Gwenael Le Bodic
April 7, 2015
Technology waits for no one - not in the music business, not in radio ... and especially not in the digital realm. In an app-happy world, Gwenael Le Bodic put his mobile telecommunications experience to good use to launch his own company, Greencopper, which provides apps specifically tailored for festivals, concerts and even music industry events. When you can put artists' entire catalog at the fingertips of the consumers who are watching them perform, you better the consumer experience as well as the artists' exposure. Here, Le Bodic explains how it all works now - and what we can expect in the future.
What were you doing before you started Greencopper?
After I got a PhD in Telecommunications from the University Of Strathclyde (U.K.), I worked for several mobile and telecommunications companies such as Vodafone in Germany and OZ in Montreal. I started working on ways to implement mobile messaging. I came up with the idea of creating smartphone apps for music and that's when I went on my own with Greencopper.
How did the inspiration for this new venture come about?
Montreal is known as a city of festivals in Canada. They have so many large events; there's the Montreal International Jazz Festival, which attracts a lot of audiophiles. It's a very interesting music city and a great city to use mobile technology in a festival playground.
On day one, I saw people who were going to these festivals at night, in the dark, and they were having a difficult time trying to read the programs. I thought if I could put everything in the festival programs on people's phones, it would be much easier to access and utilize. I approached some of the event organizers here in Montreal and said I would like to extend my services to do something for them -- create an official app for their festivals. This was in 2009 ... I knew how to develop software; I started on my own and created the first prototype and this was used for building several festival apps.
At the same time, I knew when I started this that it would probably be difficult to get money from the music festivals to create their app, but I knew that the festivals all have big sponsors helping them out for the right to put their names on stage. Maybe they would be willing to put their name on my mobile apps.
After the first successful experiments, we needed to make some money to invest in our technology. I was a first-time entrepreneur and was not keen in investing time in pitching investors to raise capital. With limited funding, I had to wear many hats and went on my own to see SFR France, a mobile carrier that was sponsoring 10-15 major events in that country. We did a very nice experiment; we talked about mobile apps and how people were using it -- to access artist information, show times and maps - and asked: "Wouldn't it be nice if you'd sponsor it and be the official presenter of mobile apps?" They loved the idea. We managed to get some investment for the project, which enabled us to hire some people who could build the platform.
At the beginning, the multi-festival project with SFR was a big springboard for us in France. From that big deal with SFR, we went to Canada and managed to get a contract with Spectra, a promoter of the three largest festivals in Montreal, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival. After a while, other festivals would come to us to get their own apps.
How much of the challenge was in the technological end ... and how much of it was in the business end?
Both were a challenge, but the business end was more difficult. I had been a festivalgoer but I had no clue how the music industry worked. By comparison, the technology was relatively easy for me, while I had to navigate through the music industry having no knowledge of it whatsoever. I discovered that we had been very, very lucky to start in Montreal where so many festival organizers were based, so I could knock on their doors. The people there were very open-minded. It was a bigger challenge for me being outside the music industry. After five years, we now have several music insiders on our team.
Did you research consumers as to what they wanted in a concert app?
We didn't do an official study, but we did see people using apps and when we went out to festivals, we asked them what they liked about using a particular app and what they disliked. We also asked a lot of the same questions to festival organizers for their feedback. We used a combination of the two parties' answers. Then we tested our own app in festivals, and we'd asked people who were using the app how they liked it. When we got good feedback from them, the organizers hired us to make one for the next year.
Greencopper staff are also extensive users of our own apps at many festivals, and there is nothing better than experimenting ourselves!
Where is your growth opportunity when it comes to concerts and festivals - EDM events?
We already have an app for the Electric Zoo in New York. EDM is going to have a significant presence in our portfolio. We're currently setting up commitments with large promoters that we cannot disclose yet, although we definitely have a current relationship with a large EDM promoter who can bring us a lot of events.
How do you sell sponsorships to your apps?
You need great technology but you also need a business model that works. We have been constantly collaborating with large brands such as Spotify and Deezer ... all big streaming services that want to get into music festival audience. Our technology connects these brands with the festivals and their facilities. We give festival organizers a great set of tools, along with our super-strong music integration technology to create the best music experience possible.
Our apps enable users to listen to most bands without leaving the festival app, and without the need of having the streaming app installed. Subscribers can log directly into the festival app and listen to tracks of artists who'll be performing at the show. We even have a robust artist recommendation engine; we can create music profiles for festivalgoers based on their tastes. We can look on their Facebook page for their likes of bands, as well as look into their Spotify and Deezer listening history, then find similar bands playing at the festival. People enjoy that type of function -- and sponsors like to be linked to those personal recommendations.
We bring the technology to festival organizers, who bring the content of their artists - photos, website links, Twitter addresses... social and music links on a different platform. That makes our apps content-rich. The technological vision we have for our platform goes into content integration. We're working on specific field music metadata to automatically pull artist photos, bios, music ... everything related to the bands, while still ensuring the bands have control of what photos and access go into festival app. It's not available yet in our technology, but it's definitely something we're working on to make it better.
When I look at our system today, I can see the band Arcade Fire, which has been touring for quite some time. They have an artist profile duplicated 20 times in our system. The festival organizer is used to loading the same photo coming from the label. It would be much easier if we go to the source of information, so the fest organizer can just input a name and a live photo automatically pops up. We're working to make it happen; there are a few legal aspects we have to sort out prior to launching.
How is Golive different from what you originally did?
We currently have a team of 25 at Greencopper who work with 250 festivals. We have great technology, but in order to make it available to a higher number of festivals, it takes a lot of hard work. The issue we are facing is scalability. First, if we want to keep our size to what we have, we have to distribute our technology in a different way to enable us to work with not just 250 festivals, but with thousands of festivals ... including many that couldn't afford to pay for apps previously. We want to provide the technology we've made for the last five years to produce the apps in an easier way for us. Our mission with Golive can be summarized this way: "Let's take our core technology and wrap this into a self-service online platform where festival organizers can register and enter content and design their own apps and web widgets." Once they're ready to go live, they can pay online and our team at Greencopper takes care of deploying the technology.
Up until now, they would need a project manager, a designer, a mobile developer, an integrator and a quality assurance expert -- a big team to do just one project. With Golive, they can rely on the same great technology we have, but also have access to online tools so they can do it themselves with limited support from our staff. The costs of accessing our technology with Golive are a fraction of what it would typically cost to make iPhone and Android apps. Golive still provides access to essential features (performance schedule, music integration, maps, etc.) and enables the festivalgoers to create their own agenda, and synch between mobile and web.
We built a great technology currently used by festivals such as the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago and CMJ in New York. Now we want to offer the same core technology to thousands of festivals. With this large network of festivals, we will be able to invest even more in our rapidly growing technology.
What kind of future applications do you see for it?
Today, many solutions around paper-less ticketing, music streaming and cashless payments are becoming widely available at festivals. We have no intention to build those solutions on our own. A few companies already do it very well; what we do is to partner and embed these third-party services directly into our apps, turning mobile apps into festivalgoer remote controls. In the future, we may be looking at affiliation programs with them rather than having sponsors pay for that technology. We could rely on new business models to deliver our technology.
When it comes to industry events, the mission is to find emerging bands. We want to continue collaborating with industry events so we work together to add default contents about these emerging bands into our platform. This will help all other festivals hosted on the platform as they will automatically benefit from default band contents.
At the end of the day, I want many festival organizers to be aware of our great technology and our platform so they'd want to pick up Golive by default, as the de facto live music technology for app/website creation and content management.