When the pandemic hit last year, Laura Simpson knew she would have to change Side Door’s business model. What surprised the company’s Co-Founder and CEO was the resulting 3,000 percent increase in ticket sales.

Since 2017, the company had offered a matching system that allowed musicians and other artists to hold live events in small venues – usually people’s homes. In March 2020, Co-Founder and musician Dan Mangan was beginning a major tour that used the venue-matching platform, but he had to cancel when the pandemic broke out.

As a result, Side Door organized its first virtual concert, using Mangan to test the idea. It was a huge success and the company has since hosted more than 800 virtual shows, and has seen a 3,000 percent increase in ticket sales, equating to over $1 million in revenue. 

One factor that contributed to the increased sales was Side Door’s decision to make audience members open a mandatory account when buying tickets. Though it was mostly for security reasons, it turned out to be a big factor in sustaining followers through the pandemic and expanding its platform.

“Now we have dedicated audience eyeballs on every show that we put out, so we can remarket to all of those 50,000 audience members,” Simpson said, adding that the website sees an average growth of 6,600 new users per month. “The ability to grow that pie helps every artist have more visibility.”

Since its inception, Side Door’s mission has been to serve mid-level artists by matching them with not only a perfect venue, but audience as well. Simpson said that often, mid-level solo artists, or artists with small teams, are underserved by the music industry “who’s [which is] always reaching for the top.” 

“My vision of it is – even if you want a super, super niche audience, like you’re totally into goth music – I want that to be available to people, and for all of their followers to be able to follow along,” she said.

On top of venues, Side Door helps artists create smart contracts that automatically connect ticketing and payments. The business has worked with artists like Jim Cuddy, Vance Joy and hosts non-musical artists giving lectures and performing plays. Currently, the Side Door team is made up of 12 full-time staff and 10 contractors. 

While the now-hybrid model of small in-person and virtual performances has been caused by the pandemic, Simpson has no plans to end it there.

“The one thing I really think is remarkable is that we really have unlocked a new kind of audience,” she said. “This is an assumption I’ve been working on, but what I’ve noticed is that people in rural places, countries where artists don’t often tour, people who are bound to their houses for whatever reason – all of these are the kinds of people we see online.”

Not only that, but because it’s hard to break even for a lot of mid-level artists. Simpson said that offering a virtual component maximizes the reach and revenue of those in-person shows, so that everybody benefits. 

“Most of the time people go up the road and they’re coming back barely breaking even and they’re exhausted,” she said. “There’s just so much uncertainty, so we’re really trying to add more certainty to artists' lives – that’s the bottom line.”