Headshot Photos: Lindsay Duncan
App Photos: Side Door
Canadian tech company, Side Door, is a web-based platform that supports in-person shows in non-conventional spaces like living rooms, bookstores, warehouses, etc. by connecting artists with hosts and providing easy-to-use show-booking tools.
Now that live shows have vigorously returned post-pandemic, and more artists than ever are touring with fewer venues to play, the need for the vibrant network of non-traditional venue spaces that Side Door offers has never been greater.
Side Door recently launched a redesigned and refined platform that better connects hosts with artists to create incredible in-person concert experiences, and it was featured on the popular Dragon’s Den TV show on November 3rd. Side Door’s Laura Simpson (CEO and co-founder) and Dan Mangan (co-founder and JUNO Award-winning artist) successfully pitched the Dragons, making a deal on the show with Arlene Dickinson. You can watch the episode here.
Halifax-based Side Door was founded in 2017, and as of October 2022, the company has facilitated over 2,000 shows, and artists have earned over $1,300,000 in ticket revenue. More than 140,000 tickets have been purchased on the platform and over 2,700 hosts have spaces that can hold 20 or more people. More than 700 artists and bands have used the Side Door platform to book shows, including Broken Social Scene, Haviah Mighty, Rural Alberta Advantage, Said the Whale, Cadence Weapon, John K. Sampson, and Dan Mangan.
I had the opportunity to chat with CEO & Co-Founder Laura Simpson about Side Door’s redesigned platform, their appearance on Dragon’s Den and more.
Kat: Can you briefly tell us about Side Door and what the platform does?
Laura: Side Door matches artists seeking shows with hosts, who have a space for a live performance. Spaces range from backyards to community centres to unique places like goat farms! Our technology helps the two parties through the booking, ticketing and payout process so that it’s fair, transparent and easy. Anyone can sign up to use the platform as an artist or as a host. And if you just want to attend one of these shows, you can go to the shows page (https://sidedooraccess.com/shows) anytime to find shows in your area and buy tickets.
Kat: The core of the new Side Door platform is a tool called “Show Calls”. Can you tell us more about how Show Calls work, and any other new features you want artists & hosts to know about?
Laura: Show Calls are like a listing that tells others when you want to plan a show and where. If you’re an artist, this might be a series of locations if you’re building a tour. Or, if you’re a brewery, for example, maybe you want to fill your Monday slots with artists looking for shows. Show Calls get sent to everyone who might be a good match within the platform. We also have our team taking those Show Calls out to NEW hosts to try and find places for shows if we don’t already have spaces on the platform. You can see Show Calls based in your location here: https://sidedooraccess.com/connect. If you don’t see something in your community, you can easily create a host or artist profile and post a Show Call yourself.
Kat: As we’re getting back to in person live shows, can you tell us about Side Door’s role in that live music eco-system? (Perhaps how the need for a network of non-traditional venue spaces that your platform offers has never been greater)
Laura: Touring has never been harder for artists. Costs are up, ticket sales are down and burnout is constant. Dan and I started Side Door as a low-overhead, high return on investment way of playing shows to supplement the current touring landscape. With the bottleneck in bookings in traditional venues right now (due to pent-up pandemic demand), artists are having great difficulty finding places to play. So we see our role in the ecosystem as providing additional opportunities for artists to reach their fans in a live setting by increasing the number of places to play.
Kat: Some people might be a bit intimidated by hosting for the first time. (For example, they might not know how to approach the technical or logistical set up for a show.) What would you say to them?
Laura: We provide a great deal of online education for new hosts and guide them through the necessary steps. We have a great support team assigned to every show booked so they can speak directly to them and get insight on how to make a great show, taking care of the audience and the artist while also having fun yourself! I’ve been hosting for 11 years and the effort to open your home/workplace/business is always worth it. I’ve built a whole community around it.
Kat: Can you tell us about some of the more interesting or unusual spaces Side Door shows have been hosted in?
Laura: We have had Broken Social Scene at a goat farm, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald at a gorgeous round barn, The Deep Dark Woods at a legion, Junaco in a record store and Danny Michel in a library.
Kat: Can you tell us about the number of shows that have been hosted via the Side Door platform and what this has meant in terms of artist ticket revenue?
Laura: Artists have earned nearly $1.5M on Side Door through more than 2000 online and in-person shows, averaging about $680 take-home per show overall and $460 per show on in-person shows.
Kat: Side Door had the opportunity to pitch on the popular TV show, Dragon’s Den, on November 3rd. What was the experience pitching to the Dragon investors like?
Laura: We had fun! Dan and I have pitched dozens of times, so this was just a little more intense with the TV lights, cameras and 6 people drilling you with questions all at once! But we found they were inspired by the concept and we were thrilled to get an offer from Arlene Dickinson.
Kat: What’s ahead for Side Door in 2023?
Laura: We are going to be doing a lot of work in the U.S. to open up more tour routes and places to play, along with our existing network in Canada. Our goal is to drastically increase the success rate of booking for artists so they can have more assurance of shows in the future.
Connect With Side Door