How To Master Digital Distribution — UnitedMasters Edition

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Photo Credit: UnitedMasters

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UnitedMasters is a hybrid digital distribution company that offers label services to their artists. Founded in 2017 by record executive Steve Stoute, UnitedMasters is the “Last Mover” entering the digital distribution arena.

Receiving $70 million in funding from Alphabet — Google’s parent company — along with Andreesen Horowitz and 21st Century Fox. UnitedMasters is a very attractive digital distribution company for artists who are interested in serving a specific demographic.

Steve Stoute is a seasoned veteran within Hip Hop. The record executive has been a major player in the music industry since the early nineties. He was the President of Urban Music at Sony and the executive vice president at Interscope.

Stoute also played a major role in the launch of Will Smith’s music career, along with managing Mary J. Blige and Nas.

With Steve Stout at the head of the company and rising as a visionary into this new frontier, UnitedMasters is providing artists with opportunities that might not be as accessible with other distribution companies.

By partnering with the NBA, Apple Music, ESPN and NBA 2K. This offers artists who join UnitedMasters the chance to work with a number of major brands that speak to their target market.

The digital distribution company also offers artists two-options when it comes to joining the platform. A 90/10 royalty split or UnitedMasters Select, which serves as a $59.99/year subscription with added functionalities, products and distribution to 35+ platforms.

UnitedMasters also supports a “mobile-friendly” interface that helps artists upload their music directly to streaming platforms from UnitedMasters iOS app. This is key for artists who regularly record music on their iPhones.

This dynamic lets artists directly distribute music through text messages, iCloud or Dropbox. A great example is Dua Saleh’s ‘Sugar Mama’, which was produced on a phone. Check out the video below.

Economically, the digital distribution industry — as a whole —is booming and UnitedMasters is focused on helping artists partner with brands and create opportunities from their content.

Along with the NBA, UnitedMasters has formed partnerships with iHeart, AT&T, TikTok and Twitch. Steve Stout has a formula in place that focuses around radio play, promotion, advertising, marketing and utilizing data to create future insights.

Creating content and using that leverage as an asset is becoming more and more attractive for artists. As 77% of Americans (185 million people) listen to music via streaming, with YouTube being the leading the way.

UnitedMasters is playing to the strengths of the digital distribution ecosystem. By focusing on consumers who listen to music for free vs. consumers who pay for music. The difference is presenting content vs. upselling a product.

At this point, digital distribution turns into a numbers game and by focusing on a larger consumer base, UnitedMasters can create an ecosystem where artists can engage with fans through social media.

The formula that UnitedMasters has in place plays off of human nature. People are much more willing to pay for an experience rather than a product. With the idea being to provide accessibility for fans through music with a selection of experiences that include live performances and merchandise.

Create value and opportunity follows.

This formula helps artists accrue data, create opportunities and provide leverage for future monetization. UnitedMasters helps facilitate direct-to-fan messaging, with Retargeting being a main component.

Retargeting fans is a great growth strategy for building a fan base of engaged listeners. It also allows for fan segmentation, most notably executed by the late rapper Nipsey Hussle.

Retargeting fans through music streaming and social media can help you build a data base through fan segmentation. Helping you to identify who are casual supporters, middle of the road listeners and super fans. To break it down, if a person listens to your music on a streaming platform, you can — thereafter — retarget that person through advertising on social media, websites or music streaming.

This gives you the opportunity present a project, inform them of a live performance in their city or area, buy merchandise and gradually lead them along the road to becoming a super fan.

One of UnitedMasters’ biggest success stories is the multi-platinum selling artist NLE Choppa. At 17, the Memphis rapper has had a quick rise to fame with three Top 40 Billboard tracks and top ten album in “Top Shotta”.

Steve Stoute recently did a podcast interview with Music Business Worldwide, where he discusses the current state of the music industry and developing a new frontier moving forward.

“When a new artist is getting $8 million, or $11 million for one f — king song, that’s not the record business, man — that’s the lottery business! They call it wildcatters in oil.

That’s not what [the record] business was built on; it was built on somebody of extreme talent — Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, David Geffen, Jimmy Iovine, Doug Morris, Clive Davis — finding an artist, grooming that artist, hand-crafting that artist to be a superstar.

That took tremendous investment and time in the [A&R] hand-crafting piece, as well as manufacturing and distribution.

Now, a record comes out on UnitedMasters, and then the record company gives [the artist] $8 million? That’s a different industry… the music already exists, and the fans already chose it.

Why are [the majors] still doing well? Well, if they’re going to say, ‘You know what, forget all the hand-crafted stuff; let’s go over-pay, or pay an extreme amount of money when something is working because [now] it’s [bound] to work for us…’ that’s my point!

The work is happening on its own. So the artist should maintain their rights, and if they need a loan, or some financing, they should get financing.”

— Steve Stoute

With a number of opportunities afforded today in the digital distribution arena. Signing to major record label, might be considered as winning the lottery vs. building a sustainable venture through private financing.

In an Instagram video posted by UnitedMasters, Steve Stoute uses Tory Lanez as an example of where the music industry is headed. With the caption being “Independence is FREEDOM”.

“Look how happy this guy is being free. There was a time when people would be celebrating like that when they got a record deal; now they’re celebrating like that when they don’t have one.”

Steve Stoute

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Written by

Entrepreneur based in Minneapolis, MN. I write about Music, Inspiration, Economics & Business. Website: & Newsletter:

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