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Concert Website Cues Up Informal Performances

Counting Jimmy Buffett as an investor has benefits. He may play “Boat Drinks” for a personalized audience on your website. At least that’s what happened last month for StageIt, a digital music startup in Hollywood.

The startup broadcasts intimate live performances from artists who might play anywhere, from their kitchen to den; Buffett settled on his dressing room. Meanwhile, viewers can send the artists personalized song requests during the shows.

The site’s founder, Evan Lowenstein, said the forum provides performers a new way to make money, given the challenges of the music industry.

“How are you going to continue playing gigs in this day and age?” said Lowenstein, a former musician. “You will take home money.”

Virtual tickets to watch the shows often go for $5 to $10. There is also a tip jar for every show, which lets viewers chip in something extra. StageIt takes a 40 percent share of revenue from most performances, or a 30 percent share if the show is for charity, as it was for Buffet, an early investor in the site. The rest goes to the artists or to the charity.

The business has grown quickly since its March 2011 launch, Lowenstein said, as artists come around to using the service, which usually requires them to provide their own simple broadcast gear, such as a laptop with a mike and webcam.

Initial shows averaged about $160 in revenue, a figure that has risen to an average of $264 over the last three months. Those aren’t big numbers, but the site hosts about 10 to 15 concerts per day, though some only attract a handful of viewers given that some of the performers are not well known.

Tickets and tips for StageIt concerts generated $233,000 in the second quarter and the revenue continued to grow in July, he said. The Buffett concert, on July 27, brought in $18,500 in tickets sales and tips. Other big name performers have included Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.

Lowenstein said his company is now looking to close a fresh round of $1.5 million in funding. In its previous round, the company raised $2 million. Other notable investors include Sean Parker, the founder of Napster.

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Some of the most watched videos targeted at African-American audiences aren’t being made at the studios of major players such as Black Entertainment Television, but rather a small production shop in downtown Los Angeles called Moguldom Studios.

The studio, which opened last year, produces videos that include a mixture of interviews, how-to shows and lifestyle programming. It’s an offshoot of a growing web empire of black entertainment sites operated by Moguldom Media Group of New York, which has sites that range from celebrity gossip site Bossip.com to lifestyle site MadameNoir.com.

Liz Burr, managing director of the studio, said Moguldom has found a sweet spot in attracting big name advertisers.

“We were noticing the trend of marketers moving to video content. Nobody was leading the way in establishing content for African-American audiences this way. It’s been working out pretty well,” she said.

Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. recently signed on to sponsor a home makeover show called “Home Savvy.” Ford Motor Co.’s luxury car brand Lincoln sponsors interview show “How I Made It.”

The videos are posted to the various Moguldom websites, as well as to its web video aggregation portal, 24Wired.tv, where outside content is shown as well.

Just the Hits

Shock jock Tom Leykis was kicked off the airwaves of KLSX-FM (97.1) three years ago when the station switched its format from talk to Top 40 pop.

Now, he’s staging his comeback online. Not only is he self-distributing his talk show on the web, he’s launching a series of digital music channels to rival terrestrial programs.

Last week, he launched Pure Pop Hits – a digital pop music channel that plays a genre of popular music similar to what can be found locally on KIIS-FM (102.7) from artists such as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

It’s the fourth online music channel from Leykis’ company, New Normal Music in Burbank. The other offerings are in the genres of indie pop, oldies and active rock.

Along with the launch of the pop music stream, Leykis committed to playing 50,000 songs in a row on the channel. It’s a promotion to build up his audience in anticipation of selling ads at a later date. He noted that he isn’t taking a big hit on operating expenses.

“The total cost of operating Pure Pop Hits is a fraction of the cost of the KIIS-FM receptionist … if they still have one … about $7,000,” Leykis said in a statement.

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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