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Vancouver musician Dan Mangan lands $500K 'Dragons' Den' deal for music venue business

The Airbnb of music venues.

Touring musicians know that some of the most memorable shows for both artist and audience are the ones that take place spontaneously in a venue that wasn't necessarily designed for a show.

Similarly, DIY venues are the lifeblood of the Vancouver underground music scene. Picture indie and punk shows that take place at hole-in-the-wall venues built by the community for the community with plywood on the floor and graffiti on the walls.

Vancouver musician Dan Mangan has capitalized on the energy and fervour for live music in unconventional spaces and co-founded a web-based platform that supports living room, bookstore, and warehouse shows.

Side Door was developed by Mangan and Nova Scotian music industry entrepreneur Laura Simpson back in 2017 but has just secured a massive $500K deal with Arlene Dickinson on TV's Dragons' Den.

"I’d been dreaming of a platform like Side Door since playing hundreds of house concerts in my early days," Mangan tells V.I.A. "If I played to 30 people in a bar, I got paid in beer tickets. If I played to 30 people in a backyard, I made $500 and everybody had a more impactful experience. Small shows can pack big value for all if they’re done right. It’s just a more feasible way to tour with less overhead when you’re on your way up."

Much like Airbnb, Side Door connects musicians with hosts and facilitates booking, billing, ticketing, and revenue splitting. It even helps with show promotion and ticket scanning or audience check-in.

Part of the platform is a feature called “Show Calls,” which allows artists and hosts to broadcast their availability to create shows. So far there are over 700 artists associated with the platform such as Broken Social SceneHaviah MightySaid the Whale, and, of course, Mangan.

"The Show Call feature was the perfect tool to zone in on finding what I was really looking for,” says Mangan in a press release. “A hundred people casually said they'd be interested in hosting me in Vancouver on my Instagram post; 17 of them created Side Door space profiles and messaged me on the platform so I could check them out. About five of those were seriously worth considering, and in the end, I found the perfect space that I would never have found otherwise. The process naturally narrowed the focus for me. It happened quickly, and I didn't have to waste hours going through endless social DMs."

In addition to the $1.3 million worth of ticket sales the app has generated so far, they've hosted over 2,000 shows in weird and wonderful spaces like breweries, galleries, farms, and private homes, and that's without the Dragon's endorsement.

“Side Door believes live performance can build community, lift hearts and generate empathy,” says Simpson.

As for the site's impact in Vancouver, Mangan says, "there are fewer venues in Vancouver than ever. I see Side Door as a means to empower artists to make a living doing what they love, and for regular folks to become curators for their local communities as hosts. On Side Door, you can tour regionally, or even throughout different suburbs of an urban centre. You can really maximize your impact and create a long-lasting meaningful relationship with your supporters."

Mangan imagines a world where artists can book shows in minutes with perfect strangers.

The concept is a potential antidote to the recent shuttering of many venues, the monopoly of large ticket sellers, and the struggle for touring indie artists to connect with audiences.

@danmanganmusic #greenscreen ♬ Sandstorm - Darude