Apple has announced that is leading a $50 million investment round in company UnitedMasters, a firm that aims to help independent artists establish careers in the music business. This includes keeping rights to their actual recording masters, as well as enable individuals to easily sell tickets, merchandise and similar efforts.

Presumably, the ‘strategic partnership’ will lead to new integrations with Apple Music eventually, although UnitedMasters supports publishing to many platforms including Spotify, TikTok and such. What makes this deal unusual is that Apple typically acquires companies outright rather than a mere seed investor.

UnitedMasters is led by CEO Steve Stoute, who set up the independent music platform in 2017 after a long career at industry labels Sony Music and Interscope.

In a press statement, Apple SVP Eddy Cue said ‘UnitedMasters, like Apple, is committed to empowering creators’:

We built UnitedMasters as a record company in your pocket to remove the barrier entries for any independent artist who wants to create and retain full equity in their work, connect directly with their fans, and earn far more money than the legacy model through new revenue streams such as advertising.

Apple’s Eddy Cue said: “Steve Stoute and UnitedMasters provide creators with more opportunities to advance their careers and bring their music to the world.

The $50 million series B investment round is led by Apple with other investing parties including Andreessen Horowitz and Alphabet.

The goals of UnitedMasters sound much like the original ideas behind Apple Music Connect. Apple Music Connect was a semi-social network that launched inside Apple Music as part of the 2015 launch, with the idea being that artists could connect directly with fans. However, Connect saw very little uptake from labels or independent artists and Apple closed down the service only a couple of years later.

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