‘Downtown have trusted us to run the business in the way that made us successful in the first place’

Tom Allen

At the start of the year, Downtown Music Holdings announced that it had acquired UK-based music technology company Curve Royalty Systems.

The move was the latest in a series of strategic acquisitions made by Downtown in recent years. The New York-based company has also acquired companies including B2B music tech and services platform FUGA and indie distributor CD Baby, whilst making investments in the likes of Beatbread and Vampr.

Curve, founded in 2019, serves over 1,000 labels and publishers worldwide and reported processing nearly $1 billion of revenue across 2.3 billion lines of data in 2022.

The company’s client base includes the likes of Cooking Vinyl Group, the Domino Recording Company, Hospital Records/Songs in the Key of Knife, Epitaph Records, Warp Records, Ingrooves, Mad Decent, MRC, Royalty Solutions Corp., Cal Financial, Alta Fonte and many more.

With the dust now settled on one of the first big acquisitions of 2023, co-founder Tom Allen tells MBW about the background to the deal and the future for Curve…

Can you give us a refresher on the founding principles of Curve?

Myself, Ray Bush and Richard Leach had all worked within the music industry for years and we saw the need to build a royalty processing platform that could provide the infrastructure to cope with the exponential growth of digital music, particularly streaming. We had all suffered with the legacy technology that was on the market, which just wasn’t scaling to the real-world requirements of the music industry.

So, we launched Curve Royalty Systems in 2019, focussed entirely on making a royalty software built for the modern music industry, one which now services over 1200 clients and processed over $1bn in royalties last year alone.

How did the recent sale to Downtown come about?

We already knew that Downtown was an impressive company that had pivoted away from rights ownership towards a services model in recent years. To support that they made what we considered to be a number of very astute acquisitions in distribution, music publishing, royalty collection & marketing with the aim of providing a very strong, all-round proposition to music businesses, creators and content owners.

They approached us with an offer to bring Curve into Downtown. Initially, we were a bit reticent because we all felt we had another couple of years of growth in us as a standalone company. But the chance to access the extra resources they could provide to help us develop the business, along with the opportunity to work with the other divisions within their group, was really compelling.

It became clear pretty quickly just how seamlessly Curve could slot into the overall offering and add real value to their new and existing clients.

Where have you seen the benefits of that partnership so far?

It’s still early days, but we’ve already started working with the other divisions in the group, such as FUGA, which has been great, and we are keen to roll out more royalty solutions across the company.

Downtown have been very hands-off and have trusted us to run the business in the way that made us successful in the first place. So it’s very much business as usual for all of our existing clients, whilst accessing those further opportunities, which everyone is really happy about.

Are you looking at implementing any new processes or initiatives in the near future?

Absolutely.  We are very excited about the work we have been doing to develop new mobile applications that will make it easier for artists and songwriters to access statements from the record labels and music publishers that represent them.

We know that transparency and efficiency are key objectives that everyone wants to work towards, so we have put a lot of focus and effort in those areas.

We are also making major upgrades to our music publishing platform, including automating deliveries to CMOs, updating catalogue management processes, and offering even better, more insightful analytics.

From Curve’s perspective, where do you see the music industry going and are there any changes coming down the line that might affect your business?

The music industry is always evolving; it’s an ongoing process and part of our job is to anticipate that wherever possible and ensure that we are ready to cope with those changes when they happen.

It’s clear, for example, that the types of deals that content owners are doing with artists and songwriters have been shifting more towards a partnership or services model for some time, so that is something we are very much keeping on top of. Existing models such as large-scale catalogue acquisitions are also an interesting and developing area for us and we are always looking at ways we can better serve our clients in that area.

But there are potentially seismic changes on the horizon, such as the metaverse, the new developments in the blockchain and AI, which could radically change the way we think about creator music consumption and ultimately royalty processing. We can, for example, see a time in the not-too-distant future when we incorporate AI into our own technology to assist with insights and forecasting, and that is something we think can be a really positive tool if applied properly.

Curve was founded at a time when streaming had radically changed the way everyone accessed music and we were required to find a solution to some of the issues that had thrown up. Ultimately, we are no strangers to finding answers to tricky questions and enjoy embracing change.

But, having said all that, our main focus will always be on ensuring we provide fast, accurate and insightful royalty processing services that offer value to all of our clients and the artists and songwriters they represent.Music Business Worldwide