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article imageMerchbar adds $1 million in funding, enters web marketplace

By Lidya Patal     Dec 15, 2014 in Music
Merchbar just raised $1 million in a seed funding round. But is the young, popular music merchandise app ready to make the leap to the web marketplace? Founder Edward Aten thinks it is.
Are you the kind of music fanatic who wears their Katy Perry concert tee to the Katy Perry concert? Is your bedroom wallpaper just a series of Queens of the Stone Age posters? Are your throw pillows embroidered with Bob Dylan song lyrics?
Look no further than Merchbar, an app and soon-to-be online marketplace stocked with thousands of items of music artist merchandise. The company, launched in September as iPhone app, just raised $1 million in funding that will help it expand into the rough waters of the online music retail sector, a crowded sea that includes cross-genre giants like Amazon and music-specific sites like Rockabilia.com and BestRockTShirts.com.
Merchbar has some inherent advantages as it enters the major expansion. The first is pedigree. Founder Edward Aten also founded Swift.fm, a music distribution firm patronized by the cult rappers like A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots, among others, in 2009. Co-founder John Hecker is a veteran of the music merchandise market, using artist merch to bring $30 million in revenue to brick-and-mortar traditionalists like Sears and Kmart. Chief software architect Aston Motes was, famously, Dropbox’s first and perhaps most important employee.
No matter how strong the pedigree, though, technology companies like Merchbar are really made or broken by the caliber of their partnerships. And Merchbar has some very high-profile partners. Universal Music Group, the world’s largest purveyor of recorded music, is both a partner and investor, which reads as a ringing endorsement of Merchbar. Universal has been investing in various diversified companies as it tries to boost revenue lost to the streaming music boom.
The other major music labels, Warner Music Group and Sony Music, have followed Universal in partnering with Merchbar. Add the likes of Live Nation, MusicToday and Bravado to the list of partners, and Merchbar appears to be in decent shape as it makes the leap from mobile-only to mobile-and-web.
But how does Merchbar, which sells every single item its partners make available, organize and prioritize all 100,000 or so pieces of merchandise? The company employs intuitive technology to help tailor its merchandise to individual customers, based on the latter’s Facebook likes and iTunes libraries. It also frequently curates lists of “featured goods,” lists of items meant to appeal to a certain audience. A brief glance at the Merchbar app reveals a few of these lists, including “Holiday Gift Ideas for Elvis Lovers” and “Unique Gifts for Dads that Rock”.
It remains to be seen whether Merchbar can survive against sharks like Amazon, but Aten, who never hesitates to note that Merchbar is “the only company to partner with every major label and merchandise company,” is not short on confidence. And with $1 million in the bank, can you really blame him?
More about merchbar, Universal Music Group, edward aten, Sony music, Warner music
 
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