Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Disctopia is a streaming service that directly supports independent content creators. An ad-free, commission-free, platform for indie artists, podcasters, and creatives—Disctopia delivers curated content from some of the best indie creatives in the world. Disctopia founder, Patrick Hill, speaks to CEO Today about creating an app in the music industry during turbulent times, and what it takes to be an entrepreneur in 2021.
What was the genesis story of Disctopia?
I’ve been working in technology for about 15 years and started Disctopia’s journey about four years ago. The concept behind Disctopia was an idea that came to me when I was helping a friend release their mixtape. In the pre-Spotify era—it was hard and cumbersome to release anything in music. So, I decided to create a website where musicians could sell their music and collect payments via PayPal. From there, the idea manifested to create a platform to enable creators to release their work with no commissions or hands in the money pot.
There have been three major versions, or reincarnations, of the platform not including the mobile applications. Over the past two years, encompassing the time of the pandemic, Disctopia was constantly challenging itself to become one of the best creator platforms in the technology space.
What has it been like navigating a newer business during the pandemic?
Navigating the pandemic was a real challenge, but it also brought innovations for artists to be more creative into the spotlight. Artists were able to rehash their business model and come up with multiple ways to monetise their content while staying relevant to their fan base. Disctopia allows creators to further monetise their content because it opened the door for podcasters that were previously only paid from their advertising. On our platform, they also get paid as if they’re a true artist—getting paid per play, merch, and download.
In general, mastering the music business is one of the hardest things to do even without technology, but at Disctopia we have decided to hone in on the capacities in technological innovation and go from there. Over the past three years, we have built ourselves up brick by brick and added more opportunities for podcasts and merch integration to the platform. Now that we have primed the pump, we are ready to scale—and scale fast.
What is the importance of technology when it comes to giving artists the freedom and empowerment to be successful?
Whether it’s a podcast or music, audio artists and creatives have more power today than they’ve had over the last five decades. This is because technology is making everything easier. We have started to move away from giant record labels, and smaller indie labels are levelling up because digital music is so accessible. Home recording software and digital distribution platforms have made this possible, significantly lowering the cost of recording for content creators.
What is more, social media helps artists avoid expensive PR campaigns with the ability to connect directly and conveniently with fans. This levels the playing field and sidesteps what was previously industry-controlled distribution channels, giving unprecedented freedom and empowerment to content creators. All in all, technology has democratised the music industry, but it is important for artists not to overthink the technical stuff and continue to focus on what makes them special—their craft.
What are your goals for the future of the company? Where would you like to see Disctopia in the next five years?
In the next five years, we see Disctopia taking over the creator platform space—or in other words—the creator’s economy. Streaming and content consumption is changing quicker than ever because of the pandemic. Although theatres are starting to open back up again, they now need to provide such an experience that keeps fan engagement at high levels. Mobile apps, platforms, distribution companies, record labels, podcasters, and creators all have to do the same thing; more than ever, they need to break the third wall, step out of their comfort zones of traditional promotion strategies, and experiment with new engagement strategies.
We hope that Disctopia will be a platform to enable creators and podcasters alike to give their fanbase a new experience: An experience within the content. This means placing content in a “4th dimension” of thinking, so to speak. Of course, you need audio to tell a story, but the content you choose creates an experience for the listener and whether it is a podcast or song, you have to create a meaningful experience. Hopefully, that will eventually translate to an actual live event such as a concert, but with technology, there are ways to build up to this and integrate both visual and engaging elements into music without the live event. This manifests new participation within music, creating an audio experience within a fan’s own realities, keeping their interest peaked, and evolving the game in the music industry.
What advice would you give fresh entrepreneurs today?
New entrepreneurs that are just starting out today need to understand three things. First, the need to embrace technology like never before as it is the true key to staying relevant, especially in today’s highly dynamic marketplace. Second, they need to find a way to consolidate that technology into their skillset and marketing efforts to push their service or their product. And last but not least, they need to take those two things and then create processes and automation that make their endeavours more efficient than the previous businesses that are operating within their industry. It is exactly news, but, there’s really only one thing that you can do is make your business better which will always be to make it faster and more cost-efficient.