Making money selling songs is hard: Just ask Spotify, which has more than 60 million subscribers and no profits.
But selling stuff to people who make songs? That might be a different story.
That’s the bet Steve Martocci is making with Splice, his startup that sell digital tools and music samples to music makers; it also pays them for uploading their own sounds.
So far it looks like a decent wager. After four years, the company has gotten big enough to have distributed $5 million to people who have contributed sounds to its sample library. And it looks promising enough to have pulled down $35 million in series B funding, led by DFJ Growth
We can talk more about the business in a minute, but you don’t get into the music business for the business part alone. You do it because you want to get involved in music.
So here’s how that part works: This is “Sorry Not Sorry,” a No. 1 hit for Demi Lovato this summer.
Hear that snap sound that kicks in around the 29-second mark, and repeats throughout the song? Producer Oak Felder got that sample from Splice, as part of a monthly subscription he has with the service.
Samples play an enormous role in music, but they are often expensive, and/or legally fraught. But a Splice sample subscription costs musicians between $8 and $30 a month, and comes with no strings or royalties attached.
So that snap was a good deal for Felder, Lovato and their music label, who get the sound they want for the price of an UberX ride.
You could argue that it wasn’t a great deal for Martocci and Splice, since they are missing out on the upside from a giant hit. But Martocci figures that running the musical equivalent of a stock photo service could be a big business, without trying to own a piece of the output. And he thinks that over time he can layer in additional services to make Splice a digital hub for pros like Felder, amateurs in their garage and everyone in between.
Felder, meanwhile, says he can find samples from other online services, but says Splice works well because it has an active community of musicians swapping tips and sounds, which means that interesting stuff bubbles up there much faster than services that update their libraries a few times a year. “The benefit of using Splice is it’s community driven,” he said. “It tends to adapt to the needs of the community.”
This is Martocci’s second startup. He co-founded GroupMe, a group text messaging service, in 2010 and sold it to Skype a year later. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that GroupMe had sold to Cisco.)
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.