We tallked to David Della Santa of Trqk on how to help the music industry use data to its advantage and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Della Santa: Someone said that I seem to walk between the raindrops when it rains. 2020 was devastating for so many, and that is deeply troubling. So I feel very fortunate that my family is doing well. The shutdown, in ways, has been good for us. Shortly before COVID, we were making changes to spend more time with our kids. The shutdown took that to the next level. I was already working from home when schools shuttered. Now Jen has loads of time with the kids too, and they are at the right age where this works.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Trqk.
David Della Santa: I started an advertising-music production company called Volume.ms in the late ’90s in San Francisco. Not being much for that shiny commercial sound or having any traditional training, I was one of the first to apply computers, sampling, and other then-alternative production techniques to ad music. That was enough to give me a little slingshot into the industry before the others caught up, and I’ve been lucky enough to land over 500 music placements, or syncs, for clients like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Nike, Reebok, Audi, Wells Fargo, and Quaker Oats. However, streaming, laptops, and a recession later took a chunk out of sync fees, so I started paying more attention to my performance royalties to make up some of the difference. In case you’re unfamiliar, performance royalties are the money songwriters get every time their music plays on the radio, in a TV commercial, or during a live show. Up until then, someone else was administering my royalties for me. The first time I registered my work and filed a claim, I thought I had missed something or done it wrong. How could it be this tough and time-consuming?
And then I got my first statement. The whole thing was so opaque with no clue how my Performing Rights Organization (PRO) found performances of my work, how they calculated what I earned, and especially how I would learn anything from all the rows and columns of data that might help me make more money. That’s when I realized –– I should have a clue, and so should everyone else who collects royalties.
For that reason, I am co-founder with my high school symphonic bandmate Sathvik Krishnamurthy of Trqk. Trqk is a Music Royalty Intelligence platform dedicated to helping creators and publishers work more efficiently while growing their income with strategic royalty insights.
How does Trqk innovate?
David Della Santa: First and foremost, we make the data around performance royalties transparent and understandable. All creators need to upload their PRO statement, and Trqk automatically crunches the numbers and puts the insights into easy-to-understand visual charts and graphs. Trqk also detects unpaid royalties for artists, so we are actively making them more money.
We can do this well because we know our audience — I am one of the composers we serve. My network is a 20-year collection of musicians and composers I’ve personally worked with who will also directly benefit from our building. They are our first line testers. Granted, it’s a small sampling of our audience, but it’s a relevant sample. We develop and release to them first. Then we listen.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
David Della Santa: We worked virtually before the pandemic, so we are comfortable working from different zip codes. We were pitching some investors before the pandemic. They were concerned with us being virtual and wanted to know where we would set up shop: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, or Austin, TX. At the time, a virtual shop was a weakness. Now we pitch our virtual history as a strength.
For 23 years, I worked in a recording studio, mostly alone. Not much has changed for myself or other music professionals. Welcome to our world, everyone else.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Della Santa: I have to decide what makes the development cut, and what gets left on the cutting room floor. Since we are an early phase startup, we have a small development team. I have all these wild ideas of what would help composers, but there is only so much we can build. And by design, we shouldn’t build all the ideas I have. A right product focuses on core functionality, perfectly and delightfully delivering it. So what gets cut is often a difficult choice. Ultimately, we are trying to make something that helps as many composers as possible without building something so complicated that no one can use it.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Trqk in the future?
David Della Santa: There is no better meditation than writing music for me. When I make music, I get lost in it. The external world and all of its concerns go silent. When I was writing music for my ad company before I co-founded Trqk, I would sit down at my studio desk in the morning, put my head down, and start making noise. When finishing up, I’d look up, and it was dark outside. I don’t have that kind of time now, but I spend small chunks of time working on a piece or checking out new music tools when I need to clear my head.
At Trqk, we are closer to the beginning of this startup journey. I’d be foolish to say I know the future, but we feel strongly about what we are trying to do for the music community, and we are having a good time doing it. So if our trajectory is constant, I’d say we are going in the right direction.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Della Santa: Well, no one is doing what we are doing. A few companies like Kobalt offer some of our insights, but their main focus is that of a publisher, and their services are not available to the long tail composers we serve. Ultimately, we are not trying to compete with anyone. We want to support composers and the music industry by providing tools that make their jobs easier and ensure everyone gets paid.
Your final thoughts?
David Della Santa: We just announced our TrqkIQ platform’s initial launch and are looking forward to our full launch in the months ahead. With the pandemic making life difficult for creative types, it’s more important than ever that they take advantage of the royalties they’re already earning and examine how they can earn more. I’d encourage anyone interested in checking us to visit www.trqk.io, where you can upload a PRO statement for free and play around with the analytics. Here’s to a better 2021!
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