Many hip-hop producers in Atlanta call Dallas Austin “daddy.” Austin – a GRAMMY-winning producer who has worked with artists such as Madonna, Boyz II Men, and TLC – started making music in Atlanta at the age of 16, having since boarded a bus. his hometown of Columbus, Georgia. He was hanging out at the mall, listening to the music he was making in the car. When Clive Davis, Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds and Antonio (LA) Reid started LaFace Records in 1989, Austin learned that what he loved could be a business. His mentors gave him the tools to succeed in an emerging industry.
Today, Austin seeks to pass on his generational knowledge by starting his own music distribution company. Music distributor Symphonic Distribution is teaming up with Austin to launch Dallas Austin Distribution (DAD) – an apt acronym, given Austin’s status within Atlanta’s music community. DAD will initially focus on creating a funnel of opportunities for hip-hop musicians in Atlanta. Symphonic distribution is an independent digital music distribution and marketing company that was established in 2006 with a mission to empower diverse music communities around the world.
Octavius Crouch, Senior Client Manager and Hip-Hop / R & B A&R at Symphonic, leads the partnership. “Symphonic’s goal in Atlanta is to support DAD,” says Crouch. “For future partners, we want to show that we provide significant resources and that we do not rely on record companies. Every idea we realize is well thought out, there is no room for error because we have no label to rely on. This type of partnership is brand new and will shape the industry.
In 1992 Austin and LA Reid founded Rowdy Records, which eventually worked with Symphonic on its own digital distribution. After clicking through on the company’s philosophy and observing trends in the music industry that left him baffled, Austin decided to jump into the distribution space. Symphonic’s partnership with DAD is part of its current expansion into various music communities. A pillar of the community like Austin is helping Symphonic develop revolutionary new talent. And Symphonic’s technology and resources help Austin uplift its community.
When discussing their vision for DAD, Austin and Crouch often mention two words: value and transparency. “You must have information,” Austin said. “[Younger producers] call me dad because I’ve been through it all before them. I always make them talk to me about their contracts. If I got burned with something, I lived it for nothing if I can’t help someone. After years in the industry, Austin no longer wants to see artists fall prey to unfair deals.
Austin also talks about “making music more valuable”, but this has little to do with the inherent value of cultural production. Austin refers to the trend that prioritizes affordable or free access to internet content, often to the financial dismay of content creators.
“Fortunately, I got to a time where we were trying to figure out if we were going to sell CDs, and each was $ 16 a piece, so we knew we were going to make the money,” Austin says.
While internet platforms such as streaming services have democratized artistic production and allowed more people to produce and access art, the nature of these platforms sometimes decreases the chances for artists to be paid, especially if their art is reproduced online without their knowledge or consent. . This can be even more difficult for independent artists, who don’t always have the connections to place their songs on important playlists, or to reap the benefits of the algorithm. Austin doesn’t question whether music has cultural value. He is keen to find opportunities to increase his economic value, using new technologies.
This is what got Austin excited about blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Blockchain is a type of database that tracks all transactions with a crypto signature. For all musicians who distribute through DAD, Austin plans to use smart contracts, which automatically document transactions and other legally relevant events using blockchain technology. Everyone on the contract – the artist, DAD, etc. – would be able to follow transactions and changes, increasing transparency between creator and distributor. Elizabeth Strickler, director of entrepreneurship and media innovation at Georgia State, helped create the DAD system.
DAD will also help artists make and distribute NFTs. Austin wants to recreate limited collectibles in digital form – think of Prince’s “Sign O ‘The Times”. And with smart contracts, DAD artists will be making a return on any digital collectible they choose to sell. For example, if an artist creates one of their original lyrics sheets, they will receive payment every time NFT is resold, as long as they still own the original rights.
One of DAD’s first NFT releases will be Austin’s biography, “VOYAGE TO DALLAS AUSTIN”. The book will include multi-platinum plates, TLC’s famous “Creep” horn and other glimpses of Austin’s journey into the music industry.