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Create Music Unveils Credit Card for Streaming Royalties: 'We Would Like to Be the Artists' Bank'

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Now in beta, the card looks to fulfill the company's goal of speeding up artist payouts -- while helping pioneer a new financial model for the music industry.

Create Music Group, the indie startup that in Jan. 2019 became the first music distributor to offer clients access to streaming revenue figures, today unveiled its latest product: A credit card designed to give independent artists, labels and management companies immediate access to those funds.

Co-founded by Jonathan Strauss and Alexandre Williams, Create Music was already known for its quick payout system, routinely paying clients their royalty earnings just days after receiving the money from digital service providers. With the new card, known as Create Carbon, clients can now receive that streaming revenue within minutes by requesting an immediate transfer.

Though the card (which uses the MasterCard network) has been in the works since the launch of the company’s daily earnings portal, Strauss tells Billboard they hastened its development and release once they saw the earnings of artists under the Create Music umbrella decimated by COVID-19.

“One of our main segments that we happen to service at Create is electronic [artists]. During the pandemic, they were hit more than anyone else,” says Strauss. “I’d say the mid-level electronic act probably makes 70 to 80% of all their money from live shows. One of the reasons that we expedited this release is because we noticed how many of our artists in electronic were just hit and destroyed from the pandemic.”

Electronic acts will be one of the main segments included in the beta-testing phase of the card, which will be made available to roughly 100 Create Music clients, including artists such as Surfaces, Larray, Future, 6ix9ine, Funkmaster Flex and Pooh Shiesty as well as labels and management companies. After that period, which Strauss and Williams estimate will run for six months, they plan to make the card available to the rest of the company’s clientele. Beyond that, they’re looking to offer the card, along with the company's daily earnings portal, to those outside the Create Music family in order to take advantage of what they see as a growing class of independent artists who make their living through music alone and yet typically must wait months to years to receive royalty income.

"If you look at any of the data, the middle class of artists [is] growing so much faster than the front-line artists," says Strauss. "You're gonna have millions of people that are artists… that are gonna need financial products like this."

"We would like to be the artists' bank," he adds.

Because Create Carbon cards will essentially operate as a vehicle for advances on money that clients already have coming to them (the daily earnings portal has a margin of error between 3 and 4 percent), there is no real danger in clients going "over the limit," says Williams, making it a relatively low-risk product. During the beta period, the financing for the cards will come from Create Music's internal coffers; once they're released more widely, the company will have a variety of lenders waiting in the wings depending on how far in advance a client wants to be paid out.

For those included in the beta phase, Create Music will not be charging any fees, though it will be introducing a "nominal" fee in the 1-2% range once the card is offered more widely. In order to access the funds during the beta, clients need only check their earnings at the Create Music daily royalty portal, then send an email the company requesting whatever portion of those earnings they choose to be loaded onto the card. After the beta period, the process will be automated through the use of an app that will include access to the daily earnings portal and a button to request funds. At some point in the future, the company is also planning on tying a rewards system to the card for purchases like audio gear, samples and other music-related products.

In addition to the obvious financial benefits for clients, Strauss and Williams also hope that the Create Carbon card can act as a kind of motivating force similar to the daily earnings portal, which they say actually increased the output of new music by the company’s artists after it was introduced.

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"These artists would reach out to us personally and just say, 'Now that I can see my daily royalties every day, I accelerated my output of music,'" says Williams. "And I thought that was very important because when you’re laying down copyrights every time you put out a song and these are gonna pay you for your life, it’s only in an artist’s interest to put out more quantity."

With Create Carbon, Strauss and Williams aim to pioneer an entire new model for paying out artists, who have long been frustrated by slow, outdated royalty payment systems and shut out of more traditional financial products given the less-consistent nature of their earnings. The goal? Nothing less than a massive shift in the way the financial industry views musical performers.

"I still think the risk of giving a loan to a normal employee is actually higher than giving a [loan] to any type of royalty-based performer," says Strauss. "So the [long-term] goal would be that the financial industry would actually look at royalties as valuable, if not much more valuable, than normal salaries."

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