How IoT music startup Electric Jukebox won celebs, government and a powerhouse board

Of course, the streaming industry has had its share of bad press. Taylor Swift has been quick to speak out on the practices of the companies and has attacked Spotify and Apple Music for making money while artists lose out.

Talking on how the company will avoid attacks from the American superstar, Lewis said: “In terms of the business, we’re trying to make sure that consumers can enjoy music at home again. That’s good for us because we’re a consumer electronics business and the first to do an IoT for music.

“It’s also good for consumers because it gets rid of hassle and brings music back, and that is good for rights owners because consumers are not participating any longer – they’re consumers of radio and old CDs.

“The music industry can have a massive reemergence if it can start growing again. The key isn’t going from 40m-50m paid subscribers, but from 40m to 400m, and that’s the only way it’s going to grow.”

Referring to himself as “a very successful entrepreneur”, Lewis admitted that he funded the project himself in the beginning, though a number of investors from the Far East are now on board. They sit alongside an unnamed “very large investment company that’s putting substantial amounts of marketing funds into the business so we can do a big splash marketing campaign”.

He added the brand will be seen everywhere, hence the support of celebrities like Sheryl Crow and Robbie Williams.

A look beyond the red carpet elite and around the BAFTA venue and it was clear that Electric Jukebox already has a substantial amount of staff members for a startup at 40 full-timers, though that number creeps to 100 with outsourcing considerations.

“It’s much more complex than a music streaming service because you’re doing the licensing, reporting, user experience, hardware, logistics, marketing and retail support,” detailed Lewis.

Elsewhere, the board is made up of a powerhouse variety of business executives, with some of the names including: former Visa International president, Malcolm Williamson; U2’s ex-manager; founder of The Brits, Rob Dickins; EMI’s former global CEO; the ex-FD from Island Records; the founder of TomTom; a former partner of Deloitte, and Susan Given, the former COO of Super Group and MD of TK Maxx.

According to Lewis, that mixture of corporate players was paramount because the company is going into the unknown.

“We’re doing something that’s never been done before and we need to treat the music in the way it should be treated,” he said.

“We need to be sure we work with retailers correctly with people from Superdry, we’ll need corporate governance on the basis we’ll be a big business very quickly, so Malcolm Williamson [ex-Visa] and some tax people. And we need to be very aware of competition, so we have Stephen Hornsby [Goodman Derrick partner], who wrote the textbook on competition law, on-board.

“We need a great team. We’re trying to change the way everyone in the world listens to music and that’s quite a lofty goal.”

From the time Lewis embarked on said lofty goal by beginning Electric Jukebox, until now, it’s been two years. But without his decade of experience, the venture would have been a flop, he said.

“I’ve been in music industry for ten years and if I hadn’t done that, we’d have had absolutely no hope. I mean really no hope,” he said frankly, explaining the complexities of streaming requiring licensing, reporting structures and various tax regimes. There’s also trust as an issue.

“You have to know the people because it’s an industry that’s quite suspicious of tech companies. Some think tech has come and done bad things or not really helped out.

“The key was to have industrial design expertise, UX, licensing, marketing, talent, and some of those areas, particularly industrial design and manufacturing, I was new to. I worked very closely with Sony Ericsson and BlackBerry, but I’d never done manufacturing myself before.

“Now it’s relatively easy, with production line technology and capabilities have enabled a raft of new companies in the IoT to emerge. We believe it’s about as big as it can be in IoT – it’s music for everyone.”

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