By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
Music industry veteran and startup founder Mag Rodriguez is introducing technology that will directly connect musicians with their fans, and the money those fans spend on the artists’ work.
Rodriguez’ origin story is a uniquely Milwaukee tale. It begins in the halls of Messmer High School where he met a freshman who would become Milwaukee rapper IshDARR. The friends spent hours in the school’s music studio writing and recording songs.
The work they did while in high school led to record deals, hit songs, international tours, and, for Rodriguez, back to Milwaukee.
When he returned to Brew City, Rodriguez was tapped to head a collaboration between independent radio station Radio Milwaukee and venture capital group gener8tor created to amplify the reach of Milwaukee musicians. His knowledge of the Milwaukee music scene, coupled with his years of experience in the music industry made him the ideal choice to lead the project. The program was a success.
Rodriguez decided to use his unique professional experiences to tackle key problems he encountered in the music industry throughout his career. He created a blockchain based tool that he believes will benefit nearly everyone involved in the business of music.
Rodriguez launched his company, EVEN, in 2022. MKEStartup.News (MSUN) spoke with Mag Rodriguez (MR) about EVEN and how it will change the music industry.
MSUN: What is EVEN?
MR: The simplest way I can describe EVEN is we’re a direct-to-consumer platform for artists to sell their music directly to their fans before uploading their music to the streaming platforms.
EVEN users pay and then get access to the music anywhere between 7 to 14 days before it is made available on streaming platforms.
But they also get access to other things. On the platform we call perks “access.” Every album comes with anywhere between three and four access points, the music being the first access point. Other access can look like first access to concert tickets, first access to merchandise, first access to virtual events. Or, it can be less traditional, like a follow back on Twitter for 50 fans, or a customized thank you video for 10 fans.
Fans have to buy the music and then they get access to everything else. It really creates an extra layer of privacy within the artist and fan relationship.
The true power of the platform is that it operates on the blockchain, and this helps us solve other issues that happen within the music business.
MSUN: How did you get the idea to create EVEN?
MR: I tell everyone I talk to that EVEN is not an original thought. It’s a collection of experiences and pain points that the industry has faced.
This hasn’t been built (before now) because most of the founders operating within music tech have never worked within the music industry directly with artists and fans. That’s why the disconnect happens. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in the intersection of culture, music, and tech.
Because of that, I am able to identify these pain points. The original idea for EVEN was me saying ‘I want to build all the tools that I asked for early in my career when I asked, ‘why can’t we just sell music directly to fans?’ and everyone saying ‘well, you just can’t do that.’
I built what I needed, and I built what my peers needed, and I really built something that would benefit everyone.
This is part of the name EVEN. This idea of equilibrium- the fans benefit, the artists benefit, the labels benefit. The distribution companies benefit. Even the streaming platforms benefit because they get a new metric.
MSUN: How will EVEN help streaming platforms?
MR: Success in the streaming ecosystem is measured by how many eyes are on you, but not how many real fans you have. EVEN offers a new opportunity for an artist to say to a streaming company “I just had 5,000 people buy my album. I don’t have a million listeners on my Spotify, but I have 5,000 real fans, and they paid for my album.” Paying customers are more valuable than passive listeners.
We’re cultivating communities that will only benefit ticket sellers and streaming platforms and venues. Everyone involved wins. Everyone wins when the artist is in control of who their fans are.
MSUN: What are the benefits of EVEN for the artists?
MR: Currently, artists are paid anywhere between two to three months after every streaming period. On EVEN, artists are paid instantly after every transaction. That means they get to pay their producers, their songwriters, their managers- virtually everyone involved with the project gets paid instantly after every transaction.
During my time working with artists, I ‘ve realized that artists don’t need advances. They don’t need record deals. They just need access to their money. But, the problem is the way that the industry is set up, artists are paid two to three months after the success of a record. That can really hinder their growth, whether it’s shooting a music video or going on tour.
Having access to their money every single day is really the true benefit of the platform.
MSUN: What are some other industry problems that EVEN helps to solve?
MR: Spotify does not give us data on who our customers, our fans, are. People say you can’t ask for that. Live Nation doesn’t give us the emails and phone number of everyone who bought tickets. This doesn’t make sense.
We’re just expected to rely on third parties that never tell us who the fans are. Then, at the end of the day, when the tickets sell out and fans can’t get tickets because they went to the resellers, fans are reaching out to the artists.
A big reason why artists don’t enjoy touring as much as they used to is because they don’t know who their fans are. They don’t know who’s buying tickets. They get upset when their fans are overpaying (ticket resellers).
The solution to the problem is allowing artists to go directly to the fans. It’s not that they can’t- nothing is restricting them from it. There’s just no platform that allows them to do it in an efficient way.
MSUN: Why does EVEN use blockchain technology for its transactions?
MR: Security. We are able to create this encryption and two factor authorization where every user essentially gets confirmed in real time. Using blockchain is like a key that unlocks access for fans.
MSUN: What is the status of EVEN today?
MR: We launched our MVP in October. So, we’ve only been on for three months. We’ve onboarded three artists with public releases, and we’ve released five albums.
We are aiming for about 350 releases over the course of the next 12 months. And we have onboarded a little over 150 artists as far as releases go. That number is growing daily. Within that 150 (artists) includes some distribution companies and record labels as well.
MSUN: Who is the ideal artist for EVEN?
MR: We are working with a ton of labels, a ton of distribution companies and independent artists. It’s a little bit more seamless. There are less roadblocks for them, and they have direct access to their revenue, but a good percentage of our releases are with record labels. We are not aiming to do direct deals with artists. It makes more sense to work with the label or distribution company.
Distribution companies almost operate as a label for independent artists. The companies upload the music streaming platforms because artists can’t upload directly to streaming platforms. They need a distributor.
Since payments are instant, it makes more sense to work with a bigger institution for releases. It also offers that extra layer of security and due diligence in making sure that the artists deliver what they promised the fans.
EVEN has an impressive roster of industry insiders guiding the company. Advisors include former Spotify Strategy Lead Chris Lubin, marketing strategies and veteran A & R representative Amanda Berkowitz, and Marc Byers, the former GM of Motown Records. These music industry veterans are joined by an international group of technology experts working on the development of the blockchain based innovation.
The emerging company is in growth mode. Launched with a $100,000 investment from venture capital powerhouse gener8tor, EVEN plans to raise additional funds in 2023 to support its growth.
To learn more about EVEN, connect with the company, or see the employment opportunities available at the company, click here.