Disruption by Blockchain Part 32: Steve Stewart – Vezt

  • 22 February 2018
  • Expert Insights

Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.

The following is an interview we recently had with Steve Stewart, CEO and Co-founder of Vezt.

1. What’s the history of Vezt? How and where did you begin?

SS: Vezt was created when my Co-Founder, Robert Menendez, and I met at a startup he founded in Los Angeles, about a year and a half ago. With my background managing Stone Temple Pilots and other acts in the music industry, and his background running trading desks on Wall Street, we started discussing the pain points in the music industry, and why artists had difficulties in the area of financial resources. We knew that distribution had largely been solved – with iTunes and Spotify, etc., there was no lack of streaming solutions. What was missing was a structure that allowed artists to directly monetize their work, without the need for record labels and publishers. The solution was Vezt.

2. Who are the founders and key team members?

Steve Stewart, CEO & Co-Founder

Steve Stewart has more than 25 years of professional experience in the music, and new media industries. As CEO of Steve Stewart Management, he negotiated and secured lucrative major label record and publishing contracts on behalf of approximately 20 recording artists with companies such as Sony Music, Warner Bros. Records, Atlantic Records, Capitol Records, Disney’s Hollywood Records, A&M Records, Geffen Records, Elektra Records, American Records, Maverick Records, EMI Music Publishing, Famous Music Publishing, Rondor Music, Warner Chappell Music Publishing and Universal Music Publishing.

Steve is the former personal manager of Grammy Award winning, multiplatinum alternative rock band Stone Temple Pilots, managing their career from their inception through their fifth major label release on Atlantic Records. Under Steve’s management, the band’s worldwide record sales exceeded 25 million records, generating more than $500 million in gross revenues.

He has held Co-Founder and COO titles at business marketing aggregator, GoYodel, and sports social video app, SportsBuddyz, and helped establish crowdcasting startup, SURKUS, as their Head of Business Development, securing long-term corporate clients such as Live Nation. Steve has BA in Political Science from UCLA.

Robert Menendez – CFO & Co-Founder

With more than 15 years of management experience, Robert Menendez has an expertise in developing business and investment platforms for long-term growth. Menendez is attuned to the complexity of the technology space, with a particular acumen for navigating the competitive landscape to make lasting changes that affect the bottom line.

Prior to co-founding Vezt, Menendez co-founded crowdcasting app, SURKUS, currently valued at $30M, managed all facets of operations at Newmax Advisors, LLC, where he successfully created fiscal synergy for investors by coordinating algorithmic trading teams primarily made of programmers and developers managing account platforms.

Menendez began his career at Oppenheimer & Company, and then promptly moved to CA to become Co-Founder of Tradestar Capital, Ltd., a prop trading firm and subsidiary of Assent Trading. His ability to spot high quality talent and personally stock each subdivision with high performing individuals enabled him to build each of the five branches, in five different cities, of Assent Trading into fully operational and profitable units. Following Assent Trading, Menendez was instrumental in the launch of Coastal LLC, a quantitative fund for which he raised both trading and operational capital. Menendez’s talent for easily cross-pollinating technology and funding led to a partnership at One Asia U.S.

Enrique Canals, CTO

Enrique Canals is a veteran software engineer and recently appointed CTO at Vezt. Vezt is a blockchain technology startup that gives artists the ability to earn a living from their work outside the existing label and publishing  structures. Prior to his position at Vezt, Enrique was head of engineering at Onward, a start-up in the addiction recovery space, aimed at helping people overcome technology related issues such as porn, gambling, and screen-time addiction. Recently his engineering focus has been on systems architecture and data engineering, building ingestion APIs to compute predictive behavior patterns from large data sets of streamed network activity. Enrique has also held technology positions with Pebble (now FitBit), Sphero (formerly Orbotix) and

Andreas Carlsson, Chief Strategy Officer

Carlsson was part of the famed Swedish hit factory, Cheiron Studios, until 2000. He frequently collaborates with writers Desmond Child and Chris Braide. Together they have written many recent American hit songs, including “Invisible” for the American Idol contestant Clay Aiken. The song became one of the most performed on American radio in 2004. A more recent collaboration is Katy Perry‘s “Waking Up In Vegas”, featured on her album “One of the Boys“. In 2012, Carlsson was one of the judges in X Factor (Sweden), and he was part of the jury for the Swedish edition of Idol in 2008 – its fifth season.

Jin Yu, Chief Growth Officer

With more than 10 years of experiential marketing under his belt, Jin was the Co-founder of Surkus, a live event crowd-casting platform, and is now Chief Growth Officer of Vezt, handling business development, global partnerships, strategic alliances, joint ventures, and sponsorships. His past clients include Bill Clinton and Jessica Alba (The Clinton Foundation), The Dalai Lama, Hyundai, Remy Martin, The W Hollywood Hotel, Samsung, Chivas, Ducati and the Black-Eyed Peas.

Aahmek Richards, SVP Marketing

Aahmek is a seasoned and innovative entertainment executive who has founded and created various cutting-edge digital entertainment companies and concepts during his career. Prior to joining Vezt, he worked with Russell Simmons to launch, as well as the Google-funded YouTube channel ADD “All Def Digital”, which he created for Rush Communications and Google. Richards worked with Arista Records and and Island Def Jam, and executive produced over 30 video DVDs for artists such as Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Kanye West and Ludacris. Prior to this, he developed for BMG as an entrepreneur.

3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?

SS: Vezt solves two problems – the first is getting financial resources to artists, allowing them to make a living from creating music. The second is creating a way for music fans to share ownership of their favorite songs with their favorite artists. We’re creating a retail market for music rights, allowing them to owner fractions of their favorite songs.

4. What is your solution to this problem?

SS: Vezt provides artists with immediate, crowd-sourced funding for their song rights. Artists set the pricing, terms and timeframe, all at no cost to them.

5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?

SS: The music industry has been operating under out-dated and archaic standards for decades. What used to be a $12B industry in the US (prior to 2000), has now been reduced to about $5B, as a direct result of the major labels and publishers refusing to adopt modern technology and partner with tech platforms that had the potential to boost their income and their reach. Currently, even the top artists have to wait between 8 -12 months to receive royalties from the use of their music around the world, and have no way to audit those earnings in a realistic manner. With today’s technology, immediate, accurate and transparent payments are possible, but are being held back from implementation by the powers that be (labels, publishers, performing rights organizations). Music is a $50B+ industry on a global basis. The creators of ht music should be receiving the majority of these funds, but are currently not. It is extremely ripe for disruption.

6. What’s the future of your industry?

SS: Here are 3 predictions for the music industry:

Prediction #1: Increased efficiency and transparency in royalty payments to artists – This may take a number of years to build around existing organizations and antiquated structures, but it will eventually happen.

Prediction #2: Increased connectivity between artists and their fans – Vezt promotes direct contact between artists and their fans. Believe it or not, record labels, Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, etc. do NOT provide artists with a way to reach out to their customers/fans. Vezt will be the first major platform that opens up this ability and allows for direct communication between artists and fans.

Prediction #3: The quality of music will increase in a meaningful way – with a way to make a living from writing and recording music, many artists will be able to give up working 2 or 3 jobs and focus on their careers. Without financial struggles and the accompanying distractions, artists will be able to not only produce more music, but will also improve the quality of their work as well.

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