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WEISS WORDS ON THE DATASCAPE

Mark Weiss of 237 Global thinks artists should own their own data and has created platforms that enable them to interface with fans. But he'd probably like to erase the experience of talking with us.

How have you been faring amid the latest chapter of the pandemic saga?
It feels like COVID is starting to calm down a little bit. Though I think live concerts are gonna be choppy for the next few months, especially globally.

As a company, we’ve been shifting our focus for years, expanding from just offering VIP experiences to becoming much more of a data play. Fortunately, we started building apps for artists that are generating significant revenue via subscription and e-commerce.

Let’s get into your key offerings. What are they and how do they work?
There are two sets of offerings. One is traditional, tour-related VIP, whether that's setting up a ticket meet-and-greet for a Trippie Redd tour or setting up an interactive dive-bar experience for the Hella Mega Tour (Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer) where fans can not only get food and drinks but also enjoy an immersive, augmented/virtual-reality place to hang out.

We’re also bringing more tech into that business, integrating virtual VIP experiences with ticketing and integrating the 3.0 NFT world leveraging blockchain to offer a much better fan experience of what “VIP” is. The second offering is creating apps for recording artists and celebrities, which we've done with people like Shawn Mendes, Avril Lavigne, iann dior and New Kids on the Block. We built a technology that allows us to offer artists their own app in the app store. Initially, it was just about helping manage ticket presales, but ultimately it’s become a very robust subscription platform that has allowed artists easy access to understanding who their superfans are and communicating directly with them.

It seems fundamental that artists whose connection to fans is primarily via their socials are at a disadvantage for a variety of reasons—one of these being that you don't own the data; the entire thing happens in somebody else's sandbox. What are some reasons artists should think about making their primary connection via their own apps and other properties?
Let's use Vine as an example; look at the popularity it had six or so years ago. It was one of the first real platforms in the creator economy outside YouTube. And if I had said to you in 2014 that Vine was going away, you'd say “You’re nuts.” Where's Vine going, right? Then Vine disappeared overnight. What if TikTok goes away? I say that to people all the time, and they say, "What are you talking about?" But it could go away.

The bigger thing is the goalposts moving. Instagram loves to tout its algorithm. But can you really tell, if you put an Instagram post out there, that all your fans will receive it? And do you own any of that data? The words “data ownership” may feel a little harsh in the entertainment space, but IBM wants to own the customer, and your local pizza place wants to own them. For some artists, the notion of owning a customer feels uncomfortable. But the idea is, you don’t own a customer; you're allowing the fan into your world, and you're getting a chance to hang out with them and create an experience.

OK, so let’s say you own the data. What do you do with it?
A big part of what impressed us about Shawn Mendes and his team from the get-go was that he, his manager, Andrew Gertler, and the rest of the AG Artists team have not only been very forward-thinking in terms of where the trends might go, but they also ate up every piece of data we supplied. We were really blown away by how they consumed it, how they used it to sell tickets, plot routings, plan promo...

What kind of data are we talking about?
Two fascinating things just came up: A significant amount of the cell-phone opt-ins we got for Shawn Mendes on this recent go-around were from Mexico, even though no dates in Mexico have been announced. That blew me away because typically, we post this tour date and then have a presale, and we get information related to that presale. But you have this enormous audience that just wants to hear from Shawn. Then, when we launched Avril Lavigne, this also blew me away: A significant number of downloads came from China. It’s her #6 market. So those are things we were able to learn from this technology that we weren't thinking about.

Also, we're one of the first platforms that can reach fans via push notification, SMS and email on a global basis.

Weiss and daughter Rachel enjoy a meet-and-greet with Shawn Mendes

What should be foremost in the minds of artists’ teams now?
REALLY knowing where your fans are. We have a great way to find that out. Every artist should be thinking about building a big database of their audience yesterday. We have this aggregation of superfans in one spot. And now, through the subscription part of our platform, we can really start to segment the diehards who want everything the artist is doing. Having access to these fans is really critical as we go deeper into 3.0.

How are some of these apps pushing the envelope in terms of the fan experience?
Actually, we’re still using much of what has worked all along. We created a private message board area with Tate McRae, New Kids on the Block and Avril Lavigne. It struck a nerve in the industry because fan communities, and even early social networks, were essentially message boards. We’ve seen Tate and Donnie Wahlberg go into the app and chat with fans. We didn't even have to ask; it happened organically.

We're very close to having our go-live functionality turned on in the app, where an artist, either under a free wall with sign-up or a paywall, will be able to have the same level of engagement as an Instagram Live experience, which could replace some of the meet-and-greet-type of experience, do it more virtually. We are seeing significant e-commerce sales through the app, growing subscriptions, NFT drops and augmented-reality collectibles. Essentially, by getting all the superfans in one place, we’re in a position to help them promote any new initiative that comes our way. A year ago we were barely talking about NFTs and now, through a partnership with Shopify, we’re among the first to be able to offer NFTs in an artist’s closed environment.;

In their own sandbox.
Yes. The idea is that everything about the way these apps look—how they're created, how they're branded—is the artist's. It's their official community and their official connection to the fan.


A Hella Mega watering hole; a Trippie Redd meet-and-greet (click the pics for a bigger view)

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