Monthly Archives: August 2019

Symphonic Helps Indie Musicians Break into the Big Leagues

Source:  Tampa Bay Inno

By:  Dyllan Furness

Symphonic Distribution Founder Jorge Brea. Photo courtesy of Symphonic Distribution

The music industry changes fast. In less than two decades, listeners went from buying CDs to buying downloads to paying monthly subscriptions for streaming services—all while vinyl sales surged. For independent musicians, it can be hard to keep up with the fluctuations in the industry. Symphonic Distribution wants to help.

Founded in 2006 by Jorge Brea, Symphonic is a digital music distribution and marketing company that helps indie artists reach new audiences. Headquartered in Tampa, the company’s 48 employees are also based out of offices in Brooklyn, Nashville, Denver and Bogota, Colombia. Symphonic has worked with artists as diverse as reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee, EDM producer Marshmello and country singer Scotty McCreery. Last year, the company made $14 million in revenue.

Back in the day, the only way to get your music heard by a broad audience was to go through major record labels. But times have changed.

“The music industry has become so democratized that you don’t have to go down that route of being signed to a major [record label],” said Brea, who was recognized by Billboard magazine as an Indie Power Player in 2018 and 2019. “You can work with a company like ours, and we’ll help get your music out there.”

Major record labels have seemingly inexhaustible resources to spend on promotion, but working with an independent distributor like Symphonic means artists typically still control their rights and earn a higher percentage of their royalties.

Symphonic offers clients a “360 experience,” according to Brea, which includes services such as music video distribution, post-production work and marketing to help elevate their products. It helps place music on platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, charging a standard rate of 15%, meaning artists keep 85% of their royalties. Each deal can be customized depending on the artist’s situation.

Brea first launched Symphonic to distribute his own songs. As a local electronic DJ and producer, he couldn’t afford to cut vinyl and CDs, so instead he turned to digital distribution, found some success and started offering the service to other artists.

In recent years, major record labels have caught on to the value of independent, boutique-style distribution. As such, companies like Sony, Warner Music and Universal have purchased indie distribution companies like The Orchard, Ingrooves and Alternative Distribution Alliance, each of which compete with Symphonic.

However, Brea thinks that remaining truly independent gives Symphonic added value for clients, enabling the company to provide exceptional customer service and adjust to changing trends in the industry.

One way Symphonic stays ahead of the curve is by working in markets before they gain mainstream popularity on the global stage. Brea said the company’s current focus is on expanding its presence in Latin America, but he is eyeing artists and opportunities in China, Russia and African countries as well.

Despite the international reach, Brea remains committed to promoting musicians in the Tampa Bay Area. In August, Symphonic hosted the fifth annual Vibes of the Bay event, an event designed to highlight local artists.

“Tampa is a great business, finance and health care market, but there isn’t a big music industry here,” he said. “We want to make sure that we can help artists from the Tampa Bay Area be heard.”

The Long Engagement

One of our most-read posts here at NVSE is The Fate of Control (December 2009).  In it we cite a phrase coined by Fred Wilson’s at AVC – “shtick tolerance” – as a key to any successful long term relationship.  As we blogged in that decade-ago December:

You don’t have to accept everything about your partner – outside of integrity/honesty – but you must be able to more or less tune some things out over the long haul.  You’re patient with their shtick because they’re patient with yours.  It’s hard work.

Fred is back with another outstanding post, once again on the subject of long term relationships. Here’s an excerpt from The Long Engagement:

What I would prefer to see, and do see in many cases, is a founder who takes the time while they are not raising money to build a number of relationships with potential investors and then engages those investors in a process when it is time to raise capital. I like to call this process the “long engagement”.

It might sound like a lot more work than the fast and furious fundraising process that many founders are running these days.

But I don’t think it is a lot more work. Building relationships over a six to twelve month period can take the form of an occasional face to face meeting, emails back and forth, and even a few visits to the office by the investor. And none of that has to have the pressure of a pitch, an ask, and a price.

We think Fred is spot on. In most cases our relationship with an entrepreneur starts early – months or even years in advance of an investment. Ideally everyone involved has sufficient time and opportunity to explore the fit and potential of the chemistry that will prove crucial to success. Here’s how we put it in a March 2013 post, Due diligence: mine, yours, and ours:

Entrepreneurs who are raising growth capital (i.e. bringing on a long term partner) as opposed to selling their businesses (i.e. get the best valuation) should invest a lot of time conducting due diligence on their prospective financial partner. A credible partner will let you (indeed, encourage you) to talk to as many of their previous entrepreneur partners as you want to get a feel for what they are like to work with.

Entrepreneurs should ask for references from successful investments, unsuccessful investments and current investments. Ask for the venture firm’s entire list of previous and current investments and randomly call a number of them. Find some independent sources on your own who weren’t provided as references but know the venture firm…

Establish a solid foundation for the relationship early: Will you share the same vision? Agree on ground rules?

Once the honeymoon is over, will you collectively put forth the constant effort required to sustain the relationship? How will you resolve conflict? Are communications open and largely free of clashing egos? Does the quality of the arguments make the outcomes better?

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