Pushed by pandemic, Minneapolis tech company creates performing arts streaming platform

It’s no secret that the pandemic has led to a surge in business for over-the-top video streaming companies, as millions of people have become entertained by watching content online.

At the same time, the performing arts industry has lost millions of dollars in ticket revenue due to show cancellations and venues being closed to the public to limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, performing arts companies earned $834 million and $1.7 billion respectively for the third quarters of 2020 and 2021, well below the $12.7 billion earned in the same quarter in 2019.

A Minneapolis software company hopes to help performing arts businesses and artists create new revenue streams and recoup lost revenue through the creation of an online cataloging and streaming platform. direct.

Pennant, which officially launched this spring, allows theater groups, orchestras and artists to charge for access to live streamed events and previously recorded premium content.

Pennant is a white label product, which means it can be personalized by the user. In this case, artists and arts organizations can customize their website to their liking by choosing uploaded content, featured videos on the main page, and adding guides showing where fans can purchase tickets for shows and streams. live to come.

Jeff Lin, general manager of Pennant, said the product is ideal for artists who aren’t signed to major labels or performance bands who don’t have big budgets. Pennant is also integrated with online shopping platform Shopify, allowing artists and organizations to sell merchandise directly to fans, Lin said.

Pennant is a spin-off of Minneapolis-based web and app design company Bust Out, of which Lin is also a chief executive. Some of Bust Out’s clients are performing arts companies, including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Bust Out created an online concert library for the SPCO in 2017 to expand access for people who couldn’t attend in person. During the pandemic, however, the SPCO used this library to share previously recorded performances, and once musicians were able to meet in person, it used this same platform to livestream concerts from a live room. empty Ordway concert in Saint-Paul free for the public.

Shortly after the lockdowns began and venues were forced to close, Bust Out’s other performing arts clients asked if the app maker could design custom online libraries similar to SPCO’s, but their budgets – and Bust Out’s ability to deliver in such a short time – made it unachievable.

The alternative idea was to develop a single platform where performing arts groups could customize their own online libraries.

“We had already talked about what we could do to help these performing arts organisations, so we said, ‘Why don’t we build a platform for all these bands, orchestras and theaters that can start their own chain without having to own software or build from scratch?” Lin said. “We build the platform and they use it.”

Pennant operates on a business-to-business-to-consumer model and generates revenue based on the number of tickets a customer sells to live streams. If an artist sells tickets for an upcoming show, they can sell an unlimited number of tickets to see the live stream of the show on their Pennant platform.

“You can see the potential,” Lin said. Pennant’s team is in talks with half a dozen organizations about using the platform.

Lin expects Pennant to have between 10 and 20 employees by the end of 2022. This includes a sales and marketing team and a product team made up of designers and engineers.

While some might speculate that the online streaming industry is becoming increasingly crowded, Lin sees it as an indicator of where entertainment is headed.

“This online concert thing is going to happen,” he said. “When the pandemic hit, it was like, ‘You know that thing that we thought was going to take 10 to 15 years? It’s happening right now. “

Skye Ross, senior vice president of Rhymesayers Entertainment, a Minneapolis record label, served as a mentor to the Pennant team. He thinks that the creation of the platform comes at the right time.

“Traditional arts organizations that get a lot of revenue from events, [the pandemic] was a red flag,” Ross said.

The cancellation of shows, combined with the isolation felt by many people, has accelerated the need for a product like Pennant, Ross added.

“This technology is here to stay,” he said. “Live entertainment…people crave that.”