Mary Kay Huse
CEO and Co-Founder, Mandolin
Ayear ago, Mandolin didn’t exist. Today, it’s one of livestreaming’s preeminent platforms – in large part due to the leadership of CEO and co-founder Mary Kay Huse.
When the pandemic took physical touring offline, Huse, who previously logged six years as an executive at software powerhouse Salesforce, identified opportunity in the livestreaming sector, and co-founded Mandolin with entertainment lawyer Robert Meitus and tech entrepreneur Steve Caldwell.
For Mandolin, Huse assembled a team with expertise in both the music and tech spheres to create a platform with unparalleled functionality and the quality content to match.
“We’re coming into this industry as the tech leaders,” she says. “Our team is the perfect mix of industry and software experience needed to create a new platform that leverages this digital transition.”
The industry has quickly taken notice. Mandolin has inked partnerships with esteemed venues such as City Winery and the Ryman Auditorium, while hosting multi-artist streaming bonanzas like the #iVoted Festival in November and the Tibet House Benefit Concert in February. And, of course, Mandolin has streamed scores of one-off performances, by artists including Lucinda Williams, Billy Strings, CAM, Brett Young and Blackberry Smoke.
“We started up less than a year ago and have just grown so incredibly quick,” Huse says. “It’s been about setting short-term goals so that we know where we’re headed but also pushing our team beyond just what’s expected. We are raising the capital that we hoped to raise, and with that we are investing in features that are differentiating our platform.”
To that end, Mandolin has integrated the monetization and merchandising functionalities that have become essential for competitive livestreaming platforms during the pandemic era. It’s also introduced VIP experiences and community features like private viewing rooms, and has already started to explore how it could deploy a data-driven, hybrid model when physical touring returns.
“Without a doubt, live music and entertainment are going to come back,” she says. “But I truly believe that livestream plays a big role in the industry returning even stronger than before. Rather than a replacement of the in-person experience, we look at livestream as an extension that impacts reach and engagement capabilities. Looking forward, livestream will be the cornerstone of a digital engagement strategy that is a great complement to the touring strategy. This opens up the opportunities for growth tenfold.”
Even as venue calendars gradually begin to fill with upcoming shows once again, Mandolin’s own schedule continues to swell, and it has plenty in the works, including discussions with the Tibet House about staging a hybrid event in 2022.
As Mandolin navigates the return of physical touring along with the rest of the world, Huse will keep striving to shape her company and the industry for the better.
“I’m making a concerted effort to start using my voice and my influence to address equality issues head-on, in both this industry and in my community,” she says. “That, of course, starts with the team we build here, and we are committed to building – and are currently building – an extremely diverse team across race, gender, sexuality and geographies.”
Huse is also focused on building that world beyond the music business. Outside of Mandolin, she serves on the boards of Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis, an organization committed to female youth empowerment in the area where she’s based, and Nextech, which works to improve K-12 computer science education.
“Both are nonprofits very close to my heart,” she says. “I want to be part of more sustainable change – getting more diversity in all positions of power.”
Once it’s safe, Huse can’t wait to get back to shows – and Maggie Rogers is among the shows she’s most excited to see.
“She’s young, fresh, vulnerable, and yet firm in her identity and her beliefs,” she says. “As a female artist, Maggie uses her voice to inspire and make big changes, especially when it comes to the environment, which I respect. And I’m told she is amazing in concert.”
Moreover, Huse is due for a visit to one of Mandolin’s key partners: “I also desperately need to see a show at the Ryman Auditorium!”