It wasn’t long, however, before the Dutch exec started plotting his return to the music business. “I didn’t want to start a label or a publishing company, for me that was not special enough,” he says. “So I looked around at what was going on on the horizon of the music industry.”
What he saw was a fast-evolving digital market where independent artists struggle to get their songs heard amid all the noise — and where social media stars have the power to break an unknown track or artist worldwide, often overnight.
The solution van Kooten came up with was Ledo, a global digital distribution platform that partners artists, producers and songwriters with social media influencers to enable both parties to reach new audiences through creative collaborations. The Amsterdam-based platform launches on Tuesday (March 2).
“It doesn’t require magic to be on Spotify,” says van Kooten, noting that tens of thousands of tracks are uploaded to Spotify each day. “The magic is in getting people to listen to you.” He cites the success of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and Fleetwood Mac’s re-released “Dreams” as recent examples of songs that have become huge international hits after first going viral on social media channels.
Ledo looks to democratize that process by acting as both a digital distributor and an online marketplace for independent musicians and social media influencers to discover each other and team up. To do so, both parties set up profiles on the platform, which invites artists to upload tracks to Ledo’s Free Music Library, placing their songs in the shop window for influencers and brands to use in social media campaigns (with an artist’s approval).
Artists can also choose to either pay an influencer a fixed fee to promote a certain track or they can negotiate a split of future streaming royalties. Songs are licensed to the platform for a period of two years, giving Ledo exclusive digital distribution rights on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, as well as social media channels like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. After two years, all rights revert back to the artist.
For its part, Ledo collects and pays out artists royalties from streaming services on a monthly basis. Ledo will not earn any money directly from content creators.
At launch, Ledo will be a free-to-use platform. Starting in September, artists can either pay Ledo €5 per track per year and receive 100% of the royalties their music generates, or pay zero fees and receive 95% of the royalties, with Ledo retaining the remaining 5%.
“Artists want to enjoy more creative freedom, but also more ownership in their music career,” says Ledo co-founder and CEO Sarah Hildering, who is the co-author of the Association For Electronic Music Code of Conduct. Although the target market for Ledo is primarily independent and DIY artists from all genres, she says the platform will also appeal to established musicians and producers that are not exclusively signed to a label and want to tap social media influencers to gain exposure for a particular song. That includes artists with publishing deals that want to better exploit their master rights independently.
Hildering says Ledo is in discussions about working with a number of Grammy-winning artist ambassadors and publishing companies. The company has around 30 staff spanning customer support, tech, marketing and PR. And van Kooten is already eyeing future growth.
“We feel there’s a big gap in the market at the moment and I’m very motivated to fill it,” he says.