The lights dim, the crowd cheers, the band takes the stage, and suddenly your view is obstructed by a glowing sea of smartphones snapping video and pictures. Observing this maddening modern routine led Dean Graziano to create Lively, a new app that allows fans to use their mobile devices for downloading high-quality concert recordings rather than shoot their own crummy ones.
“I was at Deck the Hall Ball 2012 and saw everyone with their phones in the air,” says Graziano. “I said to myself, ‘This is a lose-lose for everybody.’” The fans were focused on capturing poor-quality videos instead of watching the concert, and the artists weren’t getting compensation or control over the shoddy vids.
After founding two previous successful tech startups, Graziano had a clear vision for the free Lively app: Create an easy-to-navigate archive of professional concert recordings that could be turned around and made available to fans quickly. To ensure a consistent level of top-notch fidelity, the company employs an in-house team of audio engineers who remaster each performance, and the artists have taken note. “When fans want to record you, the sound always sucks or the video image is horrible,” says Seattle singer-songwriter Naomi Wachira. But Wachira and others have been so impressed with Lively’s recording process that they’ve used the videos for their own promotional purposes.
Lively recorded an initial beta show with local indie favorites Hey Marseilles at the Showbox in March 2012 and formally launched by recording the Anacortes band the Lonely Forest at the Crocodile two months later. To date Lively’s library consists of more than 300 sets by more than 250 artists, including Pixies, Aloe Blacc, and Phantogram. Lively has gathered the talent through word of mouth and relationships with record labels, the Showbox, and the Crocodile. While Seattle based, the company has also recorded shows in places like LA and Austin.
The app features sliding scale pricing, with most shows costing $10 (or $5 for audio-only performances). Lively takes a 30 percent cut and gives the rest to the artists. There are also a handful of free sets, sponsored by companies like Budweiser, which receive a 15-second preroll commercial and logo placement in exchange for fronting the bill.
Last August, CEO Graziano and his 25 employees moved into a swank new SoDo office with guitars mounted on the walls, drums hanging from the ceilings, and, most important, its own stage setup for recording exclusive sessions. Its home base in place, the team plans a big push during summer music festival season, while also developing smaller, more manageable kits that would allow bands to record their own shows.
“Having worked in the industry, you see the general apathetic nature that a lot of people who supposedly work with music contribute to the whole artistic scene,” says Evan Berg, the drummer for Brooklyn rock band the Bottom Dollars. “But what I like about Lively is they’re all just as nerdy as we are about music.”
In other words: Put down your damn phones and enjoy the show.