The Deals: The Weeknd Invests in Audio Up; Built to Spill Signs With Sub Pop

Audio Up, the podcast production studio founded by Jared Gutstadt, has raised a $12 million Series B funding round from a list of investors that includes The Weeknd and his manager and XO label head Wassim “Sal” Slaiby, music manager Larry Rudolph, eOne CEO Darren Throop and Reservoir Media, Billboard can exclusively announce.

The funding round comes on the heels of Audio Up’s recently-announced creative programming and strategic partnership with SiriusXM Holdings, which will see Audio Up create new original scripted podcasts for SiriusXM and its owned audio platforms, including the SXM App, Pandora and Stitcher. The two companies will also collaborate “to develop new audio entertainment concepts and forge new promotional and distribution synergies across SiriusXM properties,” according to a press release.

Other investors in the Series B round are Draft FCB and Peloton board member Howard Draft; Clan Lee Trink, CEO of gaming and lifestyle brand FaZe; Jordan Levy; and Sacha Robles.

Audio Up has also named several individuals to its board of directors, including Gutstadt (who also serves as Audio Up’s CEO), Throop and Draft as well as SiriusXM senior vp business affairs and programming operations Andrew Moss; MGM president of television operations Brian Edwards; and Primary Wave Music Publishing founding partner and president Justin Shukat.

“Our mission is to transform the podcast space and make it a breeding ground for best-in class-IP,” said Gutstadt in a statement. “In success, we hope to be a mixed sandbox for the world of streamers; creating the music, TV and film formats of the future. I see podcasts the same way people looked at comic books prior to them becoming tentpole entertainment in the world of Hollywood. Our growing array of titles & music are a unique media mix timed perfectly for what will be a seismic media shift the likes we have not seen in our lifetime. The rise of digital audio in smart homes, smart cars and smart environments of the future is coming and we plan on filling those pipes with bold, innovative content.”

Added Golnar Khosrowshahi, founder and CEO of Audio Up Series B investor Reservoir Media, “There is enormous growth opportunity in the business of listenership and we are proud to be partnering with Jared and the team to bring creative musical and storytelling experiences to the masses.”

Established by Jingle Punks founder Gutstadt in 2020, Audio Up boasts a slate of original scripted audio shows featuring a host of celebrities from multiple industries, including music A-listers such as Machine Gun Kelly, 24kGoldn, Miranda Lambert and Nelly. Its unscripted properties include the true-crime podcast Where The Bodies Are Buried and Mea Culpa, hosted by President Donald Trump’s former attorney and personal fixer Michael Cohen.

Forthcoming new Audio Up original podcast series include The Playboy Interview, which will feature teleplay-style reenactments of iconic Playboy Interview conversations with stars including Taye Diggs (as Muhammad Ali), Rosanna Arquette (as Betty Friedan) and Gina Gershon (as Oriana Fallaci).

Sub Pop has signed alt-rock band Built to Spill to a worldwide recording contract. The band will release its new album on the label in 2022.

Concurrent with the signing announcement, Sub Pop has announced a first round of U.S. tour dates for the band, which will kick off its West Coast run with a two-night engagement at The Crocodile in Seattle on January 26 and 27. The 2022 dates will feature direct support from Prism Bitch, while Oh, Rose and Itchy Kitty will open for the band on select dates. Prior to the official tour kickoff, the band will headline four dates with Team Dresch from Dec. 16-19, 2021. All dates can be found at the band’s official website.

Currently comprised of Doug Martsch, Melanie Radford and Teresa Esguerra, Built to Spill has released a total of nine studio albums, including last year’s covers album Built to Spill Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston.

Snafu Records, a recently-launched record label that employs AI to discover musical talent, has announced a $6 million funding round led by Pophouse Ventures with participation from TheVentureCollective, ABBA band member Agnetha Fältskog and songwriter-producer Savan Kotecha.

The label will use the new funding to support two upcoming tools designed to assist emerging artists: the songwriting collaboration platform Blurry and peer-to-peer financing platform Fine.Art, both of which are set to launch this fall. In addition, the money will go towards efforts to “further hone and refine” Snafu’s AI algorithm.

“Both Blurry and Fine Art will make it easier for up-and-coming artists to achieve” their goals, said Snafu founder and CEO Anki Desai in a statement.

Since launching in Feb. 2020, Snafu has signed 45 artists, including Hit-Boy, Nevada and Kosine. The company’s algorithm analyzes over 1 million new songs per week on platforms including Spotify, YouTube and TikTok, with evaluations based on factors such as growth volume, listener engagement and song structure. Artists who sign with the label are provided with a variety of services including creative, marketing and more.

Ingrooves Music Group has begun delivering music tracks in the high-fidelity Dolby Atmos format to streaming services Apple, Amazon Music and TIDAL on behalf of their clients, independent labels and artists globally, the company announced Oct. 5.

According to Elliot Swan, head of product at Ingrooves, the company has “worked closely” with the DSPs “to develop an easy-to-use system” to enable delivery of the Dolby Atmos tracks. “Labels can now deliver their tracks in Dolby Atmos to DSPs right from the Ingrooves client portal,” he said.

The first Dolby Atmos released deliver through Ingrooves’ client portal was Cinematic Music Group artist Yungeen Ace’s new single, “Giving Up/Hardaway.”

Digital music rights investor One Media iP has acquired the percentage of the licensor’s royalty share of the income in the Mike Bennett Productions catalog of rights for a “modest” amount. The catalog contains income derived from over 6,000 recordings.

Mike Bennett Productions had been a long-term licensor to One Media. With the acquisition, “the percentage amount that One Media was paying to Mike Bennett in royalty fees” will now be “retained by the One Media group,” according to a press release.

The recordings in question feature backing tracks and karaoke songs, as well as live albums or re-recordings performed by the Rubettes, the Stranglers, Wee Papa Girl Rappers and Wishbone Ash.

Symphonic Distribution has signed a partnership with the songwriter and management platform Tully to “elevate independent artists as an organic extension of Tully’s already established artists’ tools,” according to a release.

“The game-changing partnership takes both companies to new heights by offering artists the tools that they need in order to remain financially successful while being independent of a record label,” the release added.

Founded by tech entrepreneur Dhruv Joshi and rapper Joyner Lucas, Tully provides independent artists with tools to manage their music releases from beginning to end, offering everything from split sheet templates to publishing and licensing support.

“As an artist who created his own path through the industry, I value the contributions of the team around me,” said Lucas, who serves as Tully’s chief creative officer. “I am excited about Tully’s partnership with Symphonic because it is an opportunity for artists on our platform to get the team they need for distribution and to succeed without losing their independence.”

Added Tully CEO Joshi, “Tully was always developed with a desire to help artists achieve success on their own terms. Partnering with Symphonic is an important step in the evolution of Tully into an end-to-end solution that not only provides creators with access to songwriting & management tools but also distribution.”

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