TapTape Lets You Invest in Artists and Get Paid When They Do

Crowdfunding sites are nothing new in the music industry—tons of artists have successfully launched campaigns on platforms like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic that have allowed artists to travel on tour, create and produce albums, and launch their own projects.

But MIT grad and experienced industry techie Christopher Nolte saw flaws in these sites: not only were they saturated, but the potential strength of the fan-artist relationship wasn’t being fully realized. Plus, he understood that music crowdfunding directly points to who listeners believe could be the next big thing—one day, labels could be using fans as A&Rs.

He birthed TapTape, a music investment platform that puts its emphasis on opportunity, rather than charity. We spoke with Nolte to break down exactly what makes TapTape different from its competitors, its philosophies on artist curation, and its potentially revolutionary plans for the future.

1. TapTape aims to capture the value people put on music.

There’s a lot of inefficiency and bureaucracy on the back end of things. All the solutions that we hear about, whether it’s Tidal, Spotify, or any of these services, it’s all about the relationship between the fan and the label, from a business perspective. What was missing was something that was fixing this other issue between the artist and the label.

I was reading an article about Grizzly Bear, who are a big, successful indie band. They sell out Radio City Music Hall, their songs are in Super Bowl commercials, but they still make less money than somebody who graduates from business school and works at a consulting firm. These guys are a band that’s one in a million, and I was like, “That can’t be.”

It’s not because people don’t value music, but our problem is in how we capture that value.

2. It allows you to back the proven, credible artists you believe in.

People spend an average of $50 for their boyfriend’s cousin’s band, but when I go listen to the new Rome Fortune or Goldlink tape, I’m like “Why can’t I back these guys?” It’s because they don’t want to go on a site where their fund is alongside a potato salad campaign that makes $55,000. They don’t want to go on a site where they are mixed in with thousands of other artists and brands and gadgets. These guys have worked hard for their fan base, and they don’t want to go on an uncurated site where people are asking for charity. It’s a bad look.

It’s all about opportunity, not charity. It’s all about curation and hand-picked talent. Having that makes this a great place for artists.

3. TapTape only selects a handful of artists for their roster.

We’re working with labels, but also with management companies for artists who aren’t on labels. We don’t want to build a brand where artists that we really want to work with think, “Nah, this is corny.” I understand that. Kickstarter is amazing, but it doesn’t work for these artists with that model. We want to find artists that both have a certain level of traction and credibility, and who also feel good about this framework.

4. It’s backed by Lyor Cohen, 300 Entertainment founder and industry veteran.

When Lyor first started building 300, he came to MIT to do a talk, and a lot of what he was saying was in line with our philosophies. He always said, “We’re never going to find the next Public Enemy by asking the general masses. We need to find those kids on the Internet with the funny haircuts and figure out how we can ask them who the next big artist is and who we could be behind.” This is exactly how TapTape thinks in a lot of ways. We’re not seeking the next big thing based on who these kids with the funny haircuts are listening to, but rather who they’re willing to put their money behind, which is much more telling of who these kids really believe in.

5. One day, you’ll be able to co-invest with huge artists.

In the long term, we want to open up the platform to bring esteemed artists onto the site as investors. Say, for example, Jay Z came onto the site and would be able to back, say, Rome Fortune. We could send you an email, saying, “Hey, you follow Jay Z on Spotify. He just backed this rapper on TapTape, don’t you want to go in with him?” And then you can tell you’re friends you’re a co-investor with Jay Z.

6. You’ll also be able to play the role of A&R for your favorite labels.

We’d also love for the people who have consistently backed successful artists to be able to suggest talent to labels. Why not let people who have proven that they’re good A&Rs help labels find the next big artist—and get a bigger cut as a result?

7. It allows access to artists’ statistics and growth data, enriching their stories.

For the first time, we’re putting data about the artist into the fans’ hands. There’s a site called The Next Big Sound which got acquired by Pandora recently, which shows all of this data (Facebook like changes, geographical demographics, where are your biggest Instagram fans) that’s primarily used by managers and labels. But fans don’t look at that. On TapTape, you get access to some of this data, which really brings a whole new layer to the fan-artist relationship. It increases the narrative around the artist, and that’s really exciting.

8. The ultimate goal is to push culture forward and progress creativity.

We want to connect the right fans to the right artists to give talented artists financial freedom and creative flexibility. If we can allow artists this, the art they can create will be greater and it will move their culture forward.

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