As another executive indicator of how the boundaries-free sectors of music, fashion and design continue to blur, Thomas Steinbrueck is joining the Swiss music fin-tech company Utopia Music next month.
As of the new year, he will serve as chief of brand and design officer. Steinbrueck, who previously worked for such brands as Reebok, Porsche Design, Elie Saab and Kenneth Cole, will be based in Zug, Switzerland, Stockholm and Berlin. In his new role, he will report to Utopian Music’s chief executive officer Markku Makelainen.
In an interview Tuesday, Steinbrueck said plans are in place with a Swedish sportswear company to introduce apparel. In addition, Utopia Music will launch its own collection of merchandise through partnerships with footwear and sportswear companies. A creative team is being formed and the company’s debut signature collection is expected to be launched next year. With travel to Asia restricted due to COVID-19, the focus is currently on partners in Europe and the hope is that will expand next year with partners in Asia.
With offices in such cities as London, Stockholm, Helsinki, Sydney, Nashville and other cities, Steinbrueck is looking to open a creative office in Berlin. The U.S. is expected to be a major market for Utopia Music, and opening a New York office is being considered.
In addition to collaborating with other fashion brands, there will be a focus on merging Utopia Music artists with fashion brands. “The fashion aspect is a huge part of Utopia, which is really a music industry service, but with a focus on fashion, art, film, entertainment and all those elements,” Steinbrueck said.
Enthusiastic about the different creative energy in Zug, Berlin and Stockholm and the synergies among them, Steinbrueck said, “It’s super exciting coming from the fashion industry and branching into this. I am one of the first [to do this] and I think a lot of people are going to be following. We are really so connected. Tech, music and fashion are just really close. It’s merging more and more, and I want to be a link between those worlds. That’s the big goal that we want to achieve here.”
Steinbrueck’s track record for “successfully transforming and modernizing brands into iconic and highly visible powerhouses” appealed to Utopia Music, according to Makelainen. “His talent will only add up to our vision and help us make Fair Pay for Every Play a reality in the music world,” the CEO said.
Fair Pay for Every Play is a 20-episode podcast that explores how new music technology could lead to fairer and more transparent royalties distribution. Through the discussions with music industry professionals, who are working as artists, writers, publishers and in other capacities that are impacting music technology, the aim is to provide more context about how music royalties work and to develop best practices.
Established in 2016, Utopia Music is trying to build a new music ecosystem for the industry to create new revenue streams, by consolidating data and reducing administrative overhead limitations.
Utopia was intent on hiring someone from the fashion industry and not from the tech field, because they are in need of this expertise in terms of the aesthetics and lifestyle of the fashion world, according to Steinbrueck. “All these industries are merging and nurturing off each other. The fashion industry loves the music industry and the music industry loves the fashion industry. Fashion goes into sport, art…I like the fact that I can use the expertise, aesthetics and knowledge that I have and build something in the tech industry.”
In September, Utopia Music acquired the Quincy Jones-backed AI start-up Musimap. With “a roster of really big investors [including Jones and others from the music industry that he declined to identify],” Utopia aims to raise “a three-digit-million investment fund” by 2023. The company has also hired leading executives from Facebook and other tech companies, Steinbrueck said.
Many in the apparel and sporting goods industry know Steinbrueck from his two-year stint at Reebok as creative director, which he first took on in 2016. Branding and marketing strategies, design and digitalization were a few of the areas that he was immersed in, as well as the design of Reebok’s corporate headquarters in Boston’s historic Dry Dock Building.
At Reebok, he oversaw a team of 50 handling graphics, creative direction and colors, and holistically influenced 100-plus people including the design team for footwear, apparel Reebok Classics, and others. He also lined up the brand’s collaborations with Vetements and Cottweiler among others.
Before joining Reebok, Steinbrueck worked for the Porsche Design Group for five years and prior to that, he worked for the New York-based designer Kenneth Cole. After graduating from École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, his entry into the world of fashion was working for Gianfranco Ferré at Christian Dior.
Steinbrueck’s most recent post was as head of creative and brand director at Joyn, a German cross channel entertainment streaming platform that is a media subsidiary of Pro7 and Sat1.
Steinbrueck said, “I’ve worked with fashion, automotive and sportswear. My new frontier is music, and to help creators and the value chain to really reach its potential truly resonates with me.”