Showing the effects of its recent marketing launch, Halifax-based home-concert organizer Side Door more than tripled the number of performances it arranged in March compared with February.
The company – whose online platform matches entertainers with people who want them to perform in their homes or other intimate locations – arranged 72 shows in March. It was a gain of 3.7 times from February. And the high volume is continuing as Side Door has 151 total shows booked through the summer of 2020.
Side Door Co-Founder Laura Simpson said the boom is due to the company’s recent marketing launch. Side Door automates the repeatable processes involved in booking a show, from matching artists and hosts based on preferences to handling things like tickets and payout. She said about half of the bookings organized through the web platform don’t require any intervention from an employee.
It’s about keeping cost low. “Finding space for shows that were low overhead and high profit margins was one of the greatest needs in the entertainment industry,” said Simpson. More than that, half of the platform’s hosts have never hosted a show before, so Side Door is creating a new market for the artist.
The company, whose five full-time employees work out of Volta in Halifax, has taken equity investment from friends, family, and a few musicians. Simpson is now raising a new funding round with a target of $2 million to $2.5 million.
Artist investors are the best marketing tools Side Door has, Simpson said. “Referral and word of mouth is our strongest point right now.”
The money from the seed round will be used to find a senior developer for the app version of Side Door, as a companion to the web platform, said Simpson. The company also plans to launch a rating and review system, and let clients use the platform to book service providers, anything from catering to photography.
The money will also be used to increase market penetration and develop new markets in the United States.
Simpson said there are a few competitors in the U.S., but none has the artist focus Side Door does. “If we earn the trust of the artist, they will use us, and that means the quality of the shows are that much higher because we’re attracting the best artists.”
She added: “We have people who do full tours, and some get paid two grand each [per show], by just showing up with a guitar. It’s a much better situation for them where they can actually make a livelihood.”
Since Simpson and co-founder Dan Mangan launched the company in April 2017, Side Door has booked 400 shows, of which 194 have been held. The company has signed up 437 hosts (almost 300 have signed since the end of January), and 1257 "discoverable" artists.
Almost 400 additional shows are pending on the platform, said Simpson. Pending shows are those still being negotiated by the hosts and performers.
Unlike most startups, Side Door had revenue almost from the beginning, she said, and the company actually booked shows even before the web platform started development in March 2018.
Side Door is paid a percentage of show revenue, so the key to the success is generating a high volume of shows. Side Door sold $124,000 in tickets in 2018, and Simpson said her goal is to hit $1 million in annual ticket sales by the end of 2020.