Making money in music is hard. It really is. Not only do you have to make something that people find worthwhile in between all the other noise, but there are various middlemen and toll road tech platforms taking their cuts along the way. The best way to support artists is direct support through buying merch, music or going to shows. However, the ecosystem has shifted towards these toll roads that allow many different services to take their cuts before it gets to artists, producers, songwriters, engineers, artists and others. Gifting or directly paying artists is a hot topic right now with many struggling mightily in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down the live music business – the primary way most artists earn their income. Matter is a new music service that looks to make those direct connections between artists and fans, without the myriad of middlemen taking their bit.
Matter is a service that acts similar to a regular streaming service, but artists get paid not per stream or as a percentage of the total streams on the platform, but rather directly from fans through gifts. It is like how fans have been giving money to creators on WeChat or recently through SoundCloud or yesterday on Spotify. Matter only takes a 10% cut of the donations to artists, unlike some other services like Twitch, which takes 50%.
We decided to chat with co-founder Josh Pan, who is also a successful musician himself, to learn more about Matter, its place in the business, his own journey in this bamboozling industry and more. His co-founder Paul Meed also chimes in on the chat.
Why did you found Matter?
JP: We founded Matter to bring power back to the artist (financially + creatively). Coming from a design background and also being a music artist, the team and I believe that creating a truly artist-centric platform is still a massive challenge to take on, but doable.
What makes Matter different from other services like it out there?
JP: The truth about being a creative or a DIY artist in the modern age is that most need multiple revenue streams in order to keep their careers going and to simply get through their daily lives. At Matter, we’re cultivating an entire ecosystem where artists and creators of all types can make money and interact with their fans in many ways. Typical streaming revenue is not a focus at Matter - it’s all the other functions connected through the music that makes Matter unique.
What are some future integrations (Sonos, DJing, data services etc) that Matter will do?
PM: There's a lot of room for integrations that we'll pursue in the next stage of the company, some routes we have in mind:
- Sonos and Roku for a more convenient audio listening experience, pair it to our network with sync listening feature
- VR experiences, potentially with companies like WaveXR - Matter handling tickets and promotion for virtual concerts and events
- Integrate with distributors as a point to push content and serve as an artist bank; allow creators from Matter to have their work pushed to major DSP's, and revenue would be collected to their Matter Wallet
- Matter Card: give cashback rewards with partners like Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Live Nation, and Native Instruments
- Fulfillment by Matter (FBM): Allow creators to simply drag n drop files to create merchandise, an EP to a cassette or vinyl, a photo to a sweatshirt. The creator doesn't have to worry about logistics, simply upload concepts for merch, if a fan purchase it we print and ship, you get paid instantly
- AI data services (will probably build in house): NLP tips and recommendations, things like which day of the week to release, optimal song lengths, recommendations on what to sell in your shop based on what else your fans are buying
How do payouts to artist work? Is there a real-time dashboard to see cash and does it go through publishers / distributors?
PM: Right now, a content creator can easily add any party that they collaborated with to the split interface. We are not integrated with distributors yet but that will be one of the first integrations we make (per the previous question).
What are splits between Matter, artists and then any financial service Matter is integrated with?
PM: We pride ourselves in taking the lowest fees, charging a mere 10% regardless of vertical. Because we offer so many channels for monetization housed under one roof, that allows us to keep the platform free to join and most importantly, ad-free.
How does Matter make money and what are some of the technical challenges of doing all hi-def streaming?
PM: We take 10% on transactions - things like donations, purchases from creator marketplace, artist clubs, and digital services. One challenge is determining where to allocate resources to as a small team. If we're opening up a new vertical on the platform, we need it to be done differently and innovatively. We had live streaming several months ago and scrapped it for later - when we come out with something for the Matter suite of tools and features, it should be strong enough to serve as a standalone feature. So for live streaming we'll work on having a hi-fi audio and visual experience, better mechanics for creating engagement between viewers and the artist and viewer to viewer, create easier opportunities for monetization, and ability to use live streams to drive traffic to other content.
What are other features Matter plans on adding?
PM: Over the next few months, you can expect things like:
- video hosting and visualizers
- monetizable live streaming
- distributor/publisher integration
- unique collaboration tools
- multi-threaded live chats
- major tech and performance upgrades
- mobile apps
How did you get into the music business?
JP: I’d always been playing piano and singing since I was young. I started releasing music as a producer in late 2012 on the internet. A couple years later, I connected with Sean Miyashiro of 88rising, who became my first manager, and Skrillex, who signed me to his label OWSLA. Then working with John Jung and Tim Corbin as my agents, I guess that’s when I started my career. It all happened within a few months.
PM: Josh and I actually met on SoundCloud circa 2016 when I was messing around with production - I was a fan of his and after he reposted my first release. I made a (pitch) deck for what I ambitiously thought could be the perfect creative platform and luckily, a mutual friend showed the deck to Josh and we started talking about how we could make this dream into a reality. And here we are.
What does Matter look for in potential employees?
PM: We just want good people who value artistry and creativity. Amongst other prized characteristics like being driven, organized and intelligent, we are looking for passionate people who are here for the long term. Having a genuine love for music is a must and a network in tech is a massive plus.