Jeeni Blog

Helping the next generation of talent to build a global fanbase

10 of the Best for 2020

It’s that time of year, when we all start to look back and take stock of the offerings of 2020.  Pandemic and lockdowns dominated but music was the tonic.  Having checked in with various sites and bloggers, there is definitely a small group of albums in which at least one, has cropped up in almost everyone’s ‘Best of 2020’ lists. In no particular order, are 10 albums which got many of through lockdown, isolation, Black Lives Matter and political marches, election fatigue, uncertainty, love and loss.  It’s an eclectic mix, offering view points from varied angles and experiences, including disagreement, hope and ultimately, acceptance. 

Any of these make your list? Let us know your thoughts and favourites in the comments below.


Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

After ditching her demons, her angst and finding sobriety, Katie Crutchfield moved herself and her partner Kevin Morby back to Kansas City, USA and created a brand new sound which focuses on her newfound optimism whilst reaffirming her roots in Birmingham, Alabama and her years of being on tour around the world.  What she serves up on ‘Saint Cloud’ is a gentle alt. folk catalogue, which many are claiming is her best writing yet.

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Well known for her reclusive tendencies, Fiona Apple had created and recorded ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’, her masterpiece lockdown album on her own at her Venice Beach home, before we’d even stock piled our bog roll! However, the tracks cry of liberation rather than confinement and they include a menagerie of ambient sounds, snarls, harmonies and even a dog bark, but still meet the brutality of life, head on. Featuring in many of the top music industry bloggers ‘Best of 2020’ selections, this album must be doing something right?

Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Two years in the making, Run the Jewels album RTJ4 came as a gift and it’s timing was perfect.  Offered up for free (as they do with all their albums) two days before it’s official release, it quickly became the Hip-Hop album of the year.  2020 has been a mind-fuck and this album brings all of that to one place, not because or in spite of, the Black Lives Matter movement, but alongside it.  Killer Mike and El-P, known for their hardcore, revolutionary lyrics telling you not just how it is, but how it should and will be.

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Following on from the huge success of her first album, this busy gal has pitched it perfectly. Clever lyrics from Phoebe Bridgers, mean her release of ‘Punisher’ offers up tracks which are specific, but have individual and solid stories. This twentysomething offers her peers some solace with her funny, dreamy, sometimes dark take on the world but is relevant and appealing.

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Taking the influences of previous Pop Goddesses, Madonna and Kylie Minogue, with the production skills of amongst others, Mark Ronson, creating an album which ‘feels like a dance class’ was a certainty with Future Nostalgia.  Flavours of disco, funk, new wave and house bring nothing but fun from the past, into the present and onto the future. 

Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately

Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) has placed ‘Set My Heart on Fire Immediately’ firmly in the alt-pop camp, but blends it with synth-pop, hefty guitar rifts and baroque harpsichord flounces. Hadreas vocal range is fabulous and leaves the listener eager for his next project.

Deftones – Ohms

The Deftones have brought back some hard-rocking guitar and bass riffs on their new album ‘Ohms’.  After a 10-year hiatus, this will please the fans of their 2000 album White Pony.  Their constant evolving and experimenting brings a revitalised sound to this new album, which will garner them new fans and satisfy their existing devotees.

Thundercat – It Is What It Is

Following on from his successful 2017 album ‘Drunk’, Stephen Bruner’s (aka Thundercat) fourth album brings an impressive cast of collaborators including Childish Gambino, Ty Dolla $ign and Kamasi Washington adding to the fun, jazz fusion vibes but also remembering the loss of his close friend Mac Miller is 2018 in the track ‘Fair Chance’.

The Weeknd – After Hours

Following on from 2016’s ‘Starboy’ and his 2018 EP ‘My Dear Melancholy’, The Weekend’s new album is a tiny swerve in a different direction and not what many people were expecting from the talented Canadian. Offering introspection and an open spirit, you can’t help but be wrapped in the adventure.

Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake

Lil Uzi Vert’s highly anticipated follow up to his 2017 debut album ‘Luv is Rage 2’ is here.  ‘Eternal Lake’ offers witty punchlines, cosmic beats, rythyms, melodies and hooks which cleverly stay with you even after the track has finished. Old themes with new ideas, make this album exciting, familiar and a definite classic.

Do white people know how it feels to be Black?

A new song by chart-topping singer Zeeteah Massiah lays bare the pain of living in a world that judges you on sight. Recorded at home during lockdown, You Don’t Know is sung as if by a Black Woman to a white listener, highlighting the gulf in understanding that exists between them. It has been released free to view on YouTube, to immediate acclaim.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis brought to the surface intense, long-buried emotions for Zeeteah. Arriving in London from the Caribbean as a child, she remembers being shocked by the hostility and abuse directed at her because of the colour of her skin. Half a century later, struggling to express her feelings to her husband and musical partner Paul Caplin, who is white, she blurted out, “You don’t know how it feels”.

Paul took those words and turned them into a song. You Don’t Know is the duo’s powerful message to people who prefer to look the other way when confronted by everyday racism. In these times of conflict and division, their hope is that it will reach enough people to make a difference.

As a dance music diva in the 1990s, Zeeteah shot to success on both sides of the Atlantic, with a No. 1 in the US Billboard dance charts and chart hits in the UK. She has toured with Michael Jackson and Tom Jones, duetted with French legend Johnny Hallyday and sung with stars such as Sting, Phil Collins and Robbie Williams.

Today Zeeteah lives in the countryside near London, and regularly appears in the city’s clubs singing jazz and reggae with her band.

“This song is different from anything I’ve ever done before,” she says. “When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why people would point at me and call me names. Back then, I didn’t know how to respond. Now I feel I have something to say.”

You Don’t Know is a non-commercial project, available to all at “It’s not being monetised on YouTube or anywhere else,” explains Zeeteah, “No one will ever be charged to hear it or to watch the video.”

It is one from the heart, a message to the world.

Zeeteah Massiah website:

Contact: / +44 (0)7976 259112


The global pandemic has closed the world’s music venues – pubs, clubs, arenas and festivals. Professionals and amateurs alike are desperate for alternatives where they can put their talent in front of an audience. Social media seems like a suitable alternative, but creative talent has just been dealt a hammer-blow, with Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram banning music videos. In the UK, the Musicians Union reveals that one-third of professional musicians are facing the end of their music careers, with many already working as delivery drivers or in supermarkets to make ends meet. In the US, the shutdown has already cost the music industry over $10billion in losses. But there is an alternative. It’s called Jeeni.

Jeeni has started to make a huge difference for independent musicians and performers. It’s an online showcase and multi-channel streaming service where indie artists get rewarded for performing in a Covid-safe environment. 

Jeeni is the brainchild of Mel Croucher, who founded the UK video-games industry, along with record label mogul Roger Watson, and Kelli Richards, who launched Apple Music with Steve Jobs. Croucher explains, “We’ve all made it to the top, and now is the right time to give something back and help a new generation of artists.” Further support for Jeeni comes from a host of chart-topping musicians and celebrity ambassadors, including John Altman, Steve Salvari, Skyler Jett, Gary Benson, and Teddy Hayes. Croucher adds, “We’ve already raised over $450,000 to support unsigned artists and performers achieve their dream in a completely safe environment. They get to keep 100% of everything they earn from the sale of their music and performances on Jeeni, and audiences have the power to vote, donate and be rewarded too. Now we’re raising our game in the face of the Covid second wave.” 

Jeeni has recently hosted its second online festival, which saw a number of Grammy Award-winning musicians playing alongside complete unknowns, ranging in age from seven to seventy. The next festival will feature another mix of stars and unknowns from both sides of the Atlantic performing brand new work, all in a completely safe environment.

Jeeni’s managing director in the US, Kelli Richards, says, “Jeeni treats its members ethically, fairly, honestly and with respect, and numbers have been growing steadily over the past year. Our recent online Music Festival featured some of the amazing musicians in the global community. And as a former A&R exec with EMI Music, I was really impressed with the talent. The highlights reel runs about an hour, and that’s time well spent to discover some wonderful talent. It’s quite an eclectic line-up but some of my personal favorites from this festival include a spine-tingling song from Zeeteah Massiah.” Zeeteah has had a US Number One chart-topper, and toured the world alongside Tom Jones, Michael Jackson and Sting. She is a Jeeni Ambassador, and along with the rest of the team she is determined to help new Jeeni artists survive in these unprecedented times.

Photo: Zeeteah Massiah

further information:

Mel Croucher, Creator of Jeeni

+44 9742 270102

Shena Mitchell, CEO

+44 7703 567196 Website:
Jeeni Music Festival:

Why Doing Less Can Be More Fulfilling.

BY Kelli Richards Jeeni USA MD

Hi Greetings!    It’s hard to believe that Fall is upon us already. Time is moving fast, yet we remain at a standstill in many ways with COVID 19 still raging, and the current chaos affecting our country. If you’re filling your day with a long list of to-dos to help quell the unease and uncertainty, be sure to read the featured article, Why Doing Less Can Be More Fulfilling. I think you’ll find that by doing less you actually accomplish more, and with a lot less stress.   I’ve been working with a really interesting client lately, JEENI, a multi-channel streaming service for independent musicians and performers. I’m super excited about this company as it provides a unique showcase to put undiscovered talent in front of a global audience. Be sure to scroll down and read “Client Spotlight: JEENI” for more details.    Looking for new reading material or music to listen to? Check out “Kelli Recommends” for some great books I’ve read recently and two powerful songs/anthems from two very special colleagues of mine, Monique DeBose and Zeeteah Massiah. Let me know what you think if you have the chance.   Stay safe and well,   ~Kelli
Why Doing Less Can Be More Fulfilling   After years of being a self-confessed overachiever striving to pack more into each day, I’ve come to the point of realizing that doing less lowers my stress and that achieving fewer things allows me a much greater sense of fulfilment in any given day. It’s not fun to pack your day with a long list of tasks, most of which you aren’t able to get through – and wind up feeling defeated. It’s a lot more rewarding to prioritize a handful of key tasks that you really need to tackle in a given day and then feel great about having gotten them done…read more
RECENTLY PUBLISHED   Client Spotlight: JEENI  I’ve decided that I’m going to write blogs periodically about some of the cool clients I’m fortunate enough to work with. One of them is a UK-based venture called JEENI run by long-time client, colleague and friend – Mel Croucher; a legend in the UK games industry. Simply put, JEENI is a multi-channel streaming service for independent musicians and performers, providing a unique showcase to put undiscovered talent in front of a global audience.   Unintended Casualties of the Pandemic There have certainly been many casualties during the pandemic – loss of life, loss of jobs, and so much more. But small business providers and communities have also been directly impacted by the loss of many vital stores, restaurants, and of service providers.
KELLI RECOMMENDS   BOOKS:   Make Your Creative Dreams Real: a plan for procrastinators, perfectionists, busy people, and people who would rather sleep all day. Author, Sark Let this book be your haven, guide, fairy godmother, or map for making your creative dreams real. It’s a “paper lantern” to illuminate your path.   5-Minute Selling: The Proven, Simple System That Can Double Your Sales…Even When You Don’t Have Time. Author, Alex Goldfayn 5-Minute Selling presents a proven, simple process that can double your sales, even if you don’t have time for an elaborate new sales system. The bottom line is when you pick up the phone daily to clients and prospective clients and let them know you’re thinking of them and that you care and can serve and help them – you’ll be doing more than most and will create more impact.    

MUSIC:   These songs are no less than anthems and a call to awakening in the time of Black Live Matters – they are epic, powerful and very moving. I hope you’ll agree; share if so (!).   Monique DeBose, Rally Call   Zeeteah Massiah, You Don’t Know

Mel’s bedtime story

Once upon a time, I created a platform called which is where independent artists perform their music in front of new fans, and get rewarded for their efforts. On a Saturday night we ran a live global music festival featuring 18 acts from both sides of the Atlantic. The oldest performer was over 70, the youngest was under 10. They were brilliant, each in their own way. We broadcast over social media and websites. There were no adverts, there were no fakes, there was no hype. It didn’t cost us a penny to run. Everyone had a ball. We are part of a revolutionary process that is killing a corrupt and rotting music industry which has held both audience and performer to ransom since the 1890s. So if you will indulge me, I’d like to tell you how, and why …

I’m an old hoarder, I hoard old music recordings, and when I say old I mean really old. Upstairs, in what was once a studio but has turned into an Irish Setter leisure lounge, there are several hundred wax cylinders from the 1890s. Each cylinder is a unique recording from an age before duplication was possible. If Miss Florrie Forde wanted to sell a hundred copies of Hold Your Hand Out You Naughty Boy to her adoring public, then she had to keep lubricated and trill the bloody thing into a brass horn a hundred times and record it onto wax in real time. But to me the beauty of these cylinders is not that each one is a unique recording, but that each one is mercifully short, rotating at 120 revolutions a minute and lasting a meagre two minutes, because that’s all a wax cylinder can hold. And so the two minute pop single was born. At the start of the twentieth century discs replaced cylinders, but not a lot changed. I have another room full of shellac discs that spin at 78 revolutions a minute. When it came to pop singles from artists bringing joy to the world throughout the first half of the twentieth century, they had just under three minutes to do it in. And if they were any good, just under three minutes was plenty.

I feel personally to blame for what happened next, because in the hour of my birth in 1948, the microgroove vinyl disc hit the market, spinning at what my Irish chums call dirty tree and a turd revolutions per minute. I have an entire wall of vinyl albums, with their glorious covers and sleeve notes. And yes, they are arranged in alphabetical order by artist and date-order of release. Their storage capacity is approximately twenty-five minutes a side, which is usually twenty-two minutes too long. And on the opposite wall is where all my CDs sulk, each one capable of storing seventy-four minutes of audio, and not one of them played since the turn of this century. Why? Because a hacker called SoloH went and ripped the source code of something called the Fraunhofer MP3 encoder and spread it all over the internet for free. Thanks to SoloH, I can not only digitise my entire collection of recorded music without any restrictions on playing time, I can access the entire library of everything that has ever been recorded, for ever.

My phone weighs exactly the same as my 78rpm copy of Little Richard’s single Tutti Frutti, which runs for two minutes 28 seconds of total perfection. My phone holds 21,417 tracks in MP3 format, some of them complete symphonies, which are pretty good, some of them prog-rock drum solos, as used by Viet Cong torturers to break the spirit of the enemy. My desktop hard drive and cloud-accounts contain too many tracks to keep track of. I declare that my motivation for amassing this ludicrous collection of music was that one day it would bring me comfort in my old age, when my body and brain become enfeebled and I feel the need to keep hold of past pleasures while dying. As it turns out, I started playing my collection early, during lockdown, and wished I was dead by the end of day three. The singles were great, but the albums were mostly insufferable. Which is when I realised that the music album is stone dead, and the nightmare of a lifetime of audio padding is finally over. Then the real truth hit me. The recorded music industry is dead too. Thanks to COVID19 there has been an explosion of new creativity. Everyone is now a record producer, anyone can run a broadcast music channel, and that’s exactly what everyone and anyone seems to be doing, including me. The spongers and leeches and shysters have been exposed as completely unnecessary, as have most of the agents, publicists and managers. They are no longer able to milk performers in our new world of social distancing, because they have lost their power. It’s the remote audience that now has the power, and this audience wants instant gratification, not a load of overhyped, overwrought, overlong, flimflam. is my final project in a very long career. I’m giving my artists three minutes per track to nail it, because that’s what my old hoard tells me is right. And I hope you agree that in order to shine, three minutes is all that anyone should ever need.


By Cherie Hu

Kanye West is back on Twitter for more rants. Water is wet.

This time around, though, he’s talking about issues that are hard for the music industry to ignore, in a way that leaves few stones unturned. On September 16 — a frenzied day for music-business Twitter — West tweeted over 100 individual pages (thank you Dani Deahl) of his recording contracts with Island Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella Records, dated between 2005 and 2016. Yesterday, he followed up by laying out a proposal of music-industry “guidelines” that included the removal of blanket licenses, a shift towards one-year, short-term licensing deals and an 80/20 royalty split in the artist’s favor. And today, he proposed forming an artist’s union.

Many industry commentators have rightfully pointed out that aside from his contract details, 1) nothing West has pointed out is actually new, 2) some of his guidelines are unrealistic to pull off without collective action and 3) and he may have even put himself at a legal disadvantage by being so transparent with the terms of his own deals. That said, many of West’s critiques around artist equity, transparency and leverage parallel the key pillars behind recent initiatives like The Show Must Be Paused that have put unprecedented pressure on music companies to be more accountable for their actions, or face the consequences.

Amidst all this buzz, though, I personally think there’s too much of a focus on how to improve existing recording contracts, and too little imagination of what other models might be possible for growing artists’ careers outside of the incumbent label system.

This brings me to the topic I want to focus on today. On September 15, West claimed mid-rant that he spoke with Katie Jacobs — founder and general partner of Moxxie Ventures and board member of Vivendi, Universal Music Group’s parent company — about the possibility of creating “a ‘Y combinator’ for the music industry so artist[s] have the power and transparency to to [sic] be in control of our future … no more shady contracts .. no more life long [sic] deals.” The tweet got excited replies from powerhouses in the tech world like Sam Altman (former president of Y Combinator, now CEO of OpenAI) and Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit), and the nickname “Ye Combinator” soon emerged from the noise.

In case you don’t know already, Y Combinator (YC for short) is a startup accelerator that has funded over 2,000 startups over the past 15 years. Aside from now-ubiquitous tech companies like Stripe, Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit, YC’s current cohort and alumni include several companies like Twitch, Genius, The Ticket Fairy, Jemi and Gigwell that have direct interests in the music, entertainment and culture industries.

YC makes its terms transparent on its website: A $125,000 investment in exchange for 7% of the company, through a post-money simple agreement for future equity (or SAFE). There are two YC cohorts a year, lasting three months each, in which startup members get access to the accelerator’s extensive alumni network, weekly speaker sessions and office hours, vertical-specific founder communities and other benefits. Each cohort also concludes with a flashy Demo Day that consistently draws hundreds of investors in person (and many more online, especially this year).

One implicit point that West makes in his “Y Combinator for music” proposal is that record labels don’t fit the bill. Indeed, a common misconception is thatlabels are to artists what accelerators or VC firms are to startups. This comparison makes sense in that both labels and VCs tend to take higher risks with more capital on artists/founders that are relatively unproven in the marketplace, while also embracing a high-volume, portfolio approach to diversifying their risk. But the similarities stop there: A record-label advance is not an equity investment, it gives the label a financial interest in only one specific revenue stream in the artist’s entire business (for the most part) and the outcome often makes artists feel less entrepreneurial, not more.

That said, West’s idea is far from original, as many versions of “Y Combinator” for music already exist outside the traditional label model.

Music accelerators began to emerge in full form in the early- to mid-2010s. Some, like Techstars MusicAbbey Road Red and Project Music, service founders of music-tech startups; others cater more to emerging artists looking to embrace a founder mindset in their careers. I reported on this trend for Music Ally back in 2016, and the playing field has widened significantly since then — ranging from formal, focused accelerator programs to more freeform incubators, residencies and coworking spaces, all serving the increasingly influential artist-entrepreneur archetype.

A non-exhaustive list of examples:

[Note: Some people would categorize songwriting campsrap camps and independent music distributors like UnitedMasters and Stem as the equivalents of a Y Combinator for music. I disagree with this analysis because 1) startup accelerators need to focus on business models, not just on product development; 2) songwriting camps run by major labels benefit major labels, instead of providing an alternative path to success; 3) distributors are mostly self-serve SaaS platforms, not more focused educational programs.]

If you click through these accelerators’ websites, something you may notice is that they are not necessarily catering to the aspiring Kanyes of the world. Instead, many of them have the goal of cultivating self-sufficient, local music communities in cities that might otherwise be overshadowed by major industry hubs like New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Many of these accelerators also intentionally encourage their artists to use startup terminology — e.g. prototyping, testing, customer development, design thinking — as a tool for crafting a self-directed music career beyond just getting signed to a label and hoping for the best.

This lies at the heart of what I see as the main limitation of West’s discussion of “Y Combinator for music,” which was ultimately framed within the relatively more conservative context of improving major-label deals. If you take the concept of “artist as entrepreneur” or “Y Combinator for music” seriously, you can’t approach the problem just from the vantage point of making existing label contracts better; that immediately presupposes a business model that doesn’t have to be etched in stone. Instead, the discussion should be more about changing the entire decision matrix altogether, such that an artist starts to question whether they even want to sign a standard deal in the first place. Anything less falls short of the idea’s imaginative, progressive potential.

The financial gulf between music and tech

When thinking about what “Y Combinator for music” can look like, one immediate red flag that needs to be addressed is that music and tech are vastly different businesses.

Major artists and entertainers can build up enviable business empires by diversifying their brand beyond music into beauty, fashion, alcohol and other verticals. But by many investors’ standards, even this massive amount of wealth ends up being relatively paltry and slow to come by.

Let’s look at West as an example. According to Forbes, West’s business interests in music and fashion make him one of the wealthiest celebrities in the world, with a net worth of $1.3 billion. But he only got to this point after grinding nonstop in the music business for nearly 25 years. Similarly, Rihanna has a net worth of $600 million, but she worked tirelessly over the course of the last 15 years to get her career to this point. Beyoncé’s net worth is $400 million, and she’s been in the business for 23 years.

Measured against Silicon Valley’s expectations, these growth rates and market caps would be considered meager, even abysmal. For comparison: West name-dropped Airbnb and Dropbox in his tweet about Y Combinator. Airbnb is 12 years old, and is already valued at $18 billion (which is only half of its peak valuation of $31 billion three years ago). Dropbox is 13 years old, and is currently valued at around $8 billion. In other words, Airbnb and Dropbox individually achieved more than 6x the value of Kanye West’s brand in just half the time.

This is an apples-to-oranges comparison — and that’s exactly the point. Building a celebrity brand is a fundamentally different business from building a tech platform. In being inextricably tied to human talent, celebrity brands are harder to scale, grow much more slowly and end up being much smaller in size than SaaS and marketplace products of comparable fame. Hence, simply copying and pasting the Y Combinator incentive structure for emerging artists is arguably inappropriate, and runs the risk of even more churn-and-burn on the artist side without laying out clear expectations for a different kind of growth and development.

This financial gulf also holds true when you expand your view to music corporations, not just celebrities. The market value of the world’s biggest recorded-music company (Universal Music Group at around $34 billion) is only 1% that of the world’s most valuable tech company (Apple at $1.9 trillion), and nearly 25% lower than that of the world’s biggest music streaming service (Spotify at $44.5 billion).

In general, investors still view music as a relatively small niche compared to other entertainment sectors like film and gaming, and especially to other industries outside of entertainment like software services. Major music corporations are trying to compensate for this value gap by holding mutual stakes in streaming platforms; celebrities are also investing in tech startups to have an individual upside in Silicon Valley’s growth. Note that the everyday artist, unless they own stock in Warner Music Group or Spotify, is essentially nowhere to be found in this financialized picture.

It’s hard to argue against a more even distribution of wealth between the millions of artists around the world and the handful of media and tech corporations that command eleven-figure valuations off the backs of these artists’ works. Indeed, in his Twitter rant, West addresses this issue in a rather capitalistic way (emphasis and punctuation added): “I am the only person who can speak on this because I made multi billions outside of music — no musicians make billions inside of music — I’m going to change this.

That said, I wish West took more time to address the vast majority of artists — hell, the vast majority of people, period — who will never be billionaires. Among the modern generation of music distributors and music-tech startups, there’s increasing discussion about growing the “middle class” of artists and enabling them to live sustainable, healthy lives off their creative work without feeling like they need to chase outsized growth projections. A truth that West neglects in his public discussion is that if the music industry is to be more equitable, you don’t need to make billions of dollars to be deemed “successful.”

In general, the music and tech industries both tend to suffer from the same myopic view of success in entrepreneurship — whereby case studies from the top 1% of the top 1% of companies are treated as the rule, rather than as the exception that they truly are. While celebrities’ growth trajectories are certainly illuminating and informative, an education in music entrepreneurship that paints these stories as the “norm” will automatically set emerging artists up for disappointment.

This brings us to one last fundamental question:

What is the end game?

While YC has transformed how early-stage startups get their footing, the program also arguably serves the incumbent investment world by grooming startups for the next level of more traditional VC deals (Series A, B, C, etc.). Moreover, the notion of a lucrative “exit strategy” (i.e. a big IPO or acquisition by a larger company) being the primary north star for many startups has only become more intense in a world of accelerators, not less.

If we made a Y Combinator for music, what would that “next level” look like for artists? Is it still to “exit” to a traditional label deal, or potentially to arrive at a totally different business structure altogether around an artist’s work? Is the goal simply to have more leverage against incumbents in deal negotiations, or to decrease reliance on incumbents as a whole and build a fruitful, independent business on one’s own terms?

Interestingly, recent history has suggested that independent music companies who claim to be a “one-stop shop” for the next generation of mainstream, culturally influential artists actually have a hard time keeping them from major labels’ grasp. Amuse couldn’t keep Lil Nas XUnitedMasters couldn’t keep NLE ChoppaHuman Re Sources couldn’t keep Pink Sweat$. In all of these cases, the best opportunity to go to the “next level” was to partner with an incumbent.

West’s stance on what this “next level” actually looks like in his perfect world isn’t clear. For one thing, West’s solution for “freeing artists” seems to rely mainly on improving major recording and publishing contracts. That is not a startup accelerator — that’s an arduous political debate that requires decades worth of collective action. Moreover, the fact that he discussed this idea with a Vivendi board member implies that an initial iteration would be additive, not disruptive, to a major label’s business. For instance, a company like UMG would likely invest in a YC-type set up as a self-serving A&R funnel, upstreaming the most promising talent directly from each cohort to a more standard deal (major labels invest in independent distribution businesses for a similar reason).

I’d like to think that West’s idea of “setting artists free” can have room for multiple different kinds of careers, not just a slightly better or more efficient version of the dominant model. I’d like to see a Y Combinator for music focus on the more than 40 different revenue streams that artists can potentially make from their work — spanning the likes of direct-to-fan memberships, grants and teaching, not just recording, touring or merch — and on the wide range of company structures and fundraising strategies that can support a profitable, “middle-class” artist business. In the tech world, organizations like and Zebras Unite, and movements such as “Exit to Community,” provide a potential blueprint for how to prioritize sustainability and profitability while exploring alternative financing models for startups such as revenue-based financing and equity crowdfunding. (A lot of these alternative models are already underway in music, but not with the endorsement of someone like Kanye.)

Journalist David Sax’s recent op-ed for Bloomberg, “It’s Time to Reclaim the Meaning of the Word ‘Entrepreneur,'” rings strongly here:

“For too long, we bought into the notion that all we needed to do was create and support the entrepreneurs building the biggest businesses, assuming the trickle-down of money, jobs, and innovation would benefit everyone. But a healthy economy needs a full complement of enterprises: the high-tech, rapidly growing companies and midsize manufacturers; the MBA-educated innovators disrupting markets; and the small businesses run by minorities, immigrants, women, and seniors that make our neighborhoods vibrant. Silicon Valley talks a lot about the ‘ecosystem’ for startups, but we need to remind ourselves that the healthiest ecosystems are diverse. They need microbes and ants — not just elephants.”

To borrow Sax’s analogy, West is, in multiple senses, the elephant in the room: A problematic celebrity figure whom many of us are reluctant to talk about, and an ultra-wealthy entertainment magnate who is the exception, not the rule, in the vast ecosystem of artist success. Arguing for artists’ freedom and rights without acknowledging the sheer diversity of career paths in the industry runs the risk of feeling like Tidal’s 2015 press conference — shiny, but tone-deaf.

This is all to say: When you hear “Ye Combinator” or “Y Combinator for music,” I encourage you to dream harder about what might be possible. In a way, West’s tweetstorms and their resulting debates serve as a litmus test for the kinds of solutions that people in the industry want to have come to life. I invite you to take this test yourself: What end game do you see? ✯

Global Music Match unites 14 Music Export Programs for a world first!

96 artists from 14 countries are taking part in what could be the largest online matchmaking of musicians ever undertaken. Created in a world first collaboration between founding partners Sounds Australia, Showcase Scotland Expo and Canada’s East Coast Music Association (ECMA), along with 11 other export organisations and showcase events from around the world, Global Music Match is a pilot initiative created to continue raising the profile of local artists in international music markets within the challenging parameters of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is a unique response to the limitations imposed on the music industry, that makes use of one of the only available platforms – social media and peer-to-peer collaboration – to increase networks and exposure for export-ready artists internationally.

Breaking artists into a new territory or country is a challenging process, exacerbated by the pandemic as traditional international showcasing opportunities reduce. This programme aims to develop new audience bases for artists in a range of international locations, providing a groundwork for future international touring development. The programme will also support participating artists to upskill their social media activity, as well as encourage cross border artist collaboration by connecting musicians from around the world.

Each week, one band/musician from each country will ‘introduce’ another artist from a different country, engaging with them on social media to cross promote to their audiences. This is reciprocated for everyone involved, meaning that participating artists will be presented via social networks across a range of participating international artist’s online audiences.

For the pilot edition of Global Music Match, artists are steeped in the acoustic, folk, roots, traditional and world music genres. Lisa Whytock of Showcase Scotland Expo, one of the founding organisations said: “The idea came about on a zoom call between myself and Millie Millgate of Sounds Australia several months ago. We have since seen it grow to include so many export organisations and all of us have been meeting regularly to develop the initiative. It’s great that we can all still connect through social media and we are really looking forward to seeing how all the artists work together. Most of them will never have met and many never have toured in the other countries, so it really is going to establish new international connections”.

Search for the hashtag #globalmusicmatch to see some of the examples of the content each act shared during the pilot initiative – or head to to learn more and see examples.

Global Music Match is supported by the following export organisations: Catalan Arts (Spain), East Coast Music Association, ECMA (Canada), English Folk Expo, FOCUS Wales, Folk Alliance International, Iceland Music, LUCfest Taiwan, Music Estonia, Music Finland, Music Norway, Puglia Sounds (Italy), Showcase Scotland Expo, Sounds Australia and Spectacle vivant Bretagne (Brittany, France).

For more details, please contact your local export organisation listed above, or reach out

Jeeni Live Music Festival

By Kelli Richards: Jeeni USA MD

I’ve decided that I’m going to write blogs periodically about some of the cool clients I’m fortunate enough to work with.  One of them is a UK-based venture called JEENI  run by long-time client, colleague and friend — Mel Croucher; a legend in the UK games industry.  

Simply put, JEENI is a multi-channel streaming service for independent musicians and performers, providing a unique showcase to put undiscovered talent in front of a global audience. JEENI artists get to keep 100% of everything they earn from the sale of their music and merchandise. JEENI audiences are given the power to vote, donate and be rewarded too.

JEENI treats its members ethically, fairly, honestly and with respect. Their numbers have been growing steadily over the past year or so, and this past weekend they ran a Live Music Festival featuring some of the amazing musicians in the global community.  As an homage to my former A&R role at EMI, I was really impressed with the talent of several of the featured artists.  The highlights reel runs about an hour, and that’s time well spent to discover some wonderful talent and be entertained by artists you others might not hear about — not yet anyway.  It’s quite an eclectic line-up but some of my personal favorites from this festival include:  red-headed wunderkind Harvie Joy, teen guitar virtuoso Toby Lee, vocalist Jem Cooke who appears to be channeling Adele, multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gerendas, and a spine-tingling track from Zeeteeah Massiah.

I promise if you invest an hour in watching this online music festival, you’ll be very pleasantly rewarded.  And consider joining JEENI as well!

The incredible talented Zeeteah Massiah who starred in the Festival will be playing at The Crazy Cogs on Thursday the 8th of October 2020, if you fancy seeing her gig live.

Jeeni a more robust music ecosystem for everyone.

The music industry is at a critical inflection point. After years of declining sales and waning fan enthusiasm, the rise of streaming has ushered in a new golden era for an industry that has benefited artists, songwriters, copyright owners, and fans alike. In 2019, streaming was the engine driving revenue growth in the US music industry for the fifth consecutive year.

Download the 2020 Streaming Forward report, featuring the latest updates on streaming’s role in the music industry, how digital discovery is elevating new artists and genres, and what we can expect ahead.

The Evolution of the music industry over the the last two decades has been staggering. The rise of streaming has revolutionized all facets of music, empowering artists and creators by expanding their access to fans, allowing music listeners to seamlessly connect with their favorite songs whenever and wherever they want, and driving new music choice and creativity.

For fans, copyright owners, and creators alike, the positive impact of this evolution has been monumental: with total music stream reaching the one trillion mark in 2019, fans are listening to more music than ever before, and the industry is enjoying a multi-year growth cycle driven by the streaming economy.

Over the next seven years the streaming revolution will only grow more powerful. Fast-forwarding we can expect: Forecasts remain just that of the industry’s trajectory in the future. While the impacts of Covid-19 are still being felt, and have undoubtedly impacted the music industry, we can expect streaming growth to continue.

What we cannot forecast is what new music consumption behaviors might surprise us, and new innovations by the streaming services that we have not begun to see. But with growing optimism and increasing inward investment attracted by the streaming-driven hyper growth, the music industry is experiencing boom times – for consumers,
record labels and publishers and most of all creators. Click here to view the 2020 Streaming Forward Report.

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Jeeni Live Global Festival on 29 August 2020

Jeeni is proud to announce the next JEENI LIVE – our series of Free Festivals for Independent Musicians and Performers, where rising stars have a golden opportunity to step into the spotlight in front of a global audience, strut their stuff, stay safe and have fun. Best of all, they appear alongside some of our favourite superstar ambassadors.

On 29th August 2020 we’ll be streaming the Jeeni Live Festival across music websites and social media. The event will be headlined by Sonique (Brit Award-Winner, Best Female Solo Artist) and Grammy Award-Winner Skyler Jett (hit-maker for Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion and Christina Aguillera) supported by Jeeni chart-toppers from both sides of the Atlantic. Showtimes: 21.00-23.00 GMT – 14.00-16.00 Los Angeles.

With guest appearances from multi-award-winner Natasha Watts, the godfather of punk Jesus Hooligan, platinum-seller Daisy Chute, a blues genius we found down the pub, classical electro-diva Sarah Mallock, stadium favourites Filta, and a sensational new band with an average age of eight! More to be announced soon.

All our performers will promote the event and share the live streaming to their fanbases, so we expecting lots of engagement. The live stream will also be saved on, Jeeni Facebook and the Independent Musicians and Performers Group to replay later.

This is our first event with our new Californian partners AmplifyX, the only FINRA and SEC compliant platform that allows investors to build a portfolio by directly funding musicians. The partnership was arranged by Kelli Richards, Jeeni Managing Director USA, who was mentored by Steve Jobs at Apple where she launched and managed the Apple music and entertainment division.

Co-founder of AmplifyX Bobby Kamaris says, “Our companies run in an adjacent space helping independent artists, and our philosophies and motives are very very close. What you guys at Jeeni have done in putting it together and launching is actually incredible.”

• Jeeni Live is a global festival of music.
• Covid19 has closed live venues, so Jeeni Live goes out across social media and selected websites.
• Jeeni Live gives equal exposure to brand new talent and world-class stars, with an exciting mix of new material and massive crowd-pleasers. 
• Jeeni Live reaches out across the whole range of styles and ages to deliver new audiences and new fans for our poll-winning artists.
• No adverts, no hype, no rip-offs, no fakes. Jeeni – the ethical alternative.

Music Tech Startups announce strategic alliance for the greater good of the Musician and Performer.

We are delighted to announce the strategic alliance between Jeeni and California-based AmplifyX, the only FINRA and SEC compliant platform that allows investors to build a portfolio by directly funding musicians. The alliance was arranged by Kelli Richards, Jeeni Managing Director USA, who was mentored by Steve Jobs at Apple where she launched and managed the Apple music and entertainment division.

This represents a major advantage for Jeeni in the USA, our most important global territory in terms of artists and revenues. We gain access to more rising stars along with their followers and fanbases, with mutually advantageous joint promotions and publicity. The partnership will officially kick off at the end of August with a global streamed concert, featuring our 10 most popular artists from both sides of the Atlantic, and will be co-branded between Jeeni and AmplifyX.

Co-founder of AmplifyX Bobby Kamaris says, “Our companies run in an adjacent space helping independent artists, and our philosophies and motives are very very close. What you guys at Jeeni have done in putting it together and launching is actually incredible.”

Co-founder of AmplifyX Adam Cowherd adds, “Did you know that artists take home only 12% of the $43 billion spent on music annually, according to Citigroup? [1] The hip-hop artist Russ put it perfectly when he said, ‘The music business isn’t set up for the artists to get rich. It’s set up for everyone else to get rich off the artists.’ [2]

If you start looking deeper into the music industry, one of the first things you’ll discover is how broken it is. Artists are the nucleus of the business, but somehow they’re the individuals left with no ownership of their Intellectual Property (IP), inhibited creative freedom, and only a sliver of the earnings. There are so many entities involved in the value chain of music that it has created a convoluted industry structure that lacks equality and transparency.

When we break down the mechanics of the music industry, we see just how many hands are in the pot: record labels, managers, producers, booking agents, and streaming platforms. A report by Ernst & Young highlighted the post-tax payouts of streaming revenue and identified that record labels are taking nearly 75% of the payout. [3] Why are artists today signing with record labels?”

Jeeni Founding Director Shena Mitchell adds, “This is an exciting opportunity for Jeeni to develop strong relations with USA partners. AmplifyX is focused on building a new framework to fund independent artists with their unique platform for artists to raise capital from nontraditional sources. Our visions are entirely complementary and aligned.”

Jeeni, is the social music platform that brings artists closer to their fans, and shares revenue ethically. Jeeni is presently raising funds on Crowdcube and is 110% overfunded with 4 days to remaining. If you want to see our pitch click HERE.

Facing the Broken Music Industry.

By Adam Cowherd @

Did you know that artists take home only 12% of the $43 billion spent on music annually, according to Citigroup? [1] The hip-hop artist Russ put it perfectly when he said, “The music business isn’t set up for the artists to get rich. It’s set up for everyone else to get rich off the artists.” [2]

If you start looking deeper into the music industry, one of the first things you’ll discover is how broken it is. Artists are the nucleus of the business, but somehow they’re the individuals left with no ownership of their Intellectual Property (IP), inhibited creative freedom, and only a sliver of the earnings. There are so many entities involved in the value chain of music that it has created a convoluted industry structure that lacks equality and transparency.

When we break down the mechanics of the music industry, we see just how many hands are in the pot: record labels, managers, producers, booking agents, and streaming platforms. A report by Ernst & Young highlighted the post-tax payouts of streaming revenue and identified that record labels are taking nearly 75% of the payout. [3] Why are artists today signing with record labels?

Signed artists have fans. They do not have a majority of royalties, ownership of their masters, or creative freedom.

Artists have historically been enticed to join record labels as a way to grow their popularity, because major labels can provide global brand recognition. But the music industry is in the business of making a profit — not in the business of freebies. The artist’s growth may be guaranteed, but not their wealth.

Take Thirty Seconds to Mars for instance: after multiple platinum records, they were still millions of dollars in debt to their label. [4] This is a result of the artist being forced to pay the label back for cash advances. Although advances may seem extremely alluring, many don’t realize how hard these loans will be to recoup from their small slice of royalties.

Artists thriving off of their album sales are the exception, not the rule. This recognizable gap in income has inspired a large number of artists to start challenging the status quo of record label contracts. Artists today have more tools and resources to build their career — and wealth — independently. Traditional services formerly tied to record labels, like recording, distribution, and promotion, are becoming commodified. Also, modern artists have a wide range of social media platforms to engage listeners on, from Instagram to TikTok to Triller.

Artists can grow their fame and find new fans on their own terms—retaining their rights and independence.

Evaluating the industry today, music spending is at an all-time high. Goldman Sachs predicts we will have over 1.1 billion people on paid streaming platforms by 2030, generating over $130 billion in music industry revenue. [5] By pursuing alternative ways to release music, artists can take a larger cut of the profits while retaining ownership of their IP and a majority of royalties.

The industry is projected to experience massive growth over the next decade. Artists should reap the rewards.