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The Deals: UMG to Write ‘Prescription Music,’ Katy Perry and The Chainsmokers Invest in Audius

A roundup of notable music industry deals from the past two weeks: Universal Music Group and MedRhythms, Audius and Katy Perry and more.

Universal Music Group (UMG) has partnered with digital therapeutics company MedRhythms to provide “prescription music” to patients suffering from walking deficits caused by neurologic injuries and diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment, as well as those who are “aging-in-place.” A press release bills the partnership, which will provide MedRhythms with access to UMG’s music catalog, as the first of its kind.

MedRhythms’ digital therapeutics utilize music that has been curated and screened via a patented process, which is “based on neuroscience research that shows that auditory rhythm can be used to directly target the human motor system” and help teach people how to walk again, as stated in the release. The process initially analyzes music to determine if it has the “right characteristics to make it therapeutically valuable” for the affected patients. Once that step is complete, it “curates clinical interventions” for each individual patient.

Along with opening its catalog to MedRhythms, Universal Music Group for Brands — UMG’s global brands partnership team — will provide MedRhythms “with resources and insights related to data analytics, cultural intelligence and marketing.” MedRhythms’ partnership with UMG sprang from an initial collaboration between UMG for Brands and Havas Health.

“Our innovative collaboration with MedRhythms will enable UMG to help enhance neurologic treatment for patients across the U.S.,” UMG executive vp digital strategy Michael Nash said in a statement. “We’ve played a central role in promoting music’s growing importance throughout the health and wellness industry — fitness, sleep, meditation — and in this pioneering alliance, we’re privileged to be engaged in extending music’s profound impact to medical therapy.”

Brian Harris, CEO and co-founder of MedRhythms, added, “Partnering with UMG is a milestone for MedRhythms that will unlock innumerable doors to improving the quality of care we deliver to patients.” He continued, “This partnership will afford us the opportunity to leverage patient-preferred music to provide top clinical outcomes and build a product that patients are excited to use.”

MedRhythms’ flagship product, MR-001 — intended specifically for those living with chronic stroke walking deficits — recently received Breakthrough Device designation from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2020 after showing positive early results in clinical trials. The company’s digital therapeutics are currently being studied in a multi-site, randomized controlled pivotal trial with chronic stroke survivors at rehabilitation hospitals across the U.S.


Audius — the blockchain-based, decentralized digital streaming service that connects fans directly with artists — has received a $5 million round of strategic funding from several major players in the music industry including Katy Perry, The Chainsmokers, Nas, Jason Derulo, Pusha T, Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, Electric Feel Ventures and former Sony/ATV chairman and CEO Martin Bandier. The investment was originated by Blockchange Ventures, an early-stage blockchain venture fund that manages over $1 billion in assets.

Founded in 2019, Audius boasts over 6 million monthly users and hosts the music of over 100,000 artists, including Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, Russ, Diplo, Skrillex, MadeinTyo and Deadmau5. In August, the company announced a partnership with TikTok that allowed Audius artists to upload their music to the video-sharing platform and link their TikTok followings back to Audius.

In a statement, The Chainsmokers emphasized “the way Audius uses the blockchain to enhance the artist-fan relationship. We plan to upload the stuff we play live, which we wouldn’t typically share on traditional music platforms. It’s a purer alternative to the more polished album rollouts that we will continue to deliver.” They added, “Audius continues to empower the artists and their community to seek freedom in all aspects of their art as the music business hopefully shifts more in favor of the artists fueling the economy.”

Nas added, “I’ve known that blockchain will change the world since I invested in Coinbase five years ago and I believe it might be the most important technology to ever hit the music industry. Everyone who uploads to Audius can be an owner, you can’t say that about any other platform.”


Warner Music South Africa has acquired Coleske, the local independent label led by Arnold Coleske alongside his business partner Brendon Hargroves and Paul Azebedo. Coleske will continue to run as a standalone business post-acquisition.

The deal represents the latest advance in Warner Music’s expansion into Africa, including the opening of a South African affiliate in 2013, a deal with Nigerian label Chocolate City in 2019, a partnership with Ziiki Media and investment in Africori in 2020 and a 360 deal with Tanzanian singer Diamond Platnumz earlier this year.

Coleske is the largest independent label focused on pop music performed in Afrikaans, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Its roster includes Appel, Bobby van Jaarsveld, Demi Lee Moore, Dewald Wasserfal, Elvis Blue, Jay, Karlien Van Jaarsveld, Riaan Benade, Riana Nel and Ruhan du Toit. Several of the label’s artists perform country music, which has a strong following in South Africa; the hope is to foster collaborations between these artists and Warner Nashville artists under the deal.

Coleske also boasts a live business which includes the annual Afrikaans is Groot concert in Johannesburg. In a statement, Warner Recorded Music president emerging markets Alfonso Perez-Soto says the company will “be harnessing Coleske’s live infrastructure for the benefit of all our local and global stars in South Africa, significantly expanding our artist value proposition in the market.”

Additionally, Warner Music plans to bring the format of Coleske’s South African TV talent show Die Kontrak — on which several Coleske artists serve as judges and which currently has an English-language version entitled The Contract in the works — to other emerging markets in Africa and elsewhere.


Swedish House Mafia has partnered with IKEA on a collection that will “consist of home furnishing solutions designed to make it easier to get into a creative flow for producing, playing and listening to music at home,” according to a release. The collection is slated to launch in September 2022.

“We want to explore how IKEA together with Swedish House Mafia could make the everyday life easier for the many people listening to and creating music,” said James Futcher, product design leader at IKEA of Sweden, in a statement. “This collection will enable people to create the perfect home studio for an affordable price.”

“We both wanted to reach out of our comfort zones and create something new and fresh together: a pure collaboration between music creators and a home expert,” added Swedish House Mafia. “We strongly felt a need to collaborate with someone who shared our vision of making it possible for everyone to create music at home. As artists and producers, we also understand the importance of a home studio setup and the needs and challenges of many up-and-coming artists and creatives have at home.”


Lizzo, Justin Timberlake, Whitney Cummings, Kevin Hart and others have invested unspecified amounts in Hydrow, a fitness company that manufactures the at-home connected rower of the same name. Hart was named creative director of the company last October.

According to a release, the newly-raised funds “will help fuel additional innovation and global expansion” for the company, which claims that sales of the company’s rowers rose 500% last year.

Hydrow currently offers nearly 3,000 live and on-demand workouts taught by athletes, Olympians and Paralympians.


Tracklib, the digital service that provides pre-cleared original music for sampling, has secured $12.2 million in new funding from both new and existing investors. In the former category is Baron Davis, a former NBA player, actor and music producer.

The funding will be used to “reinforce and grow” the Tracklib community, according to a release. This will be accomplished through original collaborations with producers and artists and the expansion of the available catalog as well as features offered on the platform.

Other investors in this round include “several prominent Europe-based family offices and funds,” according to the release. Earlier investors included Sony Innovation Fund, WndrCo and Jörg Mohaupt’s Bridford Investments.


BMG’s Shelter Music Group is expanding its international presence via a new partnership with AYITA, the U.K.-based management firm that boasts a 31-client roster including Fisher, 220 Kid, DJ Chris Lake, Nero, Noizu, Kiss FM’s Majestic and songwriter Autumn Rowe. AYITA will become a division of Shelter under the deal.

Under the agreement, AYITA partners Brett Fischer, David Gray, Harvey Tadman and Stevie Dreher will join Shelter’s management team and launch BMG’s entry into artist management in the U.K. With the deal, Shelter now boasts 103 clients and 41 employees across Los Angeles, Nashville and London under the leadership of Carl Stubner, Brian Harris Frank and Dino Paredes.

“When BMG first partnered with Carl Stubner and Shelter in 2019, we said we would create a new global management service option for our clients with access to all of BMG’s resources,” BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said in a statement. “Despite the pandemic, I’m proud to say our plan is well underway with Shelter expanding its international presence and increasing its client base more than fivefold since then.”


HIFI, a startup that provides financial services for the music industry, has acquired The Music Fund, which provides funding solutions for artists based on the performance of their music on streaming services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Utilizing AI, The Music Fund (part of the Techstars Music Accelerator class of 2019) provides a smart-pricing algorithm that offers artists upfront payments of up to $50,000 within 24 hours for a portion of their royalty income for a specific period of time, while allowing them to retain 100% of their copyrights and all earnings from future releases.

With the acquisition, HIFI will be able to offer new artist funding options. A press release claims the company “has seen thousands of applications for membership and is currently tracking hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.” The Music Fund co-founder and CEO John Funge will join HIFI as CTO, while its co-founder and CTO Thomas Jerde is now HIFI’s vp data science.

In a statement, HIFI founder and CEO Damian Manning said that The Music Fund’s “automated valuation model will accelerate a new generation of financial products for HIFI members and partners.”

Launched in summer 2020, HIFI offers a free Royalties Dashboard that aggregates data from labels, distribution services, PROs, music publishers and others, providing music creators with a consolidated look at their current and future earnings while advising them on steps to accelerate their careers. The company then offers financial services including Cash Flow, which pay artists twice a month (akin to a salary) based on their forecasted royalty income.


FADER Label has announced two new artist signings: singer-songwriter Chloe George and indie electronic producer-singer shallou (born Joe Boston).

In a statement, FADER Label general manager Carson Oberg called George “one of the most brilliant writers we have come across,” specifically noting her song “ghost town (voice memo),” which recently went viral on TikTok. He added that shallou “has a proven track record on converting his success on streaming platforms to live ticket sales with playing the likes of Coachella, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands and sold out tours.”

George’s new song, “Peachi,” is due out on Sept. 24. Shallou recently released the single “Heartaches” and is ramping up for a tour later this year. He previously released the EP All Becomes Okay in 2017.

FADER Label’s roster also includes Clairo, Slayyyter, binki, Lewis Del Mar and Matt and Kim.


Lickd, a service that allows content creators to license claims-free commercial music, has closed £5.1 million ($6.8 million) in new funding led by the Nick Mason Group as well as Warner Music Group (WMG) and Fortnite creator Epic Games. Under the funding agreement, WMG will make its full catalog available to creators on the Lickd platform.

The latest round of funding will allow Lickd to expand its commercial song library as well as build its technology offering, its international footprint and its customer base.

In a statement announcing the new funding round, Lickd CEO Paul Sampson said, “As the content creator space continues to expand, there is a huge opportunity for all types of business to invest in new areas and to work hand-in-hand with companies such as ours to positively transform the music industry.”

Nick Mason added, “We invest in companies that combine transformational technology with strong industry knowledge, which Lickd has proven it has from the outset. Having these strategic partnerships in place from leading brands in the entertainment space is testament to both Lickd’s proposition and to its clout in the music and creator space.”


Technology-driven global music rights administrator Muserk has partnered with a conglomerate of Southeast Asia’s four largest musical copyright administration societies: COMPASS (Singapore), FILSCAP (Philippines), MCT (Thailand) and VCPMC (Vietnam).

In a joint statement from the four societies, FILSCAP president Arturo D. Lui Pio said, “Given the significant decline in non-digital revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become imperative for us to find ways to increase our digital revenue not just from local but also from foreign sources. It is for that purpose that we are partnering with Muserk as it has demonstrated its effectiveness as a digital rights administrator.”

Muserk founder and CEO Paul Goldman added, “By combining efforts into one overall deal, the four CMOs and Muserk will connect members directly into the global digital ecosystem, providing an increase in royalties directly to the creators.”

The deal follows Muserk’s partnership with the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) last year.

Muserk utilizes Blue Matter AI and machine learning technologies that “protect, match and monetize content” for rights holders across all media formats.


Artist manager Pat Magnarella’s Southern California-based record label Enci Records has announced a joint venture deal with Nashville-based indie label LV Music, which was founded by songwriter-producer Femke.

The first signing under the joint venture is Scottish alternative band Dancing On Tables, who are currently recording their debut album slated for release next year.

Enci Records’ current roster includes The Joy Formidable, FENCES, The Aquadolls and Beach Goons.