First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
John J. Petrocelli: We are doing as well as can be expected. Business-wise livestreaming has exploded and become an area of focus for the entire online industry, largely fueled by content creators, artists, musicians, brands, promoters, and platforms looking to connect in real-time with a global consumer base that is actively looking to consume video in real-time and have collaborative and participatory experiences.
Our household has two young Bulldogs who have very much enjoyed having their family constantly around during the quarantine and safe at home orders. Regardless we are looking forward to the day when we can all safely return to events, concerts, festivals, and experiences with full audiences for all venues with a livestreaming extension.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bulldog DM.
John J. Petrocelli: I have always worked in streaming video, and many years ago, I was introduced to Prince, who wanted to create a direct to consumer music store that he could own and operate. I encrypted an mp3 of ‘Purple Rain’ and sent it to him. The file would only play if you were authorized and permitted to play it – i.e., paid for it. He wrote back, explaining that that is exactly what he wanted to do. We built his music store, and he began delivering all kinds of audio and video content to his fans directly. He then asked for me to build a ticketing platform for his upcoming tour where he could offer the best seats in the house to his fan club members directly and without ticket scalpers and middlemen. As a result, I got to see him perform dozens of times and in venues of all sizes, including Paisley Park and in his living room. It dawned on me that one day people would want to tune into these live experiences via streaming. I was advising a livestreaming company for several years, and they invited me to become the CEO, which I accepted. That company was immediately purchased by AEG, the world’s largest presenter of live music and live sports, and just prior to the acquisition, I began a conversation with YouTube about why live streaming might be important to them. We began servicing and enabling events on YouTube that included Coachella, Bonnaroo, Rock In Rio, Lollapalooza, The Royal Wedding, and numerous others. Our clients also included the Grammys, Oscars, Masters, and MTV. It occurred to me that livestreaming was only going to grow due to more and more connected devices that could play video entering the market and the growth of the experience economy fueled by millennials. Thus I decided to start Bulldog DM, and we are now 8 years old and have a client roster that includes Spotify, Procter & Gamble, Netflix, Xfinity, Apple, AT&T, Samsung, American Express, the NFL, Coca-Cola, TikTok, YouTube, Sony, Nestle, Snickers, Hyundai, Tiffany, Hilton, Nissan, Jeep, and Facebook.
How does Bulldog DM innovate?
John J. Petrocelli: Livestreaming is a constantly evolving industry, and given our focus on premium content; we are always innovating. We are regularly seeing social platforms adopting and prioritizing livestreaming. Today we can enable live treams on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. We’ve learned the nuances of each platform, which is very helpful to our clients looking to reach and engage viewers. We’ve also worked with a wide range of artists that are always looking to reach fans in new and creative ways. We’ve worked with Kanye West, Avril Lavigne, Joji, Monsta X, Janelle Monae, A$AP Ferg, Foo Fighters, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Marshmello, and The Roots, among others allowing to adopt our best practices that support their vision and creative process. We’ve also developed a pay per view solution for artists that allows them to use our tech in a white-labeled manner. We also have a thriving brand business and the brand marketers that lead these companies are looking for ways to leverage live video to differentiate themselves from their competitors, which helps keeps us on our toes and innovating.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
John J. Petrocelli: The pandemic has thrust livestreaming into the forefront of the tech, music, events, and media industries. Our business has shifted in that we aren’t working on major music festivals or concerts but, moreover, enabling virtual events and livestreams. We’ve had to develop a process to manage events in a remote manner with a virtual master control set up. We’ve seen significant growth in all areas and have had to expand as a result. We’ve also embraced philanthropy and have become partners with NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association comprised of 2,900 independently owned venues that were the first to shut down and will be the last to re-open as a result of COVID 19. In partnership with NIVA and YouTube, we produced the Save Our Stages Festival in October that featured 35 performances by music artists in 24 NVIA venues, including the Foo Fighters at the Troubadour in LA, Miley Cyrus at Whiskey a Go-Go, The Roots at The Apollo, and many others. We’ve also enabled The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Big Night to drive donations to the museum, the New York City High School Virtual Graduation, and the Small Business Live Festival in support of small businesses adversely affected by the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
John J. Petrocelli: We had to somewhat re-architect our company to operate virtually and also produce and enable livestreams remotely. We quickly sorted that out and then began to focus on supporting many of the large projects that came to us and prioritizing causes. We’ve learned that giving back is just as important as growing the business. We’ve seen the live music industry largely shutter, so we’ve built pay per view solutions and strategies to help music artists both livestream and sell more tickets to their shows.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Bulldog DM in the future?
John J. Petrocelli: I try to walk and to exercise. Walking seems to be the best remedy for mental and physical health. I invested in a Peloton, which has surely helped, and begun taking yoga. We stay in constant communication as a company via Zoom, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Slack, and other methods and actively encourage time away from laptops to decompress and unwind. Live events are exciting, but they are also stressful. My entire team has worked at either Live Nation or AEG, so they understand the pressure of the event world, which helps immensely, and we bring in additional help (producers, camera operators, etc.) to properly manage all of our projects.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
John J. Petrocelli: Most of our competitors have just started livestreaming in the past few months, so our 20-year experience really stands out. In addition, we have access to the best and most proven live streaming tech on the market today. Our client roster validates our position and reinforces our emphasis on premium content. Our competitors don’t have the breadth of experience nor the roster of blue-chip clients, which further differentiates us. I have a 20-year background in technology sales, which certainly helps, but moreover, we have the most seasoned and experienced technical team and can provide solutions that our competitors cannot. But competition is always welcome as it helps grow and validate the industry.
Your final thoughts?
John J. Petrocelli: Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It’s a constant grind, but I have always followed the wisdom of Mark Cuban, who is essentially The Godfather of livestreaming. Mark is always preaching that ’sales cures all’ and drives companies, and I could not agree with more. We really emphasize listening to our clients, and as a result, we learn where the industry is heading or, moreover, where it should be heading. Having a great team is key to success, and I’ve found that being a resource and being helpful along the way is good karma for all.
The pandemic has presented new challenges for everyone, and we look forward to the day when we can all enjoy a live event either at the venue or via livestream on our device.