This Startup Is Bringing Bitcoin Payments to the Music, Podcast Industries

Wavlake’s streaming platform enables artists to collect Bitcoin payments from their fans.
Written by Abel Rodriguez
February 16, 2023Updated: February 16, 2023
Wavlake co-founders Sam Means and Michael Rhee pose for separate photos against a grey background.
Wavlake and co-founders Sam Means (left) and Michael Rhee (right). | Image: Wavlake / Built In

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming tech companies, Built In launched The Future 5 across seven major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five early-stage tech companies, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Austin’s rising companies from last quarter here.

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Over the last few years, several tech companies — including many based in Chicago — have released new products that disrupted the music industry. Now, Wavlake is looking to make its mark on the industry after raising pre-seed funding and announcing plans to grow its artist streaming payment platform. 

Wavlake was co-founded by musicians and producers Michael Rhee and Sam Means. Through the use of blockchain and Web3 tools, their platform helps support artists financially. Wavlake is a music and podcast streaming platform that allows artists to receive Bitcoin payments from their fans. 

“I had been frustrated with music recommendation algorithms on streaming platforms for a long time. Then I learned about Lightning Network and how it enabled people to transmit Bitcoin to each other almost instantly around the world. The technology seemed like a great way to build a new kind of music streaming service that better-connected artists and fans,” Rhee told Built In via email.

In December, Wavlake closed a pre-seed round led by Trammell Venture Partners, an Austin-based VC firm focused on backing early-stage Bitcoin-native startups. Wavlake did not disclose the amount of capital it raised; however, it said the funding would be put toward growing the company and its products.

We’re hoping this helps inspire other companies and developers to make new and interesting music applications that are both fairer to artists and more enjoyable for fans.” 

With the new capital, Wavlake plans to onboard more artists and creators onto its platform. Over the next year, Rhee and Means said they will also build out the Wavlake team and improve the platform’s foundation to better accommodate its growing artist base.  

By continuing to build blockchain-enabled tools for creators, Wavlake hopes it can inspire others to create new technologies to support artists and their work. 

“We aren’t building any custom blockchain technology or issuing any kind of special token,” Rhee said. “We’re hoping this helps inspire other companies and developers to make new and interesting music applications that are both fairer to artists and more enjoyable for fans.”

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