Trailblazers is an MBW interview series that turns the spotlight on music entrepreneurs making waves in their local markets, who have the potential to become the global business’s power players of tomorrow. This time, we speak to Max Shand, the founder and CEO of rising music NFT marketplace, Serenade. Trailblazers is supported by Believe.
There are a growing number of superstar investors in music startups these days.
From The Weeknd to Puff Daddy, Snoop Dogg, and more, superstars are splashing their cash into emerging platforms they believe in every week.
But Hollywood stars are getting in on this act, too.
Take, for example, Hugh Jackman, who recently joined a USD $4.2 million funding round into music NFT platform Serenade.
Serenade is run and was founded by tech entrepreneur (and Jackman’s fellow Aussie), Max Shand, who says he’s aiming to build his firm into the world’s leading “genre-agnostic music NFT marketplace”.
Serenade runs on a layer 2 Ethereum blockchain called Polygon, which, claims the company, enables it to mint NFTs at an “eco-friendly” level (i.e. with far less energy used than a typical NFT execution).
With offices in the UK and in Sydney, Serenade has so far worked with artists including The Kooks, Ladyhawke, Super Furry Animals, and others, while Shand (pictured) was himself recently named in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in Asia.
Here, as part of MBW’s Trailblazers series, Sydney-based Shand explains why he believes the future is bright for music NFTs – and why he believes his company will be in the center of the revolution…
Serenade recently raised AUD $6m (USD $4.2m) from backers such as Hugh Jackman, plus executives from Warner Music Group and elsewhere. why was now the right time to raise?
That $6 million is going right into our tech to ensure we can continue to improve our user experience for fans, and work across more wonderful creative projects with artists.
Beyond this, we’re investing in our team, to grow our marketing, product, and partnerships resources between the UK, Australia, and soon to be the US.
What is the ultimate ambition of the company?
Our ultimate mission is to bring artists closer to their greatest fans, and in doing so, generate new revenue streams and imaginative creative output.
There have been a few stats out recently about the fall in demand/value of certain types of NFTs. For example, BLOOMBERG REPORTS that monthly global sales of nFTs (of all types) are currently on course to fall below USD $1 billion for the first time since last summer. Meanwhile, the world’s biggest NFT marketplace, OpenSea, has seen its sales volume fall 75% since May. Is all of that worrying to you, or is it just a natural correction of the market?
Where NFTs are purchased as investments, they are vulnerable to the very same value cycles as traditional investment vehicles.
That said, where NFTs are purchased as collectibles to signify passion for, and support of, an artist or creator, then value remains fixed – as owners didn’t collect the NFT to turn a quick profit.
Paint us a picture: what will the music industry look like for artists and fans in ten years’ time?
In 10 years’ time, there will be a greater acknowledgment of the role of direct-to-fan revenues in the overall artist revenue mix – and to support this, there will be all kinds of wonderful tooling.
Streaming will remain at the heart of an artist’s offering from a passive audience engagement and discovery perspective. However, merchandise – both traditional and via innovative ways to monetize an artist’s brand and fanbase (that don’t carry any rights) – will dominate the revenue mix.
What advantages and disadvantages (if any) are there of you launching your company out of Oz?
Australian founders maintain a constant fire in their bellies to prove themselves on the international stage given we’re so far away. We have the benefit of looking out to key markets and selecting them on the basis of their strategic value.
But hey, I’d be kidding myself in saying that Australia makes it easy to set up a two-sided music marketplace! Our early mornings are our only times to reach the US, and our late nights are the best hours to chat in the UK, leaving the daytime for Australia.
Australia is sometimes considered a wonderful testing ground for new innovations, but in the music industry, the impulse to access larger foreign markets arrives earlier than your ability to battle-test a new product.
Tell us something that would surprise people in the industry about your company and its business.
Despite our ambitions to be a genre-agnostic music NFT marketplace, our personal love of all things indie keeps on drawing us back to working with [independent and independent label-signed] artists.
While this has the potential to steer us off course, building a platform around fan engagement and new ways to serve super-fans has meant that this dedicated understanding of and empathy with indie sensibilities has been a guiding light and company accelerator.
You’re a rising entrepreneur. In hindsight, considering your story to now, what advice would you give anyone thinking of making the leap to starting their own venture?
Only set forth on the ludicrous adventure of setting up your own business if you’re motivated by passion and a true enthusiasm to solve a certain problem. If these are your motivations, there will be no setback great enough to truly disarm you, and every day will be a constant pleasure.
“If a new venture has the opportunity to catapult you into wonderful relationships and conversations, then nothing should stop you.”
Better yet, if you suspect you’ll love the people you’ll work with and have the opportunity to meet, then go for gold: at the end of the day, life is all about the people you spend it with, and if a new venture has the opportunity to catapult you into wonderful relationships and conversations, then nothing should stop you.
The question we ask everyone: Which one thing would you change about the modern music business and why?
Controversial opinion from a guy who dates a corporate lawyer and has exclusively lived with corporate lawyers: if I could change one thing about the modern music business, it would be to force a compulsory rights education upon business leaders to ensure that legal costs are only borne when they need to be.
Music industry professionals and businesses don’t generate enough money as it stands, and funneling as much as they do to lawyers in unnecessary situations is a constant pain in my spine.Music Business Worldwide