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Born and bred in New York City’s vibrant East Village, Gabe Warshaw’s immersion into the neighborhood’s historic music scene was nearly immediate.
The son of a composer, Warshaw began playing drums at 4 years old. His father would often take him across the street from their home to watch Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican congueros play in Tompkins Square Park. Even from such a young age, Warshaw began to notice the financial inequity many everyday artists face despite excelling at their crafts.
“Growing up in the New York jazz music scene, I saw a ton of absurdly talented people,” Warshaw said. “Even though I didn’t have the vocabulary yet to articulate that they weren’t ultra-wealthy from their work, I knew intuitively that some of them were struggling to get by.”
As he grew older, Warshaw’s passion for music endured, though his academic pursuits followed a different direction. He majored in Economics as an undergraduate student at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he also delved into architecture and engineering. Entrepreneurship was another one of his interests, leading him to take a course titled “The Entrepreneurial Musician.” A business plan he developed during this period addressed some of the same issues he’d been ruminating on and researching over the years since those early days in the park, such as intellectual property and the monetization process.
After graduating and returning to New York City, Warshaw secured a job doing city-scale climate action planning and economic development with an engineering consulting company. Although passionate about his work, he remained drawn to music and devoted any extra time he had to playing shows and producing tracks.
Warshaw opened a music studio in Downtown Brooklyn in 2019 with the intention of providing a collaborative recording space for artists. However, he quickly became frustrated with the amount of unreleased material artists kept living on their hard drives.
While streaming services have changed the game for fans’ accessibility to artists and their work, the hundreds of thousands of tracks uploaded online every day represent only a small fraction of the material that is actually recorded, Warshaw says. Meanwhile, through conversations with artists, producers, managers, and record label employees, Warshaw became engaged with the infrastructural problems plaguing the music industry around plagiarism, inaccurate crediting, and artists having their work released without their consent.
“As I was hearing all of this amazing material from really talented people, some of them world touring and Grammy-nominated artists, I was also hearing stories from some of them who weren’t able to pay their rent,” he said. “That was completely incompatible in my mind.”
And so the idea that had been circling in Warshaw’s head for years began to solidify into Baton, a collaboration platform that solves chain of custody for work-in-progress material, ensuring artists are properly credited and compensated for their work. The startup aims to create an ecosystem where artists can safely collaborate with anyone in the world.
After establishing the concept, Warshaw was introduced to Sami Forzinetti and Claire Bogle who joined Baton as early collaborators. Shortly thereafter, Warshaw enrolled in ITP at NYU Tisch, a creative technology graduate program, where he met teammates Armon Naeini, Wasif Hyder, and Elias Jarzombek. The program offered a unique opportunity for the team's members to merge their passions for music, visual art, and creative coding.
His first week at the university, he started searching for answers to his questions about fundraising and legal services for startups. A startup coaching appointment at the Leslie eLab soon kicked off his involvement in programming at the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute.
Baton went on to participate in the Startup Bootcamp, Startup Sprint, Summer Launchpad, and NYU-Yale Pitchoff. In 2022, the startup took home 1st place at the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge’s Technology Venture Competition and tied for the top spot at the NYU Entrepreneurs Festival Demo Day Competition. That same year, the NYU Innovation Venture Fund added Baton to its roster of portfolio companies with a pre-seed investment. Warshaw is also one of 11 Founders in Residence at the Leslie eLab currently acting as a mentor and advisor to up-and-coming NYU startups.
On track to graduate from Tisch ITP this year, Warshaw is bullish on building Baton into the market’s go-to solution for mixed media collaboration and rights management. The startup’s primary motivation remains creating an ecosystem where creatives feel empowered to share work that would have otherwise gone unheard.
“There’s an exciting opportunity for this to be a hub for artists of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and mediums to find collaborators and share their work knowing they’ll be fairly credited and compensated,” Warshaw said. “The purpose is to help artists live the lifestyles they want with the support of their work, while also letting their new and old fans hear the music that they usually never get access to.”