a 2 i m

Featured Executive: Darryl Ballantyne, LyricFind

Darryl Ballantyne is the CEO of LyricFind, the trusted source for lyric licensing and data solutions. The company, which pioneered the licensed digital lyrics space by signing the first mass lyrics licensing deal with EMI Music Publishing (now part of Sony/ATV Music Publishing), was co-founded by Ballantyne in 2004 with Mohamed Moutadayne and Chris Book.
LyricFind is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, during which time it has grown into the world’s premiere lyrics provider with over 100 employees, partnerships with over 60,000 publishers (covering over 200,000 publishing catalogs), and a worldwide client list including top music platforms such as TikTok, Amazon, Google, Xperi, YouTube, Pandora, Deezer, and more. Learn more about him here!

Tell us about how you got your start in the music industry, and how it lead to the work you do today

I was in college when we launched the first version of LyricFind as a consumer website in 2000, and we quickly realized that getting proper licensing was a gargantuan task — so we shut it down. I stayed in touch with most of the industry people that we’d been talking to, and in 2002, I was on a panel at Canadian Music Week as the “student” representative — basically the kid asking the industry to sell him MP3s. There I met Ted Cohen and convinced him to let me work for him at EMI as part of my school’s co-op program. From that experience, we were able to relaunch LyricFind in 2004 (and get proper licensing, with Ted’s help!), and here we are 20 years later. So in a way, I still haven’t had a “real” job in the music industry!

Is there a success story or career milestone that you are most proud of?

There were some really big wins, like when we signed the original Google deal to power their lyric search, and when we acquired Gracenote’s lyric service in 2013. But what was very meaningful on my entrepreneurship journey was all the little wins: the first conference that I went to where I didn’t have to explain who we were or what we did, when we could finally pay ourselves something close to a market salary, and when we built out our own office space that we were proud to have people come see. There’s so many steps along the way that aren’t that visible to other people but are incredibly meaningful when you’re building the business yourself from nothing.

Are there any projects you’re working on or company updates that you’re most excited about?

We’ve been expanding our video creation tools, which we hit the accelerator on with our acquisition of Rotor Videos in December 2023. These are being integrated by distributors such as CD Baby, so artists can quickly and easily add all kinds of custom visual content. One of our most recent additions is the ability to easily create Apple Motion Art, which is such a cool way to re-visualize album art. And then there’s what we’ve been doing in the automotive market, with both lyrics and LyricIQ in particular.

The car is now what the family living room used to be, and our applications make music-listening behind the wheel so much better, from enabling voice search for songs to ensuring road-trip sing-alongs stay PG when you have your kids in the car. As the dad of two children under 10, I know how easy it is to accidentally let things through that aren’t even remotely appropriate for them (or my own parents)! And the fact that 2024 is our 20th anniversary is super exciting! When we started, no one thought lyrics would really be much of a business, and we’re now an integral part of the music industry. LyricFind has been the only “job” for my co-founder Mohamed and I, and it’s been an incredible journey. We get to work with our friends every day — we only hire people we like! — and there’s not many people who can say that, especially for this long.

Outside of your work in music, do you have any other hobbies/ particular areas of expertise/interest

Between LyricFind and child-rearing, I don’t have too much time for anything else! I do get to combine things sometimes — I’m a huge baseball fan, and LyricFind is a season ticket holder for the Toronto Blue Jays (plus we have a long history of LyricFind softball teams, and the championships to back it up). I love traveling, which happens a lot for business (and pleasure), and I try to fit in as much wakesurfing and time on the water as I can in the summer. The last couple years my son has gotten into snowboarding, so I’ve been able to get back on the hill regularly after a long break.

Anything else to add? Words of wisdom?

Without sounding like a commercial, I still see artists, labels, and publishers missing so many opportunities for monetization and building community because they don’t have lyrics and video content out with new releases. There’s so many songs that don’t have an official artist presence on YouTube, so it’s all UGC content that’s up there, if anything. That’s not helping you build an audience and earn revenue.

You may not be able to make a full-blown video for every song, but you need your own content to build up your own channel so you can reach monetization thresholds. You want your own video for your song added to playlists, not someone else’s. Take advantage of the automated tools that are out there, which can automatically transcribe lyrics and create a lyric video. The effort needed to optimize the fan experience is so much less than it used to be, and also less expensive. Give your song the best chance to be discovered. Do it early, do it now — not after your release has been out awhile.

Keep up with Darryl!

Keep up with LyricFind!!

About A2IM:
A2IM is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit trade organization headquartered in New York City that exists to support and strengthen the independent recorded music sector. Membership currently includes a broad coalition of more than 700 Independently-owned American music labels. A2IM represents these independently owned small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) interests in the marketplace, in the media, on Capitol Hill, and as part of the global music community. In doing so, it supports a key segment of America’s creative class that represents America’s diverse musical cultural heritage. Billboard Magazine identified the Independent music label sector as 37.32 percent of the music industry’s U.S. recorded music sales market in 2016 based on copyright ownership, making Independent labels collectively the largest music industry sector.

Learn more about A2IM here.
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