J. Sider spent six years working his way up in the live music scene--from mopping floors after shows in small venues in Harrisburg, Virginia to scheduling big acts at a Salt Lake City venue that holds thousands of people. He was eventually managing bands too, booking gigs and trying to get the word out to fans about tour dates.
But by 2008, he was overworked and underpaid. Then he had the quintessential entrepreneurial epiphany: "I thought, 'There really has to be a better way to do all this,'" Sider recalls.
He was right. That "aha" moment was the birth of BandPage, an online platform for musicians to build a presence and post content for fans. Today, the San Francisco-based company has more than 500,000 musicians as users--including big names such as Rihanna, 50 Cent, and Arcade Fire. The company uses a freemuim model for musicians, who can purchase extra promotional tools, and also allows bands to sell unique experiences to fans.
But before you can understand more about BandPage's current business, you have to know about the company's rollercoaster history.
The company officially launched in 2009, and the service was built almost entirely on Facebook. The app let musicians create a Facebook page with updates, tour dates, and photos. It quickly became Facebook's go-to app for hundreds of thousands of musicians who wanted a more dynamic profile than Facebook offered. In 2011, the company raised two rounds--a $2.3 million Series A and $16 million Series B-- from investors such as Mohr Davidow Ventures and Northgate Capital. (The company will not disclose revenue.)
But last year, Facebook threw a curve ball: It introduced Timeline--making Pages history. TechCrunch reported, at the time, that the changes "removed the ability for musicians to set their BandPage app as their default landing page," and "in two months, BandPage lost over 90 percent of its traffic, plummeting from 32.1 million monthly active users and 1.5 million daily active users."
To that, Sider says: "Look, we didn't get the investment we did or the growth we did if we were just a Facebook app. There has always been a bigger picture here. [The Facebook Timeline design] obviously changed things, but it was nothing we couldn't handle."
So over the last year, the company has moved beyond Facebook. Although the company still powers hundreds of thousands of musicians pages on Facebook, it also offers the same features for bands creating stand alone websites. What's more, BandPage has started powering many other major platforms like Pandora and Wordpress.
The company's latest feature, Experiences, lets fans pay for access to band perks, such as a $50 bowling game with Phillidelphia indie band Free Energy or $2,500 to Skype with Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist. BandPage gets 15 percent of each sale, leaving 85 percent of the sale go directly to the band.
"The idea is to capture a band's audience, which is always bigger than you might think," Sider says. "Think about your favorite musicians. How many would you pay to see? Probably several. But now, tell me how many of them you know will be in town in the next six months? Bet you can't. Those are the dots we are connecting."
Connecting Musicians to Their Fans
J. Sider built BandPage to connect bands to fans. Here's how he continues to reinvent the company to keep up with evolving technology.