“I think there’s a great opportunity for independent artists right now. I think that independent artists have an opportunity to be heard. I think independent orders are the next great creators of our generation, and if I can put together a platform that gives them the opportunity to make money doing what they love then, to be frank with you, that’s what I’ve been trying to do my entire life.”
Chance The Rapper blew the lid off the recording industry when he released Coloring Book as a free project. Although he had an exclusive deal with Apple Music for a limited time, he controlled the narrative. He created an outstanding mixtape adorned with features from prominent artists, but he surely tipped the game on its head. As creatives control their output, record labels still haven’t figured out a way to capitalize off independent artists who are doing things on their own terms. Chance The Rapper opened the door for the music industry to recognize a real opportunity to truly help independent artists gain success.
CDs and physical music have become obsolete and streaming services has gotten to the point where no one has to buy music anymore. Sign up for Apple Music, Spotify, or Tidal and a user has an entire music library in the palm of their hands. Yet, for unsigned artists, who don’t want to be signed to a label, they don’t have many choices as they figure out how to monetize their music career. This all begs the question: how does the industry sustain itself if artists are going the independent route?
“Artists don’t want to be signed to record labels now,” Stoute says. Artists are now looking at, how can I control my own brand, how can I take my music into my own hands? But somebody has to operationalize that — somebody has to operationalize independence.”
Former esteemed music executive, Steve Stoute has found a way to operationalize independence with his new startup company UnitedMasters in partnership with the NBA. As a new alternative to exploitive record deals, artists can bypass signing to a major label and with UnitedMasters pay a “competitive rate to distribute their music across the internet from Spotify to YouTube to SoundCloud, and they split the royalties while the artist retains the rights to the master recordings.” At the intersection of branding/advertising, music, and tech, UnitedMasters is a brilliant trifecta of what the music industry should look like as it shifts to support independent artists.
In collaboration with the NBA, UnitedMasters is a online distribution company providing artists with a innovative digital platform to be discovered. Their music will be distributed across the NBA’s digital footprint including “NBA.com, the NBA app, and various league and team social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch and Snapchat.” With an oversaturated marketplace for music, this is an exclusive independent-only opportunity for artists to cut through the noise and be placed on a premium stage to monetize their career beyond music. This is a great tool for artists to interact with their fans through high quality partnerships to create and push personalized content directly to them.
“The NBA is obviously a global platform, and it’s a global content engine. They have a social media following of over 1.5 billion across all properties and platforms. What I wanted to do, and what they wanted to do, was give these talented, independent-only artists the opportunity to use the NBA to be discovered and heard around the world.”
Following Spotify for Artist incentives, UnitedMasters goes a step further and teaches individuals how to market their music. Alongside the ability to elevate indie artists, this strategic tech-savvy platform unveils tools artists need for success in their DIY approach. UnitedMasters communicates with and coaches artists on the “how to” and “why” of their data to drive viewerships for ads, tickets, tours, and merch. UnitedMasters is educational, adding elements of data, social media, and music literacy artists can use to maximize their efforts.
Independent artists might not rely heavily on record labels anymore to sell out shows and be recognized in the industry, but they still need parts of the system to function and maintain their careers. Although UnitedMasters has plenty to prove as a startup, here is an opportunity for artists to leverage their incentives needed to sustain an indie career and own their master recordings without the traditional hardships. As a young creative looking to break into the industry, this can be a successful tool to use to prioritize your creative freedom and financial independence.