“How do you capture all the energy on a live Hip-Hop stage when someone’s performing and bring that down onto someone’s computer or into someone’s mobile phone?” It’s a question Ray Smith asks himself in his conversation with Chad Kiser, but I’m sure it isn’t the first time he has pondered that. And it probably won’t be the last. Having streamed over 10,000 music events, Ray has always been on the cutting-edge of live streaming technology and is a true pioneer in the field who shows no signs of slowing down. He is preparing to launch new features on his BeApp, an application that allows fans to tune into live streaming shows and, therefore, get a full concert experience from anywhere in the world.
After graduating cum laude from the University of Southern California in the late 90s, Ray moved to Silicon Valley to do strategy management consulting. However, after seeing the internet make things so accessible in the late early ’00s, his curiosity peaked about maximizing what there was to share.
“While listening to music that I would download, I’d listen to live music performances. And there’s something about a live music recording; you hear other things,” Smith says. “How can we get a differentiated music listening experience? Not just listening to audio performances or audio sets, how can we get the video component as well?”
And with that, Smith moved to London in 2006 and started his first company, BE-AT.TV in 2008. It essentially allowed people to be at music festivals as a result of streaming them. And with 50 – 100 live streams a week, the company kept busy. However, there were still naysayers who failed to see what was on the horizon.
“I remember I went to go see James Barton (founder of Creamfields, an electronic dance music festival) and showing him my laptop with a live stream of the Swedish House Mafia,” Ray recalls. “And he was like, ‘Who’s ever going to watch this stuff?’ It’s funny when you fast-forward like 15 years later. It’s like, ‘Everybody.’ Every single person in the world is stuck looking at their phone and watching video content.”
Just a few months in, after figuring out how to monetize the idea, Smith’s company struck a deal with Nokia, as iPhones were still in their infancy, and in one year saw numbers skyrocket. “Not only are people going to watch this, but I can earn a living doing [it]. So I pretty much just went around, spending most of my time on planes, meeting festival owners, club owners, and artists trying to convince them to let me broadcast their event,” Ray remembers. “My speech was, ‘There are only 2,000 people that can physically fit in this club. With what we’re doing, I can make 2 million people see it through the internet.’ My angle was, ‘I’m going to make you even more famous than you are today.'”
Now, in 2020, in addition to the evolution of technology, we are amid a global pandemic. Streaming has become a lifeline for the live music business. But because many people are so confined, Smith even sees its value beyond just the power of song. “Being able to connect fans with artists and artists with fans and then fans with each other through a socialized platform is what BeApp is all about.”
For more with Ray Smith, check out the full interview on the Conversations with Chad podcast with Chad Kiser below.