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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
News article29 December 2022Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

“Success is when you find yourself smiling when looking back at what you have achieved”

An interview with 33 Under 33 entrepreneur Marzio Schena

Secrets of Success Marzio Schena 33 under 33

On the Promoting Enterprise portal we are talking to the entrepreneurs on the 33 Under 33 list. This Secrets of Success initiative aims to shine the spotlight on a selection of successful young entrepreneurs, documenting their stories in an effort to inspire others to consider entrepreneurship as a career path. Today it is the turn of entrepreneur Marzio Schena. Although he is Italian, his company ANote Music, is registered in Luxembourg.

Tell us about your business

ANote Music is the leading European marketplace for investing in music royalties. Our investment platform provides direct access to fractional ownership in established music catalogues, recently emerging as one of the most in-demand alternative asset classes.

Investors bid in an auction for shares of catalogues on our primary market, our liquid secondary market provides entry and exit opportunities for all, and allows investors to trade with others and, on a quarterly or semi-annual basis, shareholders receive royalty pay-outs as passive income directly into their wallets, all traceable via blockchain.

Music rights holders get immediate access to funds by monetising in an innovative and engaging way their creative assets while gaining visibility within a growing community of music lovers and investors of all kinds.

Where did you get the idea from?

A few years ago, while watching the Sanremo Music Festival, I fell in love with a song, so I tried to find ways to invest in it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any way to place my investment as a private individual that is not deeply rooted in the music sector. Eventually, my chosen song actually won the festival and I was proud of spotting the “next big thing” in music but at the same time upset that I missed out on possibly making a clever investment.

I started getting informed about all the “ins and outs” of the music business and I got curious about the long-term effects of winning a competition such as Sanremo has for an artist or a label. I started to understand the concepts of intellectual property and music royalties and started seeing many similarities with traditional stocks, and discovered that music could provide a great diversification for a portfolio and serve as a long-term passive income source.

I also quickly learned that the music industry was a closed industry and only accessible if you were an insider or someone with gigantic budgets. Despite the music industry being a growing business in constant need of capital to support further growth, the bridge with the financial markets was never made and yet it had so many attractive perks, such as not being correlated with the general economy and providing passive income sources.

I saw an opportunity for opening up this market to the general public and creating a market for investing in music rights that could provide a win-win situation both for investors as well as for everyone involved in the music industry who owns music rights.

How old were you when you first decided you would start your own business?

I was 26.

How did you get it off the ground?

I started discussing with friends, family and peers the foggy idea of a music investment platform that would open up the music market to everyone.

I generally received positive feedback, though most of the listeners considered it extremely hard to realise and never heard of such a concept. The idea of investing in your favourite music and receiving passive income for decades was appealing, but where to start? Where to get the capital? And first and foremost, how to convince any player in the music industry, be it an artist, a label or a publisher, to actually sell a portion of their own music rights to a network of external investors, or fans? Why would they do it? What are the legal implications? And how to start attracting investors if we didn’t have any music catalogues for sale?

I soon found in Matteo, an old pal from high school, the perfect companion in the adventure, and together with Greg, an enthusiastic young Belgian developer (now CTO), we co-founded ANote Music in July 2018 – with very little knowledge of what to do next and how to get the idea off the ground.

The following (several) months were all about speaking with as many people from the music industry as possible, with the goal of decoding the functioning of the opaque market for music rights. We spent countless hours gathering material, statistics, books, opinions, insights and hopes from people that had been in the music business for a long time (and who were actually nice enough to spend an hour of their time speaking with us). We acted like a sponge, absorbing as much knowledge and expertise as possible.

At the same time, we were distributing our pitch deck to investors, business angels and industry experts with the goal of raising capital to launch operations and get the project really started, with a team to work out all the ideas that we had.

I remember how the first days, even putting together a convincing pitch deck seemed like the hardest thing I had ever done. Conveying your business ideas to others in a structured way is not an easy task if you were never prepared/trained to do it.

Following iteration after iteration, we eventually made it and one year after starting the company we managed to find funding, in mid-2019, when we closed our first two investment rounds. This gave us the necessary resources to hire a team (marketing and tech) to develop and test our platform and prepare everything to go-to-market with it. Shortly after raising the first investment round, we found interested music rights owners who were ready to partner with us, finalised development, tested and retested the platform and were ready to finally launch the first European platform to invest in music, in August 2020.

Who did you turn to for help?

We turned to quite a few people: networks of business angels; the people from the music industry to whom we pitched the idea; local initiatives for start-ups (start-up networking events and competitions, e.g. Fit4Start); friends who had launched a start-up; local incubators; honestly, really anyone.

Describe some of the obstacles you faced as a young person starting out in this business.

When we started, I was just out of university and had a high level of expertise in finance, my field of study, but those studies didn’t prepare me for all the other skills and aspects required for starting your own company. Good luck with figuring it all on the go when launching a company. You’ll have to learn how to do all the administrative tasks and, sooner or later, you will need to deal with matters like team management, improving customer experience, leading marketing efforts, implementing a sales strategy, acquiring presentation skills, and continuously gaining the trust of people that have been in the business for decades. You will need a great team to support you in all these tasks, probably with people that are much better skilled in those specific tasks than you are, but nevertheless, as a founder and CEO you will always touch on and get involved in all the different parts of your business. I found myself needing to show that, besides passion and a big idea, I also could also master execution, otherwise people would not follow me and, as a young person, I had to learn this all very fast in order to succeed.

How do you define success?

Success is when you find yourself smiling when looking back at what you have achieved.

What was the most challenging aspect of setting up your business?

In the early days, funding was definitely one of the biggest challenges. Limited resources make everything harder to accomplish and create frustration if you know what you have to do and have everything else ready for execution, but the funds are missing. Once we had secured our investment round, we could grow the team, start our marketing activities and actually bring our platform live. The next challenge was to make ourselves known in the market and gain the trust of the people. When we started, for the majority of people music as an investment opportunity was something completely new, so we had to educate the market, show that this was a legit business model that could drive nice returns for everyone involved. Looking back on how we handled all these things, I can say we’re pretty proud of our journey so far and managed to do everything in a relatively short period.

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?

My personal growth, not only from a business perspective but also on a personal level. I’ve learned so many hard and soft skills over the past years that I probably would never have learned if I stuck to the traditional corporate jobs that I was doing. Also, the interactions and many “adventures” we had so far with the team have been very rewarding. Not only do I see my co-founders and colleagues as business partners, but most grew to become some of my closest friends.

What are the future goals of your business, and how will you go about achieving them?

We aim at being the reference player for transactions of music rights and dominate the market, dramatically scaling up the number of investors and music catalogues listed on our platform. Our mission is pretty straightforward, we want to make music even more valuable to even more people and become the NASDAQ of music investments.

Our focus has been on the European market so far and we’ve established ourselves as the market leader here. The next step is to expand our services to other regions, like the Americas, and actively market ANote Music there to democratise music investments further.

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs out there?

Keep pushing, there are no excuses – running into obstacles or even failing the first few tries shouldn’t be a reason to stop. You need to keep on going, overcome the challenges, become a better professional/person and make it work. But enjoy the trip. They say that it’s not the outcome that counts, but the journey that you are on. While you need to take care of 1,001 different things all at the same time, you should never forget to enjoy all the different things you experience on the way. Work hard, play harder! Use sunny days to make phone calls, rainy ones and Sundays to plan and work on presentations and Excels.

Demand more from yourself, “doing your best” isn’t good enough. You need to push yourself and overcome your own limits. There’s always room for improvement and if you expect others to do great, you need to be even more demanding of yourself. Lead by example I’d say. Use Google Drive as if it were your brain. Listen to soundtracks when you write emails or prepare presentations.

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