As the entertainment industry recovers from the damage caused by digital distribution of its products, one area of the music business experiencing solid growth is income from performance rights. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a trade body for the recording industry, live performances generated over $1 billion globally in 2013 and now account for 7.3% of total record industry revenue. This was an almost 20% increase from the year before and double the growth rate of 2012.
The Italian startup, Bewons, is hoping to benefit from the rising popularity of live shows with a service that connects performers with venues and booking agents. Users can post open requests seeking a creative talent, such a new drummer or dancers who know the Lindy Hop, while performers on the site submit high quality videos of their acts. CEO Francesco Ceglie describes the process as an “online audition” and aims to create a social network with real financial benefits for its creative users.
“Our big achievement is to have reduced the distance and removed every obstruction between the performer and the audition. By uploading a video, performers can audition all over the world without travelling. This means no costs, no pollution, and the amazing possibility to take part, on the same day, in more auditions in different places around the world,” says Ceglie.
Bewons was born in 2012 out of a frustration with how the entertainment industry finds and develops new artists. Its founders saw the number of talented performers whose work was going unrecognized and decided to create a platform to help.
Their response was the “online auditions” model, which Ceglie claims is an industry first, around which the company has built a thriving social network of young creatives. In this sense, Bewons competes with Facebook and Yahoo, but according to Ceglie neither offers Bewons’ tailored functionality for performers. Revenues are currently generated by online advertising, but the firm plans to expand into sponsored prize competitions and start charging a fee for the auditions.
An angel investor has funded the company until now, but Bewons is currently looking for venture capital investment to support its expansion into new countries. Ceglie said that the firm’s major challenge is being based in Italy, a business environment not well known for its online start-up culture. But this could be about to change, after new laws aiming to boost equity crowdfunding come into effect this year. In April, the software firm Diaman Tech became the first start-up to exploit the new rules, raising 157,780 euros ($217,500) from 65 investors in a three-month fundraising drive. Bewons is yet to tap into this source of funding but is exploring its options.
With the growing appetite for live shows and Bewons’ expanding network of performers, the company is confident it can profit while also giving young artists the opportunity to make a living from their work.