It’s a good day to be Russell Simmons, as one imagines most days are. The hip-hop mogul has secured an additional $5 million in funding for his new media start-up All Def Digital. The funding round was lead by venture capital firm Greycroft Partners. This isn’t Greycroft’s first foray into online video; the VC firm has previously worked with Maker Studios as well as digital media companies like The Huffington Post and Collective Media.
All Def Digital was born out of a partnership between Russell Simmons and the AwesomenessTV network. It was originally conceived as a YouTube hub that would feature up-and-coming creators in comedy and music with an urban sensibility. The channel’s content would be curated and informed by Simmons’ creative instincts, with AwesomenessTV providing the YouTube expertise. Since that time, All Def has grown into a small network of its own with support from Universal and also launched an in-house record label in partnership with AwesomenessTV. Most recently, All Def added Sanjay Sharma, formerly of Machinima, as president and COO with a mandate to lead its expansion.
All Def Digital has not been entirely free of controversy. An early video project called “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” drew criticism from the YouTube community and the media. The video featured YouTube stars Shanna Malcolm and DeStorm Power in a skit in which famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman wins her freedom by blackmailing a slave owner with a sex tape. The sketch started a small firestorm of criticism for its insensitive treatment of racism. Simmons eventually withdrew the video and issued an apology. The controversy was short-lived and did little to impede All Def’s growth.
The initial investment of $5 million will be spread out across All Def’s various media endeavors. With one foot planted in the world of YouTube and another firmly entrenched in the music industry, All Def is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the increasing interconnectedness of the worlds of music publishing and online video. In fact, All Def Digitals current status hybrid record label/YouTube studio might be the ideal form for the media company of the future.
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