Recently named to Digital Media Wire’s list of 25 Execs to Watch in Digital Entertainment for 2011, Evan Lowenstein, Founder and CEO of StageIt, sat down exclusively with MusicRow to discuss the success of his innovative company.
First, a little background: launched in fall 2010, StageIt.com offers artists a web-based platform to perform live and have direct interaction with fans from their laptops. Although much like a virtual concert, the artists have much more flexibility in delivering the entertainment.
Artists choose when and how long to perform, and how much to charge. The artist not only decides how many tickets to sell, but can change the number up until the performance starts. In other words, the ticket cost, “size” of venue, and length of show can be completely reactive to demand.
Lowenstein says country music particularly lends itself to such a platform because the genre’s fans enjoy accessibility to artists. He also points out that country artists are more comfortable delivering their music in stripped down settings than acts in other genres.
“We say we offer a front row seat to a backstage experience,” explains Lowenstein. “The most expensive ticket in the house is a front row seat. We are capitalizing on the connectivity of the Internet and the advancements in the broadcasting to literally bring [fans] this amazing content. Take a country artist, or any artist, and put them together with the fans, and the medium becomes less important. If you meet a famous artist or someone special, it doesn’t matter if it’s in a rickety elevator or stairwell or on a plane, it’s the content [that matters], not the medium.”
As a former member of pop brother-duo Evan and Jaron, known for Top 10 hit “Crazy for this Girl,” Lowenstein has always been fascinated with connectivity to fans. Although the technology existed, he was equally frustrated with not having a way to share his experiences with fans without devaluing his content and himself as an artist. This frustration led to the creation of StageIt.
StageIt offers a way for the artist to monetize the online experience. Perhaps more importantly, it allows fans a way to show direct appreciation to the artist through a virtual tip jar and online chatting during the performance. Some users spend over $50 a week. Artists on StageIt can also sell their records during the show, much like in a traditional venue. Hear something you like and a purchase is just one click away.
In an era when we can see anything anytime we want, StageIt appears to be heading in the opposite direction. None of the live shows are ever recorded or archived. Regarding technology, Lowenstein is quick to respond, “Just because it’s available doesn’t mean we have to use it.” The company focuses on bringing back the mystery of the artist and feels if someone is available 24/7 there is less value. Today’s artists have too much access according to Lowenstein. He says, “This is why artists have careers for four and a half minutes.”
StageIt continues to focus on the needs of the artist and the best way to connect with their fans, which to Lowenstein means no distracting advertising. The site creates moments and intimate experiences for the fan and many artists have taken advantage.
StageIt performances from country music artists include Big Kenny, Don Schlitz, Sherrie Austin, James Otto, Jerrod Neimann, Chris Young and others. After using the StageIt platform, Jimmy Buffett was so impressed with the experience, he partnered with the company.
While the industry is plagued with piracy issues and declining revenues, Lowenstein says, “We’ve found a playing field where the fans and artist agree there is value.”
Visit StageIt.com for more information.