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Marathon Artists Labs accelerator returns with monetisation focus

Originally published at on May 16, 2017

Independent music company Marathon Artists is preparing for the second year of its Marathon Artists LABs startups accelerator, following a successful debut in 2016.

As in 2016, this year’s cohort will gather in Tileyard for one week a month, over a period of six months, meeting around 20 mentors each week.

2016’s crop of startups included Berlin tour-crowdfunding firm Stagelink; London festival-apps startup Festyvent; Tel Aviv live-lightshow app Funtoad; Stockholm blockchain startup Chainvine; New York social marketing platform Floviral; and London MCN Magnetic.

This year, the focus for the accelerator will be ‘content monetisation’, Marathon Artists chairman and co-founder Paul-Rene Albertini told Music Ally.

“If you look at the current dynamics of the music industry, there are two options. the first is streaming with its extremely encouraging growth perspectives , and hoping that the average subscription price won’t drop too much in the coming years. Then the rest is still free. So where are the options between those two models?” said Albertini.

“It’s very important to go into that gap: into those spaces left untouched and untapped. Technology is the way to get there.”

Marathon Artists co-founder and MD Jimmy Mikaoui added that whereas in 2016, the accelerator was mainly focused on practical benefits for both artists and managers, as well as the startups, the 2017 program will also bring innovations and solutions for labels, publishers and catalogue owners.

“The overall purpose of the program is to create sustainable business in the entertainment industry for the companies that join it,” said Mikaoui.

“They are more mature than your standard startup joining an accelerator: some of them already have substantial businesses outside the music industry. They come to us and our program because they know that we can help them adapt their product, or pivot their innovation.”

“We want them to end the program with a product or a service that is answering a real demand in the music industry.”

“The distinction with a traditional tech accelerator and what we’re doing is that we created this experimental lab approach to pilot businesses that can be relevant for music, in a six-month period,” added Kalam Ali, Co-Founder & Startup Advisor to Marathon Artists LABs who was a Partner & Senior Analyst at Sushi Venture Partners, the media-tech investment firm (also co-founded by Albertini) that manages the LABs.

“That’s very different to what a standard accelerator is trying to achieve: most startups will get to the point where they can raise money from VCs, but they still need support. This is the focus from day one in our program.”

Ali and Mikaoui both stressed that Marathon Artists will continue its relationships with startups from Marathon Artists LABs long after the six-month accelerator program ends. Mikaoui cited Festyvent as one example.

“With Festyvent, we always had Ticketmaster in mind for them. We managed to get them in the building for the first time in the last month of the program,” he said.

“It took another five or six meetings and contracts and NDAs, and David ended up signing the deal seven months after the end of the first cycle of the program. That’s the time it takes to go after those big companies.”

Festyvent CEO David Jacobs told Music Ally about one aspect to its work with Marathon Artists: an app for rock band Pond to support a 40-date tour across the US and Europe, providing in-app Spotify playlists and videos, as well as helping the band collect data on fans.

“We had been very much focused on festivals, although the goal all along was helping artists. We thought we needed to get to them through the festivals, but through being part of Marathon Artists LABs, we realised we might be looking at this arse about face!” he said.

“Maybe we should be looking at it from a tour point of view: that’s where the artists want to collect that data. I came out of the program with a much better understanding of the music industry, and I met a lot of interesting people. Marathon are looking to create tools that can be used by artists, and that’s a valuable thing.”

Stagelink was another startup taking part in the first Marathon Artists LABs program, shortly after graduating from another accelerator, Techstars. Its CMO Michael Schütz told Music Ally how the two programs compared.

“Marathon Artists LABs for us was much more focused on business development: getting to know new clients in a new market, mainly the UK. We learnt about a new market from people in the industry that had much more experience than we have,” said Schütz.

“Techstars was much more product-oriented: how to build the company, hire the right people, set up the organisational team structure and a lot of fundraising. We still feel very much a part of both programs: any time I’m in London, I meet with the guys at Marathon. The value didn’t end when the official accelerator was over: this is a relationship.”

Since the end of last year’s program, Stagelink has been building its business not just with musicians, but with YouTubers and other social ‘influencers’.

“It can be comedians, beauty vloggers, gamers, we even have a chessmaster! Anybody who has fans online, on social media, and wants to use Stagelink to translate that engagement to live events,” said Schütz.

“Social media stars are thinking a lot about alternative monetisation streams. They do make some money from ads on YouTube, but they need to figure out how to build a career and have other monetisation streams: branding opportunities, merchandise and live.”

He added that the interactions with artists and managers through Marathon Artists LABs helped Stagelink to understand what kind of features were most useful, not to mention what kind of data would most help them refine their campaigns.

Marathon Artists is hoping that the 2017 intake will be able to solve similar problems for and with the music industry.

“This is a real-world environment, it’s not just pen’n’paper,” said Scott de Mercado, Founder and CEO of distribution and marketing firm Audiotube, which has been a partner for both Marathon Artists LABs programs.

“They are really working with the label, the publishing company, the DSPs. We want to solve these problems for real, we don’t just want to solve them on paper.”

The second intake of Marathon Artists LABs startups will be announced shortly.

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