Sidestep is a mobile merch app that's designed to allow fans to pick up merch at the show or to have it shipped home. This month Sidestep launched a brand new native app for iOS and I took the opportunity to get an update from CEO and Founder Eric Jones about their progress. As it turns out, fans are responding strongly and Sidestep is getting a positive reception not only from artists but from merch companies and venues as well. Though that's a lot of relationships to manage, Sidestep seems to be succeeding at becoming a valued partner to all stakeholders.
Learning From Their First App and Launching Anew
Soon after our first chat, beginning in January, Jones said they pulled their Android app entirely and then spent the next few months creating a totally new native iOS app based on what they'd learned.
Jones said their first app ultimately saw 40,000 downloads and 6 figures in sales. Since June 10th, their new app has already seen 10,000 download and $25,000 in sales so things are moving quickly. In fact, Jones says they've been happily surprised at the response to both the first app and of the new Sidestep app.
As you can see from the iTunes app listing, Sidestep's "complete makeover" includes numerous tweaks and new features. But the basic concept remains the same.
How Sidestep Works and How They're Growing
The Sidestep app allows fans to buy concert merch at the show, for pickup or home delivery, or without going to the show and just having it delivered. The result is increased merch sales as those who can't go but love the act can get special concert merch while those who don't want to wait in line can get the merch delivered while still enjoying the show.
Sidestep monetizes by taking 10% from artists' gross sales and adding a 10% service fee to the fan's transaction. Despite the fact that this reduces revenue per sale, Jones said the increase in sales has more than made up for such charges.
Note that Sidestep has a delicate position in some respects. They're basically inserting themselves into a fairly standardized process with strongly established players.
But since Sidestep is primarily a tool that improves the process without displacing those already involved, more a sustaining than a disruptive innovation, it can be taken up by the industry much more readily.
That means that Sidestep needs to educate everyone involved about how it works and why they need it. Ultimately it's a freely downloadable app that the people who normally handle merch would use. But at the moment Sidestep is going through what sounds like a "do things that don't scale" phase and sending their people out to handle sales and show folks how it works.
In addition they're developing partnership relations with big announcements likely in coming months. Current partners include atVenu, Manhead Merch, Crush Management and Warner's WEA.
The Big Vision
Eric Jones revealed that they want to be more than an app facilitating merch sales and, in fact, intend to become the primary merch data provider for the web.
So just as a streaming music service might add concert dates from a service like Bandsintown or Songkick, they might also add a merch link powered by Sidestep. Ticketing companies are another example of potential partners for such a service.
Given that Sidestep isn't trying to disrupt the core players in the merch machine and that its benefits are pretty easy to understand at the end of the day, this vision seems achievable despite its scale.