Inside Ground Control Touring and Mandolin’s Exclusive Partnership

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– Heating Up
Iceage frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt performs in Copenhagen on Sept. 4, 2020. The Danish punk band’s GCTV streaming gig, “Seek Shelter: Live From Copenhagen,” airs May 22.

Among the questions facing the live industry as it ramps up post-pandemic is how livestreaming, which exploded with physical touring offline, factors into a landscape where traditional shows have returned. A new partnership between an esteemed boutique agency and one of streaming’s buzziest platforms provides some hints.

Last month, Ground Control Touring, which represents a slew of indie artists such as Angel Olsen and Parquet Courts, teamed with the platform Mandolin, only a year old, to support GCTV. Under the new arrangement, Mandolin will host, produce and market select shows by Ground Control Touring artists – and non-GCT clients – under the GCTV banner, providing Mandolin with more premium content and offering performers fresh monetization avenues.

“Around April 2020, as the weight of the pandemic started to truly sink in, we started seeing livestream offers from a variety of platforms and promoters cross our desks,” says Ground Control Touring vice president John Chavez, and the agency navigated platforms, each with “pros and cons,” while developing GCTV, the in-house solution it launched during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Ground Control Touring agent Susie Giang connected with Mandolin senior account executive Keith Richards, a former Paradigm agent who she knew through the industry, about collaborative opportunities, and the benefits of a partnership quickly became apparent.

GCTV “required a level of support the team wasn’t sure they could provide with in-person shows on the horizon,” Mandolin CEO Mary Kay Huse says. “To continue the level of quality associated with GCTV, it quickly became clear that trusting Mandolin to focus on the growth and quality of the livestreaming channel while the Ground Control Touring team pivoted to getting their artists back on the road just made sense.”

In March, Mandolin broadcast Waxahatchee’s stream celebrating the first anniversary of her 2020 LP Saint Cloud, and programming on deck for May includes American indie-folk artist Haley Heynderickx and Danish post-punks Iceage.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer a streaming solution for our clients where they can keep the lion’s share of the money generated without having to directly introduce a third party into the mix,” Chavez says. “We look forward to incorporating [livestreams] into our traditional touring strategy, creating opportunities for bands to see additional income from work they are already doing, all while helping increase fan engagement.”

It’s the ripple effect – how agencies and other groups might harness the capabilities of Mandolin and platforms like it – that’s most intriguing as the industry contemplates the relationship between livestreaming and physical touring.

“By knocking down the barriers artists and their teams face when securing ticket buyer data, Mandolin’s backend can serve as the base of or feed into an agent’s pre-tour intelligence suite, unlocking the behavioral, merch and demographic data artists need to know to route effective tours and build authentic fan relationships,” Huse says.

“Taking that data and incorporating it into a more robust touring strategy was one of our primary motivations for building GCTV,” Chavez concurs. “The launch of GCTV was the first time that we as an agency had direct, unencumbered access to the data generated from our artists’ ticket sales.”

Chavez cites Mandolin’s “top-notch software” – the company employs many Silicon Valley vets, including Huse, previously a high-ranking Salesforce exec – as a key factor in Ground Control Touring’s choice of livestreaming partner. And the relationship’s benefits run both ways.

“Our partnership with Ground Control Touring gives us unfiltered feedback on how artists discover, understand and then activate the benefits of livestreaming in real-time,” Huse says. “This feedback also helps us navigate how best to aid artists in amplifying their in-person revenue opportunities with exclusive digital content generated from livestreaming.”

Mandolin “absolutely” plans to partner with other agencies in the future, Huse adds.

“The music industry is built on the power of relationships and, in our minds, the most important relationship in this ecosystem is the one between an artist and their fans,” she concludes. “When we provide the tools and insights necessary for every player in the community to improve this essential relationship, we create a more fair and equitable world for musicians and fans alike.”