Social-video startup Vyclone raised many an eyebrow in Hollywood when it launched last summer with $2.7 million in seed funding from Live Nation, DreamWorks Animation, Thrive Capital and Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s A-GRade fund. One in the latest of social video launches over the last two years (TinyChat, Viddy, SocialCam, to name a few), Vyclone stands out as an app that creates “super-cuts” culled from real-time and pre-recorded feeds of user-generated videos. It has particular potential for concerts, where fans are already filming their own videos — Madonna and Jason Mraz are among the big names who have already partnered with the service on their most recent tours. Billboard.biz caught up with founder/chief creative officer Joe Sumner (frontman for rock band Fiction Plane and son of Sting, incidentally) and CEO David King Lassman over lunch as Day 1 of MIDEM was just kicking off.
Billboard: You recently launched a program with Ed Sheeran for a fan-created video of his single “Give Me Love” – how did that come about?
David King Lassman: Atlantic approached us to say we really love your technology, and that meeting coincided with the release of Ed’s single “Give Me Love.” Their call to action was he tweeted out to his fans saying “download Vyclone, film yourself doing something along to the single, make sure its playing in the background and use it as a reference point to make sure it falls in the right place.”
We received thousands of videos, Atlantic selected 70 in the end that they wanted to be part of the final video. Our engine makes that into a movie automatically. It became the song’s second official video, they put it out on YouTube a few weeks ago and it’s gotten nearly half a million views already. What’s really exciting is looking at the fan interaction with it, the comments under the video and seeing how enthusiastic fans are. They feel like they’re part of something they wouldn’t normally be connected with, which is a beautiful thing.
Joe, you had founded Vyclone because it was something you thought could be useful as a musician. Where did the idea come from specifically?
Joe Sumner: First of all I sort of had a slight aversion to everybody spending the whole concert filming. I’m kind of artistically against it in a way — it’s not gonna stop unless you get fascistic about it. Because I’m a musician I get to be backstage and I get to be in the audience. Onstage I like the way it looks and the way it sounds. When you go to a single camera, even a professional camera setup, it’s not that interesting to me because it’s just a few different views. You don’t get a sense of the connection between the band and the audience, and the band can seem very isolated on the stage. I just wanted to make something really cool, which was why I came to David with the idea of synchronizing videos and being able to dip in and out of different cameras.
Vyclone was first introduced as more of a social-media tool for entertainment companies. Have you begun working on a monetization model?
Lassman: Right now the focus is on establishing our footprint and getting a community engaged in the product. We’re working with artists, management and labels to help grow it, bringing down every possible barrier to entry for them. The result of that means working with a lot of different musicians across many genres and getting into the hands of consumers. We are very committed to generating revenue through this, not least because of Joe and how he knows it is for an artist. We don’t want to be one of those digital players that takes away from existing revenues – we want to take something people are doing already and create revenue around it through partnerships, bringing in brands and connecting them with music. We love what companies like Topspin are doing – we’re working with them to try and create some value for that on the backend and kick some of that back to the artists. We’re looking to go big on that quickly in 2013.
Live Nation is one of your investors. What are some projects you’re working on with them?
Lassman: I think for them it they’re still thinking about ways we could leverage some of their assets. They have these fantastic venues, and they’ve got a lot of meta data within those venues. They know the seating configuration, so it’s lovely to think we could look into that and know where somebody’s filming from so we could bring additional intelligence to them, maybe say “give me some ideas for stage right, stage left.” They also have Ticketmaster, though the opportunity to hook into that at some point remains to be seen.
Sumner: It also gives us a headstart in dealing with issues around rights and publishing. There’s always four or five main stakeholders in any concert, venue owners being one of them. You have to have all the ducks in a row to really do it. We basically said we made everything experimental, and there’s no revenue coming currently. It’s more about proof of concept, people engaging and saying “Ah this is really cool.” As more stakeholders come around and say, “this is a great idea.,” we’re very happy for them to say, “Okay, well we own X percent of what you’re doing.”
This is Vyclone’s first year of making the festival circuit. Where are you headed next?
Lassman: We’ll be at South By Southwest with a double decker bus from March 9 to 16, doing sessions on the bus. We’re keeping it quiet but we have a great lineup of bands who will come in the afternoon to do acoustic sessions on top of the bus. We’re at a point where our outreach is less aggressive because people are coming to us. Jasonm Mraz was on back of the Ed Sheeran deal, for example.