by PETER DORFMAN
The coronavirus pandemic has created a huge demand for internet- streamed music. But most streaming experiences fall short of what musicians were used to before live venues shut down. “Generally, the quality wasn’t very good, and there was no ticketing or paywall,” says Bloomington lawyer Robert Meitus. “It was fun, but it was no way to bring back the music business.”
Meitus is married to noted singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer. Between them, they’d evolved a concept: a better livestreaming experience for music, where artists could perform and interact with audiences in novel ways. In June, backed by Indianapolis-based investors, the idea emerged as Mandolin, a new software platform for artists and venues.
Originally conceived in Meitus’ law office above the CVS Pharmacy on East Kirkwood, Mandolin is now headquartered in Indianapolis. Within five months, Mandolin has become a mature streaming platform with 50 employees, including Mary Kate Huse, a seasoned CEO. Meitus adopted the title of vice president, industry relations.
While his law practice continues, Meitus devotes about half his time to Mandolin as general counsel and liaison to artists and music venues who will use the platform to stream shows. “All over the country—and in London— we’re putting on shows or licensing our software to artists and venues,” Meitus says.
The Buskirk-Chumley Theater was an early licensee. “Carrie’s benefit [on July 24] was the first show,” he says. “She raised $10,000 for the theater.”
Artists stream performances in front of small, socially distanced audiences, or no audience. “Richard Thompson streamed performances from an empty studio in London,” Meitus recalls, “playing songs the audience requested in advance.” Audiences can interact with artists through chat, posting comments and emojis to which the musicians can respond. The platform enables “virtual watch parties.” Mandolin can manage multiple feeds from different locations, and the company can stream entire festivals.
Mandolin was created to help nurture musicians and audiences through the COVID-19 winter, but artists, impresarios, and the Mandolin team are inventing novel music experiences for the post-COVID-19 world.
“Learning how to play to livestream is a new art form,” Meitus says. “There’s no telling where it will take us when COVID is past.”
Learn more at watch.mandolin.com.