Photo by Gianmarco (@gianspeaking)
Welcome to our STRAND Showcase Spotlight series, where if you haven’t bought a ticket to our upcoming live music showcase yet, we show you why you should.
The STRAND Magazine Showcase setlist has finally been fully revealed, and it’s sure to be a special night like no other. To recap, in case you haven’t been following our STRAND Showcase Spotlight series so far (which it still isn’t too late to start), we’ll be welcoming three of London’s most shining stars to share their talents with us on our showcase stage:
First up, multi-disciplinary artist, “alpine witch, and earthly, cosmic creature” Livia Rita will open our show by creating a new world for us to immerse ourselves into. Her seamless stitching-together of music, visual art and fashion makes her set sure to be a showstopper (although maybe not literally, given she’s the first of three acts… A show-starter, then, if you will).
Next up on the bill is none other than up-and-coming alt-pop act Finn Doherty, whose bold fusion of plaintive, romantic vocals over pulsing electronic beats will move everyone's hearts as well as their bodies. He might be a fresh face to both the scene and the STRAND, but he already stands out from the crowd: and we can be sure that this showcase is just one small step in the grand scheme of what's coming for him this year.
And last, but most definitely not least, we’ll be bringing in another band who like to wear their hearts on their sleeve — or their faces, or their blazer lapels, or the front of a very trendy cowboy hat. There’s no doubt that Good Future will be bringing good vibes and great tunes to our headline slot; and as for the “future” part — well, what is a STRAND Showcase for, if not for us to look back at the amazing artists we’ve worked with in the past year, while also looking forward to where the music industry will go (and take us with it) in 2023?
Poster design: Talia Andrea
Stepping back from our star-studded lineup for a second, though, I wanted to take a moment to talk to the man who has made it possible to even put our show on the road in the first place: Max Busin, founder and CEO of Gotobeat, a self-described “next-generation” concert promotion company and ticketing platform based in the heart of London.
So we arranged an interview together, and, as is a perfectly normal question to ask someone you've been working alongside for a year, I asked him to introduce himself. Equally, despite my expectation that a year would naturally be long enough for me to know the answer to this simple question, I still found myself caught off-guard by his response — but in my defence, one’s past experience of founding a kayaking company followed by a restaurant is not something that tends to come up in an everyday workplace conversation. Before founding Gotobeat alongside two others, Max had a storied history when it comes to startups: “I moved to London from Italy around 7 years ago with my previous start-up, Blasting News. It was a social news platform; I was its second-ever employee, and I was in charge of product development. Unfortunately, we relied heavily on Facebook views, and changes in Facebook’s algorithm led us to make a big corporate restructure. So I left the company and went back to Venice for a few months, and started another business there [with a team of others]. We started by doing kayak tours of Venice, where instead of taking a gondola around the city, tourists could row a kayak around themselves with a guide. It was a very trendy experience which went very well [financially], so with the success of this business we were then able to open a restaurant.”
I think about saying that Max has come full-circle with his startups now, having gone from media, to kayaking, to restauranting, then back to media, but I’m not sure that kind of trajectory would really be shaped like a circle at all. I have to wonder how he ended up founding Gotobeat after all the different journeys he’s been on, both between industries and between countries — but this isn’t a question he leaves unanswered for long. “I used to be a drummer, so I was in the music industry [at one point]. I always wanted to do something to make the old process of booking an event, and making money from that event, easier for artists. Live music is one of the only ways for an artist to make money at the beginning of their career, so I always wanted to do something to fix that part of the music industry, which is so important but which kept getting left behind. Despite all the tech startups popping up, none of them were focused on fixing the live music sector — and I wanted to do something about it. So I moved back to London, and started Gotobeat in 2019.”
Ah, London: the city of dreams, and of the STRAND Magazine. Clearly our partnership was meant to be; but besides that, why did Max choose to found a concert promotion company here, of all the other places he’s been? “There were two main reasons. One was particular to me: my strongest network in the startup ecosystem at that time was in London, so it made sense for me to come back and leverage all the connections that I had, although they weren’t in the music industry. Secondly, regarding Gotobeat as a business: I always thought that if I made it in London with a music business, I could make it anywhere else in the world. London is probably the toughest market for live events globally; it has a big concentration of events and venues, so there’s a lot of competition. At the same time, London also has one of the highest concentrations of performing talent, and so it was the perfect spot to find top artists to work with.”
Photos of the inaugural STRAND X Gotobeat Festival, September 2022, by Gianmarco
Evidently, all of that competition means Gotobeat has to work even harder to stand out among the crowd — but according to Max, they’re already well on their way to doing so; currently, they boast an innovative new concert-building platform (currently in beta), a more streamlined ticket pricing model, and custom-curated events built to give artists the spotlight they deserve. “The main reason why artists should work with us over other promoters,” Max says, “is the ownership we give them over their own concerts. This means two things in particular. The first is that the way we work is completely transparent; we make sure artists know exactly how the business works behind the scenes. The second is that, because we have a technological approach that most other promoters don’t have, we are able to optimise a lot of things; for example, as we’re also a ticketing platform, we save money in that area, and are therefore able to offer much more [money] to artists in terms of performance fees. In artistic environments, people don’t tend to talk about money, but artists really need to have money to reinvest in their careers and attract bigger audiences. This is what Gotobeat is trying to help with.”
On the topic of a “technological approach”, I decide to return to the earlier question of social media, which any concert promoter relies heavily on to turn a ticket sale or two (or most of them). Max reminds me that this isn’t the only factor at play when it comes to the relationship between social media and the music industry, though: “Social media is [also] completely necessary for artists, but it’s something you never have much control over. When artists invest a lot in growing on social media, it might bring some benefits in the short term, but in the long term, are they really creating a solid, loyal fanbase that is going to follow them wherever they go — a fanbase that will buy their tickets, merch and albums? Artists do need social media to have initial reach, but then they need to think in terms of moving this audience into something more stable, material, and longer-term.
Photo by Gianmarco
“On the other [hand], there are artists who do have a very strong real life, or “street” following; they might have little engagement or presence on social media, but when you meet them for a show, they sell out 100-capacity venues. That’s cool, but at the same time, it’s a risk: you need to have social media in order to talk to a wider audience, and catch the attention of others in the music industry. So there needs to be that balance between having a social media following, and transforming that following into something long-lasting and “real”.” One only needs to look back at Blasting News for an example of when relying heavily on social media led to a corporate-wide downfall: “With Blasting News, 70% of our traffic, and therefore our advertising revenue, was from Facebook,” Max states. “The second Facebook changed their algorithm, we lost all of that, and weren’t able to recover. So the question becomes, is it really your business, or is it Facebook’s business? Who is in control?”
That’s a good question (and one which is a touch philosophical, probably owing to his Bachelor’s degree in the subject) — but at least artists can rest assured that with Gotobeat, they’ll always be in control of their own performances as much as is logistically possible. Moving logistics aside for now, though, I want to know how Gotobeat has grown on a non-numbers level since we partnered up for the first time; which was, as of this month, exactly a year ago. “There are a lot of things that have changed within Gotobeat that can’t be summed up in numbers,” Max says. “We now have a much clearer and more defined vision in mind, of how we can make a bigger impact in the music industry both nationally and internationally. Hopefully, in the next few months, we can already start to move outside London [with our events]. Also, we now have a much bigger team, which will set the basis for the future growth of Gotobeat. It’s now a company that can live beyond myself and a few other people — it’s a living “creature”, let’s say, which will grow in the long-term.” I refrain from quoting Mary Shelley’s magnum opus. “Everyone [on the team] has grown so much in experience, and skills, and confidence, that they can now really run the business — even if tomorrow I get hit by a bus. But hopefully I don’t get hit by a bus.” How reassuring.
I am, however, pleased to note that Max did not get hit by a bus the day following our interview, or any of the days after that. As such, we can still look forward to where he and his team will be taking Gotobeat over 2023. “First of all, we are looking to expand our team and invest more heavily in the development of our platform. In 2023, we want the platform to become not just a ticketing platform, but also a gig management platform which the artist can use for all the logistics they’ll need, as well as a promotional platform which will allow them to promote their own events more effectively — for example, in just a few clicks, they’ll be able to invite all the audience members at their previous events to their upcoming ones.
“The next plan is a dream of ours: we want to open our own space, called ‘The Gotobeat House’, where artists can not only perform, but come to network and meet new artists, and build a community. It may or may not be possible to do in 2023, but we’ll see!”
Photo by Dyego Rodrigues, provided courtesy of Gotobeat
Of course, one very important part of Gotobeat’s packed 2023 schedule is our annual STRAND X Gotobeat Showcase on March 25th. I ask Max how he’s feeling about having the STRAND at the helm for another night of good vibes and even better music. “I think it’s going to be very, very cool!” He says, and it’s clear from his genuine look of enthusiasm that he isn’t just saying that because I put him on the spot. “All the showcases we’ve done together so far [have gone] well. The Old Blue Last is also one of my favourite venues, and I like that they’ve opened all the upstairs windows now, so you can look out of them onto the city. I also think Good Future is one of the most promising artists at the moment — he’s a very talented musician, with very smart music, so he’s an interesting artist that people like listening to. All of my friends text me when Good Future is playing a show, to say that they’ll be going to see him for sure — and my friends are a good proxy for me, because they’re tired of me talking about Gotobeat, so when I see that they get excited about something we’re doing, that means it must be good! It’ll be a cool event, for sure.”
Max is so sure it’ll be cool, in fact, that when I ask him if he has a message for the STRAND’s readers, he decides to use it to tell everyone to “buy a ticket and come to the showcase on the 25th of March, because that’s for sure the most important!”. While those are definitely some words of wisdom which everyone should follow, I still give him another chance to share another round of parting words, which, as someone who knows the STRAND’s audience well by now, he addresses specifically to students. “A career in live music is definitely possible. Sometimes people think it’s too difficult, and doesn’t pay the bills — but it’s really super rewarding, and is worth pursuing. If you have a cool idea in mind, you can always reach out to us, and we can work on something together: just like we’re currently doing with the STRAND Magazine.”
Gotobeat currently organises 20 gigs per month with over 2,500+ people per month attending. Will you be one of the 150 attending ours? To make sure you are, get yourself a ticket to our STRAND X Gotobeat Showcase on March 25 at the Old Blue Last, Shoreditch.
The interviewee’s responses have been minimally edited for the purposes of clarity and concision.