Co-founder says platform commission-based, aligned with artistes

Westergren says Sessions combines the power of a live music performance with the most advanced engagement and monetisation techniques of virtual gaming.

Live-streaming has grown by leaps and bounds in the age of digital music, accelerating the idea of combining monetary rewards with virtual talent promotion.

The music-only Sessions live-stream platform, available in 177 countries including Malaysia and co-founded by former Pandora Media chief executive officer Tim Westergren, has made it feasible for regional and international singers to showcase their talents.

Westergren, a long-time professional jazz pianist and founder of Pandora, teamed up with Sessions co-founder and chief executive officer Gordon Su, a successful virtual game developer, to fuse gaming and music for the platform.

Westergren was the first to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to the consumer Internet and launched the first major online music service that paved the way for streaming.

In 2010, he was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

StarMetro caught up with Westergren via email to find out more about Sessions, its inner workings and what makes it the future of live-streaming.

Q: Explain the concept of Sessions.

A: Sessions combines the power of a live music performance with the most advanced engagement and monetisation techniques of virtual gaming.

Q: People can access Sessions via a browser or download the app. But based on many users’ experience, the app is somewhat unstable and logs them out abruptly.

A: Generally, when users have issues with Sessions, it is a function of their home Internet connection. Sessions is a high performance platform hosting over 2,000 unique artiste streams a week.

Q: Is there a difference in how much money will go to the musicians when fans purchase the hearts via the browser and the app?

A: Artistes make more money when it is given through the web as it is not subject to Apple or Google’s commission.

Q: How do musicians benefit from Sessions? Is it true that some artistes had manipulated the system to earn more, resulting in Sessions having to restructure the musicians’ fee and rewards scheme?

A: The mission of Session is simple --- to help artistes earn a living. The financial impact so far has been unprecedented. Thousands of artistes, the majority of whom start with very little or no fans, have been earning substantial and enduring income on the platform. The revenue ranges from hundreds of dollars a week, to hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single show. We are in the very early stages of this product. While there is of course occasional abuse of the system, that is the exception and we do our best to prevent such activity. Sessions does take a 30% commission.

Q: People will spend money to support their favourite musicians in this Covid-19 pandemic. How does Sessions stay true to this philosophy?

A: Simply put, Sessions only makes money when the artiste does. We are commission-based, which makes us 100% aligned with the artistes. Our purpose is to make it easy for fans to become patrons of artistes they love. So far, the numbers speak for themselves and artistes are flocking to the service.

Q: Does being part of the musician’s “crew” on Sessions earn them a better amount of donations?

A: Being on a crew for an artiste allows a fan to support them more significantly because everything they do on the service, including the support they show for other artistes, benefits the artiste whose crew they belong to. Highly active crews drive up the ranking of their artiste.

Q: What does “crew rank” and “crew stars” mean? There is also “member rank” and “star earned” for crew members. A: These terms allow fans to see how they compare to other members of their crew. It’s a way of incentivising fans to support artistes more as they look to demonstrate their love not just to the artiste but to their peers.

Q: How does Sessions curate the audition process to ensure quality?

A: We manually curate our member artistes. Curators source and audition artistes from all over the world. In addition to scheduled auditions, we thoroughly review an artiste’s online work to assess their ability. We are looking for talented, hard-working musicians who are serious about pursuing their passion and entertaining music fans.

Q: If a musician cannot be consistent with shows on Sessions, then their rank will plummet and they have to start from the bottom, which will dwindle their earnings. Is this correct?

A: That’s essentially correct. If artistes don’t play regularly, their fan base will tend to dwindle and their rank will fall accordingly, leading to lower income. The artistes who thrive on Sessions are those who make a serious commitment to understanding the platform and putting on a steady stream of great shows. Every artiste who makes that effort achieves a significant degree of success. — By AIDA AHMAD

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