scaleup week. 19 - 22 September 2022  

I never think something is impossible

Chris Meehan, founder and CEO of Sentric Music
Media | North West
  • Introduction
  • How Sentric works
  • Based in Liverpool
  • Outside work
  • Advice for other founders

I started the business while doing a music management course at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. The idea was to demystify copyright for songwriters. We wanted to give everyone access to the way royalties are collected.

When you’re 20 and in university, you have nothing to lose. No family or mortgage. It was a great time to start a business, and if I had the chance, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

During BGF’s investment period, our revenue grew more than fivefold, artist numbers trebled, and profitability rose significantly.

Every year, around $13 billion globally is collected from places that use music – that includes YouTube, your local hairdresser, a school drama performance. Artists like Paul McCartney and Ed Sheeran get the most, but new artists are still owed a share. However, if you don’t know about copyright, or how to collect, you won’t get your due.

Unfortunately, songwriters are often nervous about signing a contract. There’s a lot of bad advice out there that says, ‘Whatever you do, don’t sign anything’. To get around this problem, we flipped the traditional model on its head – instead of 28 years, the contract term became 28 days. There’s less of a commitment, which means more flexibility.

Since we were founded in 2006, we’ve empowered more than 200,000 artists and songwriters to collect royalties in more than 200 territories.

BGF and Sentric Music

Starting in 2017, BGF backed Sentric Music with a total of £8.5 million to underpin global expansion, invest in people and technology, and finance acquisitions. BGF exited its investment in 2022 when Sentric Music completed a deal with Swiss music fintech business Utopia Music.

Utopian exit

We charge a commission for our service, paying out 80% of the money we collect. We also license out our technology. Investing in that technology has been our priority. We’ve also expanded by acquisition. When BGF came in as an investor, we had just closed our first deal. We’ve done several more since then.

After growing so fast, we began to consider the next stage of our growth. In 2022, we announced a deal with Swiss music fintech business Utopia Music that allowed BGF to exit its investment. During BGF’s investment period, our revenue grew more than fivefold, artist numbers trebled, and profitability rose significantly, so the deal offered excellent returns for all shareholders.

As part of Utopia Music, Sentric will serve as the foundation of the newly formed Royalty Management Services business. We’re basically super-charging our RightsApp platform with technology from Utopia. The company is setting up an engineering hub in Liverpool and hiring 100 new engineers over the course of 2022.

5x

Revenue growth during BGF’s investment

3x

Growth in artist numbers

200,000

Artists and songwriters supported

Sleepless nights

Despite its great heritage in music, Liverpool isn’t the typical place to set up a music business. That’s something we wanted to change – to show people that you can build a great music business in the UK that’s based outside London.

We’re proud to employ people in Liverpool. We make opportunities for people who fall in love with the city and want to build a career here. We do have offices in different places, though – London, Los Angeles, Berlin. Our staff can travel and keep learning somewhere else, if that’s what they want to do.

I’ve had lots of sleepless nights. When you’re growing and you don’t have the resources, cashflow has been a worry. You will lose clients sometimes and that can be painful when you’ve put a lot of work in, so you have to be mature and learn not to see it as a disaster.

Prior to the Utopia Music deal, my proudest moment was when two of our artists won Ivor Novello awards in 2020. That included Jamie Cullum (below), who won best song musically and lyrically, which is the biggest award they do.

Why Chris chose BGF

“BGF were supportive and friendly. The opposite of other funds. We thought they would be a great partner go on this ambitious journey with us.”

Jamie Cullum is one of thousands of artists who use Sentric Music to collect global royalties

You’re in control

It consumes your life, building a business. It’s not a job you can switch off. Even when you’re on holiday, it’s constantly on your mind. It must be hard for the people around me, but I really enjoy what we do. We have people in Australia and Asia emailing at seven o’clock in the morning, and people in Los Angeles emailing at midnight, and I see them all, but it doesn’t feel like work so I’m more than happy to do it.

Outside of work, I’m learning to fly. When I was a kid, I wanted to be in music or be a pilot and now the music bit has allowed me to do the pilot bit. I fly tiny, one-engine planes. I’m not qualified yet but I’m over halfway. The thing I love is the buzz and being in control. When you’re in a big jumbo jet and there’s turbulence, it’s not fun because there’s nothing you can do about it. But when you’re in a tiny plane and you get turbulence, it’s fun, because you’re in control of sorting it out.

The music industry is a difficult place to make a penny. It is hard to become established in this space, but we have bucked the trend.

My advice to other founders is to really understand where you fit in the food chain. That’s the secret of growth. Lots of ideas get pitched to us but it’s not always clear how they will make money. You need to know how you will generate revenue.

The music industry is a difficult place to make a penny. It is hard to become established in this space, but we have bucked the trend.

Building the business has been difficult at times, but I never think something is impossible. I just get on and do it. It’s a strange business to start, this one, but I had perseverance and determination. I don’t know whether it’s confidence or arrogance, I just look at something and think I can do it, and then I crack on.