Michael Schneider #035
On this episode of EventSpeak, Big John chats with music industry exec, Michael Schneider about how his new platform, Single Music, helps musicians/performers/bands keep their fair share of the pie in the livestreaming/merch-sales space. Michael understands what artists are up against and is passionate about allowing them to keep their focus on the art and not worry about the business stuff. Join as we talk about “the business” on this special music edition of EventSpeak.
For more info on Michael and his Simple Music platform, check out the below. Enjoy!
Michael Schneider 0:05
I can’t wear the technology hat and work in music without considering the implications of the decisions we make as a platform, as well as for the fans. So the goal with anything that we build and anything that you know I have my hand in is that it’s going to build something sustainable.
Big John 0:22
Hey everybody. Welcome back to yet another episode of event speak with me Big John CEO of Beyond Experiential. Any of you know me, know that I come from a pretty extensive background in the music business. And a good portion of that was my time spent on the greatest festival tour of all time, the Vans Warped Tour. It’s no surprise that initially when Michael, my guest today, and I started to chat online, we look familiar to each other, but didn’t realize that we indeed, lived on the road together back in the day out in the mighty Warped tour. Michael Schneider is joining us today. He’s Artists Relations Director for singlemusic.com and we’re excited to welcome them to EventSpeak. Michael, welcome to the show.
Michael Schneider 1:37
Thank you. Appreciate the introduction. And yes, the mighty mighty Warped Tour. You know, it’s it’s something a lot of jokes have been made this year about how people would prefer to be out on the Warped Tour setting up Merch every day, then sitting at home in COVID.
Big John 1:53
Oh my god. Right. Hands down.
Michael Schneider 1:56
I think it would be better to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and haul a tent out into a field with my friend.
Big John 2:04
Did you ever think you would lament to those days Michael, I mean, I, you know, like, standing out there at the butt crack of dawn, it’s already hot and humid, you’re already dreading the port-a-potty, and you got to wait there to get your merch spot. You know, unless you’re one of the headliners. And you know. You know, it’s it’s funny, I, I 100% agree, you know, talking to so many different folks from the music business and specific, which is, of course, suffering so much right now. That, you know, are like, man, I think we think of the the days of sort of the ditch digging of the of the world. You know, everybody would always say Warped Tour was boot camp for music touring, which it really was, and in such a great way, you know, and now here we are all talking to each other on zoom and rethinking everything. But you know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in the sense. As anybody watches the show, you guys hear me say a lot. Reinvention out of necessity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You know? So, yes. All right. So, Mike, let’s talk about this project that you’re involved in single music. What, what are you guys doing? And what do you provide the artists and why should artists be aware of single music?
Michael Schneider 3:34
Sure, yeah. So single as a company really was born out of a few changes that were happening internally at a merchandising company. That company still exists, but our CEO, Tommy, was working there as head of product and head of music. And he was looking at Shopify as really the next step, the next frontier in artists ecommerce B to C and seeing that there were a few tools that were missing from artists stores, the ability to sell primarily sell reportable records and actually have those records, record sales count on the charts. And so the genesis of the company started there seeing a need and filling it and that was a couple years ago, I joined the company about a year ago, Tommy and I had actually done a couple of things together previously, I worked at a company called band page. And you know from there in the past year, the company has really grown we are in about 2500 artists stores on our music related album tools we work with, you know, bands that range from Joji, SuperM, MGK, Harry Styles, Travis Scott, to do just as I said, automate those tools allow bands to sell reportable records, and have them count on the charts and both US on the Billboard charts as well as digital now reports to the OCC in the UK. And those tools really led us to where we’re at this year. You know, we’ve talked previous to this Starting but how weird this year is and how how strange it is in the live music business. We took some of our existing tools and then built some new ones in order to allow artists to livestream directly inside their Shopify store. And while that doesn’t sound too exciting, what it offers bands the opportunity to do is keep 100% of their merch revenue. So not paying a percentage off the top. When they’re selling tickets with T shirts, posters, whatever it is even reportable records, as well as pay a low flat fee to have their livestream shown to the fans. Unlike most of the other platforms, which charge a percentage that will change based on the ticket price, we do flat fee ticketing, we only charge $1 a ticket. And so where that’s led us in the last six months ish is we’ve done shows with a wide range of artists have quite a few that are up for sale that exists from Behemoth and Underoath on the metal side to pop artists like Ben Rector and Need to Breathe. We work with Michael Franti and just launch shows with Andrew McMahon, Jewel. And then of course, a lot of the bands from the Warped Tour space under oath and Berlin, Wonder Years Mayday parade all time low, a lot of our favorites, and a lot of our friends are able to use this tool directly in their stores. And further to really strengthen that fan relationship. That’s really what we’ve seen, in the midst of this time where bands aren’t out playing, and a lot of times aren’t even together. This is an opportunity not only for bands to get back together safely, and play a show for their audience, but also to connect with those fans and connect the fans with each other. So yeah, it has been quite a journey, these last six ish months in building this platform, and we’re in what I feel is a really special place. In in the music industry, you know, we’re largely white labeled, and behind the scenes, so fans really only find out about single music, if they have a customer support request, we keep the focus on the artists and the art. And I think we can all agree that the art and the artist is really what we’re hoping we don’t lose during this time. And the only way to do that is to build these revenue streams that are new and different, but also will be meaningful in the future. You know, if and when touring is back next year or the following year? I think there is a lot of potential within the products that we’re building for artists to know who their audience is, and spend less time figuring that out and more time just focused on creating meaningful art. That’s the genesis really of why I’m in the music business. I’m sure you agree with that. Yeah, it’s really, I think one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had recently was just about the fear that a lot of us have in the music industry that we will lose artists, not necessarily to COVID, but to the need to make money and have earned a living. And you know, that’s really difficult to do right now. So I think what we have and what we’re building is really helpful to make sure that you know, artists can continue making art that’s really, really the core of why we’re all doing this in the first place.
Big John 8:15
Yes, absolutely. 100% You know, my Oh, my God, my mind swimming a little bit. The first thing I would ask is, so single music launched prior to COVID.
Michael Schneider 8:29
Yeah, so we’ve been doing the album releases, you know, it’s for about the last two and a half years is when we came out of private beta. And so we work mostly directly with merchandisers so LiveNation, Top Drawer, Future Shirts, you know, plenty of big companies Sandbag, Contraband in the UK and globally, in other territories. And a lot of our tools are geared towards what we we say internally is giving merchandisers their time back. So not making them need to learn a bunch of tools to report a record or send a digital album or do that tech stuff, and focus more on actually making great merch that fans want and working with the bands to make sure all the creative and everything is is shown in a way that’s you know, special to that artist. So yeah, we’re a toolkit, you could say we have five public tools that are available within the app. We have two more launching later or early next year as well.
Big John 9:27
Wow, that’s, that’s awesome that, you know, it would just seem to me almost serendipitous in the sense that the takeaway here is like you guys are helping artists monetize their livestreams and be able to create what would have been considered non traditional revenue streams that are now essential revenue streams for artists as you, as you said very poignantly, the scariest part of this, I think, for so many is the uncertainty in the unknown and right now more than ever, artists have to be doing all they can to not only survive, but to, of course, stay relevant and stay connected with their audience. And it sounds like you guys are giving them a great opportunity to do that. And it’s it’s seems to me really on point that as opposed to taking a percentage, you guys base that flat fee. So you said it’s about $1 a ticket, so to speak. So is there like a Is it a setup? You know, walk me through it. I manage State to State if State to State was doing a concert with you guys? Is it like, do you guys do a pre sale? To promote? Try to have the band sell digital tickets? Like, how does that work? You know, kind of a walk me through the process a little bit?
Michael Schneider 10:43
Yeah, so you know, different. We, you know, early on in the tool, I one of my other jobs, I wear a few hats, but on, I guess you could say on the side, I’ve been working with a band called Dashboard Confessional for over three years now, running social media and marketing. And this year was our 20th anniversary tour, took about a year and a half to plan and got about halfway through the first leg of the US tour. And then of course, COVID hit well right after the band completed shows in New York. And so band came home, I started to get hit up by livestream platforms that existed, I looked at the mall. And what I saw pretty regularly was a high gross percentage being taken off of tickets and merch. So you sell a ticket for $10 and a shirt for $20. And there’s a fee on both that goes to a technology company. All of the branding and creative was all centered around that company. So maybe you would have the artist logo. But that was about it. It was more like, you know, going into a branded room to play a show only with your gear. And my logic there when I thought about that was it just wasn’t enough, it wasn’t going to be the thing that for the band I work for, you know why give away that high percentage, why give away so much money. And so I looked at it with my single hat on and went to our CEO and said, why don’t we just do this in the store. So fans are buying directly from the artist in their ecommerce stores on Shopify. So the way that it looks and the way that it gets set up is really geared around what the artist wants to sell. So example would be with underoath. Earlier this summer, we did album play shows which if you got to see any of those there, shout out to underoath Randy Nichols, arguably the best produced livestreams I have seen yet. And still a month later, I still think that they are the best ones. But what that offered the band the opportunity to do was to sell both a ticket as well as they repressed all those albums on vinyl for the first time. I think that was the first repress in in many, many years, as well as selling event specific merchandise, all in the same transaction. So low transaction fee, because it’s a singular transaction fee and control of all of the branding and creative directly in their Shopify store. And that’s really the format, the the way that the shows, look, the way that they feel is centered around the branding of what that artist wants to sell. So for your band, for example, if you were, you know, playing a record specific record, or you know, doing a new format like band called The Wonder Years did an acoustic event that was based off of their tour that they lost. Ben Rector actually did the same thing, You know, full tour that they had to cancel. And so they took that creative and those assets and reapplied them into the livestream format. And in in, you know, a lot of cases bands are actually even selling merchandise they already had printed, printed for the road. And they were prepared to go out on tour or they were already on tour and they were coming home. So yeah, the the simple way to think about it is you get to keep control of that entire process, that creativity, as well as all the data and the revenue, it all flows directly through the artists owned Shopify account.
Big John 14:04
That is fantastic. And I really liked it, you guys are giving the artists the ability to kind of shape that environment. And you know, it’s not, as you said, really, unless a consumer was to have maybe an issue or something where they needed to contact support. They may not even know that the artists performing through single music, which is which is awesome. You know, I think that’s, you know, that’s really something I think for a lot of artists. I mean, you mentioned so many so many relevant bands. I mean clearly what you guys are doing is working. And it’s a it’s something I find fascinating because you know it’s just in a How do you stand out there’s so many artists out there now. Everybody’s pushing digital. How do you kind of stand out above all that and it seems like this is not only a great way to help craft that but also help the artists make some money. You know, I saw on a social media post you mentioned that your company ethos on something where you don’t believe a tech company should make more than a band member who uses their tools. Talk to me about how the guides your decision making with single music.
Michael Schneider 15:14
Yeah, and you probably would feel this a little bit too. But I think anyone who’s spent time on the road, you know, compare that to someone who’s worked in a restaurant, you behave differently. When you go to a restaurant, when there’s a problem, for example, you don’t yell at the server, because you’ve been in their shoes before. And on that same idea. A lot of the people at our company, including we’ve hired two people from that we’re on the road supposed to be on the road this year with, with pretty great artists to work on support with us. When you have spent time out on the road and working directly with artists, whether that’s in the capacity of playing music yourself, or just supporting those who do you learn pretty quickly. I mean, I feel like I learned pretty quickly that the margins are thin, on the road, bands can go out and they can be out for months, and they’ll come back, you know, with a good amount of money. But in order to make that sustainable, there has to be other revenue streams. And that’s where, you know, merchandising, and even albums can come into play on what, what bands are able to sell. Now, when you go into a scenario, like COVID, and the main revenue driver disappears overnight. And really, that’s what happened, it didn’t just disappear, money came out of bands accounts, advances that were paid, you know, merchandise that had been been printed, VIP packages that were sold for upcoming dates, not only did that money disappear, it was already paid in advance. And a lot of those costs were paid upfront. So bands were, you know, across the board really put in compromising positions. And you know, our company, we’re not like trying to change the world or anything, and we don’t look at ourselves like we’re, you know, saviors by any means. But at the same time, they’re the way that we run our tools. And the way that we build our pricing structures are, first and foremost, you know, they support our business, and they support the employment that we have internally. But secondarily, they’re upfront, and they’re clear and bands understand and know, when they’re entering into a business relationship with our platform, what the parameters are, that we will charge on. We don’t do smoke and mirrors, we don’t do hidden fees, we don’t do setup fees. And a lot of that just comes from like I’ve heard it, and I’ve seen it, and I adore the music technology community. But I often find it comes from a place of people who don’t actually know how the music industry works, are trying to build technologies that don’t truly benefit the artist. It’s more about having a position or a place that they can be in that’s, you know, yeah, for, for lack of a better terms, it’s more about the people building the tech products than it is, like we mentioned before, I’m a music fan first. I have a technology hat and I have a music fan hat and I can switch between them. And I can wear them at the same time. But I can’t wear the technology hat and work in music without considering the implications of the decisions we make as a platform, as well as for the fans. So the goal with anything that we build, and anything that you know, I have my hand in is that it’s going to build something sustainable. I have worked for other companies, and the rates were not set in a way that I find to be artists friendly, you know, high percentages, for really returning something that’s pretty nominal. And the logic I always had another tagline, I guess you can say is like, you know, what’s, what’s 20% of nothing. It’s nothing. So 20% of nothing is what you’re going to get if you take too much from bands now, because those bands aren’t going to exist in the future. Sounds a little dramatic, right? But it’s not. I know bands and band members who are quitting music as we speak. This this month, I’ve heard from band members who are like looking at different jobs, different verticals, pivoting away from being a touring, or even just a musician who creates any form of music, because they can’t sustain. They can’t pay their mortgages or their rents and, you know, pay for diapers for their kids when there is no revenue coming in. So having that information and ignoring it. You know, really what is the goal here? The goal is to keep the art going. And to keep the rates at a place where like Yeah, sure. We also need to make money too. We’re a company we’re a business right. Everybody, everybody gets that if we don’t make a little bit of money, we won’t exist either. And then you’re back to square one. So it’s building that like mutually beneficial relationship, when we see a band that sells $150,000, and tickets and merch, and we’ve taken our dollar a ticket for however many thousand tickets, that is, it might sound like you’re paying us a lot, you know, a few thousand dollars, but it’s 3%, 4% of the total gross. When you look at that, I mean, that’s, that feels a little more fair to me than what else exists out there. And I think it’s, it’s something that’s on us to see if that’s sustainable. Of course, you know, I can’t guarantee that it’s going to be $1 aticket forever, if other costs come up, or things need to be built. But at this current time, man, it’s fun. It’s really, really fun. It’s fun to sit, you know, and see bands actually playing again, like to watch them live and chatting with each other and chatting with the fans. Guys, like All Time Low and Mayday you know, I met them on my first Warped Tour back in 2007. You know, we were all 18,19, 20 then and we’re all in our 30s now, and yeah, life changes a lot and throws a lot of things at you. But the fact that they’re still out there doing it and want to keep doing it, you know, I’m going to participate in a way that supports that because it means a lot to me.
Big John 21:23
You’re clearly so passionate about it, Michael, really, it’s it’s so refreshing to to hear you say it and to see you mean it with so much passion, it’s something that I feel gets lost. And as you’re talking about all this I’m thinking of for our friends watching out there that are in the experiential world or the brand marketing world. There’s a lot of parallels in the sense that you said something about people that don’t necessarily know the business that are developing technologies to help further it. And there’s this common disconnect in our world, excuse me, the brand marketing side where I say conception to execution are two different things. And it’s why having people that come from the road or people that are on the ground, that know what that is. It’s so crucial to to cater to help your clients the best you can, whether it’s a brand or in this case, a band, because who better to have in your corner helping you figure out ways to get ahead together. Everybody’s got to get together, right? It’s a it’s a common goal. What I’m curious about is, I mean, all the bands are mentioning and I’m thinking All Time low. Those guys, they were signing with us when I was managing AT&T, in 2008 and 2009 hit those guys out there for the entire summer. There’s so much fun in the Mayday Parade, guys, you know, all we’re, you know, folks that we all we all lived on tour together, and you see these bands, and the way that they’ve grown, you know, and in some cases went on to be, you know, stars, you know, quite frankly, like, you know, just
Michael Schneider 22:57
All Time Low has their number one at Radio.
Big John 23:00
Michael Schneider 23:01
Monsters. I mean, that’s the for the first time ever we did their full album play, the album came out this summer. And they have, of course can’t tour on it. So we we did their first livestream. And it was awesome. It was so cool. He just new songs and new, even new versions of old songs in some of these upcoming streams that they’re doing. They’re they’re doing each band members curating their own set. I think it’s super cool.
Big John 23:26
Michael Schneider 23:27
But yeah, the growth that we’ve, you know, been able to watch as fans, right? Because that’s what we are, we’re fans first.
Big John 23:33
Michael Schneider 23:35
It’s, it’s very cool. It’s very, like inspiring,
Big John 23:37
And it’s experiencing it in a new way. Because let’s, I mean, even even without the pandemic, figuring out how to further integrate digital into the artist repertoire of, of exposure services, how we get more fans, I mean, what’s, what’s the, what’s the point of being in a band is to create art, create music, and to get as many people to enjoy it as possible. And if if you do that successfully, it should move the entire thing forward for the band and all those that become involved working with the band. Now it’s one point these are all these are major bands you’re talking about that have big audiences and of course I’m sure for them looking at a you know, $1 ticket that’s that’s a fantastic deal compared to what they’d be getting from any other major service or promoter they’d be working with. Now I’m curious on for say an up and coming artists that maybe doesn’t have the same reach doesn’t have the established audience? Are you guys strictly accommodating the the stream or is there a promotion and marketing contingent? Are you guys able to help get it in front of more people or is that really more dependent upon the artists themselves.
Michael Schneider 24:52
We keep our fee at $1 because for the most part, what we’ve learned is that bands have teams around them. And you know, even when they don’t, a lot of the platforms that offer things like promotion and marketing are doing it from a significantly higher fee that they charge. And so we decided to go for this, at least for this beta, because we’re, honestly, we’re in beta. And it’s, it’s a limited beta, we can’t support every show that it gets offered to us. It’s just not logistically possible. So, you know, in the case of the near term, I think the primary way we’ve done this is to allow artists to utilize their existing systems, you know, utilize their email marketing, social ads, whatever it may be. And keeping that revenue fee low allows them more money to spend to go out and actually market to fans. What I think is more interesting for up and coming and developing artists is actually not ticketed livestreams. I don’t think that newer bands should be doing the paid ticketed thing yet, because it really is a super fan game. It’s ticketed livestreams are geared towards those deep connections that you have, it’s just different than going to a real show. I think there are other opportunities for bands that are more up and coming developing that other, maybe not livestream platforms, but entities are building, you know, whether that’s programs within the DSPs that offer marketing. Something I’m even really interested in is having some of those bands like open shows, like the traditional format on tour is something I’ve tried to…
Big John 26:35
You read my mind.
Michael Schneider 26:37
Yeah, I just don’t think if you know, you’re you’ve maybe you’ve toured once, or maybe you’ve never toured at all, you want to start charging these new fans, you know, you really want to cultivate that relationship more. And so I do think that there is a huge opening in this space. And again, I don’t fault anybody for not being there yet. But to have bands open these shows. And it happens. Sometimes we have several shows on the platform where there is an opener, or a band that gets you know, 15 or 20 minutes set before the thing goes live. I think the logistics is what’s prevented that from happening more, because at the end of the day, if you are going truly live there is there’s a certain limit to technology on how you can go live from multiple locations. And that’s all there’s a lot of technologies I’m hearing about that might help that and make it even easier. But currently, there are still some limitations in that. So I think I think that there is there are we have tools, for example, our music tools that you can sell your digital album, our rate on that is publicly on on site at $2. An album, it’s reportable to the charts we have, for anyone listening, we have $1, an album rate that we offer. So just email me firstname.lastname@example.org and we can cut that rate down even to $1. And so if you are selling music and selling merch, you know, it’s best to do it on a platform that you own, as opposed to somewhere else, you know, where all the data is going to another place. Yeah, and I think it’s worth touching on even just briefly, what COVID is doing. And what this space is doing is allowing bands to get better access to those fans, you know, largely show ticketing does not come with a relay of who those purchasers are, if you find who your audience is, from a show, it’s largely through socials or through other purchases that the fan makes you don’t get information back from a Ticket Master, if you do a show at x venue. And that’s one thing that I think this format is helpful with if and when a band is ready to do a ticketed show is just gaining knowledge of who their fans actually are. That is a large focus that we have internally. So you know, all that to say, I think I think that where we are at, you know, might be geared more towards the bands that have been doing this for a little while. There are a lot of opportunities otherwise, though, for developing artists, and we’re hoping to integrate them in a more, there’s a couple partnerships we’re working on that will offer an audience to those types of bands, that will be able to help a survey, curate, you know, whether that be an artist on a bill or you know, a show a month will be helpful in doing that. So there’s some stuff we’re working on that I’m pretty excited about with some really great partners from around the music industry.
Big John 29:30
That’s fantastic man. It’s you know, to have folks like yourself and clearly the your your family of people that single music that are trying to basically figure these these ways out for artists to just grow and to be able to come out of this pandemic not only gaining some momentum, but to be able to look into the future because the future is going to be of course even once we eventually get to touring again when we start seeing some some assemblance of a festival down the road coming together, I would think, especially for these, you know, marquee acts that are, let’s face it, right now, it’s an even playing field, where everybody’s in the same boat. And yes, of course, the the Green Days of the world and those types of bands are always going to have those millions of people tuning in to whatever they do. But a lot of the bands that you mentioned that are yes, of course, successful bands, you know, it’s a very fine line, that as the pandemic has taught us, that can all change in a heartbeat. So this is something I feel like, where once we come out of this, this will still handshake with being able to do a livestream of the All Time Low show, when they’re back playing the Palladium again, or wherever they might in LA, or, you know, and giving the artists more control of those analytics that you’re talking about. I mean, things that I think it’s so important that so many bands out there that need to recognize you need to have your finger on those buttons, and to know who your audience is, and how you can truly connect with them. And make those make those meaningful relationships last is so important. Dude, so for people out there any of any that are watching that be interested to know more. It’s single music.com. Correct.
Michael Schneider 31:21
Big John 31:21
As you mentioned, for anybody interested to know more, they can go find you at Michael@singlemusic.com. And, of course, as it’s now running across the bottom of the screen, thanks to Chris, wonderful production team, all of your Insta, and of course EventSpeak handles are out there. That’s Michael Schneider, everybody from single Music. Michael, it’s been a pleasure talking to you today. Please, please let me know how we here at EventSpeak we can support what you’re doing because I really feel strongly about supporting the artists community any way that I can. You and I come from the same tribe, if you will. And it’s great to see you doing so well. And and congratulations and a big thank you for joining us today on EventSpeak.
Michael Schneider 32:04
Big John 32:05
So everybody out there. Once again, this is Big John, signing off for today. Thanks for tuning in. Of course eventspeak.com is where you find us over online and we can continue the conversation there and in the meantime, now more than ever, please be sure to take care of yourselves and each other.