How Unknown Ventures is changing the game by investing in music as a vehicle for connection, not consumerism.
By Mitch Morales - Managing Director, Unknown Ventures
It’s an exciting time for the live music and entertainment industry. Coming off an almost year-long hiatus where very few concerts and festivals could commence, the demand for communal gathering is back with a vengeance. Even now, despite new challenges brought on by the emerging Delta variant, events and festivals such as ACL and Lollapalooza are still finding safe ways for the show to go on.
This resurgence of activity in the sector sets the stage for much-needed innovation that we believe is long overdue. And while much has changed within the live entertainment industry over the last 50 years, its domination by large corporations is a characteristic it has yet to grow out of. More direct paths to connection need to be established to maximize value for creators and enhance the live entertainment experience on all ends.
As an Austin venture studio, we see it as our responsibility to counter the industry’s monopolistic tendencies by empowering entrepreneurs leading the way towards a more inclusive live entertainment ecosystem. Let us explain.
Creators Aren’t Getting Their Fair Share of the Pie
To this day, a few large entertainment corporations control most of the live music industry, making any semblance of transparency or accessibility laughable to the average artist and their fans. And what’s more, the independent festivals and venues looking to right this imbalance struggle to stay afloat and are often silenced by these industry behemoths. This structure has created an apparent disparity in power between companies that control media and creators of the media itself. The imbalance it creates restricts the connection and accessibility for fans to their favorite artists and limits the maximum possible value that artists can obtain from their performances and music.
Managers, booking agents, promoters, tour managers, technicians, and venues are all part of the complex (and often convoluted) path to a successful tour or live performance. When the revenue pie is split into so many different pieces, artists aren’t fully benefiting from their creations. In addition, concertgoers are often faced with exorbitantly priced tickets, as live performance prices are controlled by large event corporations, and increased further by ticket scalping. Cutting out the middle man strengthens the connection between artist and fan and breaks down many barriers to entry artists face when creating and experiencing live performances.
We’ve Seen These Bottlenecks Before
The existing industry contains an abundance of gatekeepers, functioning similarly to how the travel industry before online booking. Not that long ago, travel plans used to also lie in the hands of “professionals”. Booking flights or planning itineraries depended on travel agents, which added extra fees and limited the hours and avenues of service that customers could use. With the rise of the internet and online booking platforms such as Expedia, over 80% of consumers now compare prices and book travel independently and can do so for free at any time of day, increasing both accessibility and transparency in the industry.
We see a similar path in store for the live music industry. Modern artists and fans want more control and a highly customized experience that provides transparency, unlimited options, and the ability to “do it yourself.” The pandemic has also taught us that while some qualities of in-person interaction can never be replaced or replicated fully by virtual experiences, a lot more is possible remotely than we previously thought, opening up possibilities to include audiences across the globe. What’s more, with these innovations, artists are empowered to bypass the traditional gatekeepers when promoting and creating content. Artists today can promote a song directly through social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, or SoundCloud after recording and mastering an album in their very own bedroom, thanks to relatively accessible Digital Audio Workstations. Even mega pop stars are making it big with home-recorded albums. Just ask Billie and her brother.
As humans, we’re constantly adapting to become better, stronger, and more efficient. The entertainment industry’s landscape is also shifting, and we’re positive there is a better way to connect fans and artists than through media conglomerates.
Capital Powers Disruption
For the industry to be disrupted, capital is needed to incentivize and serve as a resource to execute all the necessary changes. I’m leading a team that is excited to be laying the groundwork for the future of what this space can be. We’ve seen how the status quo can invalidate new ideas– it’s an uphill battle to go against how things have always been. Being taken seriously requires resources, backing, and support. At Unknown Ventures, we are focused on providing capital to founders in this space, giving them a runway to challenge the existing structure of the industry and knock down the barriers that prevent the intimacy of artist/fan connection.
And We’re Already Making Some Noise
We’re no stranger to disrupting the entertainment industry’s status quo. As the only entertainment venture capital studio in Austin, Texas—the “live music capital of the world”—we’re already breaking down the barriers to a direct creator/fan connection with several ventures in our portfolio.
Recess is changing the game in event advertising. As an online marketplace connecting event organizers and brands wanting to engage with in-person marketing at events, they’re able to curate custom experiences as modern Americans seek to build more meaningful connections and shed their digital identities.
Breakr is an online platform that is also making waves in the entertainment industry by connecting artists and influencers to break new music through compelling content. With a focus on authentic engagement, naturally growing fanbases, and putting power back in the hands of the creator, Breakr is revolutionizing the new music industry as we know it.
Encore offers financial services to content creators, who are currently underserved by traditional financial services companies. Encore will help creators fund their growth and build incredible businesses, scaling and supporting the overall creator economy.
Crowdfun is a full-service platform enabling artists to take control of their live careers. Providing a platform that guides artists through the processes of putting on shows, empowering them with the tools to fully control their live events, CrowdFun is actively disrupting an age-old paradigm to live concerts.
Making Live Entertainment an Experience, Above a Business
We believe that there’s incredible potential to put the reins back in the hands of artists and their fanbases, enabling them to have direct, meaningful interactions with one another. Music should be used as a vehicle for connection first, not consumerism.
We are here to empower and invest in creators, connecting them to their audiences in stronger ways than ever before, and we’re just getting started.