In September of 2015, Nate Tepper, Grant George, Connor Holloway and a few friends trekked two hours to Shoreline Amphitheater on the San Francisco Bay to see Dave Matthews Band play one of the final shows of their summer-long North American tour. A longtime favorite artist -- "We've been sneaking out to Dave Matthews Band shows since we were kids," Tepper tells Billboard -- the group was nonetheless disappointed with the song choices that evening.
"At the end of the show we were like, 'Man, he didn't play any of the songs that we wanted to hear, that kind of stunk,'" Tepper remembers. "Like, they didn't play 'Crash Into Me' and I was like, man, that's mine and my girlfriend's favorite song. She's pissed right now! Obviously, Dave can do anything he wants -- he's a legend, an icon. But we just thought it would be cool if the fans could have their voice be heard by the artist."
(To be fair, an overly-extensive perusal of DMB's posted setlists from their 2015 summer tour shows that "Crash Into Me" was not part of the band's live repertoire during that period. Yet we digress.)
That experience led the trio -- Tepper as CEO, George as CTO and Holloway as vp brand partnerships -- to start Set the Set, a new app that allows fans to request songs and full setlists before heading out to an artist's show, and even to share with the artist the reasons why particular songs were chosen. Set the Set -- which has partnerships with 75 artists including Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Khalid and Dispatch -- then allows the artists to review the results, access data about their fans and even message them back about their picks.
"Most artists don't know who is going to their concerts because so many people re-sell tickets on StubHub or buy them in bulk," Tepper says. "We share that with the artist so they can sell more tickets in the future, drive merchandise sales. And after a fan submits their songs or their setlist, they can turn that into a Spotify playlist."
As part of Set The Set's formal launch, the company partnered with Bud Light and Madison Square Garden to put on an X Ambassadors show, with support from Post Malone, on Monday, June 26 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, a show dubbed "One Night Only" where fans will choose the band's full setlist.
"In the beginning artists were like, 'I'm gonna play what I want to play, I'm not giving up my set list,' and we made sure they can play anything they want to play," Tepper says. "But this is more like giving a fan a seat at the table when you're picking your setlist for that show that night."
Set the Set has built out its board of directors to include industry veterans like Primary Wave founder/CEO Larry Mestel, MAC Presents president Marcie Allen and FreeSolo Entertainment partner Rome Thomas. And Holloway adds that the company just launched a real-time initiative that, he says, can allow "an emotional adueince to vote for the encore," for instance.
Tepper, of course, is bullish on the company's potential. "We think that slowly but surely, this type of behavior will be the future of live music," he says, "Where fans really are having their voices heard at every show."