While there are plenty of concerts happening along the Wasatch Front, for many the idea of paying to go see shows on an almost nightly basis is too costly, which hurts more when there's a show you really want to see. --- Luckily, there's a website trying to make seeing shows easier, as GigViz will send you live concerts straight to your monitor over the Net. Built on the idea of providing live-music content like YouTube has in the past, the website sets up cameras at local venues and sends the show straight to you with clean audio and a fine view, all completely free.
Today, I chat with co-founders Sean Cochrane and Mike Sartain about the company and what they're doing to bring local music to the masses. As a side note, you'll see Cochrane below with an injury, as he did this interview while recovering from a motorcycle accident. (All photos courtesy of GigViz.)
Mark Hoffman, Moj Cochrane, Sean Cochrane & Mike Sartain
Gavin: Hey, guys. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Sean: Since I was young, I always had passion for electronics and music. I got my computer-science degree from the U, during which time I also played in three bands: the Radio Active Iguanas, Scream Cheese and Liquor Box. After graduating from the U, I worked at the Eccles Broadcast Center (KUED, KULC, KUER and Utah Education Network), where I learned a bit about broadcasting and video production, as well as much about computer networking. In the last 20 years, my career focus has been on the computer industry, working for Sun microsystems, Oracle, and I am currently working at Hewlett-Packard. I live up in Park City with my wife and I enjoy the Utah outdoors, mountain biking, snowboarding, boating, hiking and golfing.
Gavin: Mike, catching up a bit, how have things been with Starmy and the Pleasure Thieves, as well as your other musical projects?
Mike: Starmy will be a band for the rest of eternity, even though the lineup might change a bit here and there. Pleasure Thieves' new record is getting good attention from the locals but our future is in doubt. I am currently playing bass guitar in Minerva and we will be recording a record with Mike Sasich this weekend; very exciting -- this is the year of ROCK. With the large pool of great local bands like Spell Talk, Dead Bod, Green Arrow, Max Pain, Light Black, Nautical Sons, Eagle Twin, The Awful Truth, Sayde Price, Yak Tooth, Minerva, King Niko, Royal Bliss, The Pleasure Thieves, Rainbow Black, Palace of Buddies playing around town, the vibe in SLC for awesome ROCK is alive and well.We have worked with all of these bands at GigViz.
Gavin: Sean, how did you first get involved with video production and how did you get into the field professionally?
Sean: My experience in video production is probably less important, and more relevant is my computer and IT experience. GigViz is primarily about delivering live events. We are more focused on delivering a quality live-music broadcast than a video post-production business. Video production is a small part of what we do and we do record most events. However, the more innovative aspect of GigViz is using modern methods of content delivery. The big thing is capturing live video on our platform using the latest technology and content-delivery networks. I believe we are on the verge of major change in the way broadcasting is done and there is currently a great opportunity for startups in this area. As an example, look at what is happening this year with the Olympics -- people are getting live results from the Net instead of watching the recorded events later.
Gavin: How did the two of you first meet and become friends?
Sean: We met through a mutual friend, Jesse Heers, who was the drummer in Liquor Box about 14 years ago, and we found out that we lived next door to each other. Since we both had a passion for music, we quickly hit it off. We have jammed a number of late-night sessions together with other friends on many occasions throughout the years.
Mike: When Sean and I met, we immediately became close friends through some late-night mind-expanding jam sessions at Sean's house. Sean would shred on guitar and I would play drums.
Gavin: When did the idea come about to start up GigViz?
Sean: The idea came to me late last year. A friend of mine out of state was playing in a band; I said I wish I could see it. Then I thought about the latest technology and what has become available in the last few years, such as expansion of bandwidth to homes and portable devices, new video-streaming technology and 4G networks, and thought, hey, I can do this. I started last February working on the proof of concept, writing software, purchased equipment and started the business with the help of my wife, Moj. I thought that Mike would be a great partner knowing his background in music and knowing many artists locally. I talked to him about it; he was totally on board and offered to help. I also approached another longtime good friend of mine, Mark Hoffman, who is a big music enthusiast and has been a great supporter of GigViz, working on many fronts. Between the four of us, we have brought this idea to fruition.
Gavin: What was the planning like behind setting this up, and who else did you get on board to work with?
Sean: My approach to planning was to go do it first, knowing and understanding the big picture and figure out the detail as we are moving forward -- using the lean start-up method -- and that method has actually worked out very well, so far. In the last five months, we have made excellent progress given the time and resources we have now. We have achieved a lot considering that the company is only a few months old and we all have full-time jobs.
Gavin: Knowing that you'd be showing concerts that people had paid to see, what was it like for you approaching venues to jump on board with the idea?
Sean: Actually, from the beginning it has been very positive. The venues saw it as another source of promotion. We are aiming to provide a service to those who cannot be at the venue but wished they could. For example, we had positive comments about family members of a band who are living out of state and never had a chance to see their performances, and by logging into GigViz they were able to see them live for the first time. Also, GigViz is another source of advertising for the venues for those who live out of state and when they visit Utah, they already know about the Venue. So far, the venues we have approached with it have been very supportive and have been great to work with, as they see it as a promotion for their venue. We actually believe that our platform actually helps a venue expand its market to customers they could not reach otherwise. The venues seem to agree with this vision. We would like to thank Urban Lounge, The Depot, The State Room, Liquid Joe’s, The Garage and the staff at all these venues for their excellent help and support.
Mike: Also, we have done Deer Valley shows as part of The Mountain Town Music Series in Park City. The venues understand that not everyone can make it out to see a live act every time. They understood quickly that a live stream makes the people who otherwise cannot make it out salivate at the idea of being at the venue, near the stage with a beer in hand, rocking out with their friends.
Gavin: What was the process like for you getting all the equipment needed to film and stream the videos?
Sean: So far, I have done all the investment myself by buying all the equipment as we go. This has allowed us to move forward as we are learning about different equipment and methods while we improve the quality of production so we can give the audience the feel of being at the venue. We are also continuing to strive to develop a simpler streaming platform and make the operation of equipment simpler. As we are growing, it is likely that there will come time that we will need more investment to support our growth. We hope to figure out a revenue model that allows for this growth. Also, everyone so far is working for free out of love for doing it.
Gavin: What's the process for you in setting up a show and getting everything ready to stream?
Sean: We check new venues ahead of time, and based on their stage and sound setup we figure out before a show what specific equipment we need to set up and where. For the most part, we can figure out the needs for a venue in a day or two and get the equipment set up at a new venue. At existing venues, we can typically set up about an hour or two before the show.
Gavin: Rather than charge to watch, you allow users to login for free or use Facebook or Google to take part in the show. What made you decide to make it a free viewing?
Sean: The initial idea was to deliver the streams at a large scale and to get as many bands and fans on our social network as possible. Initially, we did not want to restrict the reach by charging for the service. At this time, we are working to develop a business model to make gigviz a viable and sustainable business.
Gavin: What were some of your first streaming shows like, and what was the reaction from viewers?
Sean: Our first proof of concept was actually better than expected, and we had friends to log in and try it. I was surprised that it actually worked very well. The first few shows taught us what we need and how to improve our streams. We are continuously working on developing our technology to provide the best-quality shows. We have come a long way but we are continuously striving to improve the quality of our stream and user experience.
Mike: One of the first shows we streamed was a local show featuring The Suicycles, King Niko, Starmy and Royal Bliss at The Depot. The show was amazing and we had a bunch of people logged in, enjoying the show from home. The response was overwhelmingly positive, because of the quality of the sound and audio. It is really like sitting in the room watching your favorite band.
Gavin: On a technical side, what lessons have you learned in providing a quality stream, and what are you able to do for people watching a show to help them feel like they're at the venue?
Sean: We have learned much about cameras, lighting and software for live broadcasting. From the beginning, audio quality has been paramount, and we have significantly improved the quality of the video. We have provided a chat feature the viewers can chat and talk about the show as they watch. We are currently working on adding other features to improve the online experience.
Mike: I think it's so fun to watch the stream from the beginning of the night. Sometimes you see the band setting up, or you recognize someone in the audience. You see the sound person running around, etc. It is LIVE!
Gavin: Is there any fear on your part that you're convincing audiences to stay home? Or do you view it more as an alternative for those who can't get out to see a particular show?
Sean: No, definitely not. We are not trying to convince the audience to stay home; not at all. That’s not what GigViz is about. You cannot replace the experience of being at a concert with an online experience. This is about providing another way of connecting to your favorite artists and staying in touch with the latest music scene in the area. It also provides a promotional platform for new artists to get their names and their performance to a wider range of audience. In fact, GigViz may motivate people to go to the venue and see the live performance that they would have otherwise missed. GigViz provides another social platform to connect friends, fans and artists; but people will continue to go to concerts because of the experience of being with friends in person and being at the venue seeing a live performance.
Mike: We don't want people to stay home. We encourage people to go to the venue, buy drinks and experience the live show. There is nothing like being in the front row! If you’re going to a show, YOU’RE GOING. When we post about a show, we always say things like, "If you can’t make it out, catch the live stream on GigViz!" So, our product is always a second option. But like I said earlier, when you have kids or you are underage, or live in Provo, etc., going to the show is impossible. We are bringing you the ability to still connect with artists and check their live show out. Also, from the bands perspective, they have been mostly extremely excited about live streaming because the promotional potential that a live stream provides is huge. The band/artist is seen by a lot more people than just the ones who can make it to the venue -- under 21s, stay-at-home parents, people who live too far away from the down town bars (Provo, Ogden, etc.). We also have had viewers internationally from Canada, Australia, Turkey, Iran, Netherlands, Mexico, Great Britain, etc. We are providing a service that is priceless to bands who want their live sound and experience to be seen and heard by as many people as possible.
Gavin: What's your overall plan for GigViz, and what kind of an impact do you hope to make on the music scene?
Sean: The overall plan is to expand into other cities so we can connect bands, fans and cities on a large scale. We are now working on bringing services of GigViz to Austin and LA. We would like to provide a global experience for all music lovers and a go-to place for live music worldwide. Also, we are developing apps for streaming devices such as Apple’s IOS -- iPad, iPhone, Apple TV -- and also additional platforms like the Xbox and Roku. We also hope to eventually provide artists an alternative means to reach out to their fans and provide artists a means of generating artist income superior to current online methods such as iTunes and Spotify.
Mike: I wish GigViz were around five-10 years ago so I had footage of now-defunct bands like The Wolfs, Vile Blue Shades, PCP Berzerker, the Box Car Kids, Redd Tape, Tarn, Lovesucker -- the list is too long to mention! Even early Starmy and Red Bennies would be amazing to see now. As far as the national bands coming through town, we want that group of people who can’t get to the venue to have the chance to see the bands they want, too, and get the viewers excited about the great live music venues we have here in SLC.
Gavin: What can we expect from both GigViz and yourselves over the rest of the year?
Sean: Our goal for next year is to add more fans, bands and venues. We would like to go to more cities and improve our service. With the help of the guys at ProjectSLC, we recently broadcast interviews with bands just before the show. I think this is cool and unique and we hope to do more of this – thanks to ProjectSLC! Also, this coming year, we plan to develop a revenue model where we can sustain ourselves and keep growing.
Mike: We are getting set up at Kilby Court soon. We have a lot of exciting shows coming up including Head For The Hills at the State Room on Aug. 25, as well as Faun Fables at the Urban Lounge on Sept. 2. Please check the events calendar on the website and remember to turn off the TV and turn on the GV! That is my personal catch phrase!
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Sean: Just log on to GigViz and watch the bands. It’s easy to log on through your gmail or Facebook account. Also, go like us on Facebook and spread the word. We will be streaming many fun shows in the future, connecting artists to fans – keep checking the event calendar. We love the Salt Lake music scene and all of the people involved – thanks to all on the scene!
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