If anyone wants to text Ryan Leslie and have a one-on-one conversation with a big-deal rapper, here’s his number: 646-887-6978.
That’s not a secret. Leslie shares the number publicly and encourages people to message him — it’s a way for him to develop a direct relationship with his fans. And now with his startup SuperPhone, he’s building tech tools to manage those messages and relationships.
I spoke to Leslie about SuperPhone earlier this week as part of AOL’s Build speaker series. Some of this might be familiar if you read about venture capitalist Ben Horowitz backing SuperPhone, but I think Leslie spoke insightfully about his own experiences, how they led to the creation of SuperPhone and where the company goes from here. (For one thing, there are plans for a version of the product that serves regular consumers.)
I also got to ask Leslie about the decision to keep his recent music, including his latest album MZRT, off streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. (This discussion starts at around 18:30 in the video above.)
“I absolutely love all of them,” he told me. “I love the ability for fans to be able to discover my music. The main disconnect that I have with streaming services … is that if a fan wants to let me know that they’re my number one fan on streaming — as it stands right now, that data is not passed to me.”
In other words, his resistance to services like Spotify is more about data than money. After all, there’s not much cash being paid out here, so “you’re going to make most of your money with a direct relationship.” (And SuperPhone is supposed to help artists build and manage those relationships.)
Leslie added that the data issue is something he’s been discussing with the companies in question: “Once that’s ironed out, that’s when my music will be back on those streaming services.”