nuevoStage: Startup Promoter Opens The Stage For Emerging Artists

Videos by American Songwriter

Not too long ago, Max Wessel was at a concert at the Boston indie rock club, The Middle East, when he realized that the opening band may have been better – or, at least, gotten a bigger draw – than the headliner. That got Wessel thinking about music promotion and the booking business.

Wessel, an MBA candidate at Harvard Business School, and his childhood friend Christopher Allen, a designer and web developer in Chicago, dreamed up nuevoStage, a music startup that will put the power to book shows in the hands of artists.

Taking both the models of Groupon’s group buying and Kickstarter’s crowd-funding, nuevoStage will let artists put “holds” on show dates at a venue. But the concert will only be booked if the artist is able to sell a certain number of tickets by a certain date.

But signing on venue partners for the project has been tough. Wessel and Allen, though lifelong music fans, are newcomers to the music industry. Convincing hardened club owners that giving artists the responsibility to sell tickets was a good idea was not an easy task.

“For the same reason that venue owners don’t want to give gigs to these lesser-known artists, they don’t want to take undue risk,” says Wessel. “It is a challenge. You’re trying to get somebody to adopt a new technology.”

In the end, nuevoStage is having to put up the money to reserve the rooms for least five concerts in Boston for their beta launch in September. To fund the concerts, Wessel and Allen have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 by the end of the month.

While Boston club owners and promoters have been skeptical, nuevoStage has seen success in other venues. The project won Berklee Music and MIDEM’s Rethink Music music business model competition last April, giving the fledging startup $50,000 for development.

The organizers behind the event must have seen the innovative qualities of the idea. While for the time being, nuevoStage seems to be mixing it up with industry promoters, the idea has the power to disrupt the indie booking paradigm.

While artists have always done things to help promote their shows, a software product that takes care of connections, contracts, and deals could have major implications for agents who normally make those transactions.

On the nuevoStage platform, an artist signs up and uploads music and other media to their profile page. Venues also have profile pages and nuevoStage administrators will initially help venues set their show requirements.

After that, it’s up to artists to book dates and sell tickets. The platform puts the promotional responsibility on the artist – even setting the ticket price (which artists and their managers often have a hand in anyway) – and budget their bottom line based on how many fans they think they can draw.

Artists may even end up having to compete against each other to sell tickets the fastest in order to book popular dates.

Wessel says nuevoStage will also be involved in helping artists with their marketing efforts.

“Social tools allow artists to engage fans directly in a way they’ve never been able to do,” he says, adding that the site will integrate with Twitter and Facebook and also have an e-mail platform.

Online payment and ticketing transactions will be handled through nuevoStage, while fans will pick up tickets at will call. Wessel says in the future he hopes to partner directly with ticketing vendors like Ticketfly or Ticketweb.

For the fall concert series in Boston, nuevoStage has signed on artists like New York hip-hop group Pants Velour and Boston singer-songwriter Cory Allen Staats, and will be hosting shows at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square and at Cafe 939 in Back Bay.

While venue operators and promoters may not see the need to disrupt live music’s status quo, to others the concert business may look a little like the recording industry must have looked to Apple so many years ago.

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