THE PLATFORM: MAESTRO
Founded by Ari Evans in 2015, Maestro is a white-label, direct-to-consumer service which allows clients to easily build custom livestream experiences and host those events on the website of their choosing. Unlike platforms like Twitch and BeApp, which position the platform as a destination of its own, Maestro exists purely at the service of the creator, with the mission to "grow the GDP of the creator economy," Evans tells Billboard.
"Today, artists give up control in exchange for delivering their content to you," he says. "They offer their audience’s data and attention for platforms to sell to advertisers, they water down their identities and generally become dependent on a system in which they are simply a cog in the machine. There is an opportunity to offer a new alternative model."
Within Maestro, artists can add audience engagement tools like "panels" and "overlays" to their livestream screen with just a few clicks. While "panels" are static boxes such as chat rooms, social media feeds and virtual tipping jars, "overlays" are timed, temporary notifications that drive actions (like purchasing merch or responding to a poll) at key moments. Beginning with Eilish’s event, Maestro creators can also integrate merchandise stores directly within their streams, allowing fans to purchase merchandise without clicking away from the concert. While most livestream platforms allow artists to link out to merchandise sites, few offer this kind of frictionless integration.
Maestro’s next major selling point is the depth of audience data it provides. During each livestream, Maestro treats the audience as a focus group, logging every single user action in real-time. Artists can check their personal analytics dashboard to discern the exact moment when interest tapered off or increased, which overlays drove the most clicks and other stats, broken down to the level of each individual fan. The idea is to give artists meaningful, actionable data points to learn from, rather than general viewership numbers, which are good for proof of concept but not much else.
"We've based our whole lives on a rating: Nielsen has given us, 'You're getting a 2.3 rating, and 3 million people watched.' But can you see how many people named Steve are watching?" adds Maestro executive vp revenue Jordan Udko. "We know how many people named Steve. I’m also able to understand, in real-time, how many people liked this 'buy now' advertisement."
Maestro charges creators in tiers based on usage, generally taking a cut of ticket sales plus a platform license fee. Recent clients have included Erykah Badu, who used Maestro to launch a ticketed livestream concert series on her website in April, and Melissa Etheridge, whose subscription-based livestream series through Maestro reportedly rakes in $50,000 a month.
THE PRODUCER: LILI STUDIOS
Lili co-founders Heather Fullerton (CEO) and Maik Kaehler (chief creative officer) have spent most of their careers thinking in the future. Prior to launching Lili in early 2020, the duo co-founded Moon to Mars, a creative agency geared toward forward-thinking companies in all markets, from esports to automobiles to consumer goods. "Our whole point was pushing things further, looking into the future, and thinking, 'What is possible?'" Fullerton tells Billboard. Particularly through their work in esports, she and Kaehler recognized the potential for livestreaming to put power -- and revenue -- in the hands of creators, and wanted to offer that same opportunity to musicians.
Enter Lili, a livestreaming event production studio focused on "radical customization," Fullerton says, using engagement methods that go beyond the standard chat boxes and on-screen user shout-outs. For example, while Tim McGraw was working with Lili on his Aug. 21 livestream promoting his album Here on Earth, powered by Maestro, the country music star expressed that he wanted the audience to connect primarily through his lyrics. Lili’s idea: While McGraw performed "Hallelujahville," a song about finding "home" anywhere, viewers were invited to click their current location on a digital map, which then displayed where all viewers were tuning in from. "The whole album had a meaning of connecting with people and [saying], 'We're in this together,'" Fullerton adds. "It was about finding what he wanted to do, and what was most valuable to him."
Lili also prides itself on integrating brand sponsorships in natural, contextual ways. When the company produced the first edition of the livestreamed magic show series "Two-Headed Dreams," for example, a segment about how magic tricks originated in the bar scene presented the perfect opportunity to feature Johnnie Walker whisky. The spot led to 75 times higher engagement than the average digital ad, Fullerton says. "It wasn't just a product placement, and it's not just a commercial of somebody drinking it," she adds. "It was really woven into this story, and the [audience] treated it like a piece of the show." Given the long list of partners included in Eilish’s livestream, from Gucci to Fender, it’s safe to assume the event will make use of Lili’s brand integration talents.
"I’m excited and honored to be working with [Eilish’s] team," Fullerton adds. "She’s an incredible and creative artist, and we’re the lucky ones. To be a creative company and be working with one of the most creative people in the world is a great thing."