Andrew Kahn is with me today. Andrew is the head of Crush Ventures, the venture arm of Crush Music. Crush Music is an artist management company with clients like Miley Cyrus Trains, Sia Weezer Green Day, and many others. Prior to Crush Andrew was on the founding team of Green Fly and a senior director of BD at Live Nation. Cool.
I thought I'd start with a little of your background, like let listeners know where you're coming from.
Yeah, well I started off working for Peter Goer's sports Entertainment firm Mandalay Entertainment in a sales role I was like my first job outta college so learning to sell uh tickets in sports and I worked my way up through his company spent about five years there in Texas for a team they owned in minor league baseball. It was the best business education I think like you could get
Were so were you selling like tickets for minor league baseball? Yeah.
Yeah Season tickets suites Um like literally going out and asking somebody for $10,000 on the spot That was
for their season ticket for minor league baseball. Got it.
right. And then I had success at that and you know five years in Texas was a lot for a kid from LA moved back to LA after that Went to work at Live Nation so in a corporate strategy job at Ticketmaster And then leading our bd for how we were distributing our technology to major social platformsAnd uh you know after they say it's like an aircraft carrier I felt like I was running my own business before business school So I went back and joined co-founders of Green Fly It's two cousins helped build we didn't really know what it was but a SAS turned out to be a SAS business and it was an incredible experience for me For four years I left and um joined crush music and delete Crush Ventures
and how did you -know the crush
I met crush through somebody uh I brought in as a seed investor in Greenfly
And because it's, it
seems like such a cool job from the outside, like getting to work with the music
do venture investing. okay, another question for
you, but personal question, I'm trying to figure out
how do you describe your skills?
That's a good question Well is that why am I suited to like a job adventure
Well I'm probably not but uh you know look So my background which started in sales which is a really important skill for a founder to have. and then I think you know at Ticketmaster I touched a lot of startups we were doing small m and a And then when I worked moved in my kind of BIE and product role we were building products for startups to consume our data And then obviously going to Greenly like building a company from the ground up starting at zero revenue and finding your way and finding success and you know raising multiple rounds of funding. And I think it's kind of everybody fake it a little bit till they make it And you know if I'm being honest you know in the beginning you know you start talking to companies you start figuring outwhere your conviction lies You know with Crush we've got I think an interesting view because it crush has had success You building pop culture brands I mean Mainstay is a pop culture And I think what we look for are companies who it's not that they know Always how to build pop culture necessarily but like that they understand how to build great product And also the importance of distribution which is like what we do You know like just cuz you make a great song doesn't mean the world's gonna hear it And so you need you know great product and distribution and I think we look for that kind of formula if that makes
But actually, tell me a little bit, just start with crush music, crush management.
Like what do you actually do when you're making an artist big? Or
what do you do with artist management? What does that mean?
I'm not on the management side but I do hang out with the managers so I've gotten a good sense Um so look I think artist management A 360 view of an artist's career It's like true career management outside of being their business manager Like they're dealing with the money and being their accountant Mm-hmm. .
So it's you know everything from making the music with them to touring and ticketing to you know licensing and merchandising it is that kind of access and you know I was control is not the right word but management of these brands these are self-contained businesses Yeah It's managing their that business Like Weezer is a business Fallout boy is a business SIA is a business They're all different but they're all businesses It's like Jay-Z said Right I'm not a business man I'm a business man
and I think you told
Hollywood, there's, agents
and there's managers, and in music,
the managers do even more of the business management.
Yeah I think and this is this is my layperson understanding but agents in music are focused on generally unless it's like you know a generational talent like a Miley Cyrus who is a performing talent an actress and everything I generally the agent is you know responsible for touring and booking tours as opposed to a manager who looks across the whole career
So kind of a bigger role in, in
Yeah and I think you know I I don't know if that's unique to crush or not but it's really full service I mean it's every part of an artist's business
more question on that, does Crush have a particular
compared to other artist management firms?
I think they have a reputation I think it's good I think Crush is built you know, it's a 40 person company Wow. That you know underpins some of the most iconic pop and rock wow talent of the last you know 20 to 30 years So tell me more about Crush Ventures though, and what is, you know, thesis areas, What are you looking at?
The idea behind Crush Ventures started like 20 years ago with the way Crush Management was formed Crush Management was half technology company company called Big Champagne It's not an alcohol brand started around the time of Napster and it was a way to measure illegal downloads and consumption of music What was really happening beyond radio
plays.So it was half tech half talent management I think the founders saw an opportunity with all this disruption to build a new kind of talent management firm and along the way as they you know discovered Fallout Boy and Panic at the Disco they've been investing at kind of the intersection of the artist's cache their interests Kind of everybody's money balance sheet money personal money in you know call like pop culture and and consumer brands and also tools and technology that, you know the firm wished
we raised our first fund and started deploying it at the beginning of 2019 and the idea is you know to continue to invest it at that intersection of like the artists their cachet their interest but really like I think the focus if I was gonna say is companies building the future of how we're gonna find fans engage fans and monetize fans but the key buckets I'd say are you know innovative media So new ways for people to interact and consume content IP exploitation which sounds kind of brutal and not sexy but like new ways for us to monetize the existing assets the assets that our artists are creating Tooling you know creator tools to manage communitiesSo you know MarTech ad tech and then kinda the last bucket is we will do artist driven deals where Artist has a lot of conviction as somebody who lives in pop culture makes pop culture has a lot of conviction in a company and you know will invest alongside them.
I have questions on all of those areas.
IP exploitation, which as you said sounds a little funny. I
a while ago it was a bad thing.
Like you were a sell out. Right? And now I think everyone wants to have brand deals.
I think I just need to call it something else Cause it's what ,you know it's merchandising and licensing right It's you know finding new ways to merchandise these assets finding new places for them to exist and new ways for people to consume them and own them you know we're deep in the web three game and NFTs were a really interesting idea about a way to take an existing asset and bring fans in closer and make more money from it
you have thoughts on like how that's going, how it might play out.
Well yes well it certainly feels kind of dead right now Yeah. Um but I I do think there you know where we're betting now we're much more interested in solutions using blockchain as a core technology to solve real business problems Mm-hmm. ,
it it isn't about you know necessarily like buy an NFT as a collectible or a point of access because at some point there'll be resale value It's technology of a smart contract because it's a replacement for whatever we're doing today
about just in music?
Like, I feel like, okay, here's a
word that interpolating is
that the word? Where
all these tracks in other tracks all the time? Like, I feel like
all this IP is showing up everywhere.
Yeah actually that's a really great question So that is a role maybe for tokenization of of assets You know the tricky thing is you need to have such an infrastructure built out to like track that Mm-hmm like think about it like I license A track from one artist I download it, it's in my system I upload it to wherever I upload it as a finished good where's the blockchain playing a role in there It's not mm-hmm like, it's not that it shouldn't but you really have to reinvent the whole system to be on chain And I you know I'm sure that will take a long time if it happens but to your point I do think that we are invested in one very interesting company exciting founder that we think is building kind of the future of interoperability of songs It's an ai stem separation technology called Audio Shake that uh it's the best at it Like actually the best at Remixing a song So breaking it into its component parts problem that it's solving that's solved for us off the bat was you know we sell a lot of songs into TV and movies You sell a song into TV and movies you need to provide the stems So vocals bass guitar you know all the pieces of that song to I don't know to Netflix or whatever but for an old song they might not even be able to find the master recording let alone like the stems So this technology solves that
so it breaks it apart into its component parts which as a SAS business is great for us But the bigger play is those pieces that it's breaking apart can also exist in other people's creations like you said remixing and Remixing of music is a big industry
and it feels like it's
It is booming but It's
in everybody's So I mean You know, hip hop is you know fundamentally like at the core of a lot of the music are you know existing songs that were made you know years ago mm-hmm. . there's a rabbit hole here of like you know do you want anybody doing that and where do you want them doing that And should they be able to commercialize That's a kind of whole other conversation but in order to even kind of do it at some kind of scale You gotta have the STEM separation technology
about the tracking of the ip? Not necessarily on a
how is that working with what you get from a
it's not good The sense I get from talking to people who live and breathe this is you know it's a lot of entrenched Stakeholders and there's a lot of data that probably isn't being reported or paid out correctly and every few years you kind of have to reconcile that which is like bit of a manual process that involves lawyers
and maybe blockchain solves
but maybe any technology could solve that if you know they wanted it to be solved But it sounds like a challenge and an opportunity for
Yeah I think there is I just think you have to get so many people rowing the same direction So you see a lot of like web three music solutions Who are starting from scratch just in the Web three com music community like I'm a new artist I come in there and I am only using things that have built on chain in you know unchain consuming my music through on chain DSPs and I'm getting paid my royalties through on chain royalty payouts and like okay and maybe the world moves on chain over time but like the big music the music that you wanna listen to is not there and probably you know just won't get there easily
Cause you have rights holders Right This is like a rights holder's business
Right. And the rights holder is not the artist. Is it the Publisher
Yeah I mean I can't even tell you Yeah It's not I it's not straightforward It's not transparent And I think there are a lot of people that play and make money in the ambiguity
So tell me Yeah. More about what you are focused on.
engagement is a big
thing for you,
Yeah I mean know we are always on the search for well you know two sides of that right We're looking for tools that we can use to manage our existing fan communities better So you know you take somebody like Sia or Lord or you know God forbid Miley Cyrus who has you know 180 million followers on social media but even like a Lord who might have a million emails that we manage mm-hmm.
and we're looking for tools for our team you know to be able to track monitor and drive better engagement right Market these people more effectively and keep them close and you know get them excited about new content that's coming out So that's on one side we are looking for tools On the other side we're looking for the next Consumer who hasn't heard Green Day's music right Like there's a whole generation of people that didn't grow up listening to Green Day and we want them to know about Green Day So who's building that service and trying to find those companies right
I think I told you I was gonna ask
you about music discovery because I am fascinated
by how I find new music. do
you see trends in how people discover
Green Day as
a great example?
Like is it still from friends? Is it from the AI
nowadays? Is it from influencers? Is it from something totally
I mean look at Kate Bush running up the hill That hill you know like Netflix right Metallica had the same kind of boon coming out of Stranger Things with Master Puppets Uh it can happen anywhere I don't you know I don't know how or where it happens but we'd like somebody to tell us So here would be my premise.
Now I know nothing about this.
TikTok, I feel like I discover
music from its first five seconds or three seconds
And so I feel like all of a sudden I've become much more biased to
how songs begin. I mean look Spotify invented the playlist but you know playlists have kind of been money balled Like you know that's um
Yeah, sort of
Yeah Yeah It's a there's like you know I wouldn't call it pay to play but there's a lot of gaming going on just like radio was right?
So you know where does like a true organic discovery start for the next generation of fans You know we're we're excited about video games We're excited about MMO opportunities where lots of people are gathering in you know sandbox style environments we're looking for the next TikTok We saw a big boost recently I think it was Unstoppable by sia which is like trending globally I think it started in a TikTok videoand how
does that play into fan engagement?
artists looking for in terms
of engagement? Like what?
do? they want feedback on things? Other
than like, do they want me to go
buy their merch? Do they want me to tell them, you know, in like the big Travis Scott type things, they want me to say what song to play next?
I can't speak firsthand
but I ha I was having a conversation with a a colleague the other day who was a professional musician for a long and really successful he was like Look I just wanted to play in front of bigger and bigger
audiences. Mm-hmm. ,
like I think they want everybody consuming their content our artists wanna put out great original content that people love so they can play in front of bigger audiences And so I think they're really focused on making incredible music Cause that is a defensible that's what's really defensible You put out a great song everything else
And I just think they wanna like I think they want people to love their art their
craft. not think they're artists they're not machines right Like it's not like Oh I put out a song and then beep beep beep This much merch is sold And there are plenty of people around them thinking about that I think that's how the labels probably think but like, they just want to be massive
you know and we're looking for startups that can make a
massive what about just
look at trends in other countries and how people.
music differently, engaging with fans
Is there anything interesting?
I mean you know in kind of the broader media category I think the popular notion is to look at Asia and say Well this is happening in China It must come to the United States, but I just don't know if that's true Like, I don't think we've really seen that happen so you know the big one would be like social shopping And of course we care about merchandising We sell tons of artists merch We own a merch company so you know we're always thinking about the next way somebody's going to buy a ticket you know buy a a concert t-shirt or buy you know an autograph guitar for I don't know a million dollars And I don't know if like live stream social shopping's gonna happen here You know I think we're just kind of using a like an internal gut check You know like kind of run it through like is this something that crush would get excited about do we think this is a way that we would you know something we would put our artist businesses through or sell their merch through as kind of the the filter
I wanna keep going on this fact that you own like a
And I had Marcy Ventures on, Charlie Hannah was really making this
point that like
they made their billions
from their music.
right Like Jay-Z and Rihanna yeah I mean they made products right Like that's where the billions are made is when you become
native. and do your artists think about making their own tequila brands in sexy underwear.
Yeah we do you know none are like ascendant like Fenty
But we're certainly looking for those opportunities with our talent It's gotta be native and authentic to the talent we're invested in you know a Mecal brand that Leaky Lee is a co-founder of We're invested
I don't know who leaky Lee
Swedish Pop Star It's okay You you know her music We should play it in the Silent Disco after uh Green Day has a coffee company yeah we're looking for those kinds but yes I mean artists also I think make a lot of money from making their music and selling their merch and selling tickets Yeah But yeah, to get into that kind of billionaire category It's beyond the t-shirts and auction items
Are there other categories? I
keep throwing categories at you, but like, lemme throw one more at you, which
I feel like in video games
and in video,
just more broadly, there's a lot of
there's a lot of,
you play a video game or like a lot of videos on YouTube. Are videos of people watching videos,
Is there something similar in music
I think so I do think the kind of future of streaming will be an MMO experience It won't be a Spotify like the next great big streaming company is gonna look a lot different from Spotify and Apple
from so like we'll be listening to it together.
I think so
I do too. I mean you know like think about Roblox 60 million people go on there every day with their friends ,That's like a place they hang
I have gotten
on all these random questions crush, venture, just like, do you lead rounds? Do you participate? Uh Do you wanna gimme another
example of like a sort of great investment of yours?
So we we've led but we're we're not really set up to lead We generally follow
Yeah Half a million.
Hey listen my argument is like we're we are the partner you want on your side right Like early we are allocation sensitive We want to be in early but you know we're a go to market advantage Like we're not gonna help you build your product necessarily but we can be your distribution we are degree removed from most doors that you want to open Whether that's a A retailer a major brand a video game company or I mean you name it like because of the level that crush operates at on the music side we can open doors and then of course we can bring the talent to bear and we also have functional experts people who like live and breathe managing you know the brand social media content creation distribution of pop culture brands ourselves
pop. Do you think there's a difference in just the culture of tech and startups and
the culture of music? Do
probably not at crush so much I think Everybody's an angel investor they're
all hustlers I think everybody understands same as tech founders or any founder You've gotta build something people love and you need to make sure that people who would love and know about it and that's what we do every day music is it's a hustler's business Like these are people who are you know they're running companies
you know Weezer's a company That's it They don't I shouldn't say that They operate that way but they are they're a
significant business. I like this
notion. I like the notion that the music
business is full of people hustling in the same way startups are full of people
hustling like that.
I'll give you another
one. I feel like pop music
iterates a lot.
It changes really quickly. In the same way
we always are telling our startups they need to iterate on their product.
I think you know like similar to startups Well I'll answer this in a different way which is like we were having a conversation today about you know based on an Atlantic article but like the Moneyball for everything I dunno if you just read this article it's very interesting but it's basically saying how the use of data to make ourselves more effective at our jobs actually undoes a lot of the artistry and beauty and you know uniqueness that makes music or entertainment or pop culture spectacular.
Mm-hmm. . And you know I think that you know for us like you don't really know what's gonna be a hit You can't really predict what's gonna be a hit but it can't sound like the same thing that was before it And so I do think you're right in that things move quickly Cuz like real artists innovate It doesn't sound like something you've heard Maybe it sounds similar to something you've heard but it sounds different It's gonna sound different from what you heard before cuz it's a little bit of magic Mm-hmm. ,
,like, it's not an algorithm writing that
Um and I I think that you know crush music manages artists they're not AI driven they're not data informed content makers
Yeah. No, I, I didn't read
the article. But I, I have heard like you can kind of SEO TikTok in
if you wanna make a song that people are gonna use
You need it to have like keywords almost.
key Well I think I mean there's a lot of strategies to approach TikTok If you want a song try to make a song go viral right Like it's you seed it to people with big audiences Then you you know you pay to play
Oh my gosh. I
could ask about generative ai,
Oh I mean Very into Dolly and
you know we're we're exploring different things I think like it would be kind of fun collab type stuff where you might riff on you know existing music But I wouldn't expect generative AI to produce something like you that's going to move the market in a new direction It can't do that It's working up past information It's not It's not predictive It doesn't know what the next great hit's gonna sound or should sound like Right we're inter probably but like you know you see a successful Whatever It doesn't matter what the product is in what category but you see you know something has a modicum of success and there are five things that look exactly like it that you get pitched you know over the next couple months but that first one was know they were the innovators they had the original idea and I don't think AI can do that I don't think they can know what the next big thing in pop culture is going to be
next That's a good quote.
I'm not sure. I'm not sure,
Yeah, I don't know I'm probably like I said I'm probably wrong
um Did you go to Crossroads?
I went to Brentwood
You went To Brentwood.
Um, Go Eagles Eagles spell out
Spell out That's what we did at
Got it. Obviously pe. Um And you played baseball then at Brentwood?
Did you go use brand? Oh, Brande. Got it.
What did your
when you were in high school?
when you were born Uh my dad was a dentist Um he had a couple practices and my mom became a teacher
She was always The best mom and super involved in every aspect of our education but decided that she was gonna be an elementary school teacher So I went back to school and uh got her certification and started teaching in the inner city
I'm always trying to figure out like, what sort of person are you?
Like Who are you?
I've always shitty
No No, but I mean, so the
question I ask is how do your friends
How would my friends describe me I think my friends really like me uh because I'm you know I'm fun um down to do fun things How would they describe
sort of fun things?
I just Let me let me I'm trying to think of like adjectives that my friends would use to describe me
. Fun down to do fun things. That's
No my no How would my friends describe me as lo loyal um caring uh empathetic better question probably like how would my wife describe me She'd probably say all those same things And then like but
Mm-hmm I think a
lot of the athletes are driven in
especially in sales it's a good trait for somebody who's selling product
That's what VC's doing
of the time here.
We're selling a lot of product. How about
You're really into
Honestly I listen to RFI like all day long with my son So great Canadian kids artist what am I listening to as an adult right now Been into Billy Strings
Dunno it's bluegrass
bluegrass? Yeah. I think it's bluegrass
Yeah. I don't know like in the mornings with coffee
anything else that I feel like I need to cover or you feel like I need to cover?
you know obviously this is like a music centric conversation It's not the only place we
That's a good point. I asked a lot about.
Yeah I mean our last you know last few investments were a beauty brand which we partner one of our artists on in a significant way We did invest in a blockchain base set of artist tools from you know pre save campaigns to minting and mastering in music on chain So we are investing in that kind of infrastructure where we think the tech could ultimately be you know underpin a better kind of accounting and go to market for artists technically Well it sounds like an awesome job. Thanks for coming on the podcast, telling me all
about it. Hopefully we get to co-invest some in la
Love to really love what you guys do here 10 1 10 Really appreciate you.
Thanks. And thanks so much for coming on the show.