Non-traditional concert organizers score big with VC investors
Posted on July 08, 2021 | By Simon R. Smith | 0 Comments
Juno Award winner Dan Mangan discovered early in his career that he could make a decent living playing to small crowds at unconventional venues. After a disappointing turnout at a popular Calgary venue, he played a set in his friend Doug’s backyard and it was an “amazing experience.”
“They didn’t know who I was but … I made a bunch of money and sold a bunch of CDs,” he said. “I was like, ‘I just need a Doug in every city and I can fan those sparks into flames.’”
Now, Mangan’s Halifax-based startup, whose platform connects artists and hosts to organize shows in “non-traditional performance spaces” like backyards, bookstores, warehouses and living rooms, has raised US$3-million to fuel its growth in the United States.
Side Door was co-founded in 2017 by Mangan and Laura Simpson, a music industry professional and founder of The Syrup Factory, which began hosting house concerts in 2011. The founders say their goal is to democratize and decentralize the live performance ecosystem.
“[The] long-term vision is, I want to see 100,000 artists you haven’t heard of making $100,000 a year doing what they love,” Mangan said.
Announced in a news release on June 18 and led by Vancouver venture capital (VC) firm, Rhino Ventures, the round of seed funding initially sought to raise US$2-million.
“This investment positions us to completely transform the world of live performance,” Simpson said in the release. “The tools we use to achieve our vision have adjusted over time, but our mandate remains the same: to serve underserved creators and foster a thriving global middle class of artistry.”
The platform, which launched in its first iteration in 2019, had facilitated around 350 shows before the pandemic hit. Then, like countless other businesses, Side Door had to adapt to organizing online performances.
“First, [we] focused on highly interactive fan engagement events over Zoom and that turned out to be remarkably rewarding for people, not only financially but also existentially and artistically,” Mangan said. “And then we eventually built more traditional livestreaming broadcast events.”
Mangan added that Side Door intends to continue offering its virtual events, meaning artists can now book “hybrid” shows, played to both live and broadcast audiences simultaneously.
Side Door opened the funding round before the pandemic and then paused it, Mangan said, but opened it back up this spring, which is when Rhino Ventures joined in. Rhino Ventures partner, Jay Rhind said in the release that the VC is excited to partner with Side Door because of its founders’ unique backgrounds and experience.
“We believe entrepreneur enablement is the future and Side Door provides artists with the agency to determine their own success,” Rhind said. “And, importantly, [provides] fans the opportunity to contribute to and participate in that success; completing a virtuous cycle that will grow the artist economy.”
In his own career as a musician, Mangan said he was able to subvert the traditional funnel by which industry gatekeepers determine who gets access to venues and audiences and now with Side Door, he hopes to help others do the same.
“What Side Door is doing is trying to help absolutely anyone make a living and build a meaningful following whether or not they have those gatekeepers on their side,” he said. •
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