By Robert Leitch
Musicians depend on royalties to earn their living writing music. Royalty fees are paid to songwriters whenever one of their songs plays publicly, but there are many other times you hear music throughout the day — at the grocery store, a restaurant or the mall. There is currently no industry standard to monitor what songs businesses are playing, meaning musicians are missing out on royalties.
Cincinnati, Ohio’s, Soundstr has created a device that identifies music played in businesses to ensure musicians get paid. Customers simply plug the device into their sound system and connect it to Wi-Fi. It can identify both recorded music as well as live bands, and feeds the information to performing rights organizations who will collect the royalty fees and distribute them to the musicians.
“Our goal was to create transparency between songwriters and the businesses using their music,” said Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger, founder and CEO of Soundstr. “If you’re using music and it’s for the benefit of your business, then you are required by law to pay these fees. Our technology enables companies to pay these fees based on actual music usage – a first in 100 years.”
Bucciarelli-Tieger is a former professional musician who developed the idea for his company while looking at the various expenses his band incurred after a concert. The band was in charge of all payments for the sound, lights and security at the show. The venues would then deduct royalties for all the songs they performed and send them to the performing rights organizations. This money was supposed to go to the songwriters, but Bucciarelli-Tieger found that the royalties were not making their way back to the band.
“I realized my band probably missed out on $500,000 over the course of our 10-year career,” said Bucciarelli-Tieger. “I got frustrated with the situation and found no one who was working on a solution to the problem. So I decided to create one myself.”
It’s not just musicians who benefit from Soundstr’s technology. Businesses have access to time-stamped playlists, which can be used to negotiate fairer license fees with performing rights organizations – fees based on actual music usage rather than “blanket licenses” which cover all music in a repertoire regardless of use.
In 2014, Bucciarelli-Tieger was accepted into The Brandery, a nationally ranked accelerator and Ohio Third Frontier partner in Cincinnati. The organization invested $20,000 in Soundstr and taught Bucciarelli-Tieger how to build and scale a business, fundraise, network with venture capitalists and create valuable relationships with mentors. In 2016, Soundstr received support from CincyTech, another Ohio Third Frontier partner in southwest Ohio.
The company will focus on Cincinnati first, with the goal of expanding to other Ohio cities throughout 2016. Bucciarelli-Tieger started his business in Cincinnati due to the city’s rapidly growing startup culture.
“Everyone in Cincinnati is very supportive of entrepreneurs,” said Bucciarelli-Tieger. “I feel like I can get a meeting set up with the head of any of the city’s Fortune 500 companies with just one or two emails. Having access to that kind of thought leadership with just the click of a button is extraordinary.”