Sam Bates: Amplify’s Co-founder & CMO About Creating A Sustainable New Music Economy
It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for many music industry professionals. It exposed the extreme hustle culture that artists must endure to make ends meet – which often leads to an endless cycle of touring and massive burnout. As a result, many artists and music professionals began to highlight the need for a paradigm shift that puts artists at the forefront.
Startups like Amplify are working hard to create a new music economy that does exactly that. Creating a new music economy is not a one-person job, however. It requires a team of people passionate about music, artists, and how Web3 and music intersect to bring about this much-needed paradigm shift.
One such individual is Sam Bates, Amplify’s Co-founder and CMO. I sat down with Sam to better understand Amplify’s vision to create a Web3-powered live music ecosystem that allows all parties involved in a gig to generate long-term residual income.
The beginnings of AmplifyLink
Music has always been something Sam is passionate about. “I first got decks when I was 16,” he recalled. “I wasn’t very good initially. I ended up just practising and DJing in a lot of different places all around Bristol, the UK, eventually, some festivals abroad.”
DJing was always more of a hobby for Sam. But when he got into marketing, he realized that there was scope to combine music and marketing and create something that can potentially transform artists’ careers. After working for several marketing agencies, he decided to set up his own agency with a colleague, Harry Stowey, who eventually became his business partner.
“At the beginning, we had had a lot of contacts in music and creative professions. So we leaned really heavily into that. We ended up working with like major labels, and big brands that use music as part of their marketing campaigns,” he said.
It wasn’t until they crossed paths with a rapper from London that the idea for Amplify came about. The artist wanted more effective ways to share his music online. This sparked the idea of an efficient and easy-to-use SmartLink service that eventually became AmplifyLink. “We put together a sort of alpha version in 2015 and launched early 2016,” Sam said. “Because of Harry’s wizardry with SEO, it started to pick up traction, completely organically. Then, in 2018, it really began to take off, with thousands of people using it.”
In the SmartLinking space, Amplify stood out from the crowd because it was easy to use and highly customizable. It enabled artists to showcase their brand and use their SmartLink as an extension of their brand. “We’ve got loads of functionality in terms of the marketing, so you can track fans, you can receive tips and so on. There’s a massive list of ways in which an artist can earn more, find out who their fans are, grow a fan base, and be able to contact them whilst using our service.”
Bringing about a new music economy
In February 2022, Amplify was acquired by the Web3 company previously known as Chapel. “So there are now two services or two products that we have: AmplifyLink, which is the traditional linking service, and AmplifyLive,” he explained.
This acquisition enabled the Amplify team to double down on its mission to empower as many artists and creators as possible. Furthermore, it will help bring about a new music economy – one that allows artists to create a sustainable business around their content and passions.
Making AmplifyLink free was one of the first things the team did post-acquisition. “We’ve removed all the paywalls and monetized elements of it. So it’s an easy way to get professional-looking smart linking pages and marketing tools like in-depth analytics for nothing,” Sam said.
“In terms of AmplifyLive, the overall concept is that we will help you earn more on a recurring basis from your gigs and events, whether that happens in real life, in the metaverse or on streaming. Basically, anyone involved in the process of putting on a gig can earn more using our tech.”
So far, venues, promoters and artists have only made money from ticket and beverage sales. Apart from merch sales, they have no other opportunities to earn more once the gig ends. As a result, artists embark on an endless cycle of touring to make ends meet.
Moreover, the streaming model has left many mid-tier artists in limbo. Streaming royalties depend on a number of factors – including listeners’ country of origin and their subscription plan. Team members, such as managers and labels, take a cut from streaming royalties, leaving mid-tier artists with very little money. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the live music industry served as a wake-up call that something needs to be done to create a more equitable new music economy.
This is where Amplify comes in. Amplify’s aim is to build a new economy for live music that puts musicians and industry professionals front and centre. Through its two tools, AmplifyLink and its Web3 DeFi solution AmplifyLive, Amplify is delivering on its mission to enable artists to earn more and serve as an innovative solution to an age-old problem.
The music industry & Web3
Why should music companies get involved in Web3 now rather than later? According to Sam, “There are so many potential ways that people can influence the direction of Web3, particularly around music.”
Sam refers to the way Napster was instrumental in changing the way music is currently consumed. “So 1999 was the most profitable year in the music industry ever. And I can understand why something like Napster, which was facilitating piracy, was not received very well. But the technology was quite clearly a massive innovation and something that would allow music listeners to access all the music they want without having to physically buy a CD or vinyl.”
“I think that having your say in the direction of it now is important because there are so many ways it can go. There’s so much innovation happening, that I think it’s good, even just to experiment. Maybe you think, okay, it’s not for me – but it’s better to be in the conversation than not because there is potential for there to be a whole new infrastructure around music.”