EMPIRE has established an artist equity pool from the label’s stake in Riff, the emerging interactive social platform that combines voice and video chat with music, the company tells Billboard. Going forward, select artists on the EMPIRE roster will receive equity from using the Riff platform.
In September, EMPIRE invested in Riff alongside Quality Control Music and Top Dawg Entertainment in a funding round totaling approximately $4 million.
Riff offers room-based interactions that allow creators to livestream and interact directly with fans, including by hosting listening parties and dropping albums and merchandise inside the app. The platform’s monetization model, which aims to create new revenue streams for creators, includes digital gifts, members-only rooms, brand sponsorships, mobile concerts and paid events.
EMPIRE artist Money Man was the first artist to benefit from the label’s new equity campaign when he hosted a virtual listening party for his new album, Blockchain, on Nov. 14 for thousands of fans inside the Riff room “Blockchain Lounge.”
“Music and tech innovation have always gone hand in hand for me and are a core part of EMPIRE’s DNA, which is why we invested in Riff,” said Ghazi, founder and CEO of EMPIRE. “We pride ourselves on creating various avenues of revenue for our artists, and providing equity in our investments is a logical next step.”
Riff licenses music from all major and independent labels for high-fidelity playback in Riff’s virtual rooms, which can accommodate up to 1 million users (and up to 12 users on video). The amount of streams an artist earns by playing their music in the app is equivalent to the number of users in attendance.
Riff tells Billboard the app is seeing significant growth, doubling its monthly active users every month.
Riff is led by CEO and Stanford engineer Kara Katz, CTO and Stanford computer scientist Steve Petersen and executive vp Brandon “BL” Lewis. The company claims a diverse team comprised of 75% women and people of color.