The recent uptick in high-profile music copyright infringement legal cases, such as Robin Thicke being found guilty of taking elements of a Marvin Gaye classic for his hit “Blurred Lines”, has led to an increase in music copyright cases overall. These cases, which can be difficult to prove and litigate, have even spawned the career field of “forensic musicologist.”
Copyright infringement in music is so hard to prove, says Farah Allen, because music is inherently a collaborative creative act. You rarely, if ever, find that just one individual has developed all the lyrics, sound, mixing and production that makes up a song.
“All these people, and all these assets, are just rolling around, and all these things aren’t tied to people’s identities, they’re not copyrighted, and people don’t get paid for all of these things,” Allen explains.
The former management consultant, whose husband works in the music industry, also noted the difficulty that creatives face when trying to protect themselves from getting sued by determining if something already has a copyright. “You can copyright all day, but copyrights are not transparent. You cannot Google something and see if its copyrighted.”
“All these organizations are using sound recordings — advertising, streaming stations, Turner, Cox, everybody. If you’re Steve Jobs, you have to pay for the songs you use. And just think about elevator music!”
“So, it’s this much bigger problem,” says Allen.
Her solution? A collaboration platform where creatives can work together — think Google Drive for music — that automatically archives, time stamps, and stores everything on the blockchain. The Labz makes sure that music experiments are painstakingly documented, just like experiments in a scientific laboratory.
The Labz is the second iteration of Allen’s idea, born from dozens of customer discovery interviews. The first version of her startup was called Song Society App, and focused on songwriting. She had 2,000 users, but couldn’t figure out how to monetize.
“I had everything BUT the kitchen sink,” says Allen. Since re-starting and pivoting to The Labz, she has focused on the data aspect of the entire music creation process.
“We attach [all the data] to the asset, so when you open it it shows you who wrote it, who produced it, what studio it came out of.” That data is admissible in court should an artist decide to pursue a lawsuit, says Allen.
The platform launches this month, but Allen has already generated 4,000 signups and 2.5 million “hot leads” from conversations with major brands in the music space. Many of these connections came from the team’s participation in The Farm accelerator, an Atlanta-based startup program sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal.
While in the program, Allen and the rest of her team focused on building out the platform and talking to enterprises to find out what they would need from such a tool. In addition to the consumer-focused subscription plan (currently priced at $9.99 a month), The Labz will launch an enterprise plan for large organizations to gain access to music for projects.
Another big marketing push? The A3C Conference and Festival, a hip hop-focused event in Atlanta that convenes thousands of music makers, producers, industry executives and entrepreneurs. The Labz won a spot in their Music Tech Startup Spotlight, a public pitch event judged by Paul Judge of TechSquare Labs, Ryan Wilson of The Gathering Spot, and music legend Kevin “Coach K” Lee.
From The Farm and an angel investor, The Labz has raised about $50,000 in outside funding. Allen says that the next step post-launch will be opening another fundraising round to continue scaling.
“We’re really focused for now on getting people on our platform, and pilots wth some of those organizations,” says Allen.