I was in a heavy metal band signed to Atlantic Records. I toured the nation a few times, and our video was in heavy rotation on MTV’s Headbangers Ball in 1990. Now, I’m a venture capital investor. Somewhat of a circuitous route to get from one to the other, and that’s a longer story. But I learned a lot trying to sell records in the music business. It was all about distribution.
Each day, our tour bus would arrive in a new city. The other guitar player and I would go to the key record stores in each city and give out posters, sign autographs, and look for our CD on the shelves. At the beginning of the tour, our CDs often weren’t in the store. Then, our single reached #1 on the radio for three months straight, and the video hit MTV. In response, WEA, the distribution organization, which was responsible for shipping and logistics, went into action to supply all the stores in the cities where we were scheduled to play. Suddenly, and I mean overnight, there were 20 CDs in every store everywhere we went, and people could buy our music. WEA had the muscle to get the physical goods into the stores immediately. Without WEA distribution, our audience wouldn’t have had access to my band’s recordings. No commerce would have taken place. Instead, all of a sudden, we sold over 100,000 units. I learned that distribution and access was king.
Early in my venture career, I was the seed investor in a company called DivX, which offered video compression technology and a much more efficient file size to move video around the internet. The vision for DivX was distribution. DivX got big when its technology was deployed on a many brands of DVD players and set top boxes, enabling consumers to access video on any device. DivX went public and was worth $1 billion. Again, distribution and access was king.
Today, there’s no CD. Content is fully digital. We all use connected devices, and streaming has become the norm. This shift has opened a window for new distribution technology companies to change consumption models. That is why Frontier invested in LiveList. LiveList provides software and tools to distribute live streaming content to connected devices, like smart phones. For example, the Kaaboo festival hosted over 100,000 avid music fans over three days in September 2017. LiveList provided live access to the festival and generated an audience reach of over 20 million people and over 2 million people accessed the live performances for extended viewing times.
Technology enables distribution and access. Technology is creating new kings. Frontier continues to seek innovative technology companies that drive new distribution methods and enable new access. Long live the kings. We have made several investments which map to this theme, including the companies in the gallery below.