MBW’s Entrepreneur Of The Year is a new annual award that recognizes a founder who has, over the past 12 months, led a company that promises to change the face of the music business long into the future. The award, won this year by Meng Ru Kuok, is launched in association with Goldman Sachs‘ Entertainment Banking Team.


It’s nearly always the founders, isn’t it?

Whenever the tectonic plates of the music business are shifted – or upended altogether – it’s typically powered by pioneers who simply aren’t used to doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Look at the progenitors of today’s blockbuster record business for evidence: from Berry Gordy to Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen, Chris Blackwell, and Rick Rubin/Russell Simmons.

Ditto, tech legends whose inventions have collided with the music biz: from Steve Jobs (Apple/iTunes) through to Steve Chen/Chad Hurley/Jawed Karim (YouTube), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and, oh yes, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker (Napster).

Founder-led disruption in music hasn’t fizzled out over the past 20 years, of course – thanks to tech mavens like Daniel Ek (Spotify) and Alex Zhu/Luyu Yang (Musical.ly, now powering TikTok), through to rights-side innovators like Bang Si-hyuk (HYBE) and Willard Ahdritz (Kobalt).

It’s as true now as it ever was: when the most visionary founders launch a company within (or reliant upon) the music business, the music business is often never quite the same again.

To recognize and celebrate these trailblazers, Music Business Worldwide, in association with Goldman Sachs, today (December 31) launches a new annual award: our global Entrepreneur Of The Year.

This award doesn’t only recognize commercial performance, or other traditional metrics of business growth. Instead, it’s bestowed upon an individual whose company has shown serious potential to irrevocably alter the way the music business works for decades to come.

Having consulted with an expert judging panel over the past few weeks, MBW’s Entrepreneur Of The Year winner for 2023/2024 comfortably fulfills this criterion: Meng Ru Kuok, founder and CEO of Singapore-based Caldecott Music Group, home to music tech company BandLab Technologies – and its flagship music-making platform, BandLab.

MBW explained back in January just how disruptive BandLab was becoming – with over 60 million registered users on the platform, cumulatively generating around 17 million new tracks each month.

According to Meng, this is merely scratching the surface of a future whereby the number of music ‘creators’ in the world becomes comparable to the number of music ‘consumers’ – and where these two terms become somewhat interchangeable.

As Meng explains in our Q&A below: “I think there will be over 1 billion music creators by 2030, potentially even sooner.

“However, this is with the caveat that I also believe the definition of a ‘music creator’ or ‘musician’ will change, just as the definition of a ‘photographer’ has changed with the advent of smartphones.”


BandLab has made several moves this year to strengthen its position in the music industry – including the acquisition of (and integration with) beat marketplace Airbit, and the launch of straight-to-streaming distribution via a partnership with FUGA.

In addition to Airbit and the flagship BandLab platform, BandLab Technologies’ portfolio includes sophisticated music production software Cakewalk – acquired in 2018 from Gibson Brands – plus artist services platform ReverbNation.

Via this suite of platforms, chiefly BandLab itself, BandLab Technologies has not only driven forward music’s burgeoning creator economy, but started spawning hits too.

Artists who started their journey by making music on BandLab include d4vd (Spotify monthly listeners: 25.2m) and Luh Tyler (2.4m), as well as Cl4pers, whose viral hit Want Me! has over 10 million plays on YouTube.

As Maria Egan of Riot Games put it earlier this year: “It’s really obvious that BandLab-type tools and generative AI tools are going to completely change the definition of what a music creator is.”


In May, BandLab announced a USD $25 million Series B1 funding round that increased the company’s valuation to $425 million.

That followed a successful Series B round in April 2022, where BandLab raised $65 million and achieved a valuation of $315 million.

Unsurprisingly for a music-tech business making waves in the modern age, BandLab has developed a suite of generative AI technologies, including SongStarter – an AI-powered tool that presents users with musical ideas to inspire their creations.

Yet BandLab has been careful this year to evolve its AI tech in accordance with ethical guidelines that are respectful of the ‘traditional’ music rights business.

In August, BandLab became the first music creation platform to support the Human Artistry Campaign, which aims to defend the ‘irreplaceable role of human artistry’.

Then in October, BandLab went one further, announcing a strategic/friendly partnership, centered on AI, with the world’s biggest music rightsholder, Universal Music Group.

Below, MBW questions our Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023/2024 – Meng Ru Kuok – on BandLab’s disruption to date, its transformative last 12 months, and what the company has up its sleeve for the future…


Why did you support the Human Artistry Campaign, and what does ‘responsible’ generative AI in music mean to you?

Supporting the Human Artistry Campaign was an extension of our commitment to protect and empower creators globally.

To us at BandLab, ‘responsible’ generative AI in music means leveraging technology to augment human creativity, not to overshadow or replace it. Our SongStarter tool gives creators a starting point while still ensuring the final creation remains a product of human imagination. There’s a reason why we named it SongStarter, not SongFinisher.

We’ve seen a surge in users empowered by our AI-powered tools over the past year — 15x growth over the past 12 months alone — which is a testament to the positive impact technology can have when thoughtfully employed.


With over 60 million creators on BandLab, what factors do you believe are contributing to the platform’s growth? And what does it tell us about the type of creators that are joining BandLab?

Beyond the hard work of the amazing team we have at BandLab, I believe our user growth is a direct result of the maturing of our platform, which has been years in the making. It’s not an overnight success but a steady climb fueled by our deep understanding of the needs and behaviors of our Gen Z demographic, which is our core user base. This demographic is not just tech-savvy but also seeks a collaborative, intuitive, and accessible music creation experience, which BandLab provides.

We’ve been meticulously refining our tools and services to cater to this generation’s desire for immediacy and social connectivity within the creative process. Our insights show that these young creators are not looking for isolated software solutions, but a dynamic community that supports their growth and exposure. Hence, our integrated platform that combines music creation, social networking, and artist development opportunities hits the mark for them.

“The shift we’re witnessing is profound: Music creation is becoming a social activity, much like gaming or content creation on other media platforms.”

The shift we’re witnessing is profound: Music creation is becoming a social activity, much like gaming or content creation on other media platforms. By tapping into this trend early and continuously evolving our platform to support it, we’ve been fortunate to be able to position ourselves as the go-to ecosystem for the next generation of musicians, producers, and fans.

There’s still so much to do, and there’s more we have planned — but this is the real tailwind behind our growth. And as we look to the future, it is these creators who will be driving not just our platform, but our whole industry forward.



Many in the music industry – Sir Lucian Grainge included – have voiced concerns over the ‘flooding’ of streaming platforms with ‘low quality’ music, leading to recent announcements from streaming services to limit the uploads/lucrativeness of so-called ‘noise’ on their platforms. A huge amount of music is created on BandLab each month, so you’ll have an interesting perspective on this. What’s your view?

I personally believe there are changes needed — philosophically and financially — to the current global music landscape, streaming services included.

I think there is often a mischaracterization or misunderstanding that the necessary transition of the current system – into an ‘artist-centric’ model – is one that [must be] exclusionary, or forever limits earning opportunities for potential artists around the world. For music, I believe this is the one industry where this isn’t the case at all.

Today, with the maturity of the internet and the multitude of tech and social media platforms, distribution is not the problem anymore — differentiation is. In other industries or forms of media, I would perhaps see more validity to that assumption [of distribution being an issue], but music as a form of art and content is the only ecosystem that truly allows both asset mobility for its products and class mobility for its human creators.

“The way we see it, in music, ‘users’ and ‘artists’ aren’t distinct separate sets of people, they’re just people at different stages of their creative journey.”

Music isn’t like sport, for example, in which the absolute majority of people watching a professional game on television could never have a chance of being on the same stage or competing at the same level [as pro athletes]. The way we see it, in music, ‘users’ and ‘artists’ aren’t distinct separate sets of people, they’re just people at different stages of their creative journey.

In my personal opinion, I strongly feel that the music industry needs to evolve the business model to a more artist-centric approach in order to reward and better incentivize the pursuit of artistry. But at the same time, we should all be focused on developing more ways for creators to mature on their journey. There are leaders making great strides around the former, and the latter is what we’re trying to achieve at BandLab. No matter the definition and where the lines are drawn between them — it doesn’t affect us trying to widen the net of people who could consider themselves ‘users’, and helping more of them become ‘artists’.

The idea that there is a need to evolve the streaming model is not an opposing position to our vision of breaking down barriers for music creators around the world. In fact, both can be true at once. If both are achieved, the entire industry will grow significantly in a healthy way and everyone, ‘users’ and ‘artists’ included, will benefit.


Talking of Universal Music Group, you recently inked a strategic partnership around AI with them. What benefit is that going to bring BandLab and its users?

I am optimistic; I believe that all parties, at both the top of the pyramid and the top of the funnel, taking a collective approach towards empowering and protecting creators in the face of this new phase of technological innovation, is necessary. The benefit will be a working and sustainable ecosystem for music for hopefully generations to come.

The creator who is hurt the most if AI is not handled correctly – from either an ethical or legislative perspective – is not the one at the top, it’s the one who hasn’t even had a chance to put their first foot on the ladder yet.


BandLab has driven big tracks for numerous artists including d4vd, Luh Tyler, Cl4pers and more. How big a part of what you do are you expecting that ‘hits’ area of the business to become?

The worldwide global success stories that we’ve seen in the last 12 months serve to highlight the potential of BandLab in nurturing hit-makers and being part of their journey.

With every step forward and milestone we achieve, the opportunity to serve millions of creators worldwide is something we never take for granted. I am continually humbled by the passion and talent of our users, and every hit and success story is a reminder of the collective effort that makes this all possible.

“The ‘hits’ area is an exciting part of our business, and long may it continue to grow — but it will never be as large as the part focused on democratizing music creation and providing opportunities for all artists to create music.”

While we are of course proud of these achievements, our focus remains on providing tools, platforms, and services for all levels of creators.

The ‘hits’ area is an exciting part of our business, and long may it continue to grow — but it will never be as large as the part focused on democratizing music creation and providing opportunities for all artists to create music, share it with the world, and launch their careers by finding their audience on BandLab.


Can you explain for those who don’t know how creators make money from BandLab, and then how you as a company make money from BandLab?

Though it’s free to make music on BandLab, it’s not free to get your music onto Spotify or to major streaming platforms with BandLab Distribution, available via our paid subscription product — BandLab Membership.

That’s one example of how creators on BandLab are able to earn and monetize their creativity through BandLab, as well as how we make money, on top of other highly popular BandLab paid services like Boost or Promote, which allow you to run dedicated ad campaigns to promote your profile on and off our social network.


SensorTower announced in 2021 that BandLab had caught up with Apple’s GARAGEBAND in terms of total mobile downloads – some milestone! What’s your vision for the ultimate scale of BandLab for music-makers?

MIDiA Research just published a terrific report on the state and growth of the music creator economy and forecasted 198.2 million music creators in 2030. I highly encourage everyone to get their hands on that report and read it. I have the utmost admiration for Mark [Mulligan] and his team at MIDiA… but on this number I’d cheekily and respectfully disagree.

I personally think there will be over 1 billion music creators by 2030, potentially even sooner. However, this is with the caveat that I also believe the definition of a ‘music creator’ or ‘musician’ will change, just as the definition of a ‘photographer’ has changed with the advent of smartphones. That is to say hopefully we can and will both be right!


Are you surprised, as I am, that when it comes to serving indie artists, the ‘major music companies’ have so far focused on distribution and marketing services – but haven’t acquired or built a music-making platform?

Not particularly. I think in the recent music tech landscape it actually has made a lot of sense that major music companies have primarily focused on distribution and marketing for indie artists, especially those in the business of signing artists and creators. Empowering creators to distribute had genuinely been a problem that was necessary to solve and there were definitely supply chain advantages to be gained.

“BandLab wasn’t built overnight, and in our wider Caldecott Music Group network, we’ve been in the business of instruments and music creation for over a decade.”

It also takes a significantly longer gestation period to holistically focus on the music creation space, which up to now had always been a significantly smaller market. BandLab wasn’t built overnight, and in our wider Caldecott Music Group network, we’ve been in the business of instruments and music creation for over a decade.


How do you envisage AI-created music/loops changing the face of the modern music business, and potentially changing BandLab itself?

I think AI, GenAI specifically, will have a profound impact on music. If done correctly, I truly believe creators will be empowered in ways that were unthinkable before, and the pie that feeds our unique ecosystem will grow significantly as well.

“We hope we can be part of a necessary choir that collectively pushes decision-makers and legislators in the right direction that will protect humans and benefit the world of music.”

We’ve seen a significant rise in baseline statistics, such as the likelihood of new users to download or complete [the creation of] a track with the help of SongStarter on BandLab. These signals point to how tools can break down more barriers for aspiring creators worldwide when you empower them with new technology, especially those from countries that do not have the same opportunity or access to basic music education and theory that many of us have had the good fortune to benefit from and often take for granted.

That being said, I do genuinely believe there are simultaneously profound and existential risks to the music ecosystem, which is why we’ve actively taken the approach of being vocal about our concerns. We hope we can be part of a necessary choir that collectively pushes decision-makers and legislators in the right direction that will protect humans and benefit the world of music.


How has your acquisition of ReverbNation in 2021 changed and improved what BandLab does?

Some features, such as BandLab Opportunities available through BandLab Membership, have already surfaced some of the aspects and benefits of the deal that we completed in 2021, but much of the progress has been behind the scenes.

With the completion of our brand update earlier this year, look forward to some more visible announcements. There will be a lot more surfacing as we move into 2024 and I’m excited about how that will drive the 1+1=3 between the two companies and across our group.


You raised $65m in 2022, and a further $25m earlier this year, raising BandLab’s post-money valuation to $425 million. Do you have a plan to scale into a unicorn? How are you using these investments?

Hopefully wisely!

Jokes aside, I obviously was – and had to be! – quietly confident that it was not a matter of if, not when, BandLab users would have Billboard-charting hits. But the fact that it happened so much sooner than expected, coupled with the changing tech landscape and our position in being able to lead the conversation around music creation and AI, has meant we’ve had to focus on accelerating and maturing many areas of our business that we thought would come a few years down the road.

To the question of valuation, we obviously wouldn’t have the world-class set of investors who joined our team – and cap table – 24 months ago if we didn’t collectively – and mathematically – believe there was a tremendously valuable potential opportunity ahead.

“we obviously wouldn’t have the world-class set of investors who joined our team – and cap table – 24 months ago if we didn’t collectively – and mathematically – believe there was a tremendously valuable potential opportunity ahead.”

I am obviously biased, as a co-founder, operator, and investor into [BandLab] all at the same time. However, with all the progress we’ve made in even the last 24 months and the team that I’ve been fortunate to grow and grow alongside over the last eight years at BandLab and our wider group, I truly and genuinely believe the opportunity for us and the wider music ecosystem is far greater than I even imagined at the start of this journey.

I’m invigorated and inspired every day seeing how incredibly passionate our team is about our unbelievable community of millions and millions of talented creators around the world.

No one knows what the next 12 months will bring, but there’s never been a higher level of conviction and commitment for us at BandLab. I couldn’t be more excited as we tie up this year and launch into 2024.Music Business Worldwide

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