How The Heck Did This Kid Create The Largest YouTube Music Network?

image001A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes.

Brandon Martinez, Co-Founder and CEO of INDMusic, is helping to the change the face of online music. INDMusic has over 300 partners, and has generated over 2.5 billion views on YouTube. By their own estimation, INDMusic is the largest music network on YouTube, with over 100 million monthly views and 2 million subscribers.

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You can watch a 12-minute excerpt from my talk with Brandon below.

This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Music Company

The Q&A from our conversation is summarized below.

Question: I began our discussion by asking Brandon about his role in last summer’s phenomenon, telling him, “I don’t know whether we should be thankful or be hateful of you for helping get the Harlem Shake phenomenon going. What was INDMusic’s role in the video’s rollout?”

“I get that a lot actually. It’s a fascinating phenomenon. You know, we (got involved) as it was really taking off. There’s a little bit of massaging in the back to make sure that the businesses were monetizing it as fast as they possibly could.”

Question: Have you had any train wrecks there where you have conflicts where you’re trying to do one thing and the label is trying to do something else?

“Our artists, our labels, they all own 100% of their IP. We don’t take any of those rights at all. In the modern day of the music industry I just don’t think that that’s something that we need access to. We’re working with them exclusively on YouTube, to better monetize their content, whether that is through their own channel and official videos or third party content. So we have an understanding with our label partners <regarding what> they want to do in terms of monetizing or taking down videos. Whenever there are instances, maybe a song has leaked online, they’ll give us a heads up.

It’s always up to our labels or up to our artists as to what it is they actually want to do with the content. Then our job is to manage the system on their behalf.”

Question: You are fortunate to have been part of the emerging YouTube ecosystem through your work with Machinima. What lessons were you able to take from the gaming world and apply to INDMusic?

“I was a digital agent at the Abrams artist agency and I was one of the first agents to do deals with Machinima. I brought them a lot of their bigger YouTube talent, like Reckless Tortuga.

I was working with writers, directors, producers, both from the traditional industry, who wanted to get into a bit more digital space, as well as, bigger YouTube talent. There’s a lot from those days that defined what a digital deal looks like. What kind of rights do you need to give up? How do you monetize this content? That’s a lot of what those early days are about and (I) certainly applied to what I brought over to music.”

Question: The entire online video industry has a love/hate relationship with YouTube. What’s your strategy long term to keep your relationship with YouTube sound while also looking out for INDMusic’s best interests?

“I wouldn’t say that we have a love/hate relationship with YouTube. I think it’s pretty mutual, we’re both companies doing business and I think it’s a matter of how we continue to make this partnership work.

We talk to them on a pretty regular basis, whenever things go wrong for us they’re right there to help us. In terms of long-term, however, we’re certainly looking at other platforms where we can also apply the skills that we’ve built on YouTube. Other platforms, where we may be beginning to monetize or, or looking at better monetization… like, SoundCloud and Instagram.

I think it really comes back to our artists and our partners, in terms of where are the fans. Where are the fans finding their content and what are the opportunities (where) we can help them better monetize and optimize content in terms of discovery and search. We’d rather listen to our partners and find out what it is that they would like for us to do for them.”

Question: What are common mistakes that bands and rappers make when they try to distribute their music on YouTube? Like what are the things you just shake your head and go, “Damn dude?”

“I think that a lot of artists don’t realize a couple of different things. One, whenever you are distributing content, be it through a TuneCore, a CD Baby, even INgrooves… you may have not realized that you’ve often times given them the ability to claim your content on YouTube.

So oftentimes, I can’t tell you how many times, you run into artists who (say), “I got a content or infringement notification on my own content.” They still own it, it’s their video and yet they’re getting in essence infringing on somebody else’s rights. That blocks them from being able to monetize their content. They no longer have access to their analytics… (which is) usually important to building a following.

The secondary topic is that you don’t have a publishing deal, you are your own publisher. I definitely think that a lot of artists, don’t think about that at all. That’s other revenue that they’re just leaving on the table… in terms of third party content that’s using their music.”

Follow my startup-oriented Twitter feed here: @johngreathouse. I won’t tweet a photo of a killer burrito I am about to devour – just startup stuff.

John Greathouse

John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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