Like most big ideas, the concept for Flymachine was hashed out during a Grateful Dead concert.
Andrew Dreskin, founder of both Ticketfly and TicketWeb, had been on a text message chain with a group of friends who, in non-pandemic times, attended concerts by members of the Grateful Dead and wanted to see who was up for streaming a show and watching together through their phones.
Just like fans around the world, Dreskin’s group was “clamoring for a way to experience live events without being in the venue,” he tells Billboard. While there was no shortage of streaming platforms and video players on the market, none offered the capabilities of a rich social experience where fans could easily interact with one another or with strangers.
Less than a year later, Flymachine was born. Co-founded by Superfly chief experience officer and Bonnaroo and Outside Lands co-founder Rick Farman, [namethemachine] chief technology officer Matthew Davis and ATC Management, Flymachine officially launches today as a virtual venue for live entertainment with the most advanced communal and social interaction tools available on the market.
Last week, Flymachine demoed the platform with a concert from Cautious Clay at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Fans could opt to watch the concert from the main concert hall, join a public virtual room or create their own private virtual room and invite friends to watch the show and interact. Each fan is represented by a hexagon shaped avatar — when fans want to interact, they simply drag and drop their avatars to form conversation clusters, and each account has access to a sound mixer that allows fans to control the volume of their conversations and the concert on their computers.
With today’s launch, Flymachine is also revealing an impressive list of independent promoter and venue clients that automatically makes it the middle market leader in the space. It’s familiar territory for Dreskin, who developed Ticketfly into the most dominant ticketing company in independent music, and Farman, who co-founded the largest and most influential indie festival company in North America and will continue his role at Superfly alongside his co-founders.
“There was a lot of excitement from artists who wanted to perform for fans in areas that they just couldn’t reach,” Farman tells Billboard, noting that the explosion in streaming technology has given artists a global fan base.
In terms of design, the Flymachine team recognized early on “the importance of an intuitive design that worked for fans,” says Davis. “We didn’t set out to build something that felt unnatural. We wanted to create an authentic experience for fans that replicated the live experience without trying to replace it.”
Flymachine’s clients include promoter Michael Swier‘s Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge in New York and the Moroccan Lounge and Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, along with TV Eye (Queens), Bimbo’s 365 Club (San Francisco), the Vogue Theatre (Vancouver, B.C.), Adelaide Hall (Toronto), Higher Ground (Burlington), Marathon Music Works (Nashville), The Signal (Chattanooga), The Truman (Kansas City), The Casbah (San Diego), Radio Woodstock (Woodstock, New York), The Crocodile (Seattle) and the Neighborhood Theatre (Charlotte).
“I didn’t think there was a way to innovate on live events any further, but the pandemic and the opportunities it presented are truly unique,” Dreskin said. “Flymachine is an opportunity for promoters to extend the gross and an opportunity for artists to walk out with more money. It is an opportunity for fans who can’t make it to the venue or who don’t live in a city where the tour is routing to experience the event. Ultimately everyone in the ecosystem benefits.”