Rev Up: EVEN is shifting the power balance in the entertainment industry

Mag Rodriguez
Mag Rodriguez

EVEN Labs Inc. founder and chief executive officer Mag Rodriguez went from managing Milwaukee rapper IshDARR to helping some of the world’s most famous artists sell their work and connect with fans.

Through EVEN, 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 recently announced 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“We’re not trying to recreate any wheel, we’re just trying to simplify an industry that’s been a little bit outdated for the past two to three decades,” said Rodriguez.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.

“When I got to high school, that’s really when I started taking (music creation) 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 well-known 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 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.

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 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.

A large portion of the startup’s seed money has been used for hiring. The company is also working on building out new features for the platform.

Rodriguez hopes the company can complete 350 releases and onboard 600 artists before the end of the year.

Leadership: Mag Rodriguez, founder and CEO
Headquarters: Milwaukee
What it does: EVEN’s platform allows musicians to sell their music directly to fans.
Founded: 2022
Employees: 12
Next Goals: Launch new platform features and continue to onboard new artists.
Funding: $2.2 million

Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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