playing catch up and often having to fight with some new threat to tried and true monetary streams. This problem hasn’t gone unnoticed, and if some of the industry’s smartest people have anything to say about it, that trend stops now.
In just the past year, three music-focused tech/startup accelerators have all popped up: Nashville’s Project Music, Chicago’s 2112 Inc., and Los Angeles’ upcoming SMASHD Labs, which was just recently announced. All three have the goal of fostering and nurturing companies that are essentially nothing but a great idea, and which are in the beginning stages of their lives.
“I think the music industry has lacked any innovation, aside from outside players,” says Troy Carter, the CEO and Founder of Atom Factory, the company behind SMASHD Labs. Carter is a well known name in both music and the startup world, and he has a keen eye for the next great thing. The list of companies he invested in early on is impressive, and contains names like Spotify, Uber, Lyft, and Warby Parker…and if that wasn’t enough, he managed international pop sensation Lady Gaga from the time she was playing small bars until she had several number one hits and a handful of Grammys to her name.
Carter and his company are hoping to find “one of the next great companies in entertainment,” whether that be specifically in music or elsewhere. Other new programs, such as Project Music, which is based in Nashville, are keeping their focus on the music industry razor sharp.
“This is when the music industry needs it [tech investment] more than ever,” Project Music’s Heather McBee told me recently on a call. McBee helped the initiative’s first year run smoothly, and is on board for year two. “We proved last year that the industry wants to support its future, as that was where the majority of the investment came from, as well as the bulk of the sponsorship dollars.”
While all accelerators dream of creating the next multi-billion dollar startup, it’s not always realistically about that in the music world. The select few startups at Project Music were aiming to tackle very specific problems in the industry, such as the metadata connected to classical music or organizing concerts on campuses across the country. The first Project Music boot camp took place earlier this year, and already over $2.2 million in funding has been raised. The organization is already gearing up for year two right now.
It’s excellent to finally see the music industry catching up to the rest of the world in terms of tech investment and discovery. There is certainly no shortage of bright, creative entrepreneurs, each with what could be the next great business, and now with the help of programs like Project Music and SMASHD Labs, more of these fledgling companies will have a chance to survive, and thrive.