Milana Rabkin: She’s Striking a Chord With Musicians

July 31 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Powered by Moxie

Yesterday, my friend told me she wants to start playing the ukulele. She’s buying one today and has already watched a few YouTube tutorials. It got me thinking how lucky we are, how we can wake up one day and simply decide to follow our hearts. You can rise in the morning and determine to become a uke player or a Bikram yogi or a superb pasta maker. All it takes is a little effort and a can-do attitude. Today, don’t get wrapped up in what you used to be. You have all the gumption needed to get started on mastering your new favorite hobby or totally reinvent yourself.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 10 to 25 Percent

From the music of The Beatles to Zooey Deschanel, the ukulele infuses a lighthearted and gentle vibe to any song. Sometimes, when it comes to music, it can be easy to forget we’re listening to the fruit of someone’s career, a work of art that pays the bills. And even some popular musicians struggle financially, in part, because they don’t pocket all that cash generated by the sales of their music. As part of a traditional recording contract, musicians typically receive royalties of just 10 to 25 percent of the suggested retail price of an album. To an up-and-coming artist, that cash might sound pretty sweet, but 10 percent of an original product an artist has labored over starts to sour the more you chew on it.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Milana Rabkin, Co-founder and CEO of Stem

Although the starving-artist persona sounds oh so romantic, when you’re literally starving, the allure tends to vanish. That’s why Milana Rabkin is on a mission to stamp out the notion of starving artists and launched a company that enables creators and the music industry to co-exist in harmony.

Milana’s company, Stem, basically tracks and organizes revenue streams for musical artists, with the overall goal of making sure everyone involved in the creative process gets paid accordingly. One look down the recording-contract rabbit hole, and you’ll quickly learn it’s extremely complicated. Stem gives musicians and their collaborators an honest portrait of their earnings, and makes it a cinch to upload content, manage contracts, track revenue and share profits. That means, as an artist, you’re never surprised by a dismal paycheck or chasing down collaborators for the Benjamins.

Here’s how it works: Artists upload their music or videos to Stem, select their chosen music-streaming platforms, like Spotify, iTunes and Pandora, enter a little data, then just keep on creating, playing, filming and writing. Each month, Milana’s company drops artists’ earnings into a PayPal account and—boom—just like that, they get paid. There’s no minimum term required, and the company only takes a minimal 5 percent transaction fee, so musicians and their teams end up with more of their hard-earned cash.

With easy-to-understand graphics that burst with color, and an effortless app, Milana’s creation will make you wonder why this breakthrough didn’t exist sooner. Milana’s sense for innovation and innate ingenuity may have something to with the company’s success. She’s a devout hard worker, and says if someone tells her no, what she actually hears is “try harder.” After all, this daughter of Russian immigrants has long been emboldened by the fact that her grandfather brazenly played the baritone in a Polish orchestra to signal to his community that the Nazis had invaded. So, yeah, tenacity and musical expertise run in Milana’s blood.

What brings Milana hope and is ultimately a testament to her company is that she is overwhelmingly passionate about supporting the rise of artists and creators. And she has no plans to back down. That’s something to jangle your tambourine for!


Throughout Milana Rabkin’s journey, she has been inspired by these words from Walt Disney, taking them on as her motto. He said:

“It’s fun to make the impossible possible.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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