Are those artists’ Web pages all part of MapleMusic?
Yes. The artists have their own websites but we have tools that just build into their sites, that seamlessly create merchandise, VIP, and VIP ticket sale pages. We want them to control their own brand and messaging, but our tools tie in and allow them to start selling.
What are the biggest factors affecting your business right now?
The challenge on the music side is the shrinking sales market so you have to be very careful about bands you sign. But at the same time, you can’t stop. Music is still a $400-million industry and we want our fair share of that. There are still great artists out there that people want to hear. We just have to figure out how to monetize and protect it and have it flourish using the Internet. That’s a challenge no one has really been able to figure out yet in music sales and we’re working on it with all of our partners.
On the ticketing side, it’s about managing growth. It’s a massive multibillion-dollar ticketing industry. Ticketmaster controls a huge percentage of it. Our job is to go out there and take pieces of it and show venues, festivals, casinos and sport teams that we’re a great alternative to other ticketing solutions. We’ve had an incredible ramp-up in the business. So managing that growth, picking the right clients, and spending time and energy on clients who want to work with us long-term are challenging things but exciting.
Before you got into the music industry, what did you work at?
I was a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. We’d go into a company, analyze their business processes, reorganize them and then apply a software solution. I was hired by Mike Alkier [who had sold his own company to PwC). I went into Mike’s office one day in 1999 and said, ‘The Internet is going to be really big.”
I told him my idea [for what would become MapleCore] and he and his partner gave me $60,000 to get things going, so I started building a website for Canadian artists. So Mike became a partner and co-founder at Maple. At the same time, Andy Maize from the Skydiggers played a corporate party for Mike and us and was also realizing that the Internet could become really big. He knew all these artists, such as The Cowboy Junkies and Sarah Harmer, who had music and merchandise to sell. So it all just sort of fit together, with Andy becoming a co-founder. Michael Bregman of Second Cup invested in us, too, as did Randy Lennox [Universal Music Canada] and then Gary Slaight from Standard Broadcasting in 2002. So we have an incredible board. That’s been a huge part of our learning curve but also our success. When you have those kind of experienced people to talk to about things, it’s amazing.
Is music in your family background?
Not beyond being massive music fans.
Is keeping up with the technology a challenge?
It is, because technology is ever-changing, but technology has never been an expense for us; it’s always been a revenue generator. We’re not like a traditional company. If you’re just selling music, then technology is a massive expense, but if you’re selling stuff on the Internet, that’s really just research and development to lead you to more revenue. Being involved in cutting-edge technology is thrilling as well, from mobile websites and applications to using iPads and iPhones to swipe customers into events. Now we’re developing technology for people to just use an iPhone app to manage their ticketing and entry management at a festival. You can do entry management in seconds instead of lining up to one swipe machine.
With all these changes in your industry, has your vision for the company kept changing, too?
In one sense, it hasn’t. Our No. 1 goal was to use technology to help artists get closer to their fans and make money. Then Universal invested some money in us, so we ended up starting a few music labels which helped build relationships and helped grow our business substantially. We’re good at it, and are continuing on with the technology development in the background, but it’s always been about the artists and being transactionable on the Internet.