What do Tiesto, David Guetta, Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva have in common? Aside from being world renowned DJs and producers, these EDM artists are recent investors in digital music startups attempting to change how people create and interact with music.
A consortium of EDM artists called Plus Eight Private Equity has invested in three music startups: cloud-based mastering service LANDR, online music collaboration service Splice and in-ear audio technology company Doppler Labs. Plus Eight's investors are Hawtin, Acquaviva, Tiga and Pete Tong.
Tiesto has backed Splice, Doppler Labs and also took part in a $30-million funding round for Music Messenger, a yet-to-be-launched app that allows people send messages that include licensed music clips. David Guetta has also backed Israel-based Music Messenger.
Celebrities have been investing in startups for years. Actor Ashton Kutcher has invested in Airbnb, Uber and a string of lesser-known startups through the A-Grade Investments fund he created along with music manager Guy Oseary and billionaire investor Ron Burkle. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio put his money into Mobli, an online photo-sharing app that last month pivoted into a real-time image search engine. Ellen Degeneres, Ryan Seacrest and Demi Moore have also bet on tech startups.
Just as celebrities' name recognition can help a photo-sharing app, EDM investors can bring momentum, awareness and expertise to music startups. LANDR and Splice sit at the intersection of EDM music and cloud-based services. Splice is a cloud-based platform that allows musicians to create and collaborate online. LANDR is a cloud-based mastering service that aims to provide professional-grade masters, the final version of a recording, at a much lower cost. “In a live show, everyone goes to great lengths make the music sound as good as possible,” Acquaviva told TechCrunch. “Internet streaming is clearly the weakest link.”
Doppler Labs, one of the startups to attract interest from the EDM community, is changing how music is literally heard. The company's initial product is Dubs Acoustic Filters, earplugs designed to reduce the volume level while preserving sound quality. Noah Kraft, Doppler Labs co-founder and CEO, says the festival circuit embraced Dubs because it maintains sound fidelity while bringing down the volume level. "It allows people to go louder longer," he explains.
Paul Morris, founder and president of EDM agency AM Only, is a Doppler Labs investor and advisor. He says Doppler Labs' passion for hearing protection is what first got his attention. "This is something I take very seriously."
But Morris was also attracted to Doppler's other product line. Here Active Listening combines interactive ear buds and a smartphone app to control any listening experiences. Here can also be used like noise-cancelling headphones to reduce noise from subways, office chatter or airplane engines.
The potential to create new experiences in the live setting has also attracted investors such as concert promoter Live Nation, agency WME, and legendary musicians Hans Zimmer and Quincy Jones. Concertgoers can use Here like a stereo equalizer to customize the sound for a particular venue. DJs could also make concertgoing a collaborative experience by use Here to create a live remix. "To see the digital product come to life is remarkable," says Morris.
Attraction to music startups extends well past investors from the EDM world. Rapper Nas and Warner Music Group also took part in the Splice's $4.5-million funding round. Music Messenger's $30-million round included Nicki Minaj, will.i.am, Scooter Braun, David Holmes of Coldplay and Ash Pournouri, manager of EDM star Avicii. Universal Music Group also took part in Doppler Labs' $17-million funding round.
Correction, Jul. 31, 9:49AM ET: This article misidentified Warner Music Group as an investor in Doppler Labs. Universal Music Group has invested in Doppler -- the article has been changed to reflect this. Billboard regrets the error.
This article first appeared in the Aug. 1 issue of Billboard.