Evan Lowenstein holds 20 years of experience in the music industry, stemming from his time as a recording and touring artist with the pop/rock band Evan and Jaron, scoring three Top 40 hits (including the Top 10 song “Crazy For This Girl”). Lowenstein since moved on to start a social media and mobile marketing company working with some top level brands, but has refocused his efforts back into music as CEO/Founder of Stageit – an online video platform that allow artists to stream and monetize concert-like live performances while interacting with fans in real time. Hypebot's Hisham Dahud reached out to Evan to get his take on the current landscape of live performances and how his product fits in.
Evan Lowenstein: The live performance space is booming. Fans are clearly willing to pay for a great experience, but I think it's deeper than that because many would argue (myself included) that listening to a record could be a great experience in and of itself. But fans are no longer willing to pay for that experience. And it's not just because they don't have to, but also because the whole concept behind a record company has never been analogous to our fans. They are schoolteachers, store clerks, doctors, etc. They make money for their time. The idea that an artist can make a record and expect fans to pay $10 for it six years later makes little sense to them.
They only tolerated it for so many years because they didn't have a choice. But now that music can be cut and pasted or dragged and dropped, the value of the circular has gone through the floor. Live performances, whether online or offline, require the artist to be there in the present moment. This places the artist on equal footing with the fans, who also have to be there in the moment to enjoy the experience. The experience therefore is something that they are creating together. That has real value to the fans today who crave so much to be a part of the experience.
Hisham: What sorts of growth areas do you see right now?
Evan: I believe we are going to continue to see tremendous growth in live experiences both online and offline.
Hisham: How is Stageit addressing these growth areas?
Evan: We're using all this modern technology to bring back a sense of romance and mystery to a time when the only way an artist and fan could interact was through a live medium. We've been able to accomplish a lot of this simply by NOT utilizing every bit of technology that exists. For example, the ability to archive a performance is a very easy thing to do, but we're more interested in helping an artist go viral than their video. Not to mention YouTube already does a fantastic job of that.
Another example is the ability for an artist to limit the size of the audience for their show. We often see users ask, "How can a show be sold out?" We want artists to have the ability to play in front of 20 people or 20,000 people, depending upon the type of experience they would like to create. We also keep things fun by giving the fans an opportunity to tip the artist during a show via a tip jar; and then recognizing the top tippers in real time. When we created the tip jar, we hadn't any idea that nearly 50% of our overall revenue would come from that button.
I think Stageit has been able to address some of the growth opportunities of live experiences by bringing them online in a way that has never been done before. Artists have finally realized that their investment in followers, subscribers, friends and likes has not converted into dollars the way they once hoped. Stageit is answering the call by providing artists with an entirely new revenue stream by allowing them to generate revenue from these virtual mailings lists. And the fans are incredibly grateful to be able to interact with an artist they love as well as pay money directly to the artist without having to go through a middleman.
Hisham: What does the future hold for live performances? What sorts of trends are we seeing now that speaks of the bigger picture we are moving towards?
Evan: I believe we're going to continue to see a surge in festivals in the near future as they provide fans with an opportunity to have a great experience with multiple acts for one price. And while that one price may be expensive, the festivals themselves have become bigger than the bands. It's about the experience – meeting new people, trying new things, and being exposed to new music (in that order perhaps). In a time of recession, one of the last things people pull back on is entertainment. Going out and having a good time to forget about life for a while is worth the price.
This all speaks to continuing trends in synchronous experiences. Any platform, be it offline or online, that can successfully bring people together in real time to meet, try new things, and be exposed to new music is going to be in the winner's circle.
Hisham: What would you like to see more music technology companies doing in order to help advance the space?
Evan: Be more transparent about "where the money goes" and give artists a bigger cut of the money. If artists felt more invested in the platforms they were using, I think a lot more money would be flowing. If fans don't believe that the artist is being compensated than they are less likely to spend as much money. For example, many fans perceive the artist as being screwed by the record labels so they justify downloading music for free. Conversely, the average Stageit user spends over $10 for a 30-minute online experience – or about the price of a record.
To be clear, I am not pointing fingers at the record labels. I completely understand their right to defend their position. I believe the onus is upon new technology companies to work within the confines of the law. Pushing the envelope is a good thing. Crossing the line is not.
To learn more about Stageit, head to www.Stageit.com.