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https://gigity.tv/

Talking to Richard Seng of Gigity TV was like having a conversation with a walking, talking museum exhibit for music technology in Chicago.

In a cozy booth at Estelle’s in Wicker Park on a Tuesday night, nursing a beer, his hands moving animatedly as he speaks, he gave me a rundown of music media in Chicago from the last 20 years or so. We walked through his days as a music video and film salesman, when he would go door to door and get venue owners to buy DVDs of local bands in exchange for advertising on those same DVDs. He took me through a myriad of other projects in which he’s had a hand, including creating multiple reality TV show pilots as well as a documentary series about Chicago MCs who participated in a city-wide freestyle tournament called Rhyme Spitters. Seng is without a doubt the original hipster sans the inauthenticity. Aside from being a Wicker Park resident since before it became the gentrified Mecca it is today, he has always been ahead of the curve in terms of creating platforms that allow artist visibility in the most efficient way possible.

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Despite the overwhelming amount of projects in which Seng has been involved, the one common thread between them is the desire to use technology to leverage the “little guy” over (and sometimes via) corporations. Gigity.tv, arguably Seng’s most successful venture, is no different in this aspect. The internet streaming service was seemingly an extension of his days as a DVD salesman, but instead of exchanging free commercial spots, Gigity provides venue exposure by broadcasting shows and events through a free and pay per view live streaming service. In this scenario, everybody wins. Since its conception in 2010, Gigity TV has been installed in over 30 venues in Chicago, allowing audiences access to local artist performances like JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, Hood Smoke and Sidewalk Chalk — all from the comfort of their own home.

 

CUSP Magazine sat down with Richard Seng of Gigity TV to discuss the future of live streaming and its undeniable impact on empowering local businesses and artists.

Q&A – CUSP Magazine & Gigity.TV

CUSP Magazine: How was Gigity.tv started?

Richard Seng: I would do documentaries. Five and a half years ago, I did a beauty pageant. I had the flyers, I had the website built, and I would basically go up to girls and say, “We’re doing a beauty pageant. I really think you should be in it.” We had a month of official voting. We got down to the top 10, and we took them to the Double Door. That’s where we had Cotay from Akira Clothing and all these local judges and newspapers. I got a comedian as a host. And I’m like, “Oh no, no one’s gonna come, because this is the most ridiculous thing.” And then, at the same time, that’s when livestreaming started to happen — livestreaming.com, ustream.com. So I thought, “I missed the Youtube boat. I’m gonna see if there’s something to this livestreaming thing.” So I worked it out with the Double Door, and they gave us an internet connection. No one had ever done it there yet. So we set up a camera and set up a page, and we’re streaming it and we notice that there are 300 people watching the livestream. They’re all commenting, but the best part about it is that we also filled the Double Door. It didn’t cannibalize, it was a big hit. Afterward, I’m completely flushed and hyperventilating, but feeling really good because it was a success. I went to the owner of the Double Door and said, “Hi Mr. Sean Mulroney. Thank you for allowing me to do my beauty pageant here.” I told him we were also livestreaming [and said], “Let’s put up cameras permanently aimed at the stage. We’ll set up pay per view.” He said, “I love it, and you can use my venue as your guinea pig.”

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CM: How did Gigity.tv evolve from what it was at the start to what it is now?

RS: Right off the bat, what we decided was that it was going to be automated. We worked on finding ways to automate the live streaming, the video archiving, the promotions, the payouts to all of the people. We reduced all of that to just one minute. So the venue owner now only has to spend one minute scheduling the start time and the end time on the broadcast, deciding if it’s going to be free or pay per view, and everyone’s percentage of the profit. And then done. The venue owner can walk away from it and trust that we’re going to stream it, archive it, promote it. That’s the heart and soul of what we do. It’s always been about going to the venue owner and saying, “What do you want in this platform? What would be easier for you?”

CM: Where did the name Gigity.tv come from?

RS: You know how when you go on GoDaddy and you look at domains? Gigity works because as an artist, when you have a show, you have a gig. I was just trying to borrow from the language of entertainment and put it into our name.

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CM: What does Gigity, as an entity, provide to Chicago?

RS: Every Tuesday night we livestream from the SubT lounge, where they have Tuesday night open mic. It’s a 17-year tradition. Two and a half years ago, I put a camera to stream every Tuesday night. Now we just upgraded the camera so that it sounds better. The technology is always evolving. We’ve taken out installations and we’ve put in new installations, just because we want our camera to look and sound as good as possible. The cameras that are coming out now, they really aid our automation process.

CM: What makes Gigity unique when contending with other streaming services?

RS: The cameras are so well-built that [they] eliminate 95 percent of things that can go wrong that will spoil a broadcast. This camera got built because we lobbied the company three years ago to make it.  [Their cameras] had great video, but it processed the audio very poorly, which made us have to buy a mixer and a computer and all these other components that created weak links in the chain that could break. It took them a year and a half, but the camera came out over the summer. It’s going to be the camera of the live streaming revolution. The name of the company is called Axis, and they’re based out of Sweden. So we can just put these cameras up and we have a very reliable solution now. It makes it easy for us now to cookie cutter into other venues and grow as a business. A lot of people that get into entertainment as a tech startup have investors who give money to people. A lot of that money is stupid money. We didn’t have that luxury. We had a small amount of resources, so we had to play to our strengths. What we did over the last several years [was] build a platform to automate everything, to make it all work. We were crossing our fingers, hoping that the technology, camera-wise, would catch up with our platform. And it did. So now we have a dope camera and a dope platform working together to really grow the business.

Rich – “Stupid money is fast money. “Let’s make a quick, fast buck” — that’s the wrong way to do it. You’ve got to go slow. You’ve got to make it so that if you lose half your business in one day, you’re still in business with the other half. You’ve gotta make your core [so] solid that it can take a torpedo to knock it down.

CM: Is Gigity only in Chicago?

RS: No, we’re in other cities too. We have a few on the east coast and a few on the west coast. Boston, Chapel HIll, Los Angeles and Chicago.

CM: Do you only stream at music venues?

RS: When we started off we were only imagining music, but then people at Second City contacted us. Now we’re at Second City, Improv Olympic and we’re at Stage 773. Now we’re getting into the technology incubator space. We’re at 2112, and we’re doing an installation at Blue 1647. It took off pretty quick once we showed it could work. It’s not all going to be music venues and comedy venues. Our vision of the future is this: every classroom, every grade school, every funeral parlor, every gymnasium, every church, synagogue, temple of any type, every banquet hall, they’re all going to be wired up for live streaming. It’s going to be a multi-billion dollar venture. It’s gonna be the next Facebook, it’s going to be the next Twitter. That’s why what we’re doing as a business is making very careful and solid moves to improve our infrastructure, so that if an investor wants to come in, they can fund us to make that vision a reality. It’s a slow burn.

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CM: As someone who’s been in the music tech industry for decades, what’s something you want to let others know?

RS: Stupid money is fast money. “Let’s make a quick, fast buck” — that’s the wrong way to do it. You’ve got to go slow. You’ve got to make it so that if you lose half your business in one day, you’re still in business with the other half. You’ve gotta make your core [so] solid that it can take a torpedo to knock it down.

CM: What’s the biggest benefit for venues to allow a streaming service into their business?

RS: What do venues like? They like seeing their businesses on Facebook and on Twitter. They can do that themselves, but it’s more valuable when the average person is doing it, because it’s word of mouth advertising. There’s nothing more valuable than good word of mouth. When we do these streams, we automatically generate social media traction for the venues and for the artists. In other words, we take their digital footprint and we make it bigger. We have events that are over four years old that are still getting shared. The other benefit is that we create a new revenue stream. We just did Sketchfest and sold over 400 tickets. That’s more money for that venue that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

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CM: Is there anything else like this happening in Chicago or otherwise?

RS: We’re not the only people who’ve thought of this idea, and I respect them all. What I imagine is that we’re all going to one day merge. Other people are going to build out certain markets, I just hope that they’re going to use our camera. Basically we knock off 500 dollars for installation. On top of that, it’s easy to install, and it has so many cool features. We asked them to put xlr microphone jacks in the back of it. It makes it very direct, the audio goes right into the camera. They [also] built an HDMI out on the camera. You just plug that in straight into a TV or a splitter. At the Double Door it’s a direct line, and it’s reliable. Business owners want solutions that require no maintenance.

CM: Is there anyone you think CUSP Magazine should reach out to?

RS: I’m working on a website called Pickupwork.org right now. You know how when you see homeless people, and they’re holding a sign asking for money? What if instead they were wearing a vest that said “Donate to #SteveJohnson at Pickupwork.org?” and he’s picking up litter, he’s beautifying the community. So you go to pickupwork.org and read his profile. You read about his story, you see pictures of him, and you see all the instagrams and twitters of people who’ve used that hashtag to verify that he’s picking up litter, and you can donate straight to him. MIT invited me to talk about it at their alumni chapter in Chicago, and I got to talk about it at Techweek.

 

Make sure to visit Gigity.tv to become a part of the livestreaming revolution. Follow Gigity TV on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on past and upcoming broadcasts around the city.

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