Independent music distribution service UnitedMasters is adding advances and instant royalty payments to its artists, the company tells Rolling Stone, bringing in two significant financial tools for music creators to get money quicker to help fund their projects.
UnitedMasters has partnered up with music financial tech companies beatBread to bring advances and Paperchain for real time payments. Through beatBread’s advances, qualifying UnitedMasters clients can get advances ranging from $1,000 to $1 million, and through Paperchain, artists can get their royalty earnings right away, accessing them through Paperchain’s virtual wallet and credit cards. Paperchain and beatBread are also joining UnitedMasters’ service SplitPay, which allows qualifying artists to automatically split their earnings with their team and with collaborators rather than having to manually divide and pay out the cash themselves.
Financial support remains a key selling point for artists to sign to a label rather than remain independent, as most musicians likely don’t have access to the significant capital a label would have that can help fund more music and promotional services to help push careers forward. Artists can often wait at least a month before getting royalty checks, and payment delays are currently the norm. While larger artists with significant revenue streams may not need their royalty cash right away, less established independent musicians are more likely to need access to their earnings sooner so they can fund their projects.
“The payment delays that are industry standard are just antiquated when you compare against the way financial technology has evolved,” Matt Gralen, UnitedMasters’ executive vice president of corporate development says. “Our artists need and want these solutions, and when we think of ways to support the growth of artists on our platform, enabling them to invest in their careers is an obvious place for us to go.”
UnitedMasters, founded in 2017 as a competitor to the traditional record label system, isn’t the first to offer its clients a sort of service for real time payments. In February, Create Music Group launched the Create Carbon credit card, which is backed by software to see a musician’s real-time royalty earnings and allow them to spend accordingly. As UnitedMasters also now embraces the tech, Gralen says he expects the rest of the industry will move in the same direction.
“I think it’s good to see other players innovating and investing, it means better outcomes for artists,” Gralen says. “We’re happy to see others move in this direction, we think this is where the future is. The technology industry is innovating, and music has to catch up with tech. That’s where we plan for our role in the space.”
UnitedMasters partnering with tech companies isn’t surprising; the distributor has already courted tech giants like Apple and Alphabet as investors in the platform. And as the distribution space is saturated with other options like TuneCore and CD Baby, distributors need new offerings to differentiate their value to users. Last year, UnitedMasters closed a deal with TikTok to get UnitedMasters users’ music on the platform, and the company has previously closed advertising deals with major brands like the NBA.
Beyond the real time royalty access, UnitedMasters is now offering advances. Cash advances are already a staple of record label deals, giving artists larger sums of money immediately to be paid back from future royalty earnings. They’ve also become an oft-criticized point in younger artists’ contracts as they take label money upfront while losing longer term earnings. Artists will retain their ownership of the records after taking advances, and UnitedMasters says artists can set some of the terms of the advances as well. UnitedMasters joins other distributors like TuneCore in offering advances to clients.
“One of the biggest roadblocks for independent artists is access to funding and financial tools. Steve Stoute, UnitedMasters’ CEO and founder said in a statement. “With these pioneering products and partnerships with beatBread and Paperchain, we are democratizing access to capital and we will continue to invest aggressively in building a marketplace that unleashes an economic model for the 99 percent of artists.”