Presenting: Stage Access, a Streaming Platform for the Arts
Exclusive Interview with Founder and CEO Bruce H. Lipnick
What inspired you to create Stage Access?
Founder and CEO Bruce H. Lipnick’s daughter, Olivia Lipnick, is a professional ballerina. As Mr. Lipnick watched Olivia grow up dancing with world-renowned ballet companies and schools such as School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, and most recently with The Washington Ballet, he got to witness the incredible beauty of the performing arts first-hand but also the constant struggle of artists and arts organizations to survive and thrive. With a legendary financial background in seeding emerging hedge fund managers, Mr. Lipnick applied that experience and focused on developing a company called Stage Access with a mission to expand access to the performing arts, provide support to the arts by helping them to monetize assets which they had not been able to do in the past, promote donation opportunities, and help fund future productions.
Compared to other streaming platforms, how is Stage Access unique?
Stage Access is hyper-focused on the performing arts, namely opera, dance, concerts, theatre, and arts-related documentaries. What makes Stage Access particularly unique is:
-Its direct collaboration with the world’s most iconic arts companies; producing content the way they wish it to be seen
-not simply licensing, taping and putting a show online;
-Its educational initiatives and highlighting of emerging artists which help to democratize the arts for Gen Z and Millennials;
-Its healthcare initiatives to provide healing content to those suffering from ailments (currently Stage Access is providing its service for free to NYC-area hospitals during the COVID crisis);
-Its global content exchange;
-And its exclusive content catalog.
Is there a performance you are most excited to share?
Stage Access is producing its own catalog of iconic performances. The first production in this catalog is Yo-Yo Ma Performing Six Bach Solo Cello Suites at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens, Greece. This was recently followed by the 30th Documentary of the legendary Three Tenors: The Three Tenors: From Caracalla to the World.
Recently Stage Access signed deals to be the exclusive North American streaming service for the entire Rossini Opera Festival and for the Vienna State Opera’s new production of Tosca starring Anna Netrebko.
The pandemic has challenged the way we can engage with the arts; what role will Stage Access play in our “new normal”?
Unlike other streaming companies, Stage Access does not believe that streaming is the future of the arts – streaming is an additional way to enjoy the arts and to bring it to people who are unable to attend performances due to a host of access issues from cost to geography to health. Stage Access’ launch was scheduled before the COVID crisis and the crisis has put a magnifying glass on what is needed for arts organizations to survive. With Stage Access having been born out of the desire to assist arts organizations, the importance of Stage Access’ work has magnified exponentially. There is a “new normal” but eventually the crisis will pass – it is imperative that Stage Access support as many organizations as possible during these difficult times by bringing their content, brand and artists to the worldwide audience and by producing with them safe, socially-distanced, new productions.
Who do you envision as Stage Access’ audience?
The arts, including classical, have a wide demographic who enjoy them across age-ranges. NEA studies clearly demonstrate this. Stage Access appeals to individuals across all age-ranges and its democratization of the arts appeals to before unreachable audiences.
Does the app benefit artists and their organizations in any way?
Stage Access was born out of the concept of helping artists and their organizations. When Stage Access partners with an organization to produce content, there are direct financial benefits to the organizations and the artists. Above the direct financial benefits, are the increased promotion for their traditional activities due to newfound audiences.
What have the initial responses to the app been (from viewers, artists, organizations)?
Stage Access isn’t just an app, it was launched on the web, in an app for iOS (iPhone and iPad), an app for Android (Google and all other Android phones such as Samsung), and in native OTT apps for Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire. The response from viewers has been extremely positive and the response from organizations wishing to work with us has been terrific. Stage Access is the company artists and organizations wish to work with because we don’t seek to put our “stamp” on productions – we ensure what is seen what the creatives intend.
What can we expect from you and Stage Access in the future?
You wouldn’t want us giving away our secret sauce, would you? We are expanding globally and the slate for our exclusive productions, which won’t be streamed anywhere else, is growing on a regular basis. Throughout his career in financial services, Mr. Lipnick brought innovative new products to the market – under his leadership, working with the most accomplished artists and arts organizations, and his team led by Tripp Hornick, Stage Access is developing new methods to engage with arts on a personal level
Are there any programs on the platform, or upcoming, about which you are particularly excited?
Every platform on the program we select for a reason – unlike other platforms that are out there which act as a mall – we make sure to curate our content which provides the best possible experience for our viewers.
Some recent highlights are:
-A collaboration with the Dance Theatre of Harlem during Black History Month to feature Arthur Mitchell’s John Henry
-The world-exclusive to Mark Morris’ celebrated Dido & Aeneas helping to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Mark Morris Dance Group
-The exclusive on the five-part Lyrics & Lyricists: Preludes with top Broadway stars from the world-famous 92Y series.
-A world-premiere exclusive livestream of the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kevin John Edusei
-The North American exclusive of Jonas Kaufman’s It’s Christmas!
and as already mentioned:
-The North American (and other English-speaking countries) exclusive of the entire Rossini Opera Festival. We are debuting a new program from them every Friday for twenty-seven weeks.
-The North American exclusive of a brand-new Vienna State Opera production of Tosca starring Anna Netrebko
I see you worked with the World Economic Forum?
Yes, in January, we were thrilled to collaborate with the World Economic Forum to livestream the premiere of a global concert called “See Me.” It is available on the Stage Access platform through mid-April. We look forward to working with the Davos Agenda in future years and supporting their cultural initiatives.
How much does it cost to subscribe?
Subscriptions cost $7.99 per month or $69.99 per year. There is a seven-day free trial and monthly subscriptions can be cancelled at any time but we have seen remarkably low churn showing that once people sign-up they want to say with us because we are always presenting new and top quality content.
What problems are you solving?
The simple answer is access to the arts and funding but it goes much deeper than that. As mentioned, Stage Access was founded on the strategy that a successful business is being built by monetizing arts organizations assets which, prior to Stage Access, these organizations were unable to further exploit for ongoing, regular income.
From a viewership standpoint, it’s about access and the National Endowment for the Arts directly addresses our market:
“Americans have a growing desire to engage with the arts on their own terms…..by streaming an opera performance, Americans increasingly have freedom to follow their own artistic and cultural pursuits.”
Source: National Endowment for the Arts, 2017 Survey. Published December 2019.
Stage Access is providing access to these brilliant performances to individuals unable to attend for a host of reasons whether they by geographic, economic of health-related.
On top of the highly successful economic model, Stage Access has a key social impact.
Social Impact and Health Related?
Certainly, it is well proven by numerous studies that music and performing arts entertainment provide therapeutic experiences for those suffering from a host of issues. In fact, it has been used in therapy for Alzheimer’s, dementia, PTSD and stroke patients.
The way we benefit arts organizations and artists by getting money directly to them in our productions and licenses has a direct social impact in providing funding for the terribly under-capitalized non-profit arts world.
We were particularly thrilled to collaborate with the Dance Theatre of Harlem during Black History Month to celebrate their Founder’s Week.
What solutions are you providing?
It’s rather succinct: We are Bringing The Stage To You™ anytime, anywhere and on any device.
The arts speak to the best of us and provide life-long memorable experiences that people of all generations cannot miss.
How does your technology work?
We are as easy to use as your favorite television channel or smartphone app. With our frictionless technology, there is nothing to learn and our interface is recognizable and familiar to users of all ages.
We’re experiencing enthusiastic responses across many demographics. We were thrilled to see that for our Jonas Kauffman It’s Christmas exclusive that the largest demographic was the all-important 18 – 49.
From a technology standpoint, we use multiple CDNs to provide infinite scalability with minimal latency and of great importance is our global geo-restriction capabilities which allow us to block content down to nearly the mile to ensure desired distribution of content.
Interesting, tell us more what you say makes complete sense.
As discussed, access to the arts is a key pillar of our business from both an economic and social-impact perspective. By building a product familiar and desirable to all ages, from the typical ticket purchasers over the age of fifty to the 18 year-old arts student, we are ensuring we serve our entire constituency. With our technology providing coverage on nearly every device, we ensure our platform is easily available.
What is your revenue model?
We have a multi-channel revenue stream ensuring that no one-part of income contributes to a majority in the business model. This provides Stage Access great agility.
What is the distribution reach of Stage Access?
Through our branded OTT apps we are available on the televisions of over 50 million households and the number continues to grow as we expand our platform partnerships. When you include our mobile and tablet apps, not to mention the web, our international reach is significantly more.
How is capital raising going?
Our initial rounds were angels and from friends and family. Initial investors include notable performing arts donors and world-famous performers in the classical world. We are excited to now be in the growth phase of our journey and at this point are seeking to expand our team and acquire new content.
What are your investment terms?
To support our exciting growth phase we are now entering our first outside-raise to fuel business expansion in order to meet the demand for our fast-growing platform. To learn more about Stage Access please send an email to [email protected]; contact is limited to qualified investors only.
We’re happy to provide your readers a special FON discount of 20% off of subscriptions to Stage Access:
Head to www.stageaccess.com to begin your free trial and take advantage of this special discount.