A lot has changed since our first chat with the crew behind SoundStage. In a number of months, the virtual performance world has passed from being a relatively open playfield to one of the most crowded businesses within the music industry. From videogame to communication companies, everyone is trying to take a piece of the cake, but very few players are setting things up for the long run. For SoundStage, things went different from the very beginning. Virtual performances have been the cornerstone around which the platform was born, not just a result of the times. This clear-cut approach makes them privileged interlocutors to discuss the present and future of online music events. That’s exactly why, almost a year later, we wanted to resume the discussion in today’s context. Their official launch, the series of inaugural events that are currently underway (with guests such as Kill Paris, Super Future and Firebeatz) have created just the perfect frame. Without further ado, here’s our follow-up conversation with Soundstage.
In the occasion of our previous interview, you told us that Soundstage was only in a very early stage venture. Now you are officially launching the platform in a big way with a list of high profile artists. It definitely looks like you’ve been busy in the past 10 months! Given that virtual experiences have been the core of the project since day 1, has the lockdown slowed down your plans in any way?
Busy is an understatement, but the good news is that we’re just as excited and as motivated as day one. It’s great to reconnect with FUXWITHIT! To answer your question yes, the lockdown has definitely affected us and thrown a few wrenches in our plans. Of course on the flip side of it, it’s also given us space to slow down, reflect, and focus to figure out exactly how we want to evolve the company. In a large way, thanks to the lockdown we decided to relaunch as a virtual events platform with an even more ambitious vision than before.
Last year you stated a certain difficulty in conveying the value of the platform to artist management (used to working with live shows). How has the situation changed with the advent of Covid-19? Has there been a radical change in the approach of the music industry towards ventures such as SoundStage?
There’s a lot more predisposition to experiment and try new things, but it’s clear that the industry is still trying to figure out the best ways to leverage virtual events. Not all agents or artists are necessarily excited to jump into every opportunity that’s presented to them. We understand that completely since the reality is that not all virtual events are the same and finding the right fit for a particular artist isn’t easy.
few artists have actually managed to reap meaningful rewards through these platforms, and because of that, many of them are now burned out from live streaming and virtual events altogether.
With new players like Minecraft, Zoom and above all Twitch, compared to a year ago, the competition is way more fierce in the world of virtual performances. What differentiates Soundstage now from the aforementioned and the older (YouTube, Facebook and Instagram) competitors?
For these platforms, musical performances were never a primary goal and are really just an afterthought. To this date, it’s still artists and event organizers driving most of the innovation on these platforms and finding ways to use the tools they offer, rather than the companies themselves making musical performances a priority and trying to adapt to the needs of our industry. Unfortunately few artists have actually managed to reap meaningful rewards through these platforms, and because of that, many of them are now burned out from live streaming and virtual events altogether. The same is happening to fans, since they have been subject to a constant barrage of variable-quality livestreams, and have come to view them as musical-listening experiences of limited entertainment value. Because of that, monetization has become a serious challenge.
SoundStage was built on the premise of producing quality virtual experiences that reach beyond the livestream in order to bring fans and artists closer than ever. You can look back over a year ago to see our first virtual performances. We now have a plethora of other experiences that complement and synergize with each other, all wrapped as unique offerings accessible to fans during our live stream events designed to create rapport and proximity between artists and fans. Everything we’ve developed has had this same singular objective, and our vision has continued to evolve towards a holistic platform that leverages human connection between artists and fans in ways that none of the existing platforms do.
Do you believe that, when the situation will return to normal, this whole ecosystem of virtual communities and events will disappear supplanted by the “old world” or can you see a scenario where both online and offline will have their space?
I do expect the volume of amateur virtual events to drop significantly since the recent surge is linked directly to the inability for artists to perform through any other means. However, there are serious players in this space creating some remarkable experiences which will survive well after Covid. Most of the incredible technology we see for virtual events was not developed as a response to Coronavirus. A strong business case for virtual events has existed since well before the pandemic (e.g. Fortnite concerts). Just like with SoundStage, many other businesses and technologies were created to co-exist with offline events rather than as a replacement to them. The fact is, they are altogether different experiences with different value propositions, and are by no means mutually exclusive.
What sets SoundStage apart is the manner in which we allow you to reach the artists you love, and make it possible for you to connect and build authentic relationships with them not as a virtual avatar, but as your real, human, self.
Here we go again. Time for the nerd question of the interview! How has the technology behind Soundstage evolved?
In a thousand different ways! In particular, WaveXR and Sansar are two incredible companies that are working to help musicians adapt to our new reality with marvelous technology that makes it possible to produce mind-blowing virtual reality concerts. Big shout out to them. Admittedly these are awesome companies, but they deliver a different kind of experience, given they’re designed for mass accessibility. Being an avatar in a videogame world with thousands of other players isn’t all that different from the real world festivals where you’re just a dot in a crowd. What sets SoundStage apart is the manner in which we allow you to reach the artists you love, and make it possible for you to connect and build authentic relationships with them not as a virtual avatar, but as your real, human, self. Still, as I said, we love what they’re doing, we love what we’re doing, and at the end of the day I believe there’s room for all of us to be of service to artists in our own unique ways.
Let’s talk about this launch now. Between this kick-off events series, giveaways and super guests, you have put together an impressive program. How did the first events go? What can a future participant expect from a Soundstage show in the next few weeks?
Our first events have played out wonderfully with both artists and audience members clearly enjoying themselves. Although it’s just the start, we’ve managed to increase the production value with each event, and they really are far more engaging and entertaining than your run of the mill livestreams. We are also continuously rolling out features that create new surfaces for interaction with audience members, and using these events to give audience members exclusive opportunities to obtain intimate virtual experiences with artists they love (e.g. Photo Ops, Meet & Greets, Virtual Performances). For those of you who missed our latest event with Kill Paris you can rewatch it on Youtube here. Over the coming weeks, we have some amazing free shows lined up with the likes of Super Future, Deepend, Ill Gates, and EDM superstars Firebeatz, during which we are giving away some of these experiences (including a Virtual Performance from Firebeatz). I highly recommend everyone come check them out.
Is this to be considered more a point of arrival or a starting point for Soundstage? Are there any developments and upgrades in the pipeline?
Both. We’ve been building towards relaunching as a platform for a long time, and it’s a big milestone no doubt. We now have capabilities to help nurture fan-artist relationships through all their natural stages, using live streams as the entry point to build rapport and foster connection in a far more natural way. That said, the vision continues to evolve, and with every step we take, new possibilities emerge which continue to motivate and inspire us. We are still teeming with ideas that we’re super excited to implement. We can’t wait to bring them to fruition, but, like anything in life, we have to take it one step at a time.