The new direction we recently announced (see: Stem is Committing to an Artist-First, Team-Oriented Future) opens the door for us to think more broadly about how Stem can become a comprehensive platform for artists and labels to run their businesses. One area we are especially enthusiastic about is how advancements in fintech can be applied within the music business.
That’s why we’re so excited to welcome Mike Vaughan, one of the best fintech operators around, as our newest board member. Mike was one of the first ten employees at Venmo, the leader in mobile payments. Many people don’t know that the idea for Venmo was rooted in music when its co-founders, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, wanted a way to use their mobile phones to pay bands at live shows, whether that meant buying merch or using digital payments to tip musicians in real time.
As Venmo grew beyond the music use case, Mike became its COO and served in that capacity until earlier this year. He helped lead the business through eight years of rapid growth to what it is today, with the company announcing 40M active users earlier this year and a forecast of $100B in payments in 2019. “The amazing thing about fintech is that you can find it embedded in so many different industries and vertical segments,” Mike Vaughan said. “The music industry can benefit tremendously from innovation in the way money flows between the creators, the distributors and the platforms. Not to mention the impact we can make with offering more accessible financial services that cater to the creators in the music space.”
A fun aside is that when Mike told Iqram he was joining Stem’s board, Iqram smiled because he already uses Stem for his band Iqram & the Immigrant Groove! Iqram, who is currently working on his latest company, Ense, told us, “Music is literally the reason that Venmo started so it’s intriguing for me to be working with Mike again. Across the music business landscape, it’s awesome to see how opportunities have evolved for artists, from the earliest days at Venmo to today’s services like Ense and Stem. This is fundamentally changing the way that artists are treated as legitimate business people and I’m excited to see how Mike’s Board role and his knowledge of fintech will accelerate this.”
Our CEO Milana Rabkin Lewis expanded on why Mike is a great addition to the board: “As we keep building out Stem’s platform capabilities, Mike will provide industry insights and connections that will propel Stem’s artist and label fintech offerings. The fintech angle perfectly complements our broader mission of being the most reliable way for artists to get paid and to automate accurate payments for all collaborators who helped them create.”
Among artists and labels, we’re already seeing some innovative ways they’re using Stem to both expand their current revenue streams and build entirely new ones. We’re also fielding inquiries from new financial entrants who want to participate in the digital music market.
On that note, we have some big updates to announce in the coming months…stay tuned!