Monday, May 2, 2016

This company says it can help musicians find the money the web owes them

Written by Peter Kafka — It’s hard to make any money at all on the web. But if you do make money, we can help you make sure you get your hands on it.

That’s the pitch from Stem, a startup that promises to help content makers collect money they’re owed when their songs and videos are played online.

The Los Angeles-based company, which started last year, has raised $4.5 million in a round led by Upfront Ventures, along with backing from angels including Mark Cuban, Vayner Capital and Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun.

Stem’s software is supposed to make it easy for musicians and anyone else who makes online content to distribute their stuff to platforms like YouTube, Apple and Spotify, track the revenue that content generates and bring it back to them. The company takes a 5 percent cut of all the cash it distributes.

Stem will find itself competing against a variety of services and tech platforms that say they can do similar things, including Kobalt, the very large music publishing tracker funded by Google and many others. All of them are trying to navigate a landscape that gets continually more complicated as new digital platforms, and revenue-sharing arrangements, crop up.

The bigger issue may be the royalties themselves, or lack of them. Many musicians, and music labels, still grouse that their work generates tiny payouts on online platforms; this year YouTube is everyone’s favorite target.

But at least YouTube shares some revenue when people play its videos. Facebook, which has gotten very serious about building up its video offering, has yet to get serious about paying the people who supply it with videos. If it does, it will generate more work for Stem.

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