Entrepreneur Empowers Artists Rideshare Drivers

Photo credit Sean McKenzie (Photo and logo courtesy of Steereo)
By Audacy

The music industry is evolving rapidly thanks to the internet and streaming technology. Emerging and established artists alike have more resources than ever to make a profit from their art, manage their music careers, and develop an international fan base. Based in Brooklyn, NY, Steereo merges the rideshare industry with music promotions to help artists accomplish just that.

Director of Driver Engagement and Co-founder of Steereo, Sean McKenzie shares how rideshare drivers and emerging artists can use the app to reach their financial and visibility goals.


Can you break down how Steereo works?

Steereo is a music discovery app exclusively for rideshares. Drivers download and play during their shifts. It's no different than playing the radio or other music platforms. We share music with a captive audience, many who are open to discovering new music. We then give artists back analytics and feedback. Artists use Steereo for three reasons: promotion, analytics, and community. For drivers it’s simple. Download the app, play music during your shifts and accumulate earnings. Once drivers hit $100 or more, they can redeem their earnings. Soon drivers will be able to earn rewards and other perks. Our goal is to either put or keep money in their pockets.


How did the concept for Steereo come to fruition?

Back in 2016, my team and I ran a boutique agency and worked closely with an L.A.-based artist. After showing his manager the results of a digital campaign we created, he responded with his opinion on why radio was so important. Besides having pride in our work, his words really struck a chord with us. From our own personal experiences, we recognized the growing power of streaming and music discovery. We stored that interaction in our memory bank.

Fast-forward to January 2017, we set off on a West Coast road trip to blow off some steam and to attend CES in Las Vegas. One evening we were at dinner and began discussing that previous convo. We started brainstorming, unique, out-the-box ideas on how we can help get music out into the world. After tossing around some concepts, we decided to call it quits for the evening. We ordered a rideshare to head back to our hotel. As we were traveling the driver began playing music I’ve never heard before. I started Shazaming and asking specific questions about the artist. He was extremely passionate about music and seemed to enjoy the simple act of sharing.

Then it hit me like a strike of lighting. Without hesitation, we posed one simple question, “If someone were to compensate you for doing exactly what you’re doing right now, sharing music with your passengers, would you do it?" After jokingly mentioning that there's an app out there that does this, he proceeded to try to download an app that didn’t exist. I said to my team that we cannot forget about this when we get back to New York, and we didn’t. Steereo was born.


Does Steereo’s have any competitors?

Depends on how you define competitors. Does the radio and other music platforms exist? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean they provide the same experience or value to our users. I believe that’s what makes us different. At the core of what we do is a passionate desire to make people’s lives better. I see ourselves as a complement to the incredible growth seen in both the rideshare and music tech communities.


What makes Steereo different?

There’s a strong purpose behind what we do. By connecting two, hard-working communities together for mutual benefit, everyone wins. We take pride in offering a sense of community for both artists and drivers. Artists gain access to off-the-road opportunities, including gigs, connecting with brands and artist development. Rideshare drivers are the heart and soul of global transportation. They should be afforded the opportunities to enhance their lifestyles. It's a not an easy job, especially for professionals who drive for a living. We have drivers who pay their car leases with their earnings.

In fact, there's a driver from the Bronx who able to take his son to a Yankee game because he could now afford to. In every car and studio, there's a story. We've only begun to tell these incredible narratives. I have the fortune of hearing them every day. That's awesome to me.


How does Steereo help emerging artists?

We provide a platform for them to get their music out into the world. The best way to describe it would be the power of radio with the intelligence of streaming. There are millions of talented artists who never get the chance to be played on the radio, but may have a core base on streaming platforms. We’re creating a new way for music to be distributed and discovered. Also, understanding how people are reacting is just as important as getting it out there. We provide analytics to help the artist understand what’s working and what’s not.


What do you believe is the current challenges of the music industry?

Choice can be both a powerful and complex thing. On one hand, artists can now control all aspects of their business and creativity if they so choose to. On the other hand, how does an artist know which model or method is right for them? We often hear talk about artist development. What about artists education? Outside of opportunity, education or lack thereof can be the difference between success and failure. That's why we're committed to creating programs, projects, and initiatives that focus on empowering artists in this new golden age of music.


Does Steereo have any challenges?

Our challenges are similar to any new tech experience where you must figure out what works and what doesn’t on the go. There’s not a lot of time for overthinking or hesitation. We need to constantly get better so we can serve our community in the best way possible. As a team, we see this more as a commitment than a challenge.


What’s the future for Steereo?

The future of Steereo involves many different experiences that help artists gain new fans while growing their brand. Although Steereo may sound automotive-based, the practice of steering good music in the direction of receptive listeners can happen anywhere. We recently launched our second app, Steereo Contributor, which gives influencers, A&R’s and everyday music aficionados the ability to rate new music. This will help us with playlisting and talent spotting while creating another unique feedback loop. As you can see, we're focused on the road ahead while keeping a side view of the entire landscape.


This article was written for Small Business Pulse