Flipagram Inks Sony, UMG and Warner Music Licensing Deals for 30-Second Song Clips

Startup, whose app lets users create short picture-video stories set to music, closed $70 million funding round last year

Flipagram, a social-media app company that lets users create and share short photo-video segments set to music, has cut deals for rights to 30-second previews of millions of songs with music companies including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.

Launched in November 2013, Flipagram — vying to take on Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Vine and others — claims to have more than 33 million active monthly users. In addition to the major labels, it has deals with The Orchard and Merlin Network, as well as music publishers including Sony/ATV, UMPG, BMG and the National Music Publishers Assn.’s independent music publisher members.

The startup also announced that in February 2014, it closed $70 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital, joined by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Index Ventures. The company is based in L.A. and currently has about 60 employees.

Flipagram’s deals with music labels and publishers give its users “unprecedented access to a comprehensive catalog of popular, classic and indie song clips to use as the soundtrack to their Flipagram stories,” said CEO Farhad Mohit. “And our music partners benefit from having their music featured and available for purchase in the tens of millions of flipagrams being created and shared each month worldwide.”

Unlike competing social platforms, Flipagram combines music (or user-recorded voiceovers) with photos and videos to create compelling, shareable “stories.”

“A movie without a soundtrack doesn’t have as much oomph,” Mohit said. “The big arc of what we’re doing is the democratization of storytelling.”

Serial entrepreneur Mohit previously founded BizRate and shopping search-engine company Shopzilla, which E.W. Scripps acquired in 2005 for $560 million; Scripps Networks Interactive in 2011 sold Shopzilla — now called Connexity — to private-equity firm Symphony Technology Group (STG) for $165 million. Before Mohit acquired Flipagram from its founders in 2013, he founded three unsuccessful ventures: web-annotation service DotSpots; Gripe, an app for sharing complaints about businesses; and Cheers, a social service that let users share their favorite people, places and things.

Flipagram’s app, available for iOS, Google Android, Windows and Amazon devices, automatically links to Apple’s iTunes to let users purchase songs included in a post; the startup gets a cut of that transaction as an iTunes affiliate. The app also links to Spotify, Mohit said, but there’s no business relationship in place.

Artists that have joined Flipagram include One Direction, Madonna, Maroon 5, Britney Spears, Garth Brooks, Fifth Harmony and Becky G. According to Mohit, Flipagram users created 14 million new videos in the first quarter of 2015, with an average length of 30 seconds.

“Flipagrams are a snap to create and the way they combine photos, video, music and audio furnishes them with a global appeal,” said Sequoia chairman Michael Moritz. “Flipagram’s popularity shows that the app has touched a chord with people everywhere.”

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