Music mogul Steve Stoute just launched United Masters, a music label pushing indie artists across many monetization streams. Backed by Alphabet, Andressen Horowitz and more to the tune of $70 million, United Masters will split the income gained from Spotify, YouTube and other new platforms. The kicker? The artists will keep their masters, which is the artistic equivalent of intellectual property.
I'd argue that your IP is the most valuable thing you've got. Don't sweat getting funding and don't worry if a corporation doesn't get your idea. You can be broke, you can be unknown and you can be desperate, but if you own the rights to your stuff and act on it, you can open more doors yourself than any fool with a major publishing deal.
You can do whatever
Artist and teacher Jessica Abel self-published the inspiring Growing Gills: How to find creative focus when you're drowning in real life. In it, she talks about the origins of creative procrastination. I love her take on taking action, which I share in my new book The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur as well as in past columns.
The great part is that Abel is creating based on her market. It launched in digital and print earlier this year, then she made the digital version free (only today!) to support the new book group she's creating and, later, will be doing live readings through social media. She is in the drivers' seat.
When you work with a bigger corporation, you aren't just dealing with red tape slowing you down. You also have to negotiate, if not convince others that your vision for your product or service is correct - otherwise, they, as owners of the IP, have the right to shut down your independence (a perfect example is this explicit clip from the Mark Wahlberg cult classic Boogie Nights). As I talk about in The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, I was a long-time author pushed into self-publishing because the traditional publishing industry didn't believe in my idea - and that very book became a perennial best-seller.
Your IP, your choice.
You can end it whenever
Owning your rights gives you the freedom to pursue your vision, but equally important is allowing you to quit. To paraphrase Side Hustle author Chris Guillebeau, the problem with working for someone else is that they can pull the plug at any time. It also means they can force you to keep going when you know the journey is done.
Think about the classic band that ends its legacy with some awful album: "We had one more in our contract." Or the actor who wraps up an amazing movie series by phoning it the finale: "I legally wanted to follow through with the role." Choosing not to own your IP, your masters or your business means answering to someone or something that does not have your best interest in mind.
Truth be told, my cofounders and I began discussing winding down our successful startup, Cuddlr, and then opened up the doors to acquisition talks. Why? We wanted to focus on something else and, with our cultural impact, we realized we achieved our main intention. We had hundreds of thousands of users - and we were bootstrapping. Who did we talk to when we decided to wrap it up? Ourselves. Who did we have to consult when we decided to sell? No one. Our IP, our decision, and suddenly not having VC funding became our biggest asset.
I'm not sure if Stoute's United Masters will fulfill the gap between fiercely independent and corporate backing, but I like that he recognized one simple thing: We creators have the power. We always have.
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