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It was announced last week that Sony owned Columbia Records made an investment in technology startup, Stamped. This marks the first time that the record label has helped fund a startup. We spoke with Elliot Lum, VP Strategic Marketing, to uncover more about the investment, what it means for the label and to learn what other investments in emerging companies are planned.

Brandon Gutman: Why Stamped?

Elliot Lum: There are several reasons why we are collaborating with Stamped. First, Stamped is a platform for discovery and we want to be part of a service that promotes the discovery of music among other things. Second, the artists we promote have many interests beyond the music they create, and Stamped allows them to express those interests. Finally, we were really impressed with the founders – Robby Stein and Bart Stein – as we believe in their vision for Stamped.

What type of strategic investment are you making with Stamped?

Specifically, in this case, we bring a lot of digital expertise to the table. We feel our digital product managers are some of the smartest and savviest in the business as they market the biggest artists in the world to the ones that we are just trying to break. At our label, our brands are our artists and each artist requires a different digital strategy that needs to be tailored to them. Our digital team must be fluent in all of the new tools in the landscape and always looks to push the creative boundaries in the name of music discovery, trial and purchase. Unlike other brands who might try a few digital campaigns a year organized against a particular product launch, we conduct hundreds a year. We have a strong sense of what works and what doesn’t. We think we can bring our collective digital expertise to the Stamped team to help them grow their service while aiding in the discovery of our music and our artists.

Elliot Lum of Columbia Records

What are you looking for in other potential investments? What specific types of emerging technology companies do you want approaching you?

Columbia Records is first and foremost, a label that focuses on discovering and promoting music for fans worldwide. We are not setting up a venture fund, but we will look at opportunities strategically through the lens of what assets we can bring to the table beyond financial capital. As far as other startup opportunities, we want to talk to companies that fundamentally help our artists get closer to their fans. That is the main lens that we look at with any kind of opportunity because that feeds into the business objective of promoting our artists. And that can be in any space from mobile to web to big data. We want to engage early and often.

PepsiCo10 and Kraft Your Pitch are two examples of large advertisers that are getting more formally involved with and supporting the startup community. How do you see this trend evolving? Should all brands be getting involved somehow?

Yes, I really admire Pepsi and Kraft for their vision of the future. Technology is becoming such an enabler of what brands all crave which is word of mouth. These companies are smart to get an early read on new technologies so that they test it and determine if it is scalable across their marketing networks. The trend will only start to accelerate as more marketers who grew up in the Internet era push for it and specifically, tie it to key business objectives like driving incremental sales or lowering marketing costs.

The specific amount of the financial investment from Columbia Records was not disclosed. Bain Capital Ventures, Google Ventures, Metamorphic Ventures, Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Seacrest, Baron Davis, Scooter Braun, Eric Schmidt, Brian Lee, Tom Conrad, Crunchfund and The New York Times Company also participated in Stamped’s recent round of financing. According to Stamped Co-Founder & CEO, Robby Stein, “this latest round of funding will help us continue to hire a world-class team to support our product and business needs. We want to deepen and broaden the Stamped experience across platforms, including Web, and so are looking to staff up new development.”

Follow Brandon on Twitter at http://twitter.com/brandongutman

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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