Music is arguably one of the best things humanity ever invented. And though music itself has become ubiquitous, leading some voices to declare businesses around music dead, reality tells a different story. "Music" is more than just listening to something on Spotify or Apple Music. It opens up a vast field of opportunities. Let us look at some of those, covering a wide spectrum from consumption to production to investing.
Curation and discovery. With music being available easily through streaming services, one can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of songs and albums to listen to. Sure, Spotify automagically assembles playlists based on your listening history. But "The Algorithm" is clearly lost when people have a wide range of genres they consume. Think about how this can be improved. Another angle is playlists created by individuals. How can their discoverability be improved? Can they be monetized?
Classical music. Classical music is a very different kind of problem when it comes to discoverability. Most streaming services (and shops) are built around the concept of pop music. That is, you have a band or a musician, an album, and song titles. With classical music, you search for a composer, a piece of her work by name or catalog id, a certain conductor and orchestra, and maybe even a selected year or place of recording. You see where the problem is here. And this is the reason why Apple recently acquired Primephonic.
Music as a status symbol. Tribalism is strong in humans 😉 People love to belong to a peer group and want to present their value to this group. An example: fellow maker Soheil created volt.fm, which saw a stellar rise to 100,000 users in just five months.
Hardware and software for production. This alone could fill 100-page reports. And while of course there are many big players here, there are also niches filled by individuals. For example, the company behind Melodyne was started by just three people. Another example is guitar effects, which are produced by many (small) manufacturers.
Infrastructure marketplaces. (For lack of a better name, I might have just made this category up.) Mike William's Studio Time was a prime example here. His "How I"-videos describing the process behind the early versions (MVP at its best!) are still available on his YouTube channel. One other resource every musician and band needs and that is constantly short in affordable supply are rehearsal spaces. There seem to be quite some products "also" covering rehearsal spaces as a category. Yet a dedicated offer is still up for grabs?
Concert tickets as collectibles and investments. Well, you better had kept to that flimsy piece of paper. No, seriously. Just read Investing in Ticket Stubs.
Investing in music rights. To get an idea, I recommend another gem from Alternative Asssets - Buying music rights: A deeper dive.
Unbundling music labels. The music rights article linked above lists the jobs a music label provides to musicians they sign: recording, production & studio time, artwork, distribution, promotion, music videos, radio appearances & airtime, and TV appearances. Selecting just one of these services and/ or finding downstream solutions for a certain niche are basically "indie hacker playbook moves."
Microinvesting in musicians. This is just a quick idea I had when thinking about bands as startups and music labels as investors, combined with the unbundling idea right above. Why not invest in bands? And I'm not talking about buying a coffee, or support via Patreon, or payments via Bandcamp. More like something with a monetary return on investment.
In closing, I think that "music" is an under-served category startup-wise. A quick, non-representative search on Crunchbase reveals only 145 companies founded around music the last year. In comparison, for the same period, they list 209 companies focusing on advertising, 272 on blockchain, and 367 on marketing.
With all of the ideas listed here I only just scratched the surface and shown you the tip of the iceberg. There are opportunities in instruments, merchandise, vinyl, lyrics, teaching, and many more.