Amuse scores $15.5M for its free music distribution service and ‘next gen’ record label

Amuse, the Swedish startup that offers a free distribution service for artists wanting to get their music on Spotify, Apple Music et al., coupled with what it’s calling a “next generation” record label, has raised $15.5 million in Series A funding. The round is led by Lakestar, and Raine Ventures, and will be used to expand the company operations globally, including building out a bigger presence in the U.S.

Founded in Stockholm in 2015 by a team of music industry experts including Diego Farias, Christian Wilsson, Jimmy Brodd, Andreas Ahlenius, and Guy Parry — and later joined by music artist and entrepreneur — Amuse is aiming to create a new way for musicians to distribute their music globally and, crucially, to be discovered.

As co-founder and CEO Farias explained in a call, it does this via a free music distribution service that makes it easy and cost-free for new and unsigned artists to get their music into all of the major music services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Deezer etc., and in a way that means they keep 100 percent of the royalties. Similar services typically either charge an annual fee or take a cut of any revenue generated or both.

Amuse also provides a dashboard displaying and helping to make sense of data relating to how well your tracks are performing on the streaming apps and download stores you have chosen to distribute on. And its this data — or, rather, the value of it — that underpins the startups unique business model: come for the free distribution, stay for the record deal.

Namely, Amuse uses the data that it has access to via users of its music distribution service to analyze music consumption and listening habits to identify “rising talent”. The company then offers to sign the most promising artists to its own re-imagined record label through a licensing deal whereby they still own their work, rather than a traditional recoding contract. This consists of a 50/50 split of streaming and download revenue and means artists have access to what Amuse claims is large-scale promotion.

Throughout our conversation Farias was very keen to stress that he sees this as a partnership of equals, where the interests of scaling up the success and reach of an artist signed by Amuse are equally aligned. The type of value-add that the Amuse team will bring will vary depending on artist and what they need most, but will include things like public relations, marketing, branding, and having a more direct line to the online distributors it partners with. Farias didn’t rule out more traditional A&R services either, such as help with recording or preparing an artist for follow-up releases.

Meanwhile, I’m told Amuse’s board of directors includes Edgar Berger, former Chairman and CEO of Sony Music International, and Jörg Mohaupt, former Warner Music Group board member. Gordon Rubenstein, Managing Partner, Raine Ventures, is also joining as a board observer.

Dharmash Mistry, General Partner at Lakestar, says that the Amuse team have “reimagined every step of the A&R process from inverting the commercial model to be artist-friendly and discovering new musicians to changing how individual songs are marketed”. He is also talking up Amuse’s early success in Sweden — I understand the startup has already signed licensing deals with 40 or more artists — and says the investment will help the company roll out the model across the U.S. and Europe. To that end, Farias tells me Amuse is opening an office in L.A.