From the Arden Studio Benefit Presented by In.Live on January 24, 2020. Pictured Clockwise: Audley Freed, Jody Stephens, Sadler Vaden, and Tom Peterson.
Twangrila: So welcome, David.
David Simon: Thank you.
TL: Can you please explain what In.Live (pronounced In Dot Live) is and what it does?
DS: Sure. In.Live is an integrated ticketing and live streaming platform that allows anybody to create a live stream and sell access to it. And we have developed it in such a way that it really meets the needs of both independent artists and individuals, but also larger artists that are managed. Also, we can work in larger venues, with larger teams as they create their productions. And so the platform itself is designed to meet all of those needs.
TL: So it’s very scalable is what you’re telling me.
DS: It is. And I’m one of four partners, and our CTO was actually a heavy-duty streaming expert, and he’s had several successful startups in the past, the last of which he sold to Apple, and then he was head of the development teams in Apple TV.
TL: You’re the chief marketing officer, is that correct?
DS: I am. That’s right.
TL: So what are your roles and responsibilities?
DS: Well, it’s a funny thing in a startup.
TL: I know. You do everything.
DS: You do a lot of everything. So of course, within the marketing world it is an awful lot about social media and creating not only the look and feel of the brand, but also working with product to build our platform in such a way that it’s really easy and accessible and understood for what is a reasonably technical product. You want to make it so that everybody gets it. And a lot of that comes along with the world of marketing. I work with the artists we have to develop deeper relationships and can help them with their marketing needs.
The other part of my role is actually being involved in some of the key account experiences and helping the artists and their teams to build out their streaming capabilities. We want to be able to develop the brand and the products simultaneously. And I’m a key man on that. When I graduated from school, I went to work in recording studios in New York City so I learned a lot about working with artists and technology, and it’s been a big help to me at In.Live.
TL: That’s great. So In.Live is a pretty new venture. Was this conceived prior to the coronavirus shutdown?
DS: It was. Of the four of us, two of the partners had been friends and had worked together for many, many years. Thirty years ago they’ve worked together at Sun Microsystems as young men, and they stayed together as friends all these years and had always wanted to build something. So they started thinking about this idea, it was probably six or eight months before COVID, so over a year, a year and a half ago. And I think the inspiration, as they would describe it, is they spent their early life in India, they were both born in India and had some of their early years in Southern India. And there’s a traditional music festival, the Chennai Music Festival, which occurs each year, and is a big and important cultural event for Southern Indians.
They were thinking about ways that we could enjoy it anywhere in the world and would it take to make that happen? And so that was, I think, the key, the original spark for the idea of creating streaming. And in fact, this past December we ended up running 15 days straight of the Chennai Music Festival. And we streamed two different events offset by 12 hours so that they were appropriate for the time zones in India and for the time zones here in the US.
TL: Your timing was actually pretty good even though it was an unintended windfall.
DS: Absolutely. There’s things about working in an industry where people are asking, “is this going to go away when COVID is over? The truth is, streaming has been increasing in viability and popularity for quite some time. And so it happens that the timing is very good for streaming, for entertainment regardless of COVID. And this speaks to just the realities around people’s connectivity and people’s appetite for entertainment and particularly for live entertainment. And it also speaks to some of the issues of being a touring band and the work and effort, and as you all know, the fortitude required to get in a van and go to all these places and do your tour.
I certainly believe that live will come back and people really do crave live in-person. I really believe this is another medium that is here to stay. People will want to continue to be able to enjoy this from home or from other locations. People now have better equipment for enjoying and listening to entertainment at home than they did a decade ago. And so a lot of things have just lined up to make this a good time for it.
TL: I agree with that. That leads into one of my questions. Something you alluded to about when things get back to normal. How will that affect or will it affect your business plan or maybe you’ll focus less on some areas and focus more on others?
DS: Yes, there will probably be changes. It won’t happen overnight. The main thing is that we’re offering a new medium. It’s a new entertainment category. We really believe that we are creating a higher value experience and maybe an experience that you literally cannot get in-person. There are elements that we’re incorporating into shows that really do help to secure its value.
TL: And that’s one of the things that I noticed. I tuned in to the Ardent Studios benefit on January 24th.
DS: What’d you think?
TL: It was great. In fact, I just posted an interview with Jody Stephens and we discussed it in pretty good detail.
DS: Good. I’ll look at it, for sure.
TL: The thing that impressed me about your platform, and probably what differentiates you from other platforms, even YouTube, Bands In Town, and Zoom is that the after-concert was really amazing. There was a Q and A, and I don’t think any other platforms are doing that now. They probably will when they see you do it successfully, but you’re pioneers.
DS: Thank you for that. I think that there are people who are playing with these formulas and playing with these technologies and trying to find their way like us. But I think that we have hit on something that is, people really appreciating as you did, and I’m so glad you did. There’s intimacy, immediacy, and authenticity.
TL: I agree with all of that.
DS: We make sure the technology is really rock solid. And we navigate. When the guests came in, they were added to the screen, when they were done, they were taken off the screen. And so there’s little things like that that make it feel more professional, more like television. And I think that we’ve all grown up watching television, right? We have an expectation of what feels professional. And I think that whenever we’re able to signal that this is a professional experience, people seem to really respond to that.
TL: So playing devil’s advocate, let’s say someone says, “Well, I’ll just use Zoom or I’ll use YouTube, it’s the same thing.” What is your response to that?
DS: I think there are a few things in there. The first thing is that we’ve really thought about, what is high fidelity and what is not. We’ve prioritized, and we’ve worked with a number of advisers and artists as well, and actually, one of the fellows who’s on the Q and A, Luther Russell is one of our advisers and he is a record producer and engineer as well.
TL: I’ve actually reviewed his last album, Medium Cool, on my website.
DS: He’s a close friend and also an adviser to us. His ear has been a part of helping develop the platform as well. We prioritize the audio in a way that neither of those platforms do, that in fact, none of the majors do. And the reason is because we recognize that if it sounds right, it makes an enormous difference to the experience. And even if you’re not an audiophile or you can’t put your finger on it, something about it is just better.
TL: You can’t articulate it, but you know when the quality just isn’t there.
DS: That’s right. And so we’ve worked really hard to have lossless audio. And our audio—the integration of the audio into the stream is prioritized such that even if you’re on a lesser device and even if you’re on a lesser connection, we still make sure that you’re getting the very highest quality.
TL: Yes. And I noticed that the audio was actually leaps and bounds better than anything else that I had heard as far as live steaming.
DS: Well, I’m glad to hear it, and you’re a critic, so I appreciate it.
TL: I listen with a critical ear and I hear those things, it almost sounds as close to live as you can probably get.
DS: I thank you for that. It’s two components really, there is the technical side of things and you must have good material to work with. So we’ve really made that a key part of our goals.
TL: It looks like the response to In.Live has been positive.
DS: Knock on wood, we’re doing well. We’re growing quickly. I think the thing that we take great pride in, the range of projects that are using the platform and range of artists that are using the platform. That we’ve done everything from simple artists on a stool in a guitar shop in Portland, Oregon to—we actually had a Broadway show that wasn’t able to go to Broadway that did a Table Read with Mark Ruffalo and Gretchen Mol and Michael Cera out of New York. And they used the platform, and we actually produced with them. And it was very successful and a completely different use. And so whether it’s the India Chennai Music Festival or Valentine’s Day weekend, get this lineup. Or on Saturday, we’re going to be doing our second stream for the NPR quiz show, Says You! And then on Sunday—I think I can’t announce the one on Sunday, but it’s—
TL: Understood. Just say it’s going to be big, it’s going to be good.
DS: It’s in fact going to be big, good, and chronically hip. It’s the largest and most currently popular artists that we’ve worked with to date, and we’re really excited about it.
TL: That’s exciting. Yeah.
DS: Yeah. And that’ll be on Sunday, the 14th. So we have a lot of things. And then we actually, later in the month, are doing a online Beatles conference with the team. And that’ll be a two-day programming throughout the day with musical performances of Beatles songs, and just going to be another different type of production and different type of audience and we’re excited about that one as well.
TL: That sounds really interesting. Is that any way tied in with the movie that’s coming up?
DS: It’s not tied in, though the director of that documentary, The Beatles in India, Paul Saltzman is speaking during the event. The founder of the event, which is called Fab4ConJam is Robert RodRiguez, who is also the creator of the very successful Something About The Beatles podcast.
TL: Sounds interesting.
DS: It’s going to be fun. And Alan Parsons is going to speak. He has a number of the folks who were on the rooftop that the Beatles played on, Apple’s Rooftop.
TL: Wow. That sounds really exciting. I might tune in to that one.
DS: Yeah. I think you’d like it. I’m excited about it.
TL: What are some of your ongoing challenges?
DS: I think that you’ve actually touched on it in a few places that there is—I think that the challenge for a business like ours is in being able to establish our points of distinction, of differentiation and making that clear to the marker in a simple way, that’s the marketing challenge in a lot of ways, and that the layperson’s expectations exactly, as you said, well, why wouldn’t I watch it on Facebook or why wouldn’t I watch it on YouTube, or why wouldn’t I just—I already have other environments in which I can see video, why is this special? And so I think that the challenge is on us to make that clear and to work with artists that are going to be able to showcase what makes us different and better, and hope that both consumers and other artists and creators of content see that.
And our aspiration is really to move—we don’t imagine ourselves as an entertainment company, we imagine ourselves as a technology company. And our real goal is to be the Shopify of streaming, to be the platform that lots and lots of creators of all sorts come to when they want to create a professional steaming experience.
TL: Right. So it sounds to me a little bit of branding and a little bit of outreach.
DS: Exactly. Right.
TL: Great. So I guess the final question is, where can people find out about In.Live and get more information and potentially use this platform?
DS: Yeah. So the nice start is the name, it’s In.Live and there’s no dot com at the end, that’s the whole URL. And you can sign up for free and you can stream for free. And we have an app in the App Store that you can download for free. And from the app, you can create streams in a matter of minutes. You can also use all different sorts of technology, so if you don’t want to use the app, you can connect using the OBS or other streaming softwares or technologies. But once it’s sent to us, we make sure that it goes out and it sounds great and everyone gets paid.
TL: That’s what matters.
DS: Yes. Absolutely.
TL: Well, David, I want to thank you so much for speaking with me. And just to let everyone know, it’s In.Live, it can’t get any more simple than that. So there’s no excuse not to at least explore it.
TL: Well, thank you again.
Here is a link to In.Live’s website to see upcoming shows.