After mounting speculation, Google Ventures Europe has finally made its first investment in a 15-year-old UK music firm. 

The search giant’s European venture capital arm, announced last July with a $125 million budget, was today revealed as the lead investor in Kobalt Music.

The Google Ventures European team minus Bill Marris ©TechCrunch

Kobalt, which distributes music for the likes of Prince, Paul McCartney and Maroon 5, raised $60 million (£38.9 million) in a Series C round from investors including Google Ventures, MSD Capital (the private investment firm for Michael S. Dell and his family) and Balderton Capital. 

While Kobalt is a well established company, its growth exploded in 2012 when it created an artist and label services division, which allows artists to retain ownership of their music (unlike other music labels).

Kobalt has over 5,000 artists and songwriters, 600,000 songs and 500 publishing companies on its books. 

The firm, founded in London in 2000 by Swedish technology entrepreneur Willard Ahdritz, also offers a software platform that allows artists and their managers to monitor royalty revenues. 

Ahdritz said: “We take great pride in the fact that Google Ventures and [Michael Dell’s] MSD Capital both share our vision of technology and transparency working together to create a new industry structure in today’s complex digital world.

“We are relentless in our mission to increase trust between the music and technology industries in order to build a new infrastructure that benefits fans, creators, rights owners and DSPs, all together.” 

Kobalt said it will use the funding to build more software of a higher standard. 

Google Ventures boss Bill Maris said: “There are three things that really stand out about Kobalt. First is their track record. With 40 percent growth year-over-year over the last decade, [and] 8,000 song writers and over 500 publishing companies.

“Second, they have a deep commitment to trust and transparency, which we share as a common value at Google Ventures.

“Lastly, Willard's incredible passion and unwavering belief in his company and the potential it has to change the music industry are impossible to ignore.”

Michael Dell added: “I am excited about MSD Capital’s investment into Kobalt and by the opportunity that Kobalt has ahead of it to make the music industry more transparent and efficient. 

“I am also pleased to have Dell Inc. continuing to support the company as its preferred technology partner, providing the hardware infrastructure and the knowledge, services and support that Kobalt needs to achieve its goals.”

Prior to today, Kobalt had already raised $66 million (£42.7 million). 

The Kobalt funding is the latest in a string of large investments into UK tech companies. Indeed, Shazam, TransferWise and Huddle have all announced funding rounds running into the tens of millions over the last few months. 

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