Money Matters: How Vydia Empowers The Biz From Boosting Artists’ Careers To Helping Kanye West Keep A Promise
– Vydia CEO Roy LaManna
An aspiring superstar musician can have the right elements in place – a killer track or two, a great team behind them and a loyal fanbase – but still need an extra boost to take their career to the next level.
Even an artist as big as Kanye West, the self-proclaimed “greatest human artist of all time,” sometimes needs a little help getting his music out there.
After promising in October during an interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe that he would release a Sunday Service album on Dec. 25, some fans had their doubts it would be released on time after the delays with the rapper’s Jesus Is King album.
Enter Vydia, an end-to-end platform that’s become known as one of the preeminent angel investors of the music industry, with more than $3 million in advances paid to more than 100 independent artists in 2018, but which does more than just hand out cash.
Kanye’s team reached out to Vydia at the last minute, hoping for a Christmas miracle.
“It wasn’t even on our radar until the morning of Christmas Eve,” Vydia CEO Roy LaManna says. “They called us Christmas Eve and said that Kanye wanted to release the Sunday Service record but that he wouldn’t have it done until Christmas morning, and apparently everyone else told him that wasn’t enough time. For us, that’s kind of where we shine because speed to market is one of the biggest things we focus on.”
As promised, Jesus Is Born was released the afternoon of Dec. 25, available across streaming platforms via a Vydia link Kanye tweeted.
Vydia is dedicated to empowering artists and their teams by monetizing content and providing the digital infrastructure for audio and video distribution, content protection, rights management, advanced payments, and data tracking from one platform.
LaManna, who launched Vydia in 2013, got his start in the industry by producing and directing music videos, including working on videos for artists including Tyga, The Killers, and Justin Bieber.
Vydia is staunchly independent and proudly so, raising money through its own profits and expanding with support from investors including managers and labels.
“There’s a lot of companies that say, ‘OK, well I’m going to put it out through [distribution platform] TuneCore.’ It’s like, well, Tunecore and CD Baby are owned by private equity.
“When you look at the problem that someone like a Taylor Swift brings up, [regarding the sale of her master recording rights] there’s a lot of concerns over what the future holds for music or content that’s owned or controlled or licensed by private equity. The bottom line is that it’s not in line with the artist’s vision.
“So for us, we’re trying to create a distribution company that allows artists to be extremely flexible, to give speed to market, full creative control, ownership of their content, and in certain circumstances, an interest in our company. It’s really a company by and for the artists.”
On the money side, Vydia’s advances are similar to a line of credit or a working capital model. The company makes available a certain amount of money, with an exclusive license to be able to monetize and distribute the artist’s content. While the money is unrecouped the artist essentially pays a premium on the credit, but then once the money comes back the fee returns to a normal distribution rate.
“We treat our label partners, our artists, as small businesses,” LaManna says. “They’re very self sufficient, meaning that they tap into their audience, they have songs and content that people want to hear, they essentially need more capital and infrastructure to be scalable, more of a global type company.”
Artists can choose to use the advances in a variety of ways to build their careers. LaManna says, “We look at the money as essentially gross capital, so anything that you want to do that you think is going to grow the size of the artist, if that means touring, creating a video, creating more content or trying to enter into new markets, that’s all on the table.”
Access to Vydia’s services is by invitation only, with the fastest way to receive an invitation by a referral from an existing client. LaManna explains that the client’s team plays a big role when it comes to selecting clients.
“We look at the artist and, more importantly, the team behind the artist. We’re usually providing infrastructure to their team, whether it’s a manager, a label or a distributor. There’s someone that we want to be on the inside of things and we want to empower those people.”
He adds, “We could be your entire back office. We could be your legal, your supply chain, your rights management, your royalty department and your distribution across sound recording and publishing, as well as video.”