Member Spotlight #17: How Chantal Epp founded music licensing platform ClicknClear & met her investor through shesaid.so
With a background in music licensing and competitive cheerleading, Chantal Epp is the founder and CEO of ClicknClear, a platform enabling official music licensing for performance sports worldwide. She tells us her story of how she secured investment through a conversation started at a shesaid.so meet-up.
Tell us a little more about yourself, and your music career journey to date.
I am one of those few people who always knew what they wanted to do from a very young age. I wanted to work in music but I had no idea doing what yet. I played piano, violin and I sung as well. I was in every music related thing at school, be it choir, orchestra and so on. When I went to University I decided to study Commercial Music at University of Westminster. Here I learnt about everything from music business to performing and production. When I started my first company at University, making music mixes for cheer and dance one of my lecturers suggested I should go into music supervision. I joined CueSongs after Uni and was there until the company went into administration in 2016, then I worked at a couple other companies before joining Enhanced Music, followed by CueSongs again when the assets of the company were bought. My experience in music was very much around sync licensing for online and digital media, licensing music for YouTube influencerss, TV ads, short films and more. We also had the mandate to manage sync for the MCPS which I did on occasion too.
What inspired you to build ClicknClear in the first place?
In May 2016, CueSongs, the company I was working for, went into administration. I lost my job instantly and had no idea what to do about it. I loved the company, the people and the mission, but here I was, having just bought my first property and now out of a job!! The world works in mysterious ways sometimes and although this felt tragic at the time, it was actually the best thing to ever happen to me.
At about the same time, USA Cheer, the US governing body for Cheerleading , released a statement about a recent lawsuit between Sony Music and the Cheerleading Industry. This statement stated that teams needed to license music. However, I knew there was no way for these teams to license music so I decided it was a problem I needed to solve! Being a Cheerleader myself, a music producer and having worked in sync licensing I knew I could create the solution to the problem and it was just a case of determining whether or not the business would be viable. I spent several months developing the plan and researching cheerleading and other sports. I moved into ClicknClear full time in October 2017 when I decided it was time to take the leap of faith.
When did you join shesaidso? How has that impacted your journey as a music business owner since?
I think I joined shesaidso around August 2016? I’m not entirely sure anymore but I remember joining and then reaching out shortly after to meet people whilst going to LA in November on behalf of Enhanced Music, a label I was working at whilst starting ClicknClear. Andreea, the founder of the group reached out and agreed to meet, as did others. It was great to experience so much support from other females in the industry. Since joining, shesaidso has helped me find rightsholders, investors and grow my career in the industry. It really feels like the best time to be a female founder because there is more and more support out there and women in music are just so supportive of each other. The network is constantly growing and new opportunities to meet people, connect and support others are ever increasing.
A little bird told us you found your first investor in the shesaidso community. Tell us more about that. Was it an angel investor? How did that happen?
So in April 2017 I was in Toronto attending CMW. I had been invited as a speaker on their roundtable discussions and was needing to be in Orlando shortly after for the Cheerleading World Championships, so it made sense to add the trip.
There was a shesaidso breakfast one morning and here I met a bunch of lovely ladies in the community, but more importantly sat right across from Janesta Boudreau, a music supervisor. She asked what I did and I explained that I was working part time at CueSongs and also had started my own company. She fell in love with the idea and totally got it immediately. She asked if I was looking for investment and I said it was on my mind but I wasn’t ready yet. Janesta said she thought her partner might be interested and asked me to stay in touch and send more info over when I could.
Janesta regularly kept in touch asking for the info. I started getting my investment deck together and sent it over to Janesta. In December 2017, she invited me to an artist showcase for Sarah DeCourcy (who we recently commissioned to do the International Cheer Union theme song for their Opening Ceremony). Here I first met Janesta’s partner David Walsh. We had a brief chat and then continued discussions through the new year.
I was of course looking at other investors and had a few others interested. We actually turned down an investment in January or February 2018 due to the terms not being very favourable.
I sat down with Dave a number of times and had a few meetings about strategy, something he is very good at! Finally in May 2018, we agreed a deal and have since gone through another round together. We are now in a great position and looking to close a Series A round towards the end of this year. I’d really love a female investor on board so if anyone has ideas, feel free to reach out!
Tell us a little more about the company, where it is today and where it’s headed.
ClicknClear delivers the power of officially licensed music to performance sports worldwide — a potential $1Bn+ annual untapped revenue opportunity for music.
As both music licensing professionals and performance sport participants, we want awesome, affordable, 100% legal music available for sports like cheerleading, figure skating, gymnastics and so on. We want artists and writers to be fairly rewarded for their creations, and we want sports to be able to thrive using officially licensed music at a fair price, pre-cleared with the tailored bundle of rights they need in addition to performing rights. We work with a rapidly growing number of music rightsholders from majors to independents and have an online marketplace where athletes / teams can easily license that great music. We also work with sporting governing bodies to educate and enforce the use of properly licensed music.
Our beta sport was Cheerleading and we are now the only approved music provider for the ICU (The sport’s International governing body). We recently moved into other sports such as figure skating, gymnastics, jump rope and dance sport and had a great reception — we are now in discussions to have deals in place with at least four sports by the end of 2019.
In order to further help sports governing bodies, we are in the midst of building a license verification platform to guarantee the legal licensing of music in all performance sports and tackle copyright infringement effectively and affordably.
We are looking to close a Series A round to help us build this platform and to also grow the company team to support the new sports we are working with. It’s certainly an exciting time for all of us at ClicknClear!
What are your tips for other women entrepreneurs who already own a small music company or are planning to get one started?
Don’t let yourself get stuck into the nitty gritty every single day. Often you’ll want to make sure you are doing all the work yourself because you can trust that you’ll get it done but there is only so much time in a day and only so long you can go before you get burnt out so make sure you get good at delegating, managing the delegated work and take time to rest — something I’m not always very good at!
I recently read a blog about how females are less likely to take risks and that actually taking risks early on in your career pays off in the long term so, don’t be afraid to take risks!
Finally, read a lot of books. I know it’s hard to find the time but last December a mentor of mine in Cheerleading recommended I read Create & Cultivate, an autobiography of a female entrepreneur who started a marketing company. The book talked about some issues I was facing at the time and it really helped me through some difficult decisions. From this point I decided to read 1 book every month from autobiographies to business books to fiction and I am proud to say I am on my 8th book in 7 months! You can learn so much from reading especially from other peoples failures and successes, so do it, take it in and give yourself time to think about how what you’ve learnt can apply to your life and your business.
Pro tip #1: What’s the most useful pro tip you can share in terms of negotiating $$$?
Often you’ll have your heart set on a number or a valuation but it’s always best to have a range in mind. You need to be willing to negotiate because otherwise you can lose the deal. It’s always better to have a smaller share of a big pie than a big share of a small pie.
I’d also recommend asking a little more than you think you need originally as you’ll typically be negotiated down. This is something I’ve learnt from a few others in the shesaidso community.
Pro tip #2: What’s the most useful pro tip you can share when your emails/calls are being ignored?
Don’t give up!!
People know me for my persistence and whilst they probably get annoyed by it sometimes, it does work and I sometimes even get thanked for it!
If someone really won’t respond to my emails, I’ll call them, if they still won’t respond then I’ll find another person to start the process again and if that doesn’t work, I will ask others in the community if they know anyone who can help. In the beginning the last option was harder because I was still building a name for myself but now that a lot of people know ClicknClear and we have a fair amount of rightsholders signed up, it’s getting a little easier.
Pro tip #3: What’s the most useful pro tip you can share to really smash work meetings where you’re the one “selling”?
So we need to sell to the music industry and the sports industries. Both require very different approaches (and outfits weirdly). The music industry is incredibly receptive to us as we are forging a new path in a totally untapped market. I have my pitch down to a tee so I guess I’d recommend keeping it short and straight to the point whilst being positive and explaining some of the achievements you’ve had.
As for the sports side of things, it is a political landscape and can be very formal at an official level. I always thought it would be hard to sell to other sports outside of Cheerleading because we are essentially telling them they are doing something wrong, but actually they have also been really receptive because they recognise that music needs to be licensed, they also want additional rights which they can’t get right now as teams are unlicensed and they want increased participation and engagement, something music can help with. I’d recommend asking questions first about their problems so you can explain how you can help them andALWAYS meet people face to face even if that means travelling halfway around the world. If it’s important to your business, go out and make it happen.
What do you enjoy the most about being a member of shesaidso? How are we making an impact in the industry together as a community?
I love that I can send an email asking a question or reaching out for support and within minutes I have a number of emails from people willing to help! I also love that I can meet people in the community when travelling around the world and that everyone is working so hard together to make sure our voices are heard. There are still so many problems with inequality, not just in gender but other areas too and I love that the women in our community do so much to make eachothersvoices heard!
If you could fix or change one thing about the industry what would that be? How would you do it?
I would make it less complicated!! There are so many rights for so many things and for many years, labels and publishers dealt with everything but now songwriters and artists have the ability to be a manager, label, publisher, marketing person and so on so we need to educate people to help them understand and simplify the licensing process for music so artists can actually make a living.
Music is an Intellectual Property right and you make money out of IP by licensing it. Everything we do in music is around licensing, be it streaming, downloads, merchandise etc. If we can simplify the process and educate both the users of music and those creating it, I think we’ll have a much better system. On average, there are 9 songwriters per track, then you have the label. That’s 10 people you need to negotiate with before using the music. That’s a lot of money and a lot of time making licenses too expensive for end users to even bother. Why do you think the music is free concept exists and there is a value gap? We don’t make it easy for anyone. That is what I want to change and that is what we are changing.
One thing in particular I’d love to change to help simplify the licensing process would be to introduce some form of 100% licensing so if you contact the majority stakeholder of a track, you can license the whole track. There are many issues around implementing a system like this to ensure it is fair and takes into account restricted writers and their moral rights — we don’t want a 60% owner licensing music to KFC when the 40% owner is a vegan… but I’m sure there are solutions like this that can be worked on, agreed and introduced to help make the process more affordable and simpler for smaller usages. I think we’ll have to see a law change first though.
What does the music industry look like to you 5 years from now?
For once the industry is growing again and I really see the next 5 years as being very positive with a growing ecosystem of niche value-add startups. I see companies like ClicknClear adding value by tailoring the industry’s offering for pushing new markets and ways of generating revenues, and other startups who are creating more efficient processes for artists, labels, publishers and more.
Name someone you consider a role model or mentor.
I have a few role models and mentors from a variety of different places in my life from music to sport, but I am going to name my mum as my biggest role model/mentor. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but she truly is the most supportive person in my life. When I was 15, she started her first business (a dental practice) at the same time she was going through a divorce with my dad. I watched her start her company and was heavily involved in helping her through those initial years. This inspired me to want to be my own boss and start my own company and it was just a case of finding the right idea!
She is one of those incredibly hard working, strong, independent women who almost always has the right thing to say. She has supported me a lot through these last couple years and I am so thankful to have her in my life.
Three tips for maintaining balance while hustling as a CEO. These can be career-related, or focused on health, nutrition etc.
I’m probably not the best person to ask about this! I often neglect my own work-life balance including my health but I do have some tips I can share, I just need to follow them, for once!
1) Your health is your number 1. If you are not healthy, how do you expect to run a business?
If you think there is anything wrong, get to the doctor as soon as possible. It may be nothing, but it’s always better to check before it is too late. I’ve had a few health scares this past year and if anything else, going to the doctors gave me peace of mind.
2) If you travel a lot like me, listen to your body. If you need to eat, eat. If you need to sleep, sleep. Don’t force yourself to stay up so you can adjust to the time zone. Sometimes your body just needs to rest and if you aren’t rested you’ll struggle to talk to people, socialise and even do your work, or care about doing it! Tiredness can mean you make mistakes so put that laptop away and go to bed!
3) Give yourself admin days or ‘no event days’ as I call them. My no event days are my personal days. They are the days in my diary that say ‘no events’! It’s a rare occurrence but on these days, I don’t care if someone has spontaneously called me up to have dinner or go to the movies or my family want me to come by. These days are my days to not be interrupted by anyone. I can sleep in, go to the gym, catch up on admin. I can finally reset. Everyone requires different amounts of down time. I try and grab a no event day at least once a month although it usually happens a lot less than that. One thing I’ve learnt being on my last trip is I need to start planning no event days or half days when I’m travelling too!
Finally, how can people reach you if they want to connect?
I’m not one of those people who hide my email from anyone. I’m always open to connect — might take me a while to respond, but I pretty much always will. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, add me on LinkedIn, but please add a note, or find me on Insta at chantal_arisha to see my travels around the world and my cheerleading performances! You should also give @clicknclear_ a follow too!