EVEN Labs Inc. founder and chief executive officer Mag Rodriguez
went from managing one of his closest high school friends, Milwaukee rapper IshDARR, to helping some of the world’s most famous artists sell their projects and connect with fans.
a blockchain-based platform, artists can sell their music directly to fans before uploading it on traditional streaming platforms. Fans who use EVEN are given access to exclusive content, merchandise and ticket offers. The startup announced last week the completion of a $2.2 million seed round
– an achievement that’s been built upon years of experience in the music industry.
“We’re not trying to recreate any wheel, we’re just trying to simplify an industry that’s been a little bit outdated for the past two to three decades,” said Rodriguez.
He’s worked professionally in the music industry for a decade but has been making his own music since he was 10 years old.
His first exposure to music was at age 7. He began learning to play the clarinet, which was his mother’s favorite instrument. In middle school, he began making Latin music. A passion for music is not an uncommon trait within Rodriguez’s family tree. He points to a handful of distant relatives who also made Latin music, including Latin Grammy winner El Güero.
“When I got to high school, that’s really when I started taking (making music) more seriously,” said Rodriguez. “Some of my classmates were incredible artists. One of those artists was IshDARR, who was two years younger than me. We started releasing music and it really started to make waves.”
By the time he graduated from high school, Rodriguez found himself touring the world with rapper Schoolboy Q and IshDARR. He spent six years managing IshDARR, playing every role from DJ to producer.
In 2018, Rodriguez was first introduced to the world of venture capital. While pondering a break from management, he was approached by startup accelerator gener8tor.
The organization wanted to launch a music accelerator program in partnership with Radio Milwaukee.
He was hired to help build the music accelerator from the ground up with these two organizations.
“I didn’t really know startups or venture capital before working with gener8tor,” said Rodriguez. “I didn’t know that was a thing. I knew all the pain points of the music industry. I didn’t know it was actually possible to work on fixing them.”
He began developing EVEN at the tail end of 2021 and pitched it to gener8tor co-founders Joe Kirgues
and Troy Vosseller.
That earned Rodriguez his first $100,000 investment and he began developing the platform full time. EVEN officially launched last October and now has 30,000 users.
Rodriguez said the point of EVEN isn’t to be a streaming platform. It’s to help connect artists to some of their most loyal fans.
“You can be ‘X’ artist’s number one fan and listen to them every single day, but when they release tickets there’s a big possibility you won’t have access to them,” said Rodriguez. “How do we create an ecosystem where the core fans find projects on EVEN and then they’re rewarded for doing so?”
EVEN uses blockchain technology simply for the automatic execution of smart contracts. Artists are typically paid two to three months after every streaming period through popular platforms like Spotify. Blockchain technology allows EVEN to pay everyone from artists to their labels instantly after every transaction.
“It really opens up opportunities within the industry. You hear about these horrible record deals and part of the reason why these deals exist, and advancements as a whole in the industry, is because of the payment structure,” said Rodriguez.
EVEN allows artists to make money off projects before they hit traditional streaming platforms. They no longer need to take advancements to go on tour or pursue additional projects. Artists typically need to generate at least $10,000 in streaming revenue per year to be onboarded onto EVEN.
A large portion of the startup’s seed money has been used for hiring. EVEN now has grown from two people to 12. The company is also working on building out new features for the platform.
Some upcoming features that are currently in beta testing include EVEN chat, a way for artists to communicate directly with their fans and for fans to connect with one another, and EVEN Fan Connect, a tool allowing artists to send text and email notifications directly to fans.
Rodriguez hopes the company can complete 350 releases and onboard 600 artists before the end of the year. This spring and summer will see launches including Grammy-nominated artists Omarion and Jidenna joining EVEN.
“As we’re servicing some of the biggest artists on the planet, who also happen to be people of color who come from underrepresented communities, being able to be a company that can offer them that opportunity is a huge motivator,” said Rodriguez. “Letting kids that look like me and come from my same background see that you don’t need a college degree and my family didn’t have a ton of money but I could still build a company… those things are very meaningful to me.”