Independent artists have found an unlikely wealthy benefactor willing to bankroll their latest project: Cash App. The mobile payment service today launched Cash App Studios, an initiative designed to help independent creatives, including artists, musicians, directors, and designers, fund their projects.
Cash App declined to disclose financial details of their payments, including whether there are limits on how much they’ll invest, but through the deals, the company says, any artist working with Cash App will retain ownership of their work and won’t have to pay back the cash, which makes the partnerships seem more like grants than advances. The program will bring in artists on a rolling basis, and Cash App Studios will remain invite-only.
Among the list of initial music artists Cash App has brought into the program are Grammy-winning songwriter Victoria Monét — whose credits include Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” and “Seven Rings” — along with artist-producer Cristoforo Donadi, pop singer Jacquie Lee, artist Angelnumber8, rapper-producer Tyrese Pope, and Texas musicians Reggie and Monaleo. Cash App is also funding people in the realms of fashion and filmmaking.
“We’ve long upheld the importance of artistic expression at Cash App,” Brian Grassadonia, lead at Cash App, said in a statement. “With the introduction of Cash App Studios, we’ll continue to support the freedom of the artist, both financially and creatively. In keeping with our guiding principle of economic empowerment, we are excited to support emerging artists who are limitless in their vision with this new program.”
Cash App venturing into artist collaborations isn’t as big a stretch as it may first seem: The company is regularly name-checked in hip-hop verses, and Cash App has partnered with the likes of Megan Thee Stallion on marketing and content campaigns. Cash App’s parent company, Square, bought a majority stake in the Jay-Z-founded streaming service Tidal earlier this year, with Square CEO Jack Dorsey touting the purchase as another means of supporting music artists.
“It comes down to one simple idea: finding new ways for artists to support their work,” Dorsey said in March. How linked any of these artists will be with Tidal remains to be seen.
Financial assistance is becoming a common marketing tool among companies looking to work with independent artists and offer alternatives to the major-label system. Rolling Stone reported in August that independent distributor UnitedMasters would begin giving cash advances and real-time payments to select artists on its platform, while fellow distribution and publishing service Create Music Group launched real-time payments for its artists earlier this year.
And while you shouldn’t expect the broader music business to embrace free payouts, the program’s first round of creators are welcoming the new partnership. “When an artist is able to fully own the catalog but still get the funding, you are getting what you need in the present to set you up for 50 years into the future,” Ezra Averill, Reggie’s manager and a partner at Stomp Down Management, said in a statement. “Money can be here and gone in the same day, but what can’t be is the value you create. So you want to make sure that that value is what you hold on to. The cash comes and goes but the value lasts forever.”