Andre Benz is the CEO & Co-Founder of SoundMint. With a storied history in digital music — having founded and built Trap Nation, the largest independent music-curation network on YouTube, at just 15 years old — Andre is now bringing generative music to new artists and fans in Web3. Andre is passionate about the future of music NFTs, and their potential to revolutionize music collection and curation for the long haul.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born in New Jersey, but growing up, I moved around a lot. In grade school, I never really fit in and felt different from a lot of the other kids because of my learning disabilities and being in special education classes. Music became an avenue for an escape of sorts – something that I could fully immerse myself in. As I got older, started making new friends, and became confident in who I was, my passion for music grew stronger. I never let it go, and it ultimately paved the way for a career.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I was lucky enough to have my teenage hobby set the stage for my career at the helm of the music industry’s future. In tenth grade, I started a YouTube channel called Trap Nation. In the beginning, it was just a way for me to curate trap and electronic music songs I liked on SoundCloud and share it with the world on YouTube. Still, in high school, I was eventually earning enough money through growing these channels that I knew I needed to pursue this full-time. Over the next ten years, I grew Trap Nation to over 30 million subscribers with billions of views and helped play a role in breaking artists like Marshmello, The Chainsmokers, Illenium, San Holo, and many others. That was the runway that led me to where I am today. I committed myself to music in a bunch of different capacities. I always knew of the endless possibilities of digital music and streaming, but eventually, I started to feel unimpressed with the music industry’s lack of progress. I realized that blockchain and Web3 was the emerging technology that would be the catalyst for change in the industry. So, I married my passion for music and technology and, with an excellent team of like-minded partners and friends, I started SoundMint — a generative music NFT platform that sells and creates unique music collectibles with a line-up of curated musicians and artists. My passion for this venture, and this space, is relentless. Our platform is for musicians and fans — it gives musicians more autonomy and agency over their work, and helps bridge the gap between artists and their devoted communities.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
My biggest piece of advice to other startup founders would be to find opportunities, even in the most difficult or challenging circumstances. While the NFT space is exciting with lots of possibilities, it is also very new, and everyone is still trying to figure things out. Use your setbacks or failures as lessons to help you think about challenges in a new way. For any issue that arises, there is a solution. You just need to think about it creatively and lean on the expertise of the team around you.