AdRev has named Brian Felsen its new president, making the former chief executive of CD Baby the latest example of the migration of talent and capital to businesses built around YouTube. Felsen, who left the independent music distributor in January, will be tasked with strategy, growth and product development.
"I'm very excited to be at the forefront of how music is monetized, and to be joining such a fast-moving, forward-thinking organization," Felsen tells Billboard. Felsen had been president of CD Baby, the online independent music retailer, since 2008. He is also the founder of BookBaby, which distributes works by thousands of writers worldwide.
AdRev helps labels and artists monetize views on YouTube. It has a simple proposition for prospective clients: its monetization service places premium advertisements on videos and generates more money than the standard advertising formats available out-of-network. AdRev also has a micro-synchronization service and provides a multi-channel network.
The company is part of what could be called "the YouTube economy," a loose collection of startups created to take advantage of the massively popular -- and still growing -- online video platform. They range from networks of content creators to administrators that enable rights owners get paid. And they've attracted a lot of investor interest. One example is Audiam, a company that collects money from YouTube on behalf of independent music publishers and rights holders. Through March, Audiam had raised $2 million from a host of music business names such as Marc Geiger, the head of music for William Morris Endeavor, and Jimmy Buffett.
Some YouTube-related companies have been acquisition targets. In March, Disney paid $500 million -- plus earnouts -- for Maker Studios, a wide-reaching multi-channel network. Last month, Rumblefish, a platform that provides synchronization licenses for user-generated YouTube content, was acquired by performing rights organization SESAC.
AdRev claims to have over 6 million copyrights spanning 27.5 million videos that are viewed almost 3 billion times each month. Under its management are the production music libraries of the three major publishing companies, master recordings by Universal Pictures Film Music, and songs recorded by Eminem, Bob Dylan, Imagine Dragons and many others.
Felsen believes YouTube has an advantage over other streaming competitors because it's the leading source of short-form video. That demand for video -- of all types -- has helped YouTube become a primary source for music discovery.
"What makes YouTube most interesting for someone like me who cares about the monetization of music and the sustainability of the creative class, is that despite all of the negativity around music industry sales, YouTube is a bright shining light," Felsen tells Billboard. "Major and independent distributors are experiencing YouTube and streaming revenues as some of the only growing areas of the industry in which they participate - and YouTube is particularly strong in its growth path."