Fans might be back in stands, but the livestreaming sector that exploded during the pandemic’s early days continues to evolve. Key player Mandolin, the tech-forward platform launched in spring 2020, announced the acquisition Tuesday of competing livestreaming service NoonChorus, which gained notoriety for its presentations of artists like Fleet Foxes and Japanese Breakfast.
Conversations between the companies began in early 2021, when Mandolin co-founder Robert Meitus reached out to Andrew Jensen, who co-founded NoonChorus with his brother Alexander. What began as collegial discussions about licensing and publishing soon evolved into discourse about the sector at large – and Mandolin and NoonChorus found lots of common ground.
“Not only did we have a great strategic alignment and philosophical alignment about the space and our strategy,” Mandolin CEO and co-founder Mary Kay Huse tells Pollstar, but “we just felt a real cultural alignment.”
Meeting in-person at Pollstar Live! in June, Huse adds, accelerated conversations about a possible acquisition, with terms of the deal being finalized in July and August.
“The market was ultra-competitive at the time,” NoonChorus’ Alexander Jensen tells Pollstar by email. “Without raising a single investment dollar, we knew that in order to survive, NoonChorus had to team up with another player.”
Mandolin, meanwhile, has accrued considerable investments from firms including High Alpha, 645 Ventures and Foundry Group, as well as Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, and closed a $12 million Series A funding round in June.
“Mary Kay and the team at High Alpha have plenty of experience scaling companies,” Jensen says. “We felt we could learn something from them and properly capitalize on what we created at NoonChrous this past year.”
Huse admits that NoonChorus and Mandolin, which primarily presents folk, bluegrass and Americana programming, “don’t have a lot of genre overlap.” But Mandolin inked an exclusive partnership with Ground Control Touring, the agency representing acts such as Waxahatchee and Parquet Courts, in April, and it shares a common outlook with NoonChorus about the livestreaming sector’s general contours.
“As we were looking one, two, three years into the market, we had a similar perspective on how we evolve the role of digital experiences in the broader artist life cycle, as opposed to just focusing on singular, virtual-only livestreaming events,” Huse says.
In the coming weeks, Mandolin will transition NoonChorus’ fans, artists and venues to its platform, with all NoonChorus content arriving on Mandolin by mid-October. Existing NoonChorus clients will continue to work with their same account managers, according to Jensen.
“I’m really excited about that expertise and experience that we’re bringing on with the team itself,” says Huse, touting the “small and nimble” group at NoonChorus that has helped the company stage some 700 shows and earn $4 million in gross ticket sales since its spring 2020 inception.
“NoonChorus and Mandolin are both young companies that were formed out of a love for music and a desire to help the industry after the effects of COVID,” Jensen says. “We are both excited to innovate on what will come next to help musicians, venues and fans alike.”
Heather Bellini Photography, LLC – Bros
NoonChorus co-founders Alexander (left) and Andrew (right) Jensen.
According to Huse, NoonChorus’ addition will nearly double Mandolin’s direct fan reach. Once the companies are integrated, Mandolin will continue to navigate the live industry’s proper return and livestreaming’s place in it, now with a drastically larger audience. The company has recently presented shows from venues with fans in stands such as Guster at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and has also started to stream album release events, including one earlier this month where actor and bluegrass enthusiast Ed Helms interviewed banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck about his new record. Mandolin has kept emphasizing the VIP component of its offering, and it’s even dipped its toes into the NFT game, strategizing ways to make cryptocurrency and blockchain technology accessible to fans to facilitate exclusive collectibles and merchandise.
“Livestreaming has never been intended to be a replacement of in-person experiences,” says Huse, explaining Mandolin’s vision that the medium can “really amplify these in-person experiences and continue to expand the creativity around what a digital experience can be.”
To wit, Mandolin will stream Delaware’s Firefly Music Festival Sept. 23-26, in a partnership with AEG Presents allowing the livestreamer to display its capabilities in presenting multiple stages concurrently, as well the opportunity to host activations in-person.
Generally, artists, managers and agents are far more accustomed to livestreaming than they were at the pandemic’s outset – “More times than not, they’ve streamed something before at this point,” Huse says – although they naturally have less time to devote to the format with physical touring back online.
“When we were talking to management teams in the winter of 2020, they weren’t planning or managing live tours, so they had more capacity to spend on planning a virtual event,” Huse says. “The knowledge is there, the receptiveness is there, but the tactics are very different when you’re back on tour than the conversations we were having when everyone was literally locked in their houses.”
As Jensen notes, “We’re streaming more shows with an audience instead of shows specifically made for an online presentation. We’re working around the clock to integrate with tours and assist venues by bringing in new sources of income after such a devastating last year.”
Acquisitions are one way Mandolin can grow, but the company’s “primary growth strategy is continuing to help artists and venues adopt our platform,” Huse says.
“Where it makes sense to acquire either teams or expertise or technology, we’ll explore that,” she says. “But we’re really excited with the team and platform we have to achieve the vision that we set out for since the beginning.”