How Splice, which paid out $11m in royalties to musicians in the first 9 months of 2020, wants to help a ‘million more people to make music’

Maria Egan

Music creation marketplace Splice has fast become one of the most prominent players in the DIY music creation space – and one of the best funded.

The music production platform, used by more than 3 million people and led by co-founder and CEO Steve Martocci, has raised $105 million in funding to date, including a $57.5m Series C funding round last March. It was founded in 2013.

Among the platform’s backers are Union Square Ventures and True Ventures, DFJ Growth, Flybridge, Lerer Hippeau, LionTree, Founders Circle Capital – and Matt Pincus, founder of SONGS Music Publishing.

Back in April, Rolling Stone’s report of strong sales of musical instruments and music making software during lockdown asked if COVID quarantine could be the catalyst for a “musical renaissance”.

It was for Splice. The company revealed at the time that it had been seeing over 1.1 million sound downloads per day since the COVID-19 lockdown started across the US on March 23 – a 50% increase from pre-quarantine activity.

Midia Research, which estimates that the DIY artist sector generated $821m globally in 2019, published a report at the end of September titled, “Independent Artists, Pathfinding Through a Pandemic’ which suggests that “nearly 70% of artists took the opportunity in lockdown to spend more time writing or making music”.

Splice, whose royalty free Splice Sounds loops and sample packs have proved hugely popular with bedroom producers and producers for superstar artists alike, has been well-positioned to play a key role in this DIY musician ecosystem this year.

As MBW can reveal today, the company paid out $11 million in royalties to musicians in the first nine months of 2020, bringing its total pay-out figure to $36m to date.

In addition to these recent payouts, Splice is making an incremental $200,000 in payments to musicians directly impacted by COVID shutdowns, $70,000 of which it states has already been paid to touring musicians via a partnership with Jammcard and another $130,000 to musicians for Splice Sounds library content.

“Platforms like Splice are injecting completely new revenue streams for DIY musicians that just didn’t exist before,” Splice’s Chief Music Officer​ Maria Egan tells MBW.

Egan joined Splice in June from her previous role as President and Head of Creative at Los Angeles-based pop publisher PULSE Music Group, which, during Egan’s seven-year tenure there, achieved more than 10 billion combined music streams and more than 100 million RIAA-certified units.

The exec explains that, in addition to being a source of cash for musicians, Splice is also increasingly being used as an A&R source, with producers going on to sign deals with labels and publishers as a direct result of their success on the platform.

PULSE songwriter Oliver for example is one of the most successful sample producers on Splice and his “Power Tools” sample pack is among the Top 5 most-downloaded packs on the platform with over 4.9M+ downloads to date. His “Power Tools II” pack became the fastest pack to cross the 1 million download threshold earlier this year.

Egan also signed writer/producer Dwilly (aka David Wilson) to PULSE following his success on Splice.

“[Splice] was clearly this very organic artist to artist discovery mechanism,” explains Egan. “You can only really be successful on Splice if you’re a great sound designer. They’re really looking for the best sound and the best loops.  It really rewards people who have that skill.”

Another crossover cited by Egan is Fousheé, who was recently signed by Tunji Balogun to RCA Records, propelled by her success on Splice after she released her “Be Kind To Your Ears” pack on the platform.

Elsewhere, the company’s samples have been used by the likes of Zedd & Grey feat. Maren Morris (produced by Grey), on The Middle and Lil Nas X on Panini (produced by Take A Daytrip), in addition to Dua Lipa’s New Rules (Krane sound); Ariana Grande’s Break Up With Your Girlfriend I’m Bored (loop from Lab Cook) and Justin Bieber’s Running Over (sample from UK producer Laxcity) and many others.

Here, the company’s first Chief Music Officer Maria Egan tells MBW why she joined Splice, what her predictions are for the DIY musician sector and that Splice wants to help a “million more people to make music”.

You were at pulse for seven years, why did you leave publishing and join Splice as its first Chief Music Officer?

I’ve had these seasons in my career. I was a manager at the beginning of my career for seven or eight years. And then I went to Columbia for eight years. I was coming up on my eighth year at Pulse. I just had that feeling like, ‘Ok, we’ve done this incredible thing’.

We had done a partnership with Concord that felt like a real turning point and a moment of reflection for everybody to go, “Ok, We did it. We built the best independent publisher in the contemporary music scene. [I had] that feeling of ok, “I need the next thing”. It was a really hard decision because obviously they’re having an incredible year. I knew we were really just hitting a stride with the creative team being so strong.

This opportunity came out of left field. It was just such a gut feeling of like, “Oh, this is the next thing for me. I want to be part of building a new idea for the music community”. I felt like I’d done everything I wanted to do in publishing at that point with Pulse. I didn’t think I could find a better environment than we built there. The idea of doing something new is just [part of] my personality.

I want to keep learning and I want to keep growing. This felt like an opportunity for innovation. Talking to Steve [Martocci] was also super inspiring because he shared this idea moving out of the economics of being focused on a small roster of a hundred artists and hope that 10 of them have hits vs. [trying to] get a million more kids making music. What kind of impact can you have as an executive on a company that’s really trying to advance tools, opportunity and access for the entire creative population of the world? The scale of it felt so big and so inspiring. I was ready to start building something again.

Can you give us a breakdown of what your role entails and what you envisioned for it before joining?

They’ve done an incredible job at connecting the dots for Jen [Mozenter, VP of A&R] who runs artists’ partnerships team and Brett [Kernan, Senior Strategist – Music Partnerships] who has been there from very early on and kick-started the artist pack program. They’ve done an incredible job making contact with the artist community.

I felt the love that the community had for Splice. The creators I spoke to loved the platform, but there wasn’t a ton of awareness within the record companies and traditional stakeholders of what it was and what the potential of it was.

My job is to help explain this to the traditional business and find ways that we can be of value, whether that’s telling the story with RCA about Fousheé and helping to amplify their artist development stories or partnering with other music communities and getting them into Splice. We’re doing that more in the music communities, making partnerships that really amplify the platform.

I’m also really involved in our diversity inclusion efforts, which is a big part of my job. We just released a Pledge, which was the work of many people at Splice who really have incredible consciousness about equality, access and inclusion in the content market place.

We’ve been focusing a lot on that. What does it look like to make sure that our content pipeline is diverse and that we’re really representing the global music ecosystem and not just as an American company, focusing on American talent. What will that look like in the future, as we start to try and shift this narrative about what a producer looks like? Everybody knows the stats from the Annenberg initiative about how few female producers there are. Splice is a big part of pushing that agenda forward.

We’re in this growth stage where Steve has given me a lot of room to think about the future of the product roadmap. What do we want to build? What do songwriters need now? The sample marketplace is already huge and a huge part of the creation process in pop music, but what are the next things that we can do?

Splice paid out $11 million in royalties during the first nine months of this year. Can you tell us about the significance of that figure in the context of the pandemic and also in the context of the DIY producer Boom?

The mythology of the long tail in streaming turned out to be not so true, right? That the bulk of streaming revenues were going to the highest performing artists and there was this reward system inherent in the charts. The more you’re on the top hits playlists, the more you get rewarded. Platforms like Splice are really injecting completely new revenue streams for DIY musicians that just didn’t exist before.

There’s a great initiative. I can’t take credit for it, but the content team did a partnership with Jammcard for a lot of session musicians that were permanently furloughed for the year as their tours and work for this year and next year got canceled. One of the best performing packs this year on Splice has been Philip Cornish’s Sunday Service Keys pack. He’s touring piano player. So that’s really gratifying to see.

This global crisis has really impacted parts of the music business in a really catastrophic way. I’ve got friends who are live musicians who’ve literally seen their livelihoods disappear overnight. To be able to plug them into this platform and find ways to create a completely new stream of revenue [is gratifying].

Not just because of COVID, other revenue streams are starting to get really marginalized by the way technology is moving. But, being part of injecting new money into the system has been really gratifying.

Splice has raised $105 million in funding to date. It’s now paid out a combined $36m to artists since Splice Sounds was launched. Where does the company want to go from here in terms of both financial milestones and also the role that Splice wants to play in the wider music community?

Our goals are about being the artist’s advocate. It’s about what can we do to line up alongside the artist and make sure that as the economy of the music business is shifting back toward the artist, the empowerment is shifting back toward the artist. As the kind of global creative community is exploding, how can we make sure that we’re on the side of the artist and we’re being part of the innovation of how talent can be discovered, how artists can monetize their work and how artists can connect with each other?

My job at Splice, as I said to you earlier, is to help a million more people make music. The barriers for entry in music is a lot higher than in maybe other [fields]. You can pick up a paint brush, you can pick up your iPhone and you can make a film. In music, there’s this feeling like, “I can’t figure out Logic or I can’t figure out Pro Tools or Garageband”. We’re trying to reach that beginner audience and give them tools that allow musicians to emerge. 

I believe everybody’s a musician. Everybody has that innate desire to connect through music and rhythm and melody, whether it’s just as a fan or whether we want to sing in the choir, or you want to pursue it professionally. That’s in everybody.

Allowing people the tools, access and this way to collaborate with their heroes is part of the vision. You can collaborate with Murda Beatz through his pack. We’re listening constantly to our community. We’re really trying to take a lot of cues from the research we do with our pros and with beginners [about] what they need next. The roadmap for next year is definitely underway right now. I’m thinking about what ways can we innovate to support the creative community.

The priority for me at the moment is just making sure that we’re really representing global music culture. That’s been my main focus coming in. What can we do in Africa? What can we do in India? What can we do in Asia? What can we do to empower talent and connectivity and community between the American talent pool that we happen to be proximate to and this incredible global resource of musicians.

What are your hopes and your predictions for the bedroom producer space in the coming 12 months?

I have this incredible interest in culture and how music shapes culture. I travel a lot and it informed a lot of what we did at Pule. Going to Havana, or going to Mexico City, or going to Lagos and really seeing what was happening globally. And being in touch with this incredible movement of American hip hop around the world.

And you think about Latin rhythms coming up and coming into the American consciousness again. To me, it’s about paying attention to the grassroots movements that are happening in these important cultural centers and making sure that we are surfacing that and making sure that we are helping creators connect.

I think about how much more interesting music gets, the bigger platforms like Splice get and the more of a melting pot this global music scene becomes. You’re not just relying on the publisher in LA to connect you with a writer that happens to live in the same city.  You’re actually able to collaborate and connect and make music with people all over the world. What happens to music when you can do that? What happens to that melting pot of influences? You start to hear Indian rhythms in American hip hop, or you start to hear American hip hop in Latin music. That, to me, is thrilling.

What are your predictions about the business around the DIY creator space?

It’s going to continue with what’s been happening, which is that the center of gravity is moving. It used to be that you had to live in London and then it was New York or LA and Nashville. There would be these media centers that really governed the global picture of music for the most part. There were always obviously regional scenes. The Grammy’s really reflected this kind of Western European American lens on music. 

I just love how streaming has dispersed that. My prediction is that you’re going to see this rich global melting pot of creativity, like Rosalia and this kid in New Zealand, Jawsh 685, collaborating with Jason Derulo.

This melting pot of global talent reflected in the charts, reflected in the music that shaping this culture, this generation of kids is going to create a whole new sense of global awareness. I’ve benefited from that growing up because my mother was middle Eastern and we lived in different parts of the world and I was exposed to a lot of different kinds of music.

It was my way of traveling. Listening to American music as an English kid was my way of traveling. When you see how big K-pop is in this new generation of kids, I think of the same thing. This is their version of seeing the world. Seeing the world through the lens of music. That that’s only going to grow.

Music Business Worldwide

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