StageIt Review: A Free Streaming Video Service for Live Performances
StageIt is a free live streaming video service which though primarily focused on musicians, could accommodate any live performance or event. StageIt launched just six months ago and was founded by Evan Lowenstein of indie duo Evan & Jaron. I first heard about StageIt from Hypebot commenter Madalyn Sklar, the founder of GoGirls; and got a one-on-one demo last week to assess its potential.
I haven't closely investigated other live streaming services like USTREAM , Livestream, Justin.tv or the new YouTube – Live; so this is not a comparison. However, I was very impressed by StageIt's user interface and overall ease of use and would expect a lot from others if doing such a comparison.
Part of the inspiration for StageIt is Evan's own interest in finding ways to reach audiences without having to go on tour, in part, as a result of starting his own family. Clearly he's combined his experiences as a musician and entrepreneur, including being former president of HookUp Feed, to solve the problem of how to facilitate live web shows monetized by tickets and a tip jar.
Setting up an account was quick and easy and one is given a choice of when to play and for how long, though sets are limited to 30 minutes with a 20 minute encore. Shows are not archived so the experience is designed to be limited potentially increasing its value to the audience. The nearest upcoming shows are displayed on the home page and all scheduled shows are available on following pages and can also be displayed by genre.
Tickets are sold using a virtual currency called Notes, worth ten cents each, and can be doled out in batches to raise audience urgency and to also turn upcoming releases of additional batches of tickets into an event. "Pay what you can" is one pricing option and a tip jar is also available which opens up the possibility of folks responding to an excellent experience.
Fan View During a Live Performance by Korn
During the show, fans can make requests and say whatever fans need to say on a chatboard which the artist can use as well though many simply respond verbally. Interaction seems to increase tipping which can occur during the live show itself. The dashboard also includes a merch store, currently with the option of displaying offerings from Amazon and iTunes, and artists can embed a trailer prior to the show to increase interest.
Artists are given a warning near the designated end of the show but can continue seamlessly into an encore. After the show a report is immediately available that includes a list of who paid what as well as the option to email ticket buyers. This opens up the possibility of thanking everybody as well as focusing on individuals.
StageIt can accommodate multiple shows at the same time and a tech support person is assigned to monitor each show in progress and assist in trouble shooting. The service is free but StageIt takes 40% of revenue excluding merch sales. There is no minimum required so StageIt only makes money when the artist makes money. Artists are paid via check or PayPal.
StageIt also pays licensing fees, so artists can do covers, as well as transaction fees. As a business model such services are a reminder of the potentially high cost of "free" which actually means deferred. Marketing is currently done by the artists.
Some well-established acts have used the service including Big Kenny, Korn, Debbie Gibson, Plain White T's and Lisa Loeb. Jimmy Buffet did a widely noted appearance at SXSW from St. Bart's which, though a promo broadcast event, revealed the potential for future usage of StageIt and did rely on the basic interface on a big screen.
Though I can see additional services being developed, such as archiving, I appreciate the focus on a clear concept and was impressed by the clean user interface that was really easy to navigate. I'm readily annoyed by the user interfaces I encounter on a daily basis so this is high praise. More importantly, it shows that StageIt knows what they're doing and understands the needs of both artists and fans to focus on the live show, not the tech.
That said, when setting up my account to broadcast, we ran into some glitches using two different browsers. Basically we couldn't get my web cam operating with the service but we didn't try to troubleshoot and I did not have the most recent version of Firefox. Nevertheless, such glitches are a reminder that artists should testdrive the service to make sure they're compatible and that the Web remains as problematic as real life!
So overall I'm giving StageIt a big thumbs up. I think it's worth investigating for any artist, including those who tour regularly, since some musicians have done shows from the back of their tour buses and it offers a more intimate venue than any but the smallest and most peaceful club. Though StageIt clearly could be used for other forms of performance, it's also worth keeping an eye on as an audience for the platform itself builds, since it could offer the potential for marketing an act to StageIt's audience as well.