April 13, 2024
A Really Big Deal

Photo: Zaccardo/Rick Visuals Inc.

Jorge, left, and Julio Brea of Symphonic Distribution.

Editor's Page

A Really Big Deal

Vickie Chachere | 3/1/2023

Jorge and Julio Brea were just little boys when their family immigrated from the Dominican Republic to Tampa in the early 1990s. As teenagers growing up at the dawn of digital age, they loved both music and technology, and they figured out a way to bring the two together.

Jorge didn’t play an instrument, but he could compose electronic dance music on his computer and by 16 was working as a DJ and producer, going on to release original music and remixes. When he got the entrepreneurial “itch,” Jorge started uploading mp3 files of his music on Myspace, and by his own account was making $100 a day. He turned to helping other artists do the same in the rapidly emerging digital world of music distribution.

In 2006, with no venture capital or outside funding, he founded Symphonic Distribution out of his parent’s home, a company that made it easier for music creators to reach as many outlets and as wide an audience as possible, along with providing marketing, rights management and other services. Julio joined him in the company as did Jorge’s wife, marketing executive Janette Berrios. Their roster of artists eventually expanded to more than 100 in a range of genres, from Latin to electronic and country to classical.

Independent artists can’t just call up streaming services like iTunes and Spotify and ask them to carry their music, so Symphonic Distribution developed proprietary technology that allows artists to distribute music, videos and ringtones through one of the largest global networks of digital partners. And even though Tampa isn’t a city most associate with the music industry, Symphonic Distribution’s presence expanded to Africa, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Spain, and the company’s innovative team — now numbering 145 employees — attracted music industry veterans.

The family’s technological know-how has been a perfect match for an industry where streaming and social media have become dominant forms of music distribution, and where independent artists alternately have unprecedented opportunities but also barriers as big tech companies like Apple and Amazon and the three major labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group — put up roadblocks to reaching audiences. Jorge Brea made Billboard Magazine’s Indie Power Players list in 2018 and has stayed there since.

Early in 2022, after raising $37 million from Philadelphia’s NewSpring Capital and Tampa’s Ballast Point Ventures, Symphonic Distribution acquired Nashville-based marketing agency Streaming Promotions and joined with a division of Canada’s Higher Reign Music Distribution, which not only allows it to expand its presence but puts Symphonic on an entirely new level within the industry. For a company that had grown steadily and quietly in Tampa — along the way drawing on local resources and business development expertise from resources like Florida’s Small Business Development Centers — there was one last hometown hill to conquer. In January, Symphonic Distribution was recognized with the Alliance of M&A Advisors Tampa Bay Chapter’s Deal of the Year Award.

I can tell you firsthand that the selection process was more competitive than might be obvious. I was honored to serve as a judge for this year’s competition and was astounded at the complexity and the impact of the deals put before us. Florida has always had a strong entrepreneurial streak, but the deals vying for this year’s award reflect two very important features about the strength of midmarket mergers and acquisitions: The ability of homegrown companies to take the leap to the next level and the interest of outside firms, including multinationals, in acquiring the thriving businesses born here. The community is doing something right when those two things happen with frequency and scale.

The two other finalists for the award were Millian Aire Enterprises, a family-owned commercial and residential heating, ventilation and air-conditioning company that was acquired by Ontario-based global facilities management firm BGIS, and Lake Michigan Credit Union’s acquisition of Tampa-based Pilot Bank. In all three cases, the deals are producing hundreds of high-wage jobs in the area.

As for Symphonic Distribution, the creativity and artistry keeps flowing in big and small ways. In addition to its major moves, it also is partnering with platforms like Pinterest to add music clips to posts. The same week we celebrated with Symphonic at the Deal of the Year Awards (Florida Secretary of Business and Professional Regulation Melanie Griffin and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor joined in the honors), the company announced a music video distribution partnership with Canela Media, a leading Spanish-language streaming service. The Brea brothers leave little doubt that they’re just getting started on a steady drumbeat of success.

Find me on Twitter, @VickieCFLTrend, and LinkedIn.

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