The last 14 months for the music industry have been brutal and unrelenting. The COVID-19 lockdowns have decimated the industry across all areas, however, despite this, bands and those involved in this industry have been looking at ways to adapt and continue throughout the struggles. One such organization which has grown over the last twelve months is Music Benefactors, a platform run by experienced businessman Matt Lutz. Offering an investment platform for artists and music businesses alike, Music Benefactors recently took on its first two acts, Latino Grateful Dead band, The Latin Dead, and Californian songwriter Khalil. To find out more about the business model and where Matt sees the music industry post-lockdown, we grabbed him for a quick chat.
Thanks for your time Matt, how is life treating you at the moment?
Matt Lutz: “Things are going well. We’re getting closer to live music every day which makes everyone happier. The artists I’ve spoken to can’t wait to get back out there. Performing for bands is like oxygen for the rest of us. Our music funding platform is really starting to get attention inside and outside the music industry.”
For those people who don’t know Matt Lutz, could you give us a condensed version of your journey so far?
“I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have two awesome daughters, twelve and 14 years old. I’ve started several businesses, some more successful than others. I was working on another business which brought me into the music industry. A songwriter approached me about raising money by selling the royalties to a song she wrote. I started looking at music royalties as an investment.”
We’re here to talk about your organization Music Benefactors, can you tell our readers a little bit about it?
“Of course. Music Benefactors is the only SEC-registered investment platform for independent recording artists and music businesses. Several years ago, Congress passed legislation which made it easier for private businesses to raise money from investors. It was previously very difficult. If you were a real estate developer or a technology entrepreneur, your options were limited. The only people who could invest in private businesses were wealthy individuals or institutional investors like private equity firms and venture capitalists. The law changes made it legal for everyone to invest in private businesses as long as they used a platform like ours. The first platforms were for real estate and technology. Music Benefactors is the first and only platform for independent recording and music businesses to raise money to fund new projects and capitalize their businesses.”
How did the idea come about and what do you want to achieve through your work?
“The idea came from the songwriter mentioned above. Everyone can understand music investing. Every time music is played, someone gets paid. Music has changed so much with the advent of streaming. You may have noticed how much attention music catalogs are receiving from the investment world. Bob Dylan recently sold his catalog for 400 million dollars. Imagine Dragons got 100 million. The buyers of these catalogs aren’t doing it because they love music. It’s an asset class like stocks, bonds, real estate, oil and gas, etc. Music royalties generate consistent cash flow like real estate and bonds. It’s mailbox money. Every time music is played, the rights holders of the song get paid. Music copyrights last 74 years after the songwriter’s death.
Our plan is to turn regular music fans into music investors. By participating in this asset class music fans can change the music industry. The music industry is dominated by the major labels. The biggest role major labels play is that of lender to artists through advances. When an artist signs with a major label and receives the advance, they are giving up ownership of their music to the label. The artist won’t see a penny from the sale, download, sync (tv or film use) or stream of the music until the label recoups its advance to the artist and any money it has spent making and promoting the music. We want to flip that arrangement. We want the artists to maintain ownership of their master recordings and copyrights. Fans and investors provide the capital needed to make and market music. The artists can make the music they want to make, choose who they want to work with, have enough money to properly market it and own it. The fans will share the income of successful projects. We’re democratizing the music industry.”
There are plenty of “fan-funding” enterprises, what makes Music Benefactors different?
“The biggest difference between other fan funding enterprises and Music Benefactors is with other platforms, fans get a t-shirt, coffee mug or an album which is nice. With us, fans have a financial interest in the project and can make money if the project is successful. Once an artist or band has been successful, it’s awkward to return to a traditional crowdfunder. With us, the fans are more likely to invest again.”
What have been the challenges you’ve faced so far and what has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
“The biggest challenge has been getting the first movers to use the platform and we’re getting them now. I think we created a very cool platform to help independent artists and businesses raise money by partnering with fans. It gives them everything they’ve wanted for a long time but it’s different. As much as people say they’re trendsetters or first movers, most aren’t. It took six months to get approved by financial regulators to operate. I was so excited when it finally occurred. I would call artist managers and explain how great the platform is and what we can do for them. They agreed and said, ‘this sounds awesome. Who are you working with?’ We’re breaking through now.”
You’ve picked two completely artists already. What can you tell us about them and why did you pick them?
“I connected with Brenden and Chris from The Latin Dead last year. I did an interview with Digital Music News and they contacted me. They wanted to be the first band ever to sell equity to the public and they are. They have such a cool plan. They’re reverse-engineering things. Really Khalil contacted us a couple months ago. His story is amazing. The guy was homeless twice, once as a child and then as a young adult. He’s done everything on his own to this point and has made some great music. He’s an inspiration.”
From your work so far, what is the biggest surprise you’ve had about the music business?
“The biggest surprise about the music business in my experience has been how open most people are to listening. We focus on independent music so it’s not like I’m not trying to contact the CEOs of Warner or Universal. I spend a considerable amount of time on the phone and I send so many cold emails and intros on LinkedIn. People are generally receptive to hearing what I have to say. It’s been good. We’re trying to help independents so if we can bring value, they’ll listen.”
Over the years the music industry landscape has changed dramatically. What do you think are the good and bad aspects of the industry in 2021?
“Bad: the artist and writer share of streaming revenue. It’s increasing as more people move to streaming but it’s not fair in its current form. The SoundCloud user-centric model is best for artists. Artists, especially independent artists had become so dependent on live music because they weren’t making money from streaming. It reinforces our argument that artists need to own their music and be the rights holders. The rights holders, major publishers and labels, are more profitable than they’ve been in 20+ years.
Good: music and the music business are constantly evolving. There are some really cool music tech companies being founded. Great music is being made daily. We hope to be the funding partner to help make great music and cool companies to be created.”
It’s been a brutal year for the industry given the effect of lockdown. How do you think it will be different coming out of the other side?
“It’s been awful. We decided to locate our business in Nashville. I was there in February of 2020 looking for office space. Two weeks later, a tornado ripped through town. Two weeks after that, the world shut down. Luckily we didn’t sign a lease for space we couldn’t use. I think you’ll see a rediscovering of local music. It will take a little longer for national touring acts to hit the road. People are dying to see live music. I couldn’t tell you how many music documentaries I watched last year. I’d love to see people just flood to their local independent venues.”
As you come out of the other side, what are your hopes on a personal and business level looking forward?
“We’d like to help as many independent recording artists and music businesses as we can. We have several offerings in the pipeline. We’re raising money for The Best Music Company which is a royalty administrator. They’re raising 5 million dollars for a fund to invest in music catalogs. We are doing two country music projects. If you know some solid rock bands, we’d love to work with them. Bringing the fan further into the business can only help independent music flourish.
Personally, to continue appreciating what I have. It was a struggle to get to this point. I tried raising venture funding and wasn’t successful so I bootstrapped this thing. It’s completely self-funded. I worked side gigs for the past two years while I’ve been working on this. I know what musicians go through to make music.”
For any bands reading this article about yourself and Music Benefactors, why do you think they should fill in the contact form on your website and hit send?
“We can give bands the funding needed to be truly independent; independent with money. They can make, market and own the music they want to make. There’s no shortage of good music. Getting it heard is what’s expensive. Can you imagine what a talented independent band could do with a sizable marketing budget?”
Thanks again for your time. Over to you for the final words…
“Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Thanks for pulling back the curtain and allowing us music fans to know the artists and bands.”
Slightest Clue Release Their Rocking, Five-Track EP ‘Carousel’
Vancouver indie rockers Slightest Clue recently released their ‘Carousel’ EP, inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship.
Vancouver’s Slightest Clue is like the secret after-school project of four kids who would have passed each other without a glance in the hallway at school, but once they’re plugged in and ready to play their distinct blend of post-punk, alternative rock, and dark pop, all bets are off.
Produced by Matt Di Pomponio, their new EP, Carousel, is inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a formative romantic relationship, spanning the trajectory from love to this loss of connection. The closing track, “Carousel,” marks the ultimate bittersweet reflection with unique harmonic layers to portray those contrasting emotions, shifting between grand and quiet tones.
Commenting on the album, the band states:
“The main theme is love, loss of relationship, and connection. The arc of the story is our foreshadowing of the end in our first song ‘These Days’ speaking on the day to day fights and how neither person can seem to get back to a happy place in the relationship. ‘Why Can’t I Call You?’ is the initial spark of infatuation and obsession with someone before you know them. ‘When You Wake Up’ talks of the blissed out honeymoon stage where everything is working and nothing could go wrong. ‘Suit Uptight!’ represents the mounting frustrations and resentments building tension from unmet needs. And finally our closing track ‘Carousel’ is the end and the bittersweet reflection of a cherished relationship that can no longer return.”
Each member, Malcolm McLaren, Hannah Kruse, Sean Ries, and Nick Sciarretta, brings distinct influences and experiences: a stage actor whose playlists go from Talking Heads to Sonic Youth to Björk, a hook-obsessed recovering choir girl, an electrical engineer whose personal idol is John Bonham, and a guitarist who played for (and left) 10 other bands before deciding this was the one for him.
Track-by-Track: The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord Cuts Through ‘It Leads To This’
The Pineapple Thief frontman Bruce Soord breaks down each track on the progressive rock band’s new record ‘It Leads To This.’
It’s been a bit of a renaissance period for The Pineapple Thief over the last few years. This revitalization has resulted in the brand-new album It Leads To This. Released on February 9th via Kscope Records, the eight new songs comprise more of frontman Bruce Soord’s observations and deductions about life and the world around him. The initial concept for the record came together rather quickly, but the actual lyrical and musical components took time. Finalizing these songs required much work and collaboration between Soord and his three bandmates. Each member had a conception of what was satisfactory regarding the songs. Coming to that common ground took time, but in the end, each member was extremely pleased with the final product.
The release of It Leads To This coincides with the 25th anniversary since The Pineapple Thief formed. In that time, they have released over 20 full-length albums and EPs. It Leads To This proved to be one of the most intense writing periods ever for the band. They worked on these new tracks for almost three years. Each band member pushed each other to go above and beyond what they felt capable of. It was extremely fruitful from an artistic perspective, but personally, it did pose challenges for the band members.
Joining us today for an exclusive track-by-track rundown of It Leads To This is Bruce Soord himself. He takes us through each song on the record, their inspirations, motivations, and how they came together.
1. “Put It Right”
Bruce Soord: “This was the first song we wrote for the album, right in the depths of the pandemic. I remember standing outside my studio, which is in the garden of my home, when we were in full lockdown. I looked at the blue sky, not a vapour trail to be seen. Even the hum of my small town was gone. As a songwriter, you’re obviously going to take that in and use it. I started to ponder the fragile state of the world. I mean, how can the world be brought to its knees overnight? Which then led to thoughts about the past, essentially a re-evaluation. Are we all to blame? Was I to blame?”
“As soon as the lockdown was lifted, I remember talking to (drummer) Gavin (Harrison), and he had the idea to write some songs in the same room. I know, radical, right? So I got in the car and drove to his house. Honestly, in the history of The Pineapple Thief, I had never written in this way. Songs were built up in our various studios over weeks and months.. But we were up for trying something new. It could have been a very long disaster – a 6 day jam in E. But to my surprise, we wrote four songs in this way. The first one being Rubicon.
“The verses are in a ‘5/4 shuffle’ which is quite unique (see Gavin’s drum playthrough on the Vic Firth YouTube channel). The song is actually about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, destroying the Roman republic for his own selfish ambitions. History repeating itself indeed…”
3. “It Leads To This”
“Following on from the theme of ‘Put It Right,’ this is essentially a positive song about focusing on the right things in life. What are going to be your biggest regrets on your deathbed? It’s obvious but also easy to miss. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, I wish I had spent more time with my family and friends. It’s a love song really. ‘For all this time, I didn’t notice you…’”
4. “The Frost”
“I came up with the riff on my 6-string baritone guitar, so it has a low, edgy feel which I really love. This was a song that came together really quickly between the four of us (plus some great contributions from our touring guitarist Beren Matthews on guitars and backing vocals who played throughout the record). It’s about spending your life with a soulmate, through thick and thin, no matter how bad things get.”
5. “All That’s Left”
“Thematically, this continues the theme from ‘It Leads to This’ and, for me, is dominated by the riff and the middle section, which I love playing live. Again, it’s low in register, written using my baritone, massive drums.”
6. “Now It’s Yours”
“Written during the sessions with Gavin, this song goes on a bit of a journey. Soft, atmospheric, big riffs, a guitar solo… Lyrically, looking at the world as an older guy with a family about to be let loose into the world. What the hell are they going to inherit? Well, now it’s yours…”
7. “Every Trace Of Us”
“Again written during the Gavin sessions, I remember Gavin had the intro riff written on his Wurli keyboard he has in his studio. I took it, added some more chords in the progression and the song snowballed from there. Lyrically this is about the pressure of modern life, expectation, pressure, and the mental repercussions of it all. Modern life can tear every trace of us apart.”
8. “To Forget”
“I had this finger-picked acoustic guitar part, which the band liked, so I developed the first part of the song and came up with the words pretty quickly. Us humans, especially as we grow older, have to come to terms with loss and, in a lot of cases, tragedy. Touching on the debate as to whether life is a gift or a curse (I am firmly in the ‘gift’ camp). However, living with tragedy isn’t easy. Remembering isn’t easy, to forget is impossible.”
Lovin’ Life Music Fest Drops First Year Lineup
Lovin’ Life Music Fest dropped their official lineup this week, and it is exceptional. The festival’s will occur on May 3-5th, 2024, in North Carolina.
Lovin’ Life Music Fest dropped their official lineup this week, and it is exceptional. The festival’s first-ever installment will occur on May 3-5th, 2024, in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. The star-studded lineup includes headline sets from Post Malone, Noah Kahan, and Stevie Nicks. From headliners alone, we can tell this festival has something for everyone.
The festival will showcase many popular acts spanning various genres and generations. Supporting acts include Maggie Rogers, Dominic Fike, The Fray, The Chainsmokers, Quinn XCII, Mt. Joy, Young the Giant, and NC’s DaBaby and The Avett Brothers. There will also be a local stage to highlight Charlotte’s own artists throughout the weekend. This is one of the most stacked lineups we’ve seen for the 2024 festival season.
Tickets to Lovin’ Life are on sale now! Grab them while you can; this is sure to be an epic weekend!
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