Business

Triller's Josh Richards Invests in Breakr, a New App Linking Artists With Influencers

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"We feel like [influencers] have an ability to break music that has been undervalued," says Richards, who co-founded social collective Sway House.

Breakr, a new platform connecting artists and influencers, has received investment from TalentX Entertainment founder and Triller chief strategy officer Josh Richards along with Griffin Johnson, fellow member of influencer collective Sway House.

Launched in November, the startup was co-founded by a group of HBCU alumni whose backgrounds span music, marketing, promotion and banking: Brothers Ameer and Tony Brown, plus Daniel Ware and Rotimi Omosheyim. On the platform, influencers create profiles, set their rates and update their music preferences for campaigns on platforms like TikTok, Triller and Instagram, while artists, who also create profiles, submit their music directly to influencers for review. Deals are made in the app, and Breakr only releases payment to the influencer once the artist verifies that the campaign went as promised (at which point Breakr takes a 10% cut off the backend).

Breakr claims to have acquired 18,000 users already, roughly 70% of whom are artists -- the majority independent -- while the other 30% are influencers. The startup is part of a push over the past two years to professionalize and streamline the influencer marketing industry around music, with influencer marketing agencies like Songfluencer, Get Engaged and We Generate also entering the fray.

"We feel like [influencers] have an ability to break music that has been undervalued, and a platform like Breakr allows us to actually be in a partnership with those artists," Richards tells Billboard. "Instead of just a one-time post, and then that song blows up, and we feel that we're a part of that transition, and we don’t get a piece of it."

Richards' investment -- the exact amount of which was not disclosed -- makes the 19-year-old a partner and advisor to Breakr, adding to his lengthy list of influencer-related businesses and investments. Richards is the co-founder of both influencer management company TalentX and Sway House, which is one of the largest influencer collectives on the internet. In July, he also launched TalentX Records, a joint venture record label with Warner Records to which he is signed as a recording artist, and was named CSO of Triller, of which he is also an investor.

Johnson, who is also an advisor to and investor in Triller, adds that Breakr makes it easier for influencers to make their music preferences known and comb through submissions in one place, ultimately leading to more authentic partnerships. "You’re able to really search through a bunch of artists that you can pick out individually and help break their career," he says.

Not including the funds from Richards and Johnson, Breakr has raised roughly $800,000 to date, according to its founders. That includes a $100,000 investment from the Talent x Opportunity Initiative, which was created by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz's venture capital firm A16Z to invest in startups founded by minority entrepreneurs.

"With Talent x Opportunity, we're looking to give cultural geniuses the training and network to build big, successful companies," says A16Z partner Nait Jones, who runs the program. "Even though they were pre-market when we met, the energy of [Breakr] was lit in that they have a rare combination of hustle, smarts and they are authentic to the culture they are building for."

The new investment funds will be used primarily for two things: Building up Breakr's presence as a marketplace for independent artists, who otherwise might not have the resources to launch influencer marketing campaigns; and on the flip side, making it easier for record labels and management agencies to do business on Breakr. Both goals reflect a growing music industry consensus that influencer marketing is here to stay.

"It’s the equivalent of putting my face on a Times Square billboard, because you’re going to get a million people to walk by there in a day," Ameer says. "But that's a billboard. We're talking about human beings -- people who are actually going to take their time, their effort and the audience that they’ve built to promote you. It’s a no-brainer, and it’s definitely the evolution of music promotion."

Adds Tony: "It’s Black history month, and the way that Sway House is leaning in with this company at this moment in history, and bringing resources, relationships and energy behind what we're doing, I just think that it's a model for the future. We need more of this in this world."

Artists can find out more about Breakr here, and influencers here.