The Silicon Review
The music industry is in the middle of complete digitalization. This shift has provided a significant opportunity for industry disruption where new startup brands have taken leading roles and the old legacy brands that have not been able to adapt – have sadly fallen. But the biggest opportunity is presented by the resurgent global music market that has grown into a bigger market than ever before, currently at $77billion. The industry is further expected to grow to $142 billion before 2030. This unprecedented growth is driven by global digitalization and will be shared by the technology disruptors that most effectively capture the opportunity.
Soundtrack Your Brand is a B2B music streaming service with the world's largest catalog of popular music licensed for businesses. Founded in 2013, the company has built the world's leading B2B product that provides businesses an all-in-one solution for streaming music for their establishments, all the while ensuring that the artists and music rights holders are properly compensated.
"When we first launched, we were shocked at how far behind the background music space was from the consumer streaming space. We have been working on bridging that gap," explained Ola Sars, Founder, CEO and Chairman of Soundtrack Your Brand. The Soundtrack platform enhances the in-store/restaurant experience by providing music that matches the brand, making guests stay longer and spend more. Additionally, the company's full song trackability model allows it to give artists and songwriters usage-based compensation and clear accountability when their music is played.
We recently interviewed Ola Sars to understand more about the importance of Soundtrack Your Brand. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Q. Could you tell us about your journey so far?
Before Soundtrack, I had built multiple consumer interfacing companies in the music streaming space, including Beats Music, which was acquired and transformed into Apple Music. When I was building Beats, I was constantly approached by brands and businesses that wanted to engage in the music streaming revolution. They wanted to expand their brand experiences with music streaming. I initially set up a joint venture with Spotify to go after the global “Audio for Business” market and co-founded Spotify Businesses, a stand-alone effort to expand Spotify’s reach into B2B-streaming. In 2018, I pivoted Spotify Business into Soundtrack as a fully-independent brand and business.
I believe that music is undervalued as an art form and saw that there was significant opportunity for value improvement and growth. Soundtrack Your Brand was created with the ambition to move the antiquated background music market into the streaming era, bringing transparency, compliance, and fair compensation and correct flow of royalties to artists and composers, when their music is played in a public or commercial environment.
Q. How does Artificial Intelligence power your offerings?
Soundtrack is the only music service for businesses that lets you create your own playlists exactly how you want them. You can create a playlist from scratch or edit a ready-made playlist. However, if you rather focus on other aspects of your business besides customizing your music, Soundtrack’s AI gives business owners the option to create AI-generated music stations based on the values and vibe they are trying to achieve in their space. They can define different characteristics from mood, energy, genre and more, which helps the AI instantly produce a station to match their choices.
Q. How do you help businesses bypass the hassle of getting into the complicated world of music licensing?
We have during the last 3-4 years architected the global business model for B2B-music-streaming, just like Spotify did for the B2C market. Soundtrack entered the market with the ambition to bring transparency, compliance, fair compensation and correct flow-through of royalties to artists and composers when their music is played in venues. We have secured over 15,000 unique direct deals with labels and publishers worldwide so that we can provide businesses an alternative to B2C piracy by giving them a best-in-class B2B product experience and the largest music catalog licensed for business. At the same time, we are enabling them to source a legal music solution that goes right towards artists and composers when using their art to do better business.
Around 20 million businesses in western markets are using B2C music streaming services illegally – while playing music for their businesses, leading to an annual loss of almost $2.7 billion in royalties per year that should rightfully have gone to artists and composers. Soundtrack is working towards changing that.
Q. Could you tell us about your subscription plans?
Our basic plan, Soundtrack Essential, gives businesses access to hundreds of playlists and thousands of stations. It includes a catalog of over 58 million songs, custom AI stations, hundreds of ready-made playlists and thousands of possible artist stations. Last year, we launched our Soundtrack Unlimited subscription option, which gives businesses the same features as the Essential subscription along with the power to make their own playlists using any songs in the catalog. This is the world’s first on-demand product for B2B and gives businesses a music streaming solution that is on par with any major B2C streaming service. And finally, we have our Soundtrack Enterprise option for businesses with10 or more locations.
Tell us about "Soundtrack Unlimited."
Soundtrack Your Brand recently introduced a new on-demand service, Soundtrack Unlimited, which enables its users to have even more control over the music they play to their customers. Soundtrack Unlimited gives businesses the ability to jump, skip and replay tracks, as well as create their own playlists. These features were only previously available on B2C services.
Additionally, Soundtrack Unlimited retails at the equivalent of US$40-50 per month in markets worldwide, therefore significantly increasing royalties paid out to labels and artists.
Q. Tell us about the company’s work culture. How do you help your employees grow?
At Soundtrack, we take culture seriously, and we appreciate that our team is one of our core competitive assets. On an ongoing basis, we work with our Soundtrack brand that comprises of three ingredients: 1) Soundtrack Customers 2) Soundtrack Product and 3) Soundtrack Team. Within the Soundtrack Team dimension, we work with our core values as the platform for our culture: Transparency, Common Sense, Professionalism and Diversity. During a normal year, we revisit and work through the core values with our full team at least two times per year to check ourselves on how we are living according to these principles in everything we do. In this culture, every employee has an opportunity to grow what she or he sees as a potential development path in our small organization.
Q. How have you evolved since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted most of the industries we serve. Coming into 2020, we were planning for a major growth year, having rolled out in 75 markets during 2018-2019, but those plans had to change drastically in March. Many brands saw declining sales and revenues between April and June of 2020. We quickly reacted and deployed a crisis management plan, which focused on helping all of our existing customers through the crisis. We took the unprecedented move of offering our customers an option to "pause" on their monthly music subscription, rather than outright canceling the service. Even though Soundtrack's whole music-in-venue market basically shut down, we prevailed and produced our most productive year ever.
Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers?
We are currently 100% dedicated to disrupting this multi-billion dollar market opportunity at its core, providing the right music at the right place at the right time for businesses. Moving forward, however, my goal is to evolve the audio experience in the public domain, creating the world’s biggest audio network in terms of consumer reach.
Ola Sars, Founder, CEO and Chairman
Ola Sars is a Stockholm-based serial entrepreneur active in the music-tech space. Before creating Soundtrack Your Brand, he was the co-founder and COO of Beats Music, which was acquired by Apple and transformed into Apple Music. He also co-founded Pacemaker, the world's first DJ-driven music platform.
Named one of Billboard’s 2021 International Power Players, Ola’s driving inspiration behind his repeated efforts in transforming the music market comes from his conviction that music is undervalued as an art-form and that the music industry offers significant opportunity for value improvement and growth. Through his multiple startups in the music space, he has focused on unlocking that intrinsic value, both in B2C and now in B2B. Ola has been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Bloomberg and is a regular in music and technology publications.