To Westergren, the challenge of building an audience isn't particular to livestreaming, but rather a music industry-wide dilemma that he's been itching to solve for most of his career. During his more than 17 years at Pandora, he introduced the Music Genome Project, a learning algorithm to drive music discovery which paved the way for music personalization on streaming platforms. Having departed Pandora in 2017, he hopes to similarly revolutionize the livestreaming space alongside Sessions co-founder Gordon Su, and ultimately create what Westergren calls "a musicians' middle class."
"We have a very simple goal: To help artists earn,” he adds. "That takes two things that have been in very short supply for the vast majority of musicians: marketing and monetization. We have a highly developed set of monetization skills, and that ability affords us the capacity to invest in audience development. Our business model essentially makes us a true partner to the artist. I think that’s a first for digital music."
Any artist can apply online to stream on Sessions, which is active in more than 200 countries and hosts more than 500 artists every week. During shows -- which artists can choose to charge entry for or not -- viewers can interact through a live chat box and pay extra to send special emoticons.
Westergren says that amateur musicians on the platform are making as much as $700 per hour-long show, while professionals can rake in upwards of $20,000 from a single performance. That's after Sessions takes a 30% cut of all revenue brought in through the site, while for revenue made through the official app, the split is 40% to the artist, 30% to Apple (for its App Store tax) and 30% to Sessions.
While Sessions is geared towards lesser-known acts, it has also hosted notable names like Icona Pop, Ally Brooke, Jake Miller and Matthew Goode, with performances from Hank Williams Jr., EnVogue and Scotty McCreery set for the coming weeks.