Two weeks ago we were approached by Lil Patuck, a journalist from Music:)ally magazine, she was writing an article for Sandbox which is Music Ally's digital music marketing report for subscribers. Lil heard about FunToad and wanted to interview us for the article. As a startup it's a great opportunity for exposing your product to the public and you have to grab it in both hands although you never know what the outcome of the article will be, there's always a risk that the interview will go in the wrong direction and you may come out not so well... Running a startup is a constant risk and almost every decision you make is risky but it`s the only way to move forward and get closer to realize your dream. So of course we set a date and had the interview, between London and Tel-Aviv through Skype, a few days ago. It was a warm, funny and exciting interview. Lil understood the technology very fast and asked the right questions. We told her about our philosophy and how we see the future of music and our role in shaping this future. We enjoyed the interview and by the smile on her face we knew Lil enjoyed it too. Today we got the article. Wow! What an article, Lil brilliantly captured everything we discussed and wrote it down in a beautiful and capturing way. We couldn't expect a better outcome and we are so proud to have had it as the first real article, not a paid PR article, but a real perspective of a journalist listening to our words and understanding our vision. So here is the article: (it is for subscribers only so you can find the text under the article's picture.)
Just as bands found out years ago, most of the good names have been taken. In music and technology, there are only so many ways to twist the words “song”, “tune” or “melody”.
Ergo, new entrants have to think counterintuitively, dreaming up something that will put them at the top of Google search results and be memorable. That’s as important as your first VC meeting. What does your service do and what’s it called?
Which brings us to Funtoad. Yes, Funtoad. Fun. Toad. The name may be ludicrous but let’s dwell instead on its purpose. In short it’s an interactive experiential app for live music.
So what exactly does it do? Let’s say that you’ve been to at least one gig in the past year. At this gig, was the view spoiled by arms holding up smartphones and waving torchlights? We’d take a bet that at least half of you have at some point or other watched the majority of a gig through someone else’s smartphone camera as they film/Snapchat/Instagram/Vine their way in front of everybody else’s view of the stage.
Enter Gur Ziv, who claims that those “stupid black things in our pockets” could actually help strengthen the connection between artist and audience, delivering what he and his colleagues refer to as a new dimension of creativity. Funtoad harnesses mobile devices throughout live gigs and performances to give the audience members an opportunity to be part of the experience they’ve paid for, bringing them closer to the artist and (hopefully) building a lasting relationship.
Imagine you’re at a gig and suddenly your phone lights up, the vocalist’s voice live-streaming directly from your speakers. You look up as 20 other phones light up with drumming streaming through theirs, while from the opposite end of the room comes the faint beginning of synthesisers, which rise as they sweep across smartphones towards the middle of the audience. The bass comes in and the lowest frequencies, not quite possible through speakers, begin to vibrate in your pocket.
This is one of the more basic ways that Funtoad could be used within an audience: think of the Coldplay wristband effect for the whole world, but all through an app. Easier, more accessible, more manageable, more affordable. The team’s philosophy is that Funtoad should be available for everyone and for free – even for the most budget-strapped DIY artists. “It’s a blank canvas for whoever wants it,” says Ziv, the company’s co-founder. “We’ve created the concept inside the room; now they can take it outside and be creative.”
As always, there’s value in the data, too. CEO Harel Bear spoke to sandbox about what this kind of experience can offer. “People are really engaged,” he explains, adding that of 600 attendees at a show at Berklee, Valencia, 400 downloaded the app, making this a very enticing proposition.
Funtoad is still in its early stages, but there’s a lot of potential here. Alongside the show in Berklee, it was involved in a Kiev gig with new act Bloom Twins. Coming up on 25th August is a serious challenge the startup has set for themselves: an isolated gig at an ancient fort in the middle of the desert (watch out for the livestream). As Ziv says, “If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere.”
There have been a few platforms attempting similar things, but on this scale there isn’t really any notable competition; Funtoad has features spanning visual, audible and sensory simultaneously. Where others have stopped at flashing lights and torches, this platform has gone beyond the gimmick to create something that, literally, brings the fan into the centre of a live event. Imminent features include the ability for fans to “play” instruments with the band.
On a more sober note, revenue is a concern here. There’s no monetisation plan in place as yet, mainly because the makers are convinced that they can build something that people love and so will eventually bring in revenue after it hits scale. The team is made up of different types – including sound designers and musicians – so there’s a sheer passion there to make a difference in the live music experience.
Co-founder Gadi Seri talks about their experience “Funtoading” performances in Israel for NOA and Mira Awad. “NOA was playing with a string quartet from Napoli and most of the songs were in Italian, while Mira was singing Arabic songs to a Hebrew audience.” The platform was able to offer subtitled translations for the audience to understand both performances. “I’d toured with Mira, so I knew her music well, but even I never knew what she was singing about,” he says. “I took the phone and listened and it was amazing. I could understand what she was singing about.”
The obvious revenue source here is branding and sponsorship. Branded visuals across a 5,000-cap venue would be huge exposure. This would also allow the platform to remain free for users as well as help artists get a foot in the door with future partnerships themselves.
Funtoad is adding crucial layers to the live experience and the features coming soon sound even more enticing. Apart from the obvious issue of money coupled with the risk of appearing gimmicky as a one-use application, this is a platform to watch and get involved with. It’s now possible to direct the focus of the audience’s mind, turning what used to be a distraction into part of the show – and learning more about an audience’s behaviour each time the app is downloaded.
We want to thank Lil Patuck and Musically magazine for this article which gave us a stage to present our vision.