Perth's 'OnlyFans for artists' MyPremo empowers musicians, attracts investment from Ice Cube

Perth's 'OnlyFans for artists' MyPremo empowers musicians, attracts investment from Ice Cube

Ice Cube (left) and MyPremo co-founder Cody McDowell (right).

“Maintain your ownership, maintain your creative freedom. You've already built the following, now let’s monetise what you’ve built,” says MyPremo co-founder Cody McDowell.

With an audience of 75 million and the backing of rap royalty Ice Cube, Perth-based tech startup MyPremo is hitting back against the trend of declining royalties for artists on the world's leading streaming services, promising an 80 per cent cut for musicians on its own direct-to-consumer platform.

Before co-founding MyPremo with James Gillies and Brent Thompson, Cody McDowell couldn't believe the paltry sums his musician friends were receiving despite having hundreds of thousands of streams on social media, earning so little that "going out for a simple pint of beer and some chips was a bit of a stretch".

Entrepreneurship was all he knew, having dropped out of school to start a construction company with his dad, and this problem of low compensation for artists played on his mind for several years.

When the family business had reached such a scale that he could step away from day-to-day management to focus on other ideas, he happened to meet Gillies and they got to work on building a simple platform in 2020.

"It's important to note that record labels don't sign artists based on talent anymore like they used to back in the day – they sign them based on the attention or the following that they have already built on social media such as Instagram or TikTok, or whatever it is," McDowell explains.

"It's a system that is really built so you'd have to go viral or for you to be constantly putting out content to even stay relevant to boost that algorithm to even maybe become successful on the platform."

The founders didn't know exactly how the platform would end up, but they knew that empowering artists was the goal. As they started during COVID-19, the first iteration was a livestreaming solution as musicians were looking for at-home concert platforms.

In speaking to musicians, what they soon realised is every artist has their core base of superfans who will support them no matter what, yet many platforms fail to offer a musician viable ways to monetise and better cater to their most diehard followers.

What MyPremo has created is an easy-to-use tool for creators of all genres to sell digital content direct to the consumer, as an additional tool that can complement the audiences grown via other channels.

"Artists are already building these audiences to even get signed to a label, and for us now it’s more about educating the artist," he says.

"Why go sign to a label for you to be signed into a deal that is essential a debt deal? You’ve got to pay back a whole bunch of money; you don't own your masters.

"Maintain all of that. Maintain your ownership, maintain your creative freedom. You've already built the following, now let’s monetise what you’ve built."

What also became apparent early on is that to be successful MyPremo would need to be global, as the population of content creators in Australia just isn't large enough.

McDowell says the founders made a point of spending a large chunk of the year in Los Angeles each year to immerse themselves in their target audience.

"A big part of it was to be over there for me to understand what creators need in terms of a platform – literally living and breathing the life of a musician without being a musician, essentially," McDowell says.

"I was going from studio to studio, house studio to house studio, just basically getting MyPremo into the hands of musicians.

"That organic growth that I was able to generate in the early days just through hustling and door knocking has continued to grow in terms of our organic referral acquisition now."

Catching Ice Cube's attention

Now MyPremo is growing from an altogether different base though, and that's largely due to a significant backer in the form of rapper Ice Cube, of NWA fame. McDowell was put in touch with the rapper by someone who eavesdropped on a conversation about the platform in a studio.

"He said he thought Cube might like this," McDowell explains.

"A couple months went by, we didn't hear anything. And then we got a call that Cube wanted to meet us – he was going to be in Vegas at the time thinking that we were still in Los Angeles. He asked us to come out to Vegas and meet him there.

When they met in late 2022, the MyPremo founders started by asking the rapper one simple question: "If you had a really cool video at this time that you didn't want to just put out onto YouTube or anything like that, and you just wanted to sell it to your fans, where would you sell it?"

McDowell says that got the American artist thinking about the gap in the market and how to address it.

"Basically, over the next six months Cube and I built a personal relationship where we were back and forth probably on the daily for a big chunk of that, spitballing different ideas about the business," the Australian founder says.

"He was making me more and more aware of how he music industry is; the big shift that he's seeing going direct to consumer being the solution that's going to happen.

"It took us about six months and then he finally decided to put his name behind it and back us."

Early on in those discussions, Ice Cube connected McDowell with Scott Keeney, also known as DJ Skee, the founder of LA-based DASH Radio.

It didn't take long before McDowell and MyPremo director and co-founder Brent Thompson, who had previously founded social e-commerce platform LITT, acquired DASH to leverage its platform of 20 million people, renaming it to LITT Live. 

"We've got a lot of labels and artists coming to us directly to try to get radio airplay, so for us it was a strategic move to acquire that radio station, and obviously giving us direct access to talent across the United States for MyPremo," he says.

It was around three months after this acquisition that the beta version of MyPremo was launched in February 2023, but when Ice Cube came on board the growth was exponential.

"We didn’t have a big period of time where it skyrocketed until Cube publicly started using the platform himself – that’s where we saw a big uptick from from a few million to that 75 million mark," he says.

"Ice Cube has been an invaluable director at MyPremo - his 30 years in the business has been integral for product development. His advice ensures the platform services an artist’s needs, no matter if they are just beginning, or one of the world’s biggest recording artists.

"An artist will receive 80 per cent of any money earned, and if they enlist one of the artist friends to join the platform, they will earn an additional 5 per cent of whoever they recruit’s income. This money will be taken from our cut - not who they are recruiting," he says, claiming this will supercharge the onboarding process.

MyPremo now has more than 1,500 registered artists on the platform, which works somewhat like OnlyFans but without the stigma and like Patreon without relying on subscriptions.

"So many artists look at how much money is being made by their counterparts on X-rated platforms such as OnlyFans, and wonder why there isn’t a ‘clean’ platform that allows them to sell their content to their superfans," McDowell says.

"Well now there is - and they will never be surrounded by X-rated content that compromises their artistry.

"A flat fee works better for the creator and the consumer. Under a subscription model creators are getting forced down paths they might not ever want to go down, or to put out content that isn’t part of their normal creative process."

MyPremo has launched an expressions of interest (EOI) campaign on equity crowdfunding platform Birchal, with plans to raise up to $5 million to further build out the infrastructure of the platform.

"It now needs to be more robust as we onboard more and more high-end calibre in terms of talent onto the platform, as the audience keeps on growing," says McDowell.

"We're utilising Birchal to kickstart this $5 million raise. We obviously want to raise as much of that $5 million through this Birchal round.

"We want to roll out some strong creator acquisition campaigns globally. You've got to remember why we built this campaign in the very early days, and it was to help the smaller artists that might only have 1,000 fans, but how can we help them? How do we help them monetise those thousand fans?"

And why stop at music? McDowell believes the business will be able to expand its range of offerings in the future to other vocations.

"We see sport as probably being our next big focus. Although we are a music platform, we look at ourselves as more of a content platform, and we see athletes being really underutilised as content creators," he says.

"Athletes have always been some of the most influential and famous people in the world – now with social media they have a massive following, and aspiring athletes look up to these athletes who are at the top of their game.

"We see the masterclass market being a big focus for us moving forward and providing the tools for these athletes to start going direct to their fan bases as well.

"Beyond that, we see the short-film market as a big focus as well."

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