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Ola Sars of ‘Soundtrack Your Brand’: “Pavarotti and wine”

In general, our business is based on an established need and behavior, so if you run a restaurant chain, you need a solution for music, and you are most likely not happy with your current solution. These prerequisites are where Soundtrack starts our lead generation, tapping into all the different search behaviors that occur when […]

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In general, our business is based on an established need and behavior, so if you run a restaurant chain, you need a solution for music, and you are most likely not happy with your current solution. These prerequisites are where Soundtrack starts our lead generation, tapping into all the different search behaviors that occur when businesses take action around finding a music solution. Search is our absolute most important tool in lead generation, and the art of understanding these search patterns throughout different industries and types of businesses. For example, an Italian restaurant entrepreneur in Brooklyn might start their search with a number of different approaches like “Italian music for restaurants” or “Pavarotti and wine,” completely different logics to start a search.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ola Sars.

Ola Sars is a Stockholm-based serial entrepreneur active in the music-tech space. He is the Founder and CEO of Soundtrack Your Brand, the world’s fastest growing music platform for B2B. Through his multiple startups in the music space, he has been focused on unlocking music’s intrinsic value and transforming the music streaming market.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Since 2006, I have been focused on transforming the music streaming industry. I saw that music was going digital and decided to lean in that direction. With every aspect of the industry going digital, from music production and distribution to music consumption, I saw a significant opportunity for improvements. Since then, I’ve been focused on unlocking the intrinsic value of music through various startups in the music-tech space, first in the B2C space and now in the B2B.

Before founding Soundtrack Your Brand, I was a co-founder and COO of Beats Music, which was later acquired by Apple and transformed into Apple Music, as well as the co-founder of Pacemaker, the world’s first DJ driven music platform.

My repeated efforts in transforming the music market comes from my conviction that music is undervalued as an art form and that the music industry offers significant opportunity for value improvement and growth.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are taking the music streaming revolution that happened in the consumer space to the B2B sector. Soundtrack Your Brand is redefining music streaming for businesses by upgrading an antiquated legacy model and combining streaming with enhanced proprietary technology, unlocking a multi-billion dollar market for the music industry.

The good thing about disrupting the B2B music market is that it means increasing royalty flow through to artists and songwriters and securing that the right artist and songwriter is paid when their music is played in a public or commercial environment.

Soundtrack helps thousands of businesses strengthen relationships with customers through the power of music. By combining expert curation and world-class tech, we provide a beautiful all-in-one solution for streaming music that’s properly licensed for stores, hotels, restaurants and other commercial settings. At the same time, we are ensuring music creators and rights holders are fairly compensated by offering clear accountability.

Soundtrack was founded in 2013 as a joint effort with Spotify, and we are now the world’s fastest-growing B2B music streaming service. We work with well-known brands such as McDonald’s, Lululemon, J. Crew, Uniqlo, Joe & The Juice, Aesop, W Hotels, to name a few.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I co-founded the company with Spotify, which is obviously a very strong partner to have when aiming to improve the music industry further. The funny thing about that though was that it also turned out to become our biggest challenge. It led us towards making a complete pivot, three years later, moving towards becoming 100 percent independent and doing everything ourselves instead.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My mother was one of my earliest mentors. She really opened my eyes to entrepreneurship as a career path. My dad was at the UN and was on the road often, so she was my primary example on how to balance raising a family and building a business.

When it comes to learning about the music industry, I pretty much had to learn everything on my own though and maybe sometimes even shaping it myself. It’s always evolving and changing over time.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I believe the music industry is the perfect example of when disruption is 100 percent a good thing. The industry was torpedoed by file sharing and had lost more than half its value in a very short period back in the 2010s, seeming completely stuck. Then came the likes of Spotify with a new model, offering up something better than piracy for the consumer and bringing transparency and user-based royalty distribution to a broken value chain. Ten years later, the industry is looking more prosperous than ever before. More artists than ever are getting their art distributed, labels and publishers are making more money than ever, and, in the next decade, the music-streaming market is looking to more than triple in value, from 22 billion to 75 billion in 2030.

Alongside this strong macro comes the B2B expansion of the market, led by Soundtrack, offering a potential 15–20 percent incremental growth on top of this amazing growth trajectory, providing artists and songwriters additional royalty from their music.

Perhaps a bad example of disruption is the travel industry, where traveling became so much more accessible and affordable, allowing a major increase in air travel, leading to significant negative impact on our carbon footprint.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Focus, focus, focus — Daniel Ek (Founder, CEO & Chairman Spotify)

Spotify is today the world leader in music streaming, and, for the first time after 10 years, did they start to diversify into “audio” after nailing “music” first.

Don’t expect anything in music industry to be logical (Jonas Wikström, Creative Director at Universal Music Publishing)

When choosing to leave a prosperous career in consulting to enter the music industry with my first startup in music tech, Jonas prepared me for what was to become my new reality, and with these simple words in the back of my head, I have survived through the madness.

Attitude reflects leadership (Jeff Ransdell, Founding Partner and Managing Director at Fuel Venture Capital)

When fighting off a takeover attempt on Soundtrack, Jeff supported me both as an individual leader and as a funding partner, helping me lead the team through a very challenging time, saving the company and setting it up for its next trajectory.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

In general, our business is based on an established need and behavior, so if you run a restaurant chain, you need a solution for music, and you are most likely not happy with your current solution. These prerequisites are where Soundtrack starts our lead generation, tapping into all the different search behaviors that occur when businesses take action around finding a music solution. Search is our absolute most important tool in lead generation, and the art of understanding these search patterns throughout different industries and types of businesses. For example, an Italian restaurant entrepreneur in Brooklyn might start their search with a number of different approaches like “Italian music for restaurants” or “Pavarotti and wine,” completely different logics to start a search.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I am currently 100 percent dedicated to disrupting this multi-billion dollar market opportunity at its core, providing the right music at the right place at the right time for businesses. Moving forward, however, my goal is to evolve the audio experience in the public domain, creating the world’s biggest audio network in terms of consumer reach.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Built to Last: Jim Collins (author of Good to Great)

This book has helped me develop patience and perseverance in business. As the authors explain it themselves — “This is not a book about charismatic visionary leaders. It is not about visionary product concepts or visionary products or visionary market insights. Nor is it about just having a corporate vision. This is a book about something far more important, enduring, and substantial. This is a book about visionary companies.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t cry for money Ola”

After moving to the US as a 6-year-old, not speaking a word of English, my new Italian-American neighbor George D’angelo pretty much took care of me in our English-speaking public school. He didn’t just help me with the language barrier but also shared his life wisdom with me during those challenging first years in the US. His words have formed me and my approach to life and business.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

It would be a movement around helping people help each other. Covid has actually created some good behaviors where people and even companies have started to think and act more around helping people that are in a tough situation, helping at risk groups with grocery shopping, for example. Our society has become so individualistic that any movement towards a more collective and empathetic thinking is a move in the right direction, even through smaller gestures.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn

Twitter

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