Whilst many social media platforms have come and gone, their continued overall growth proves that more people are using social networks to connect and communicate than ever before. Whilst content is being beamed out everywhere, a gap seems to be emerging in app development, particularly within the creative industries. Niall Green, Founder of SECOND SCREEN, felt that ‘specialisation’ was missing from these platforms. To be able to develop a platform where there is a more direct link between the user and the content. SECOND SCREEN bridges this gap – between artists and their fans – through innovative technology, offering a new layer to live music and beyond. We spoke to Niall to find out more.
Start by describing in your words what your company is and what it does.
SECOND SCREEN is a technology startup that sits in-between social media and forums. We create local social networks for the music industry, as well as other creative industries by building tailored mobile apps. Every SECOND SCREEN app is uniquely branded for brands, artists and events, offering bespoke features, brand activation and native advertising campaigns that are relevant to their audience and bring them closer to the experience.
Thus far, SECOND SCREEN has built apps for festivals such as Isle of Wight Festival and Boardmasters, as well as creating platforms for the likes of SJM Concerts and Universal Music. Our apps offer longevity to events – a place where fans can revisit an event if they’ve missed any particular moments. We’ve created a hub where fans can talk about their passions without judgement and interruption. And it seems to be doing well – with the Isle of Wight Festival app, people continued to post in it 6 months later.
What do you think makes it distinct to any other companies – what’s its USP?
As opposed to general social media and internet forums, SECOND SCREEN apps offer music fans a more direct platform for communication. Individual festivals and event organisers can also utilise this space for their own customer support – responding to any requests and comments from attendees.
Rather than starting a service built solely around live music I recognised that specialisation was the only way to cut through the greater noise. Social media is already becoming overly saturated with content but fans are now able to log into their SECOND SCREEN app and receive instant mobile notifications when tickets have been released or stage times are announced – something which social media or forums can’t guarantee because of how easily it is for conversations to get lost in the general noise and stringent algorithms.
What is your personal background?
My family comes from a background heavily entrenched in music, which meant I was always fully immersed in the industry growing up. I spent much of my childhood helping my uncle backstage loading in and out, as well as getting to know the clients from our music management company at home. My grandparents were band managers and this had a huge influence in my upbringing.
The plan was always to go into film – I loved it. However, it is unforgiving to young people who skipped university and film school. That’s when I decided I wanted to return to what I loved most, somewhere where your age does not limit you – live music.
What inspired you to start the company?
The idea of SECOND SCREEN derived from the beginning of my youth. I grew up around festivals and feeling that atmospheric euphoria of the crowd, I wanted to build a platform around that stigma and allow people to create connections based on that energy. There’s a whole community and world that’s encompassed around these events that people don’t get to see and I think fans are interested in being a part of this.
Through attending many gigs and working on music video sets, I embraced much of the physical and digital landscapes which surround music and realised there was no dedicated network for fans to share their experience from a particular event. As a result of this phenomenon, the concept of SECOND SCREEN was officially born – in 2014 I began the journey with an app that would bridge the gap between fans and artists/events via two-way shareable content.
What is the story of the company from launch until now? How big is the company now?
Since launching in 2014 we have seen an incredible success in growth; setting up over 42 live apps including music festivals; Isle of Wight Festival, Fusion Festival, Sundown, Love Supreme and most recently Boardmasters – which boasted over 30,0000 downloads within its first year (62% of attendees). We plan to release more for the new year and have 9 under construction
When we began we were a team of two which quickly reduced to one. Now with 15 employees, we are seeing rapid growth. We are currently in the process of onboarding our creative teams for next year’s events, as we begin our production talks for our festivals next season.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your company?
Trying to manage and do all the day-to-day work for SECOND SCREEN was no doubt a challenge, especially on the weekend of our first Isle of Wight Festival app when I ended up in hospital. However, now that we have grown, we have a strong support network and team structure in place to prevent any mishappenings.
Technology is up and down in that Apple and Google both demand lots from us, keeping in tune with their new terms and conditions can often become a real drag as it can limit ideas to a certain extent due to the limitations put in place by the only two stores we can be available to download in.
What’s your biggest milestone / which are you most proud of?
Signing Isle of Wight Festival in our first season and as our first major festival was definitely SECOND SCREEN’s biggest milestone. Boardmasters, though, for us was our best performing app with sponsors in place, media teams present and full access made for an extra special experience for our users. Overall though, I’m proud to be part of SECOND SCREEN and the people I work with. My team is comprised of some of the best minds I’ve worked with.
What is your business model? How have you monetised your product?
In the second year of an app’s release, we establish the advertising model which is how we essentially monetise the apps. Brands without a huge budget find this an economical way of targeting key demographics. Whilst sponsoring a stage at a festival such as the Isle of Wight might seem like a great idea, the costs involved are unrealistic for some brands. However, brands can work with us to create a tailored campaign where tangible results and data can be shared. Alternatively, we can accommodate full app takeovers like what we activated with Samsung for Boardmasters.
From the brands’ perspective, they will be advertising in a closed network where they can instantly identify who their audience are – discover their age, gender, location, etc. – all useful information brands are looking for. We are also able to arrange follow-ups with target customers who didn’t complete a purchase through a targeted advert.
The advertising element provides app clients, such as festivals, artists or venues, with a new revenue stream that they can either split with SECOND SCREEN at an agreed commission or rate.
What’s the next step for growth – is the intention to grow the business independently, or look for an exit via acquisition or similar?
Looking ahead, I want to bring SECOND SCREEN into events beyond the music industry. We are currently exploring the possibilities for app development within other industries such as sport, as well as recently launching an app for West End’s Son of a Preacher Man musical.
It’s something more alive than a website; we want to harness a conversation and enhance it further. My vision is to capture every conversation out there and encapsulate that energy within an app. With over 1,000,000 users and counting, we are becoming the first-choice app partner for the music industry and I look forward to the future as we go beyond.