Behind all the bright lights shining on stage, is a world that few people have access to and even fewer understand. The live music business, for many years has been an enigma to those that see only the glamorous side of it.
All performers, whether they are actors, musicians, comedians, magicians or a unique attraction in themselves are only a part of the much larger machinery that is the live entertainment business. Over the years, music has dominated the industry due to its mass appeal and the experiential nature in which concerts are designed, but today, emerging into the spotlight are a number of stand up comedians, magicians and spoken word artists that are starting to command a large share of their audiences attention.
Regardless of the kind of performance, one common thread ran through most live entertainment business across the world. It was the fact that the ability of the talent to actually make a living and find success was greatly dependent on the right representation. A network of agents, promoters and managers sat behind the scenes pulling the strings defining which artists were going to be successful and which were not. Whether it was the record labels, large film studios or the more modern 360 degree entertainment companies, inevitably there was a syndicate that controlled a majority of the business. While this worked out very well for the artists that sat on top of the pile, any artists that found themselves without representation or access to such a syndicate found it almost impossible to gain any traction and as a result were denied a career in live entertainment.
Today, with the penetration and access the internet has provided, the rules are beginning to change. Like it has done in most spheres of our lives, the internet has done its part when it comes to democratizing the industry. The rules for the business are changing rapidly. More importantly, the skills required for success have evolved dramatically.
This changing landscape has provided an ideal breading ground for new, innovative ways to bring some much needed transparency to the otherwise murky waters around live entertainment. One of the trailblazers leading the way is the Special Guest App. Following the success marketplace apps have seen in fields such as retail, transport and hospitality, it takes their core idea and retrofits its benefits on the world of live entertainment.
Founders Damon Wayans, Jr and Kris Jones believe this app is the solution when it comes to eliminating a lot of the middle men in the live entertainment business. Catering straight to the consumers, the app allows regular people to book live entertainment for their parties, office retreats or conferences, giving them direct access to a variety of performers across disciplines.
Kris Jones articulates their mission simply when he says “We’ve achieved our goal if we get talented people in the app and get them paid. The problem is that the traditional booking industry favors managed talent and 98 percent of talent that isn’t managed. So you have this conundrum where the 98 percent have to be not just performers but entrepreneurs. We want them to be able to focus on their acts; we will help them find venues that pay.”
Damon Wayans, Jr is candid about his experiences when he talks about where the idea came from. Among his many talents, he feels closely connected to live performance. It is this proximity that fuels his passion for the undertaking. “One time I was at this open mic, sitting there waiting my turn. Two comedians go up ahead of me; very funny guys, never heard of them before and they kill it. Then this young lady goes up, she’s a freckle-faced, young, redhead who goes up there with an acoustic guitar. She starts singing her own material and she blows me away. Everybody in there was like, “Wow, why isn’t this girl famous already?” I had goose bumps and I thought to myself that it sucks that so many people who are entertainers will never get the opportunity to be paid for the thing that they love doing the most. They ultimately have to set aside their dreams and get a regular job and it’s because of the way that the entertainment industry is set up.” He describes the origins of the idea with enthusiasm.
It is initiatives like this that seem to be shining a light on the road forward for the live entertainment business. There is no question, for the entertainment business to survive it has to find a way to make sure, its lynchpins, the artists can make a decent living. In an industry focused on building icons and household names, it is businesses like this that help sustain the working performer. There might be a debate in terms of what it might take to define success in the entertainment field but there is no arguing the fact that the money in the industry has to create sustainable, long term income to those that step into the spotlight and bring smiles (or tears) to the faces staring back at them.