Without a record label, independent artists are often tasked with the tedious but essential minutiae of managing self-distribution, collecting royalties from across multiple platforms, accounting, and performing general administrative tasks. Artist services platform Stem makes all of that a little bit easier for unsigned artists. "From day one we decided to focus on independent artists and making it easy to share revenue on a song," says Milana Rabkin, co-founder and CEO of the five-year-old company. In its earliest days, the Los Angeles-based startup was a distribution platform: Artists uploaded a track along with its revenue splits, constituents and their email addresses, and Stem took care of the rest, organizing billing information and making sure each creator got paid per share every month. After that first step, an account would be created for the artist, along with a dashboard tracking how much money they were making, and where it was coming from.
Eventually, Stem opened it up beyond invite-only, recruiting other types of audio creators and filmmakers. As their membership grew, Rabkin and Kristin Graziani, vp artist relations, noticed that there was a new kind of artist outside of the typical signed/unsigned paradigm. "One of the biggest opportunties we saw as we looked at the market is artists who have established teams or managers behind them providing label services for them," Rabkin tells Billboard. "A lot of these people don't need the creative services labels offer. We feel like that segment of users is underserved, and want to hone in on that type of user, and build the tools to serve them best." One need only look at the number of offerings for unsigned artists, from Spotify's direct licensing deals with artists to the proliferation of digital distributors, to see those trends shaping the music industry at large.
For these artist-management teams, Stem has launched a new capability specifically geared towards their needs, called Stem Direct. Billed as a "concierge member service" to support the platform's "top talent," Stem Direct provides users with an account representative that they can call, text or email about anything -- be it big-picture brainstorming or small last-minute changes -- at any time. This individual will also be able to help with pitching content to streaming services and sharing access to new features, and offer in-depth quarterly business reviews, strategic playlisting advice, and data-informed recommendations along with next steps.