Creative platform EVEN, which allows artists to sell music directly to fans, said it has closed a $2.2 million seed round led by CSA Partners.
The platform positions itself as the first stop before artists release music on streaming platforms. Fans, in return, receive access to exclusive content and experiences. The company’s CEO and founder, Mag Rodriguez, says he started building the platform last February as a way to help Black and brown artists retain equity in their creative work.
Rodriguez said EVEN aims to address other pain points that artists have today, such as being compensated or credited properly, by letting them connect with their fan base easily, which in turn lets fans support artists and avoid having to pay fees to reseller platforms.
One of the biggest issues is that Black and brown artists are often not credited properly as the source for many mainstream trends. This situation is worse for artists dealing with streaming platforms, some of which have been accused of not properly compensating any of their artists in a fair manner.
For fans, it has become increasingly costly to support their favorite artists. For example, concert tickets go to resellers who then jack up the price, or opportunities only go to exclusive credit card members rather than someone within the artist’s core fanbase. All of this often leaves out Black, brown and other fans from marginalized communities who cannot afford resale tickets or qualify for expensive, exclusive opportunities.
“Some of the biggest artists on the planet are Black and brown, but the companies that service them are not being led by people who look like them, hence this big issue of artists not getting paid enough or being paid daily,” Rodriguez added.
Rodriguez says the business plans to use the seed money for hiring and to help grow the business. The platform, currently in beta, is free to use and ad-free at the moment, and it generates revenue by charging transaction fees. EVEN is built on the blockchain in order to provide more transparency regarding such transactions.
The company plans to partner with artists like French Montana and experiment with products like a chat feature to allow artists and fans to communicate. EVEN hopes to launch later this year with more than 600 artists; Rodriguez said the waitlist of those looking to join the platform currently tops 4,000.
A music industry veteran of 10 years, Rodriguez was introduced to the tech world after he helped build an art program for the gener8tor, a startup accelerator based in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2018. As that program became more popular, he was introduced to investors involved with the accelerator, who then introduced him to others who helped him raise the seed funding.
He’s now part of a rarified club: In any given year, less than 5% of all venture capital funding goes to Latino founders. Since fund managers are also woefully underrepresented (less than 5% of VCs are Latino) Rodriguez said when building his cap table, he made sure to include diverse fund managers like Raquel Filmanowicz, who identifies as Latino and is the founder and managing partner at VC 414.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Filmanowicz said that Rodriguez’s “creative and innovative approach to solving a vexing problem in the music industry” made him “exactly the type of entrepreneur VC 414” was looking to back. “We are impressed with EVEN’s early traction and extremely proud to be an early investor in EVEN Labs.”
Other investors in the round include gANGELS, gener8tor and angel investors Daniel Rotman, Adie Akuffo-Afful and Ogo.