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Interview: Anne Kavanagh, CEO & Co-founder, Steereo

FRUKT chats to Anne Kavanagh, the CEO & Co-founder of Steereo, a bold new startup paying rideshare drivers to stream music by emerging artists

What is the vision behind Steereo and what role do you see it playing in the current music landscape?

We created Steereo initially to solve our problem. One of our founding team members (Keith Cullen) is a recording artist. We spent 12 months building a strategy around getting his music to market. We realised how much capital is required to do it successfully and how disjointed the market is when getting the music out there. Most artists don’t have access to the capital or relationships necessary to get music to mainstream radio, but the environment that radio provides has traditionally been instrumental in an artist's success.

As a result we started to think about how to target a potential fan most relevant to the music  and provide an affordable and efficient way for all artists to get “radio play.”

We see Steereo as a complementary channel for all size artists to market their music to new listeners but also for listeners to hear new music that they may not have the opportunity to hear.

We asked the driver, “if we paid you to play music, would you?” He said, “absolutely, how can I do that?”

When did the idea hit that this potentially could be a win/win for both artists and rideshare drivers?

We were sitting in the back of a Lyft in January 2017 and having a casual conversation about how to get an artist on the radio. The driver was playing his playlist, and one of my cofounder’s asked what song was on, and immediately a light bulb went off. Listening to music in a rideshare provides a similar value as the in-car radio experience, and the audience is captive.

We asked the driver “if we paid you to play music, would you?” He said, “absolutely how can I do that?” And that is how it began. 

As a relatively new endeavour, what were the key challenges in getting the concept off the ground?

As a multi-sided marketplace, we have to build two sides of the market at one time simultaneously. One of the challenges we have is balancing quality content to ensure a great listening experience for riders but also providing a fair opportunity for all artists, and currently right now we have a significant waitlist of drivers in cities across the country that are eagerly waiting to use us.

What are the core benefits for emerging artists in being part of the Steereo service?

This depends on what stage they are at. For more established artists it’s straight analytics and distribution. For newer artists who don’t have big budgets and lack experience, they get the benefits of their music playing in places they would have only imagined at a later stage in their career. We have a community-driven purpose with an educational aspect, so a big part of our marketing function is creating opportunity and experiences that allow artists to access workshops and network with each other.

The analytics they receive can also assist with split testing which songs they should release based on performance insights, A&R if there is a drop within the song in audio volume or skips and also to be able to use the analytics for marketing on other platforms.

“For newer artists who don’t have big budgets and lack experience, they get the benefits of their music playing in places they would have only imagined at a later stage in their career”

The platform has utilised brand partnerships from the offset, how do you see the role brands play in music discovery expanding?

Our primary goal with brand partners is to make a connection between new music and advertising. So yes, audio ads are part of it but the second part is brands using ad dollars to contribute to the discovery of new music. Imagine a brand sponsoring the ability for new talent to get discovered. They have created an impression not just on a listener and prospective customer, but also an advocate (the artist) that otherwise would not have had the opportunity to gain that exposure. On top of that, both brands and audiences are looking for a more organic, and natural storytelling approach to advertising. Our branded playlists provide brands with the opportunity to target the right audience at the right time and associate themselves with culturally relevant content.

You recently secured a new round of seed funding. How do you see the Steereo concept evolving in 2019 and beyond?

Our goal is to become a household name in the media space- We want to position ourselves as a new music outlet. This year a lot of our focus is on building the connection between our music and driver community.

We are also launching our first Artist In Residence Program on February 1st with 6 incredible artists. Our goal through the course of the program is to assist with accelerating the AIR’s career through mentorship, opportunities and exposure on Steereo, this is something we’re hoping to expand in the future.

- Find our more about the Steereo platform and how it can help emerging talent here