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Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
Music tech startup Trac, which helps independent artists distribute songs, merchandise and NFTs, has raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding led by Nigerian investment firm Zrosk.
Launched in 2020 by founder Cardin Campbell, a former marketing tech executive at Peloton and Expedia, Trac pitches itself as a one-stop shop for musicians to monetize and manage their careers. The Santa Monica-based company allows artists to upload songs and get them distributed on major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. It also lets artists design and sell merchandise like shirts, hats and hoodies through websites that the platform builds for them.
While Trac offers its music distribution services for free, it offers premium features like quicker payouts of streaming revenues through subscriptions starting at $60 annually, according to its website. The company also collects a 3% transaction fee on earnings paid out to artists. Roughly 200,000 artists have used the platform to date, a Trac spokesperson said.

Trac founder and CEO Cardin Campbell.

Courtesy of Trac

Campbell told dot.LA that he envisions Trac becoming something like an Amazon Web Services for artists—a single platform for both emerging musicians and superstars to run their operations. Currently, most of Trac’s customers are up-and-comers who don’t have a record label behind them—and aren’t in a rush for one either, according to Campbell.

“[Trac’s artists] want to remain independent,” Campbell said. “So our product is literally helping them with that and making sure that they can retain all the rights that they possibly can, and monetize their name and likeness and the music with their fans really easily.”

Joining Lagos-based Zrosk in the pre-seed round were AppWorks, InfinityVC, Calm Company Fund and Dapper Labs, as well as angel investors like Roham Gharegozlou and Siqi Chen.

Trac founder and CEO Cardin Campbell.
Courtesy of Trac
Campbell told dot.LA that he envisions Trac becoming something like an Amazon Web Services for artists—a single platform for both emerging musicians and superstars to run their operations. Currently, most of Trac’s customers are up-and-comers who don’t have a record label behind them—and aren’t in a rush for one either, according to Campbell.
“[Trac’s artists] want to remain independent,” Campbell said. “So our product is literally helping them with that and making sure that they can retain all the rights that they possibly can, and monetize their name and likeness and the music with their fans really easily.”
Joining Lagos-based Zrosk in the pre-seed round were AppWorks, InfinityVC, Calm Company Fund and Dapper Labs, as well as angel investors like Roham Gharegozlou and Siqi Chen.
Trac—which currently has 45 employees but less than 10 full-timers—plans to use the funds to grow its engineering and operations teams. Like seemingly everyone else in the music industry these days, the startup plans to enter the world of crypto in the coming weeks and begin minting non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, for its artists, Campbell said. Trac also wants to create decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) for artists, who could then sell their own crypto tokens to raise capital and give fans a share of their future revenues.

“You’re literally investing in that artist’s future and helping to get them to that next level,” Campbell said of Trac’s DAO designs. “It’s flipping the industry on its head.”
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA’s Daily Bruin.
YouTube and TikTok are going head-to-head on new ways to pay their content creators.
YouTube Shorts will now incorporate an expanded array of ads on its short-form video feed, Business Insider reported Tuesday, which could potentially lead to Shorts creators receiving a cut of ad revenues. Meanwhile, TechCrunch reported yesterday that TikTok is beta-testing LIVE Subscription, a new model which allows fans to directly compensate creators.
YouTube Shorts, which previously showed limited ads from select advertisers, will now expand to ads purchased through YouTube’s main video platform. While creators won’t immediately benefit from the change, YouTube plans on analyzing the Shorts ads’ performance to determine how it will pay creators, BI reported.
Currently, YouTube Shorts’ $100 million creator fund only pays out top performers and is set to end later this year. While creators on YouTube’s main platform receive a 55% cut of ad revenues, BI reported that Shorts creators have thus far found monetization difficult.
“The Shorts Creator fund isn’t anywhere near large enough to incentivize larger creators to stick around or generate unique content for the platform,” Shorts creator Nicholas Crown told the publication. “Without ad rev sharing, creators generating millions of impressions on Shorts often make pennies from the occasional pre-roll ad that runs through AdSense on a Short.”
TikTok’s LIVE Subscriptions, on the other hand, will give creators on the video-sharing platform a chance to earn direct payments from fans, while giving paying subscribers access to exclusive chats, emotes and badges. The feature will launch with select creators on Thursday, TechCrunch reported; while pricing has not yet been announced, LIVE’s is believed to be “comparable” to livestreaming platform Twitch’s $4.99 monthly subscriptions. Instagram is currently testing a similar creator subscription model.
With TikTok and YouTube stars gaining popularity, both companies are seeking to offer new monetization models that would keep those creators on their platform. Social media influencers, for their part, have looked to spread their content across multiple platforms—as evidenced by Snap poaching TikTok stars for its own original content. In turn, both Culver City-based TikTok (which is owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance) and Santa Monica-based Snap have introduced new ad revenue initiatives for creators this year.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA’s Daily Bruin.
Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Samson is also a proud member of the Transgender Journalists Association. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
In the wake of a historic, successful unionization drive at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software, Activision employees in Los Angeles are now ramping up pressure on the video game developer—sending a lengthy memo to management on Tuesday laying out demands on workplace issues ranging from the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases to trans workers’ rights.
The four-page letter, obtained by dot.LA, was sent by ABetterABK, a coalition of Activision Blizzard workers that began mobilizing last year amid the high-profile workplace misconduct controversies that have arisen at the Santa Monica-based company. ABetterABK sent the memo one day after employees at Activision’s Wisconsin-based Raven Software studio voted in favor of certifying their Game Workers Alliance union—the first labor union at a major video game publisher in the U.S.
Following that labor victory, ABetterABK, which is not a union, has now taken the initiative and laid out a series of demands to Activision via a newly formed Worker Committee Against Sex & Gender Discrimination. Those demands include ending the practice of mandatory arbitration for discrimination and sexual harassment cases at Activision—which would let accusers take their alleged abusers, as well as the company itself, to court—and requiring that an outside, independent third-party investigate all such claims.
The memo also requests 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents, during which they would receive 100% of their normal compensation and cannot lose their position. It also notes Activision’s “history of discrimination towards employees who lactate,” and calls for workplace practices and facilities that protect and support breastfeeding parents, such as private feeding rooms and breastmilk storage equipment.
There is also a section addressing Activision’s treatment of transgender employees. The memo demands support for trans workers “pre, during and post-transition,” as well as the creation of a “trans network” supporting trans employees at Activision and an “advisory committee of support for [human resources], recruiting and employees at large” regarding trans issues in the workplace.
ABetterABK is also demanding that Activision institute stricter enforcement of its anti-harassment policy for gamers and content creators, who would be subject to bans for violating the policy.
“We believe it is imperative that workers have a voice in Activision Blizzard’s anti-discrimination policies—without that, the company’s culture of harassment and abuse will continue to go unchecked,” ABetterABK member Emily Knief, who works as a senior motion graphic designer at Activision, said in a statement. “We hope to have a productive conversation with leadership where they acknowledge these growing concerns and enact the demands brought forth by the committee.”
Sources told dot.LA that ABetterABK sent its letter Tuesday to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, chief people officer Julie Hodges and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Kristen Hines, who recently joined the company in April.
“We appreciate that these employees want to join with us to further build a better Activision Blizzard and continue the progress we have already made,” an Activision spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. “We have, for example, already upgraded our lactation facilities, waived arbitration, hired new DEI and EEO leaders, and collaborated with employees to make our policies and processes more Trans inclusive, just to name a few issues the letter raises. We thank these employees, and will continue to work with all of our employees on our journey to be a better Company.”
Heightened tensions between management and employees at Activision come as the game developer looks to finalize its $69 billion sale to Microsoft. While the Seattle tech giant has said that it won’t stand in the way of union efforts at Activision, the gaming company refused to voluntarily recognize the Raven Software union, which set the table for Monday’s vote.
“We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union,” Activision spokesperson Talia Ron told dot.LA on Monday, in the wake of the Game Workers Alliance’s successful union certification vote. “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”
Labor organizers working with the Raven employees told dot.LA earlier this year that they hope to expand unionization efforts across the entire company—though there’s no clear indication yet that organizers at ABetterABK or other Activision worker groups are seeking to unionize.
Read the ABetterABK letter to Activision management in its entirety below:
Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Samson is also a proud member of the Transgender Journalists Association. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
Despite all the turmoil facing the company, Netflix continues to crank out video games.
On Tuesday, the streaming giant launched three new mobile titles and announced a fourth new game that will be released on May 31—taking Netflix’s total catalog to 22 titles since it expanded into gaming late last year.
The new games include “Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt,” which is Netflix’s first game from Germany. Developed by HandyGames, it lets players build medieval cities and try to keep their kingdom’s citizens happy. Netflix also launched its first game from Spain, 11 Bit Studios’ “Moonlighter,” which involves managing a shop by day and slaying monsters by night. Another new title, “Dragon Up” by Canadian developer East Side Games, has players hatch and collect rare dragons and is available in 30 languages, according to Netflix.
The forthcoming title is “Exploding Kittens – The Game,” which is based on the popular card game created in Los Angeles and will also be the basis for a Netflix TV series released in 2023.
Netflix’s venture into gaming comes as the company grapples with a startling decline in subscribers. The streaming service lost 200,000 paying customers from January through March—the company’s first quarterly subscriber loss in more than a decade—and expects to lose 2 million more in the current quarter. That dire outlook has cratered the company’s stock price by nearly 70% this year, prompting the firm to lay off staffers and curtail its spending.
The poor financial results have Netflix trying new initiatives, from adding commercials to cracking down on password sharing. But unlike those planned changes, Netflix’s foray into gaming was well underway before its disastrous first-quarter earnings. The company bought Glendale-based gaming studio Night School in September—the first of three gaming acquisitions within six months—and launched its first mobile game in November.
“It’s a top-level priority for us, and we’re very focused on it,” Netflix COO and chief product officer Gregory Peters said of gaming during the company’s April earnings call. “We’re aiming to have titles that land, that create conversation and enthusiasm and buzz, that drive more people to sign up for the service and then obviously in retention as well.”
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA’s Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
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