Just as technology has changed the way we purchase and consume music over the last two decades, it was inevitable that tech would find its way into other facets of the business.
Enter Side Door Access, a Canadian-made online booking platform that has already helped the likes of Broken Social Scene, The Mayhemingways, John K. Samson, Tim Baker and others book concert appearances throughout both Canada and the U.S.
Co-founded by Juno Award winner Dan Mangan and long-time Halifax music industry entrepreneur Laura Simpson, the platform bills itself as a means to help people connect through art, including music, theatre and stand-up comedy, as well as academic lectures, via live performances in everyday spaces, including living rooms, backyards, coffee shops, community halls, studio spaces and more.
It matches hosts with performers, allowing artists to build direct connections with their fanbase in a non-traditional way. Hosts and performers build online profiles, match with each other based on their respective needs and tastes, and then guided through a simple show-booking interface that confirms event details and allows them to determine how revenues are split.
Once an agreement has been hammered out, the ticketing is hosted through Side Door, allowing hosts and performers to keep track of their upcoming shows in real-time with live-updating guest lists and financial reporting.
“I’d say Side Door is something that Dan and I had separately thought up before we had even crossed paths with one another,” Simpson says. “It was actually [Halifax musician] Rich Aucoin that alerted me to the fact that Dan had started doing something similar for the acts signed to his label, Madic Records.”
While Simpson might not have made her mark as a musician in the tightly-knit Atlantic community, her vast experience often served those who did, allowing her to earn the respect of her peers while serving as a photographer, journalist, house concert promoter and Music Nova Scotia coordinator, among others.
After first meeting Mangan at the outset of 2016, Simpson says it was clear the two shared a vision of what Side Door could become and then spent the better part of a year developing their friendship and getting to know one another before ultimately deciding to go into business together.
“It was important that we trusted one another and ensured we were in fact on the same page when it came to moving the idea forward.”
With almost three decades of performing experience under his belt, Broken Social Scene co-founder Brendan Canning recalls his first experience with Side Door as having helped pierce the tedium that can sometimes go hand-in-hand with being on tour.
“The band was on a day off, driving to Kamloops, B.C., and we got word that Dan [Mangan] could help us set up a show for that night if we wanted,” Canning says. “He went ahead and posted tickets online for a performance by myself and [BSS bandmate] Charles [Spearin], and sold like 45 tickets. It was such a positive experience overall, not to mention the fact it was cool to do something that wasn’t a Broken Social Scene gig amid a tour with the band.”
Canning says Broken Social Scene leveraged Side Door again while on a U.S. tour last summer. Rather than suffering through a Friday night off, the group staged a house concert in Caldwell, Idaho in front of approximately 70 fans, a performance he says was a classic “living-room punk rock show.”
“I think all bands need to be slapped in the face with those kinds of left turns because the energy in that room was something you can’t plan for. And yeah, it’s good to make money to keep gas in the tank but allowing the band to veer off the path every once in a while. That ultimately helps rejuvenate your collective spirit.”
Simpson will be the first to admit that spiritual renewal is among her biggest motivators with Side Door. And it seems as though the public and bands alike are on board with wanting to make those types of experiences happen more frequently.
Since the platform’s official launch last week, Simpson says Side Door has seen a 26% increase in host signups and a 36% increase in artists hoping to land shows via the platform. Acknowledging there will likely always be more artists than hosts’ ability to cover them, she remains confident the platform’s best days are still to come.
“We want to help make touring as comfortable as possible for the artists, and we feel helping fill in a tour schedule with smaller-scale shows is a great way to reach even more ears,” Simpson says. “It’s just a matter of opening people’s minds to the possibilities that lie within.”