Last month I helped build and launch JUJU, a live streaming platform for artists.

JUJU was founded by artists who recognized a gap in the market for live online entertainment.

On one side of that gap, you had short-form events on platforms like Instagram. These streams were not curated, the quality was inconsistent, and the only way to earn from them was with a tip jar. Many artists aren’t comfortable “passing around the hat” to collect donations and end up giving away their content for free.

On the other side, you had long-form concerts with high quality and high ticket prices. These are expensive productions. The risk of investing in a show like this and having it flop is enough to keep most independent artists at bay.

Our goal was to deliver curated live content with concert quality, but with a shorter format and lower price. Most artists will perform a JUJU set of four or five songs for just a few dollars per ticket.

We knew that people were craving concert-quality streaming, so we invested a lot of effort into testing several streaming partners and platforms. It turns out that a little effort and preparation will get you to ticket-quality content. The requirements for the artists are minimal. Many already have access to the necessary home studio gear and a smartphone with a decent camera.

You can hear the quality in the promo video below. You might be surprised to find out that the audio in this clip was pulled directly from the live stream without any post-production. It’s what the audience experienced live.

As I said, we launched quickly. Our first show was within a month of being presented with the idea. With this speed came problems we had to solve in a hurry.

One such issue was unpredictable behaviour with the streaming player we selected. If the stream didn’t start until after the player was loaded, the video would occasionally fail to start entirely. Not good.

The solution we came up with was to give the fans access to a sort of “lobby” page with their tickets. Fans could visit the lobby page in the days leading up to the show, but it would display a show poster beside the comment feed instead of the live stream player. On the day of the event, the artist would begin streaming, and we’d watch as the stream buffered for a moment before flipping a switch to replace the poster with the live stream player for everyone waiting to watch. It was an odd fix, but it meant that fans would never be presented with the player before the video started. Crisis averted.

We announced the event early one morning a few days before the show. I like to do what customers will do as a sort of launch day ritual, so I bought a ticket to the show. I was satisfied to see that I landed safely on to the “lobby” page, but shortly after I saw a comment pop up in the comment feed. That couldn’t be right — the show wasn’t about going to start for another three days.

I panicked. Were we not clear that this is a live event? Maybe landing on this “lobby” page was confusing for the audience. How many fans might be waiting right now for the show to start!?

But, as comment after comment started to pour in and I read through, I saw that these fans did understand the premise and were using the lobby page as we never expected. They were leaving personal notes for the artist before the performance. Notes like:

So excited! The last time I saw you in concert, your children were small and wanted to sit beside you on stage!

And:

Last year we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary by attending the Moon vs Sun concert in Montreal. To be able to celebrate our 12th anniversary by watching your online concert…it is hard to ignore that a tradition is being born!

Through the rest of the day, I left the page open on one monitor and watched as fans left incredibly personal and heartfelt notes to the artist.

On the day of the event, we sat in the lobby with the audience as the anticipation grew. Messages were now hitting the feed as quickly as we could read them. For the first time since the COVID-induced lockdown, we were sharing a moment with hundreds of other people. One comment captured the moment beautifully:

I love this feeling — same feeling when you sit in the audience before a CK show starts, [watching] the beautiful grand piano on the stage and the awesome lighting, and then the house lights dim…

Incredibly, the lobby was the result of a last-minute fix to an odd bug. It had left an impact that we could never have expected. It gave us a space to share our thoughts and a chance to share our excitement at a time when we’re all separated. The experience convinced me once again that nothing will teach you more about a product than launching it.

Product Architect, Composable by Myplanet. Founder, HumanCollective.co. Co-Founder, Mappedin.

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