If you’ve ever sent a DM to your favourite musician asking for a virtual serenade (Missy Higgins, if you’re reading this, I’m still waiting on a rendition of The Special Two), then you’ll understand the business case for Serenade.
The new platform, founded by Sydney entrepreneur and music lover Max Shand (who also sits on the board of indie radio station FBi), allows fans to commission personalised videos from Australian musicians performing their own songs.
“There are businesses that allow individuals to host intimate concerts in their homes, and I thought that was brilliant. But I wanted to create a platform that meant, irrespective of where fans or artists are based, you can still form that connection,” says Shand.
“That’s what took me from something physical to something virtual, [which] is obviously something that’s far more compelling today than when I first had the idea [pre-Covid].”
Australia’s live-music industry is arguably one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. But even before the onslaught of festival and gig cancellations, musicians were looking for innovative ways to connect with audiences and be paid for their work.
“I want this to be a platform that celebrates and champions Australian music,” says Shand. “That’s why all the artists are Australian. In the future, it will be open to a broader spectrum of artists, but right now it seems all-important to champion Australian voices.”
Around 50 artists have already signed up, including rising singer-songwriter Didirri; ARIA-nominated blues musician Ash Grunwald; perennial pop star Paris Wells; and Steve Kilbey, the singer and bassist of iconic rock band The Church.
The platform allows you to request any song from their original catalogue with the option to add a note if it’s an occasion – birthdays, anniversaries, a graduation or even just because – for a personalised shout-out.
Once the artist accepts, you’ll receive the one-of-a-kind video within seven days to download and share as you like.
Prices range from $100 to $500 and are set by the artists themselves. (Serenade takes a 20 per cent cut.)
If you’re looking for someone who’s not on the catalogue, you can put in a special request detailing what a video would mean to you, and Shand will approach the artist’s management on your behalf.
It’s a savvy way for artists to capitalise on their fanbase and back catalogue at the same time. “There are a lot of voices in the music community saying, ‘artists need to produce more’,” Shand says. But he disagrees. “They don't need to produce more – they just need to get smart with distributing their music to super fans – to the people who are in the front row, who would jump backstage, who would climb the barrier. That’s the goal.”