It’s hot outside. You’ve waited in line for hours to see Fall Out Boy’s sold out amphitheater show. You’re bored, tired, sweaty and just want the doors to open. Once they finally do, you and thousands of your (new hypothetically bonded over music) friends rush through the gates to get as near to the stage as possible. But as you walk down the dusty path, you notice the merch tent. It boasts tshirts and deals available “ON TOUR ONLY.” You’re torn. Do you get into the seemingly endless line so you can wear tshirt tomorrow to class? Or do you keep speed walking to the stage so you can press up against the barrier and come face-to-face with the security guards eyeing you down as if they know just how bad you want to touch Pete Wentz?
Eric Jones, formerly of The Downtown Fiction, saw the plight of concert goers everywhere and decided to create a solution. As a musician, he knew the negative effects of long merch lines and suffering sales numbers. He decided to create a product that enabled fans to browse and purchase merch on their phones. “I mean really, why didn’t that exist yet?” he says. “So I thought that we could make this app and try to change the way that people buy merchandise and customize sales for artists at shows.” He pitched the idea to a friend in the merch business, who agreed to provide the capital. Eric quickly got to work developing the beta version.
“It was super bare-boned. It was just a test to see if people thought it would be cool to buy merchandise on their phone at a show.” When the verdict was in, the results were unanimous. Everyone loved it. The full beta version released September 2013 with Fall Out Boy, thanks to a partnership with Crush Management. The Sidestep app is a hit.
“We obviously want to create a really awesome experience for a fan. And for the artist and management and merch companies, we provide data that hasn’t been collected before,” Eric explains. “When you put a tour line up two weeks before the tour starts, you can now see what’s selling and what people like first. Sometimes artists run out of sizes at the regular merch table or the line is too long. Sidestep fills in the financial gaps, with this technology, that they might otherwise miss out on.”
Eric cites Uber as an app that he continually looks to for inspiration. It’s sleek, easy to use and quickly becoming a necessity. For an app to really stick around, it has to have an “it” factor, similar to Tinder’s game-like quality. “To think that merchandise sales are going to remain in the stone ages with $20 bills and credit cards at shows is ridiculous. We see this app as a necessity.”
Eric recently signed a deal with a management company that would give him access to some of the biggest bands in the world. One of which he admits fan-boy status to. I asked him what his ultimate Sidestep client would be and he responded, without a moment of hesitation, “One Direction.”
The future for this company looks bright, to say the least. With plans for third party integration streaming and ticketing services, Sidestep has the opportunity to become a one stop shop. Download it on your iPhone and see if your favorite band is using it yet! This is one tech buzz you don’t want to pass up.