New Yorkshire: The Leeds music platform with Silicon Valley ambitions

Alistair Hardaker's picture
by Alistair Hardaker
Uppbeat

Whether a YouTube video can make ad revenue, or not, is in the hands of a single algorithm. 

YouTube’s ‘Content ID’ tool scans a user’s upload, and on recognising copyrighted music or video can reroute ad revenue to the rights holder or,  in the worst cases, take the content down for good. 

The process is no longer a problem just for YouTuber stars. Quick thinking small businesses and event organisers have responded to lockdown with an online pivot, and with it the same gamble on an algorithm which acts first and explains later. 

"There are so many freelancers, yoga teachers, fitness instructors and micro-organisation which now have YouTube channels” explains Lewis Foster, co-founder of Leeds-based Music Vine and its newly launched platform Uppbeat. 

The platform allows content creators to download music for free, or as part of a subscription, for use in video productions. 

As the licence holder, Uppbeat waives these copyright claims, which are "a big headache" for creators. 

Launched last Monday, Foster told Prolific North that the ‘freemium’ platform has already received 2,000 sign-ups, and is seeing “significant”' traffic to its website via the link Uppbeat requires creators add to their video description. 

Work for the world's biggest brands 

Born in 2015, Uppbeat’s parent company Music Vine has since built a reputation across the globe, and boasts work with the world’s biggest brands, including Google, Amazon, Tesla and Adidas.

Now a large selection of its music catalogue is being offered to creators via the Uppbeat platform, with the promise of a worry-free upload. The end-game is to be the "ubiquitous [music] resource for YouTube”.

The link required in a video’s description allows the firm to waive any copyright claims, and is a "key part of the marketing strategy", he said. 

Traffic to Uppbeat from these links suggests creators have already downloaded Uppbeat’s music for use in their videos. 

Another key marketing decision is which - and how many - tracks are offered to free users, and which are worthy of the £6.99 monthly subscription. 

The company has taken the view that more specific tracks such as Christmas-themed songs, are more likely to end up behind a paywall. 

Foster had originally taken on the paywall decisions himself.

 "For the first 600 tracks, I personally went through and selected which ones were free and premium. Obviously, that's just not practical!" he said. The rest of the team now helps with those decisions. 

Foster said Music Vine receives music from up to 200 artists a week. Uppbeat has already been contacted by musicians keen to get their tracks listed on its new venture. 
 

Lewis Foster
Lewis Foster

Brought up in Lincolnshire, Foster moved to Leeds to study at Leeds College of Music, where he met co-founder Matt Russell, and where a number of employees studied at one time. 

At the start of his career while working at a video production company, Foster had listed some of his admittedly “cheesy” tracks onto a stock music site which “sold like hotcakes”. 

The surprise success inspired Foster to approach co-founder Russell to create an offering of their own. 

The founders are now hoping for similar international success with Uppbeat, with a bias toward the US market, where Foster said the majority of visitors are based, followed closely by the Japanese creator market. 

A Leeds firm at heart

While the founder is new to the Leeds tech scene, he said as the team grows and directors have more time, “we'll be keen to get more involved." 

And despite the potential boom in international growth, Foster said he likes the idea of staying local to Yorkshire. 

"The whole team love it in Leeds, and there isn't enough of a need for us to relocate", particularly having transitioned to remote work during lockdown. 

Uppbeat’s success will rely on the tech, and Foster said the company is ready to expand its development team as that happens. 

While there is still "a lot of work ahead of us", Foster said an acquisition is one end-goal but there was no rush to sell. 

"We genuinely are enjoying building the company so much. We have so many ideas of how we can build something exciting.”

While Music Vine is still "paying the bills" for now, Uppbeat is a much bigger business opportunity, he said, with potential to be disruptive and grow quickly.  

"If we can do this without receiving a really big investment we'll be doing that because we like to call the shots,” he said. 

Rather than us seeking a large equity investment, Foster said it plans to work with influential YouTubers and share the referral profits. 

"We're in it to build a very effective business, but we'd rather it not become purely a money making machine", he said. 

“The quicker we can get there, the better things will be for us in a couple of years' time."

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