Like Coachella, TechStars Music Will Shake Up The Music Industry


For two weekends earlier this month, the music industry was shaken yet again. Over three nights, six of the world’s biggest acts played at a polo club in Coachella, a venue close to the the desert aquifer of California’s Palm Springs.

When Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, The Who and Pink Floyd’s Roger Walters were announced as the acts earlier this year, undoubtedly attracted by big cheques (or the equivalent in Bitcoins), the event was widely ridiculed as something for old people and completely out of touch with the ever-changing music industry.

Mick Jagger even went so far as to call it ‘Olchella’, happily biting the hand that fed him, but for many it struck a chord (sorry) as a bloated and complacent music industry struggled to find new ways to make money based on old-fashioned arrogance. Others were even more delighted when speculative scalpers took a hit as the market for expensive tickets failed to materialise.

This year’s ‘Oldchella’ is another example of how music is changing. Credit: Tony Pearce

Coachella, however, was awesome. Apart from teething transportation troubles on the first weekend, the event was impeccably organised, Uber profited hugely as the default car-riding service and these so-called heritage acts put on shows that bands 50 years younger would have been proud of.

Moreover, the audience demographic was nowhere near as aged as the people on stage and while it was an expensive place to eat and drink, nobody minded paying $40 for a T-shirt or $10 for a beer. This festival was less Coachella and more Burning Man-Child. With a desert location that was windless, the sound system was extraordinary… many a music festival is ruined by wind affecting the sound system.

It was such a success that there are already rumours that Radiohead and Beyoncé (among several mooted others) will be playing next year. It looks likely that the Fall Coachella, as opposed to the the more hipster event in the Spring, will become a regular fixture.

Nobody, apart from the very savvy promoter, saw this coming, but a similarly revolutionary idea announced earlier this month certainly hopes to see things coming and that is the TechStars Music accelerator, which is expected to launch in Los Angeles in February 2017.

Like most tech accelerators it wants to bring everybody together into the ecosystem. In this case, the ecosystem means artists, music business executives, investors, and startups together and it comes with some high-end backers.

Heavyweights such as Warner Music Group, Sony Music, QPrime Management, Harmonix Music Systems and SONOS among others have joined forces to try and find the next musical initiative in the increasingly zero-sum platform gig. TechStars Music will look for music tech startups in a number of fields.

These include new music experiences for home, festival, venue, auto, mobile, and connected devices, music and video creation, collaboration/sharing and areas such as royalties, rights management, reporting and licensing.

Headed up by Managing Director Bob Moczydlowsky, previously Twitter’s Head of Music, the accelerator will also seek out startups that are more about technology than music such as data mining, machine learning and artificial intelligence as well as new social platforms and games to connect artists and fans.

As well as providing funding that gives each startup a $100,000 convertible note and $20,000 in exchange for 6% of the startup’s common stock, these music companies are planning to mentor the 10 accelerator participants that make the cut.

Applications are already open at TechStars and while the stars of this year’s Coachella are unlikely to need the accelerator’s help at this time in their careers, its impact may be as far reaching as the aforementioned Burning Man-Child festival.

Naturally, there are no certainties in the fickle and unpredictable music industry. The bands, not least our Coachella friends will undoubtedly play on, and TechStars Music may yet have to face some unpleasant music, but for music startups, a new curtain has arisen for them to showcase their potential talent.

Let’s carry on the conversation over at Twitter – @montymunford