Stephen Bryan, a 17-year veteran of Warner Music Group who was a key player in the company's digital development, has been announced as SoundCloud's newest senior vice president of Business Development and Strategy. Bryan was WMG's executive vice president of Digital Strategy and Business Development.
Asked what precipitated the move, Bryan tells Billboard that the jump "had nothing to with WMG. When I joined, it was the very beginning of the digital transition -- the reason why I stayed there so long is that I've always felt a deep passion to navigate this incredible transition to digital platforms. I think that change will accelerate in the near future, and a company like SoundCloud enables me to continue that."
The move sees Bryan jumping into a company with massive scale -- with about 40 million users and the most-tweeted music service by far -- and value -- estimated in the billions -- but with no existing strategy for monetization, outside of its paid account option. "All business go through different stages," Bryan says when asked about a monetization strategy. The company has partnerships with Facebook, Google and Twitter which allows content from SoundCloud to be playable on each those properties' sites. Bryan had worked with the three social giants previously at WMG.
Bryan won't be 100 percent independent from his former employer, however, with each of the three majors expected to take a piece of equity in the company in exchange for licensing deals with each.
Notably, Bryan will be moving away from a roster of artists on behalf of a corporation to an artist-agnostic (and, recently, slightly artist-antagonistic) platform for artistic dissemination. He cites the importance of SoundCloud's scale and the primacy of streaming in the near future, which is expected to overtake traditional listening's revenue by the end of the decade. "The really compelling thing about the platform is that we're at the early stages of listening moving to a streaming model -- it's inevitable that global listening will move to a streaming model. I see enormous growth as that continues to happen."
An internal memo from WMG obtained by Billboard celebrated Bryan's work at the company:
An innovative thinker and principled strategist, he's been at the forefront of each iteration of our industry’s digital evolution, from the early days of ringtones and downloads to today’s subscription streaming. I'm pleased that the industry will continue to benefit from his proven ability to champion meaningful change.
A spokesperson for WMG said that an announcement regarding Bryan's replacement would follow shortly.