A startup led by Tidal’s former COO plans to monetize its throwback hits

Payday to some of music’s biggest names: Bruce Springsteen sold the rights to his catalog for a reported $550 million last year. Bob Dylan struck a similar deal in late 2020 for an estimated $300 million. Paul Simon’s catalog changed hands for $250 million. And by early 2022, David Bowie’s estate had earned at least $250 million in a deal that spanned titles from nearly 30 albums.

This music rights gold rush stems from both the explosion of music streaming and tunes on TikTok, and the ever-increasing need to provide global video services like Netflix with soundtracks for their shows and movies. Now, Duetti, a clandestine venture co-founded by two former broadcast executives, wants to turn the practice around. Rather than paying big salaries to famous artists, the company aims to make deals with small artists and help their old songs explode.

Duetti is headed by Lior Tibon, former COO of Tidal, and Christopher Nolte, who spent two years acquiring content for Apple Music after doing the same at Tidal. The duo secretly released Duetti this summer and in recent weeks have begun to quietly approach artists about buying the rights to their songs.

Duetti says it’s “democratizing access to catalog monetization”

Offer: Duetti will buy the rights to songs it determines are already performing well on streaming services. The company then further develops these songs with the help of playlists, influencer partnerships and other forms of optimization, and over time purchases the rights to additional songs from partner artists.

“Our goal is to financially enable all artists to pursue their professional or personal aspirations,” Duetti says. Angerstates that the company is “democratizing access to catalog monetization opportunities.” Duetti did not respond to requests for comment.

Duetti’s plans to uncover the long queue for music rights are as ambitious as they are indicative of wider changes in the music industry. Not long ago, groups and their companies were only focusing on their latest albums, with older albums gathering dust on the shelves. Now, these old tunes have real money making potential.

Duetti has been working under the radar since Tibon and Nolte founded the company this summer, with a bare-bones website promising musicians fair pay for their back catalog “one piece at a time”. The duo’s LinkedIn pages simply describe them as co-founders of a clandestine venture, with no direct links to the company’s equally minimalist LinkedIn presence.

Public records show that the company was first registered in Delaware in May, followed by New York and California in August. A filing with the California Secretary of State lists Tibon as CEO and CFO, while Nolte officially serves as secretary. Duet IP Inc., a related organization, registered Duetti’s trademarks in July. According to company documents, Duetti raised $7 million in startup funding in July; funders include Hollywood-based Presight Capital and an unnamed music company.

While Duetti’s public presence has been shrouded in mystery, the venture has been more outspoken to potential partners and employees. In the documents reviewed for this article, Duetti describes itself as a music fintech startup that “aims to provide new and empowering financial solutions to independent artists.” In the same documents, the company states that it has “built a world-class team that will create new ways to source, price, buy, assemble and monetize music.”

A public staging website for the company is a little more blunt in its speech: “Duetti exists to provide artists with serious money for their catalogs.”

Duetti has already begun courting elite artists. It offers to purchase the rights to select songs directly or to pay for a significant percentage of ownership. One of the named artists Anger He’s keeping these discussions confidential for reasons of privacy, saying he was interested in a particular song from the company’s back catalogs that was already performing well on streaming services. A Duetti representative suggested that the song alone could have a five-figure value for the company and indicated that it may be interested in purchasing the rights to additional titles in the future.

Currently, Duetti appears to be using third-party tools to identify songs that have been played millions of times on streaming services as potential acquisition targets, but the company has plans to collect such data in-house. Nolte wants to hire data scientists and data engineers at LinkedIn, saying that “our data team … is the core of everything we do.”

Startup can improve performance with playlist placements and compelling campaigns

Duetti not only wants to use the data to find songs to acquire, but also to monetize those songs. In a job posting that wasn’t widely distributed, the company was seeking an optimization lead who would be tasked with “implementing new cutting-edge strategies to improve the performance of Duetti’s song catalog across music streaming platforms, among other platforms.” Income generating opportunities.”

Playing more of these songs could include “organic and paid media campaigns, playlist and other placements, influencer marketing, and other social media opportunities,” according to the listing.

Duetti also appears to have plans to make some of the data tools public and help artists get an idea of ​​what their catalog might be worth before making any deals. “These are tools to provide artists with detailed information about the value of their work,” the company said in its job posting for a designer. “This high-value information for artists is nowhere to be found today, and Duetti aims to become the de facto industry standard.”

Old catalogs have been a serious money maker for some artists. According to Midia Research, more than $12 billion was spent on catalog purchases in 2021 alone. Some of these deals only cover the composing rights to one song, as Bob Dylan did in 2020. Others, such as the Bruce Springsteen catalog purchase, also include the rights to the actual sound recording.

Midia music industry analyst Tatiana Cirisano explained that one reason for this gold rush is the changing nature of the music industry. Not only did record stores have much less shelf space than Spotify, but the industry’s reliance on album sales had its own limitations. “You only made money from that first sale,” Cirisano said. When fans played an album years after purchasing it on CD, the artists earned nothing.

That has changed with streaming services like Spotify, where legacy catalog titles can bring in serious cash over time. “A song’s revenue profile can last much longer on streaming services,” Cirisano said.

And it’s not just music lovers who are reinventing decades-old songs. Because video streaming services like Netflix invest billions in original content, these companies also need an ever-growing music catalog for their movies and shows. This could translate into direct revenue for rights holders and a real snowball effect on Spotify.

Netflix and TikTok helped old songs explode again

Streams of Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” rose 8,700 percent earlier this year after the song was featured in its most recent season. stranger things. According to a joint study by the two companies, if an artist’s song is featured on a Netflix show, the streams for the rest of its catalog are also doubled.

A Netflix placement isn’t the only way for catalog titles to find new audiences. Sometimes all it takes is a man jogging on a skateboard and drinking cranberry juice.

When TikToker 420doggface208 went viral with a video featuring Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams” in late 2020, the song resurfaced on the Billboard charts 43 years after its debut. And after Mick Fleetwood responded with his own TikTok video, “Dreams” topped the Apple Music charts. “If there’s one thing TikTok has taught us, it’s this: anything happens,” Cirisano said.

This message hasn’t quite penetrated many of these music rights buyers, who tend to focus on big artists like Springsteen, Dylan, and Bowie. “Most of the big deals so far have been old, white, male and US/UK based,” Cirisano said.

However, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on albums that were huge hits when they were released decades ago may not actually be the best way to monetize music for the TikTok generation. Not only is streaming data a better indicator of future success than yesterday’s radio charts, but social media and algorithmic playlists are also changing long-tail music listening. The number of new artists topping the charts has dwindled over the years, and some industry watchers are ready to explain that TikTok is killing the pop star.

“The music industry is changing fast,” Cirisano confirmed. However, the transition to long-tailed listening is also a chance to monetize the hidden gems of smaller artists, he argued. “Companies have the opportunity to focus more on niches.”


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