Being a musician is tough during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding concerts and shows have become almost impossible. Good thing that online concerts have become a beacon of hope, but only if you know how to utilize it well. In this episode, Bree Noble invites to the show Laura Simpson from Side Door to talk about how you can triple your income from live performing online. Called the Airbnb of Concerts, Side Door works to help match up artists and hosts for concerts, venues, and more. Now, they have pivoted to online concerts and providing cool things for artists, fans, and hosts. Laura lets us in on what they are doing and how we, too, can thrive in this industry. She discusses as well the different pillars in your music income to help you become a profitable musician. Just because the world is forced into their homes doesn’t mean you have to give up performing altogether. You better believe that with online performing, there is a way.
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How To Triple Your Income From Live Performing Online
With Laura Simpson From Side Door Access
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about how you can triple your income from live performing online. We talked about different pillars in your music income to help you become a profitable musician and our second pillar is all about performing live or online. Whether you’re in person or live streaming, this is a big and important piece of your income. You better believe if there is a way that you can 3X that part of your income, I was going to be sure that we talked about it on this show. I pulled this episode from an interview I did on my other show, but it is so relevant now. I wanted to make sure that you guys heard this.
In this episode, I am excited to introduce you to Laura Simpson from Side Door. They originally started a few years ago to help match up artists and hosts for things like house concerts and alternative venues. They’ve been called the Airbnb of Concerts, which I love that concept and as you probably know from reading that I’m a huge fan of house concerts but we can’t be doing that now, not in this new COVID era. What did they have to immediately do? She’ll talk a little bit about this and how they had this great thing going with South by Southwest. They have all had all these awesome partnerships and everything got canceled. They had to immediately pivot and shift. What they found in doing that is that they could shift to online concerts and provide something cool for fans, artists, and also hosts.
It’s allowed them to shift into an area they probably never would have and it’s something that they’ll be able to offer in the future. Once they’re bringing back these in-person concerts, this will be another part of their business. It’s exciting how this happening has opened up a new part of their business, a new service that they can offer for artists and hosts, and a new cool thing for artists to try out. As you’ll read Laura will say, the artists are doing well with this. As far as income-wise, you’ll be amazed when you read what she says.
I am here with Laura and she is from Side Door. I’m excited to have her here. I heard that she’s the Cofounder on Rick Barker’s podcast talking about their service and how they’ve pivoted during this time. I got excited about what they’re doing so I was reaching out to them like, “We have to have you on the show.” Before we get into Side Door, I’d love to know how did you get started in music and how did it all lead up to where you are now?
When I started out in the music industry, it was like anyone else. I was a fan of music. I was hanging around musicians and going to gigs as a young kid at All Ages clubs. One of my first things was definitely defending my friends trying to make sure that they were getting paid correctly. I got into writing. I was a freelance journalist as a young adult and that also translated into taking photographs. I was doing live music photography. That was my first paid gig. I was getting paid to take a picture of a live concert that turned out to be an album cover.
I did a little bit of everything in terms of helping out with bands but my journalism took off and I ended up being a journalist for seven years doing that. I pivoted back to music after a while and worked at a nonprofit that helped artists with the music business side of things and developing their careers. I worked as a funding program officer to help artists export their music and get funded for it. I wanted to do something in live music because all of my vacation days I was taking from work festivals and I was promoting my own shows at my own house. I was doing lots of stuff with live.
I was learning about the technical side of things about booking, contracts, the craziness fiasco that can be, and the complicated ways that artists need to earn a living, especially being squeezed out with every other way of earning revenue in this industry. Live music was where it was at. I decided that there was something in live music, especially in these beautiful shows that I was able to host at my own house where I could give the artists all of the money and it felt it was the best experience. That was my foundational years in the music industry working in all of those gigs.
I worked in Los Angeles for four months and worked in the biggest music market in California trying to learn the ropes and figure out what it was in the epicenter there. That’s where all my foundation and music came from. After I left the nonprofit for music, I started my first company, which is called The Syrup Factory and it’s still going. It’s a management or project support for hire. We would help people release their albums, put out a video, or represent them at festivals, conferences, and that thing. In a way, it was because we knew many artists who did not have representation, support, or a team, but were amazing.
In Canada, especially there was a lot of funding that you could access for support but there wasn’t necessarily a lot of support out there so we were doing mini-projects to help artists when they needed it. That company’s still going. I handed it off to my partner who was my first employee and she’s managing it day-to-day. I’m proud of that start but it wasn’t exactly what t to start when I first started. I always wanted to start Side Door. I didn’t know how to do it yet.
I’ve heard you guys talk about Side Door. It was started as the Airbnb for Concerts or house concerts kinds of things. Is that what you had in mind when you first started it?Side Door was an idea borne out of how to make live music a better experience for artists. Click To Tweet
Side Door was an idea born out of how to make live music a better experience for artists. In a lot of ways, I was watching artists, especially the ones that I dearly loved coming back tour after tour without making any money on these grueling tours. They’d make enough to get by, but they were mostly paying out the band, the costs of touring, and those things. I wanted to give them a little more assurance in their experience so I saw a solution in these house concerts that I was doing. I was looking for a way to simplify the booking process for house concerts.
Meanwhile, I met Dan Mangan through a mutual friend. Dan, who’s an artist on the West Coast of Canada, was doing a similar thing. He was an artist. He started out with host concerts. He had created his career on that, making relationships deeply with audience members who had met him in the early days. He was helping out artists on his sub-label to get these shows and develop their audiences. There’s something in around these tiny, intimate, and wonderful shows that we can help people with.
It was a superseded of an idea for both of us. He was still a full-time artist so I went back to school as it were and started developing the business idea. We workshopped it together into what it became which is a tech platform. That is a bit of a game-changer because entering the startup tech world in the music industry is nuts. It is the best place to create a fair and transparent platform that’s going to champion the artist and give them agency to be able to book shows on how they want to do it.
The idea was to recruit all the best artists and help them find the best spaces to plan. We started with houses, we’ve got community centers, churches, breweries, and public spaces. In all of these places, we would matchmake based on the preference of where they wanted to play. The hosts of these venues would be like, “We’re looking for this kind of artist or whatever.” These are places that wanted to do this but they didn’t know how. We were helping both sides to book a show. The third part of the marketplace was the audience. They were the ones paying hard tickets for these shows, leaving reviews and all of these things. It was sort of an Airbnb version of live concerts but we wanted to put the power in the hands of the artists so they could feel they had agency and clarity in this process. It was giving access to a lot of fans to do the shows.
I’m a huge fan of house concerts and non-traditional shows because a lot of people come into my world and they’re like, “I don’t want to play at bars and restaurants.” It opens up a whole other area to them but I can imagine that when this whole COVID thing hit, it changed your business, because suddenly, it was impossible to do most of the things that you guys were offering. I know you guys made a big pivot. What did you guys do? How did you not immediately freak out when all this happened?
We freaked out. There’s no question about that. Side Door had developed over a couple of years of work. We had 2,200 artists at the beginning of March and we had about 7,500 venues all over North America. We had booked more than 700 shows and we had done amazing shows all over North America. Everything from tiny little shows in people’s living rooms to pretty large shows in skate parks, that sort of thing and all over the place.
We were having a great time. We had a partnership booked with South by Southwest and we were touring artists from their hometowns down to Austin. We would help the artists get rehearsed, some buzz, and some money in their pocket on the way down to South by Southwest because it’s hard to go to there and feel you’re going to make a mark. That was a big project we’d been doing for months and sunk a lot of money and time into it. It was a huge recruitment effort to basically carve tour routes all over North America. Before we were about to launch our tour, days before these artists were about to tour, that’s when South by Southwest was canceled and that’s when we started to cancel everything as well.
It was heartbreaking because it was a conversation we had to have with every single artist and host. Because the way our platform works is we are the engine, the facilitator, the connector, but we can’t dictate what people do. Every single cancellation was a conversation about what do you want to do. Everybody wanted to cancel because at that point, there was no shutting down or resting in place and that sort of thing so it was difficult. Nobody knew it was going to happen.
We were in the fetal position for about a week. My Cofounder, Dan who was on at the time on a sold-out tour around Canada, had to cancel that and within a week. We started talking about booking online shows. It’s something that we had talked about before but it wasn’t something that we had dug into. I booked a workshop with an artist I knew and he booked a proper show on our platform on Zoom. Zoom was something we’d always use because he’s four hours’ time zone difference from where we are so we’d always communicated via Zoom so it was a platform we knew well.
That first show, I remember watching and I could see everyone in the audience watching from their homes, with their families and their pets. It felt magical. I felt I was with people and that it was going to be okay. It gave me hope for the first time in what felt like a series of terrible events. I called him after the show and I remember looking at his face thinking, “We’ve got something here.” There’s something magical about this interactive show that we can do. That’s when we started.
We’ve done more than 100 shows and we’ve more than tripled the artists’ take home from these shows and that to me is a remarkable feat. We’ve realized that this is not a replacement for live shows. We’re not going to stop doing live shows in the long run. We want to continue doing that if that’s possible when it’s safe, but online shows are something we absolutely can add to what we offer artists and enable them to connect with their fans.
It is cool to connect people in their own environment. They’ve got the dog, the kids and all that stuff. That’s fun and almost something that can’t be reproduced any other way, which is cool. Do you guys recommend Zoom or do you have other third-party apps that other people are using?
Artists and your audience feel these pains by constantly trying to figure out platforms in which are the best to use, they heard something and they find something better. For us, we can’t turn around and build a streaming platform tomorrow. We do have to rely on third-party services for now, until we can find a better solution and we’re almost there. Zoom is our preference because of the interactivity. You get something special when you do that. The other thing that I have always championed is putting a hard ticket on these shows. There are live streams all over the place, but most of them are free or by donation.
What we’re saying is these are shows that you are producing with a sense of a plan beforehand. People are going to show up and in this case, people open the “doors” online in this waiting room and they leave it open for an hour. They’re all chatting in the chatbox side of things and sharing stories about their favorite experiences with this artist. They come on. Not everybody has their videos on but the people feel comfortable with it and the artists can see the audience. Instead of what Dan has been calling Blind Casting where you’re performing into the void and once a while seeing some chat or emojis come up.
In this case, you are seeing people’s reactions and in some cases, we’ve experimented with unmuting, everyone at the applause moment and seeing what that cacophony can do, which is hilarious and joyful. It feels like that interactivity level is special, but the cap of the Zoom call. Either if you have no paid account, the hundred cap, which is totally fine for many artists. If you think you can sell more, you can add more to that capacity and that creates scarcity. Scarcity is the only thing we have left in this music industry to create value. If there’s a ticket, you’re going to come and show up. It’s going to be a great show and it’s not going to be posted anywhere later on. Most of these shows are happening and they’re done. It’s only for the people who bought a ticket and that makes it special.
I love that scarcity is the only thing we have left and that is true. Live streaming is free on Facebook, and streaming our music is free. We need to come up with something that’s all about the experience so I love the way that you guys are focusing on the experience and the interactivity in this situation. People are buying tickets to this, are they also donating in some way or maybe buying merch during the show or anything? How much are people charging for these shows?
The average ticket price, which we’re not setting but we’re putting out what the average is out there so people have a gauge of what might be fair. The average prices between $7 and $8. That seems to be across the board whether it’s American shows, Canadian shows, or European shows. It’s around $7 and between $5 or $6 maybe. For the US it’s a little lower. I find that’s the sweet spot in what people are doing because we don’t have the donation, the Pay Which You Can model set up yet. It is coming soon, the pricing. What people have done in the meantime is they put a super low price on it if that’s what they feel that they need to do and people are buying multiple tickets so they increase their payment to the artist.
The other thing is people when they’re doing the show, they’ve put up their PayPal or Venmo link in the chat so anyone who feels tipping can do that and that’s been successful for artists as well. The same goes for merch. There’s a lot of communication around, “You can buy this merch here.” Steven Page from the Barenaked Ladies has been doing a weekly show with us. He created t-shirts that are about doing these shows from home. They’re called Live from Home. He’s been selling these t-shirts and people are showing up at the subsequent shows wearing their t-shirts dedicated to this audience, which is a great idea.
We’re moving towards being able to embed these shows directly into the show page where you buy your tickets so the window box of the picture that you would see for the show becomes the video that you watch. That allows the window dressing around that embedded video to be all your social links, your website, your merch links, your donation link, messages to guests, and all of those things. It’s that virtual venue where everything is there when you need it.
I love that you’re going to have that embeddable option. I’m sure that’ll be useful. I’m curious about the wording around buying the tickets because if you think about it, it’s one broadcast per home. You could have ten people there and they’d be seeing the same thing as the one person. Do you say, “Suggested amount per person,” or something so people can think, “I should pay $18 if three of us are going to watch it?”Scarcity is the only thing we have left in this music industry to create value. Click To Tweet
We have seen many people buying more than they need rather than less than they need. We’re actively and soon going to have better tickets to charity because for now, you could essentially take the link and share it, which is a barrier to entry for a lot of the bigger artists that we’re working on. We haven’t seen people doing it. The bottom line and I keep coming back to this is that the kind of audience that we’ve developed over the years are people that are music fans. They want to get the artists’ money and we’re giving them away to give the artist money. We don’t even have to suggest buying as many tickets as people in the house.
People are doing that and not only are they doing that, but they’re buying ten tickets, and on the ticket page, you can put in a bunch of emails of people that you want to send those tickets to. When the tickets are the price of a nice coffee, people are doing that. They’re like, “Do this. Watch this show with me,” and they’re watching. I was watching a great Mother’s Day show with my mom who’s in Florida however far away that is. We can’t be together but we can watch a show together so that’s special.
That is cool and you’re about the kinds of fans that are coming to these shows are not going to be the ones that are going to stiff anyone. They’re going to want to over give. I love the idea of being able to send tickets to other people by being able to pay for them. That’s a cool idea.
It’s been delightful. We’ve seen employers buying tickets for their staff as a present. We have done a couple of private trade shows. We did a show for kids that were in a rehab hospital in Toronto, and they had been isolated from their family. Their families watch their show with the kids who were stuck in the hospital when they couldn’t be together, which is the most heartstring-pulling show that you can imagine. That’s helpful especially when people are looking for ways to connect with others. The Zoom fatigue is real, but oftentimes when you’re on video chat with each other, it’s because you’re the focus. You’re in the spotlight and you’re the one who has to do the things. When you’re more engaged in a way that somebody else is the focus and you can share the experience with somebody else, it takes that pressure off.
Zoom fatigue is real. I have it during this time but it’s a different thing. You don’t have to be on, you get to enjoy, which is fun. What’s the average amount that people are making on these shows?
Our average is between $1,600 and $1,700 a show.
Here are some metrics around this. We do allow other platforms other than Zoom because we’ve been championing Zoom. That’s what most people are using. For most people, the average tickets sold is around 230 to 250. People in those cases, what they’re likely doing is they’re buying the 500 cap for the Zoom meets. That capacity spurs people to buy tickets faster, which is great because we’ve had many sellouts. The first sellout we did people were like, “What do you mean there’s a sellout for an online show?”
Especially people who do weekly shows know that as soon as they put the next one on, it will sell out because the fans know that there’s scarcity and you’ll see the same 200 fans every week buying those tickets. There’s a real opportunity there to build an audience and expand it because our whole thing after this is to work on audience development. I’m sick of ticket companies that take your money and do nothing for you. We want to be a ticket company that champions the audience because they’re the ones giving them money, showing up and who are putting their time and love back into the artists.
We as a company can encourage good behavior by saying, “You went to five shows, you get the next one free. You bought a subscription, you get some extra perks.” There’s so much we can do by having the audience accounts and develop that out for artists to say, “This is a way that you can contribute to me.” For so many artists, it’s difficult to ask for money and to price things themselves but when you have a third party helping you out, it often takes that pressure off because you see other people doing it and you are part of an ecosystem. It’s a little less icky.
I love that and I know artists will love that because you’re right. It is uncomfortable for a lot of artists to talk about money, ask for money, come up with a price. They always undervalue themselves but if they can see what other people are doing, that’s helpful. I love that you guys are doing that. I wanted to talk about hosts because I know when I’m encouraging artists to do house concerts, they’re always like, “How do I find hosts? It’s hard to get into these networks of house concerts.” With this online, what people are hosting? How are hosts getting matched up with artists?
That was one of our technical challenges when we first started because you don’t need a host to create these shows. What we found is that it’s helpful to have someone either on the promotion side with you, and/or in the show helping to moderate the chat, ensuring that you sound good. They’ll tell you if you’ve got spinach in your teeth or something. It’s like a friend who’s going to be there on the show. We’ve had some great existing real-life hosts. We have about 750 on our platform all over North America and they have stepped up. They’ve taken that role of either being a promoter and bringing their audience to the show or they’re acting in the moderator role. Sometimes they’re doing sound checks that they have technical experience.
For those people, we are still enabling the matchmaking system because that is still in place on our platform. That’s how we met before. It was like Tinder-style matchmaking. It’s like, “These are my preferences and those are your preferences. Is this a match? It is.” They would go into a show chat and create the show. The same applies to these shows. We’re working towards a huge marketplace of who contributes to a show. Who can make a show great? How do we connect them effectively? You can be matched based on the things that you’re looking for, but also look at their profiles and say, “There are lots of great reviews here. They’ve done ten shows. I can see the results of their efforts. Let’s match and we’ll create a show together.” That’s the direction we’re moving towards for the online shows, which is something that we were already doing for the live shows.
Have you seen artists co-promoting a show or doing a show together to both of their fan bases?
Absolutely. There’s a couple of iterations and it’s such hard times now, but it’s also such creative innovative times for those who have the energy and wherewithal to do this. Right away, Dan was one of the first people that I saw do this. He would sing a few songs and he would bring in a surprise guest who would sing two songs and talk a little bit with him. A week later, you’d see that person would have a show on Side Door and those people who went to that show would go to the new artists’ show, the one that they’ve discovered. That’s happening often and we’re looking forward to developing a project. This is important because emerging artists are getting swamped.
It’s hard to be heard. I want to start developing more of a song circle/virtual open mic, where it’s maybe a couple of songs per artist at a time but it’s promoted well. It’s got a curator. The curator could be a festival or a particular tastemaker that can say, “I’m going to select these emerging artists that maybe you don’t know but they’re great.” They can go on, share the virtual stage, be in their respective homes, and take the mic for however long. That’s a great way to discover new artists without exhausting the audience who may or may not buy a ticket for somebody that they don’t know.
I could see doing that for our Women of Substance platform. We’ve been around since 2007 and we used to do live showcases. We did 3 or 4 in the LA area and a few in the other parts of the country that I had other people run, but I could completely imagine doing this on this platform of, “We’re going to choose these five artists that have been popular on the podcast lately and doing a show with them.” That could be amazing.
The great thing about that is you as the curator have an opportunity to be in the show with them like you would in a real-life situation. You’re in between maybe saying, “I’m going to give an intro to this artist,” and you’re helping the audience learn more about them. You can help have someone or yourself run the chat and drop the links in there when they’re talking about something. It’s an informed way to interact with the audience who can then learn about the artists that you care about.
I’m feeling like I need to go ahead and start thinking about doing one of these because it would be amazing for our artists, their fans, communities, and all that. If I were to do that, say I was the host, how does the back-end work as far as people buy tickets, how did the artists get paid, how do I get paid, how do you get paid, and all that?
That was one of the first things that we coded. We had been booking shows for almost a year and we were doing a lot of free software, API’s and contract coders and that thing but Dan and I are not coders. It’s us and the staff and a lot of them are volunteers at that time. We were doing what I call Human Computering to figure out what are the things that we need to take care of in order for the show to be great. The first thing we did was the ticketing part of the system, which meant that you create a contract you get matched with whoever you’re going to do it with and you’re entered into the show booking flow.People are buying more than they need rather than less than they need. Click To Tweet
Essentially, there’s a chat where you can chat with the people who are involved in the show. That might be multiple people, be you and the artists or us and the artist. Essentially, they are taken through simple steps. What time is the show? What day is the show? What time zone is the show? What are the details that you need to mention to your guests? Do you need them all to wear silly hats to the show? What are the things that you have to tell everyone? There are reminders sent out to the audience.
All the communication and customer support, and all that stuff is handled by us. You put all the details in there including your direct deposit information. This is all through Stripe Connect. It’s automatic through our Stripe and you decide in the split. “We’re going to have a cap of 100 People.” You can slide the split bar back and forth. It’s literally a bar that you slide and it will show according to how many people are in the show what the split will be. You can say, “You’re going to take 10% for being the curator and the artist is going to take 80%.”
For Side Door, the standard that we take is 10%, which is the average for the booking rate in this industry. Not to mention, it also includes the ticket fee. We do it for 10% and for the 9%, you can figure out what the split is. That contract which you sign electronically and you know as well as I do that signing a contract in this industry is rare and it never happens. We were doing too many things by cash and not napkins. We need some more transparency here. You sign the contract and that contract automatically dictates how the ticket upon purchase is split.
If the audience goes in, they can see the ticket link. It’s like any other ticketing interface that you would go on except when you hit the arrow on the ticket price you can see exactly where the money is going. You can see how much Side Door is taking, you can see how much we’re paying to the performance royalty organizations, taxes are taking out, and everything. We also did it so the price is the price. If it’s $10, everything is backed over there. If you think you’re paying $10 for a show or paying $10 for a show, everything else is backed up. The person buys the ticket and as soon as they buy a ticket, that money is split according to the contract, held in escrow until the show’s complete, and automatically deposited into your account.
It’s amazing that you built all that complexity. Let’s say I sold a ticket for $10, and I get the whole percentages, Side Door, me and all that but all those other things like royalties, taxes, credit card fees, and all that. Let’s say I’m supposed to get 50% of that. How much do you think I would get? I’m not going to get $5 because there are all those other things coming out first.
This is where before you’re in that stage you get to see exactly what that is. In that show booking phrase that I was talking about sliding the bar. You’re going to sell one ticket for however many dollars. One ticket for $10 and you would exactly see what the split is. Essentially, off the gross, we take 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction for Stripe. That is across the board with what you’re going to pay PayPal. It’s a payment processor fee. That comes off the gross, and the taxes are also applied before the Stripe fee is applied. Whatever taxes if they’re being applied and they’re not always being applied, the tax is in this world applied according to who is charging tax. we at Side Door have to charge tax.
We charge tax according to what we have to charge. If the artist is not in Canada, you have to make $30,000 a year before you need to charge tax. If they don’t need to charge tax, they don’t charge tax. That’s all worked out in the back end. The tax is according to the user who needs to charge for it and it is also included. You also have the PROs. That’s in Canada. It’s for the broadcast license for the online sphere, that’s 2.99% of the gross. That’ll come off, the gross so then we’re working with whatever’s left. For us, it’s about 9.3% that we take out of the 100%. For you it would be similar if you were taking 10%. You would take 9.3%. That’s the way it’s broken out. Everybody shares those costs off the top and the split comes out of the net remaining.
It makes sense. Forgive me, I’m an accountant in another life so I wanted to know because people hear if they’re going to get 50%, they need to know they’re not going to get 50% and that’s how it is in life because there are all these other costs and stuff. It’s good to know going in and that’s cool that you make that transparent when you’re going in there and setting it up.
When I was a funding program officer and constantly hearing artists coming back with a loss. We fund them and come back with a loss and that’s not unusual, but it shouldn’t be surprising. Let’s make less surprises in the music industry, especially around money.
Another thing that I love about what you guys do is that anyone can be a promoter. You don’t have to be a person that was used to having house concerts and has any experience. If you feel like you have a big group of friends that would love this style of music, you could go and partner with an artist. You could do a deal and make money off of a concert for your efforts as the promoter, which is valid. That’s a skill that should be paid for. Anyone can do that.
It’s incredible before we went online to see these “average Joe’s” becoming superstars on the platform because of their efforts as a host. I had friends who were saying, “That’s because you work in the music industry. You know how it works. You know people.” I’m like, “No, it’s simple.” That was part of the impetus to make this because I wanted anyone to be able to participate. It’s back to championing the fans and the people who are passionate and who care.
Our whole goal with this company is to create a community of people that want to contribute. Whatever they can bring to the potluck that’s on and you can find the people that you want to work with. It’s also not about us being a curator. We don’t say what’s good or bad. We’re going to make it possible for you to find what you’re looking for. If you’re totally into goth klezmer music, go for it. Find your people, find the audience and we’ll make it happen.
Speaking of that, do you have something built-in like Spotify has Discover Weekly, where you’re offering up things to people as they come in based upon what concerts they’ve been to in the past?
We are not doing that automatically yet but it is close. We are close to having that suggestion based on previous experiences. Spotify’s knowledge is correct. As much as Spotify is loathed by many people in the industry, there are also some great things about it. The Discovery Tools are great. What we’re looking towards is having more conversations, API’s between things like Spotify and our platform, so when you sign up as an audience, you can say, “This is what I’m listening to.” They can say, “This is where you should go and see.” That’s where we want to get to. We were already doing this manually by helping artists say, “I can see my listeners are here, here and here.” Therefore, let’s try to book a tour there. We would then relate that back to the hosts to say, “This person is touring your area.” Lo and behold, we’d find that it was connections lining up.
You said that Spotify is loathed by people in the industry for many reasons, but for many reasons, it’s an amazing platform of discovery and as a user, I love it for that reason because I’ve discovered things that I never would have discovered before. You, artist, you should love it for that reason, too because I discovered you when I never would have discovered you because you sounded like somebody that I also like. I love that you guys are building that in. I know that with a tech company, there’s always this huge to-do list of things that you want to add to your site. People are like, “Does it do this? Does it do that?” You guys have already added so much great value but it’s good to know what’s on the horizon.
Our north star that we keep following is what is going to give people satisfaction? What’s going to give them agency to act to create this show and give them satisfaction and joy on the other end? Our nucleus is the show. What brings everybody together? Where does it all happen? It’s the show but it’s the one thing that we don’t create or produce. We are the ones who help connect the people to make that happen. As long as we can make that job easier, we’re doing what we want to do.
It’s always good to know what your mission is for sure. This has been helpful. I have got one more question for you before we closeout. In the whole time period where we’re having to go online and all that stuff, how do you think that’s going to change this concert industry forever?
I’ve been thinking a lot about that and the online shows do not replace real live shows. They can’t. It’s something different. My husband, who’s a filmmaker, said this to me and I agree with this. He said, “It’s when television came along and the cinema was like, ‘We’re tanked.’ It didn’t happen because it’s a different experience. You’re expecting different things from doing those.” This is a brand new world that we can experiment with. I want artists to ask the question, “What can I do with this medium? What isn’t available to me when I’m trying to do a show that is available here?”
One little anecdote about this but an artist who I’ve known and love for years did a show and she was cross-legged on our living room floor. She was telling the story and she’s dressed casually. She’s like, “I wanted to tell you that I’m doing the show from here because it’s Mother’s Day and this is where I birthed my two children in this room.” She’s describing how amazing it is because she had invited all these mothers and daughters right into the show. Throughout the show, she had been spotlighting each mother and daughter to tell the story and say hello to each other or send these wishes.
It was incredibly moving. I’ve known this artist for years. I’ve never seen her so tender, vulnerable, honest, and real. That was something that I thought that this can happen in real life. It’s a great and exciting time. I know it feels terrifying. We’re looking forward to helping people over that first hump of the first show and getting their feet because once they get in, they’ll realize there’s a whole new world of opportunity that will exist beyond isolation beyond COVID-19.When you have a third party helping you out, it often takes that pressure off because you see other people doing it, and you are part of an ecosystem. Click To Tweet
This is something that we can dive into now because it’s the only option we have, but it’s going to be another tool for our tool belt later on how we can connect with fans.
It is building resilience and your self-reliance as well because, in a lot of ways, you are head cook and bottle washer in times of creating these shows. That’s why we’re trying to connect people with other supporters because at this time and it’s felt like this, I hope it’s felt like this for other people. There’s been a lot of reaching out, reinforcement of relationships, and a lot of recognition of why we are doing this. If you can come from a place of understanding, who’s got my back, what do I care about, what do I want to do, then that’s a great place to create from.
Let them know how they can connect with Side Door and how they can get started.
You can go to SideDoorAccess.com and at the top, it says Book an Online Show. There’s a page there that breaks down everything how it goes and you can jump in. It takes about five minutes to create an online show without a host or connection. You can do it on your own. We saw somebody book a show less than an hour before they did it and we thought oh that was maybe a little too early. You can absolutely do it yourself. We are fully staffed and our customer support team and we’re working for every single show. There’s a staffer online to help you and the audience get through any of the hiccups that may come up. You can do it yourself but be sure that we’ve got your back.
It’s SideDoorAccess.com. Don’t go to SideDoor.com that will not take you to the place. Thank you, Laura. It’s been such a great conversation around what we can do as artists to connect with our fans during this time and beyond.
- Show – Female Entrepreneur Musician
- Side Door
- South by Southwest
- Podcast – The Music Industry Blueprint Podcast
- The Syrup Factory
- Dan Mangan
- Women of Substance
- Stripe Connect
About Laura Simpson
Laura Simpson is a music industry professional, living with her family in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She founded The Syrup Factory, which began hosting house concerts 2011 and offering strategy and services to artists in 2015.
She has been an organizer in the arts scene since she was 14, going to all-ages shows and then eventually taking live music photography and freelance writing about shows and artists. That led her to be a journalist for seven years, working for CBC and Rogers Radio. Eventually she found her way back into the music world and worked as Export Development Officer and Communications Manager for Music Nova Scotia.
She has also managed and produced for the Halifax Jazz Festival, CAPACOA, and the East Coast Music Association.
In 2015, Laura mentored with the top-tier music marketing team at Black Box in Los Angeles. She has juried for Music Nova Scotia, Halifax Pop Explosion, CBC Music Searchlight competition and the Junos.