Thank you so much for your write up and for showing interest in my project! So here is more information about what I’ve done and how it happened. I wish I could say it was all a clever, perfectly laid out plan from start to end, but it was more a step by step development with a lot of surprises.
It all started when I moved back from Los Angeles to a small village near Göttingen in Germany. I had decided to spend more time with my family instead of grinding 14 hours in the studio, seven days a week. At that time I was 34 years old and had been in the music industry as a producer for over fourteen years. I’ve had some success, but overall I found the business quite frustrating because a lot of great songs never got released while some of my worst songs got on big record labels just because they were done with the right people. On some songs I had to make a thousand changes to make everybody happy until the song completely lost it’s soul. After doing this for years, I decided to stop compromising and instead fully dedicate myself to the music that I love. I got rid of everybody around me, including all labels, managers and publishers. The only person I kept working with was my wife Svea who I make all important decisions with and who also works as my A&R.
Working alone and without any deadlines I was now free to work on a track for as long as I wanted. Sometimes I spent months on a single song. And when it was finished I could release it to my fans immediately. I put out all my songs for free, simply because I wanted to share them with people who loved it. I would also let everybody use them in their videos, their live streams and in their web based games and apps. I even gave away the project files and stems so people could make remixes and covers.
The only problem was, that I had no clue how to make a business of it. At that point I didn’t even have my music on iTunes, Spotify etc. because I believed you couldn’t make money from sales and streams. Everybody around me said so. Boy was I wrong.
I have always loved video games. Starting in the 80s with Bubble Bobble on the Commodore 64 ranging to current games like The Witcher 3, they have always been my favourite hobby. So when I started making my very own music it came only natural that it was heavily influenced by video games. Little did I think about that the fast growing video game community on YouTube was a REALLY GOOD PLACE TO BE. So while everybody else was fighting for limited slots on music blogs or the even more limited slots on radio, I came across YouTube gaming channels with millions of subscribers that were desperately looking for music that they could use without getting copyright claims. Long story short: within little more than two years I found my own channel growing from 6.000 subscribers to over 1.5 millions with over 250 million play just on my channel and over a billion adjusted streams all over YouTube.
Even though my songs were available for free download, fans kept complaining that they couldn’t find them on iTunes. So I finally uploaded them to all stores but didn’t expect to make more than a few bucks from it. It quickly turned out that Spotify can be a money printing machine. Especially for independent artists without labels, featured artists and co-producers all taking their share, but instead a 100% controlled master and copyright.
After two years of independence, I got my old friend Alex Harrow from Milk & Honey as a manager on board because the project had gotten too big to handle for just Svea and me. And of course I started getting offers from record companies. But due to my history I had very little interest in that. Until Universal Music Sweden came along. They showed that they really understood what I was doing. Not only by what they said, but also by the deal that they offered.
Having a partner like Universal Music opens a lot of new opportunities.
I’m writing this email on a flight from San Francisco to Cologne to perform on the ESL Counter Strike finals, one of the largest E Sports events in the world. In 2016 they had over 14.000 people in the arena, over 60 million streams and over 30 million households watching on TV. Video Games have been the biggest media business for quite a while, but these days they’re finally breaking into mainstream. They are not considered as some sort of toy anymore but as full-fledged art. And being one of the very few musicians who is part of the gaming community is certainly a great situation.
Together with Universal Music we are also in the process of starting a new label called The Arcadium. The purpose of which is to identify other artists in the YouTube, gaming and electronic space that would work with our model and our long term goal being to establish the worlds leading catalog of electronic video game music. The Creative Labs division of UMG Sweden has helped us to create a digital store front for all online UGC (User Generated Content) creators to source my music for their videos. This catalog will be expanded upon by future releases from me as well as the records we sign to The Arcadium from other artists. The beta version of this site is announced and active online as of two weeks ago.
Thanks again for your interest, if you got any questions, feel free to contact me.