Livelist Interview: Ben Bowler of Chew.TV

LiveList are an application that lets you subscribe to your favourite artists and see them perform live regardless of where that stream is hosted. Key shows on Chew have been showing up in the LiveList app and on the website for a month or two now so I spoke to Sam Jourdan about the origins of Chew and why the platforms linked together so nicely.

Read the original interview on the Livelist Blog.

Our LiveList London correspondant Sam Jourdan sat down to speak with Ben Bowler, founder of Chew.TV to discuss what’s going on at their offices.

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LiveList: So to begin, tell me about yourself and your history with music. 

Ben: My name is Ben Bowler. Before Chew I spent about three and a bit years in music. When I first got into techy-stuff when I was a teenager I came from a musical family. I started drumming when I was six and my dad is a Jazz arranger and runs various events and bands. I got into tech, taught myself to programme in high school, started my own freelancing gig in sixth form but then wanted to get into the music industry.

When I was about 19 I moved to London on a whim to do an internship at a company called AIE Media, which is a music company that runs a lot of brands around electronic music specifically. They run UKF, Drum N Bass Arena, Get Darker, and a variety of other ones. That was my education into the music industry. I worked there for three and a half years. I started as a marketing intern, and by the end of my first month I’d been working on loads of web-tech stuff. I was working across all the different brands, I built a livestreaming platform called UKF Live at the time and then kept it going from there.

LiveList: What was the impetus behind starting Chew.TV?

Ben: A lot of the seeds of Chew come from the bits and bobs of what I was doing there. AIE had been using livestreams for 10-12 years to promote stuff, to promote artists, compilations and events. WE wanted to use all that content to drive sales to tickets and merchandise across all the brands. In the end that project transitioned into a plain e-commerce thing, so I wanted to keep it going. 

When I left to work for Vice I’d accumulated all this livestreaming knowledge, so I kept being asked back by promoters to do their video prodocution for them. I was also working with Chew co-founder Will called Eat Bass, which was all about new ways to discover musical experiences. 

I ended up leaving Vice prematurely to work on Chew, which lead to the first stage of Chew.TV in 2014. We were doing video production for some pretty big brands, but it wasn’t a core skill of mine or Will’s nor was it scaleable; we could only do so many shows. You end up being stuck at events at 4:00 am, totally sober having to pull cables out of sweaty roof vents. 

That’s where the idea came from; all of mine and Will’s experiences. We were working on the software side at the same time. We went through a business accelerator in Newcastle shortly afterwards, and boiled down the idea of why we were doing what we were doing: it came down to connecting DJs so they could promote and grow themselves. We launched Chew in 2015 and nothing I’ve done has ever grown so quickly. It blew up from there. 

LiveList: Why DJs?

Ben: Because we’d spent a year doing video production for bands, plays, live art, conferences and all these creative performances, we learned so much behind the incentives behind people doing a stream; the financial and personal incentives. I always use the example: streaming a band you’ve got  five people all earning very little. You probably need multiple cameras. Not much of a chance there’s a huge audience there of people who want to stream. The value wouldn’t be enough for them. With DJ’s, the equipment they have is already ready for streaming: it’s all about self-promotion, the whole industry. 

We did lots of research into where DJs were streaming; Twitch, and YouTube primarily. We knew it was out there, so we stripped it down and brought it straight to people.

LiveList: Do you try and make an effort to reach out and get DJs to stream with Chew.TV?

Ben: Definitely. Before we reach out we focus on making what we do the best experience for DJs. We’ve added producers and radio personaliies into the mix, but it’s a harmonious cross over

Our prime motivation is that what we’re building is targeted towarcs our audience. The fanbase of viewers have to be intereste.d We have a few people working here that are on that; reaching out towards DJs they want to bring on. 

LiveList: Who is Chew.TV for?

Ben: From the DJ-side that’s covered. From the fan side we’ve got a really interesting audience. Firstly, it’s very heavily led by content creators. Our most engaged viewers are our most engaged broadcasters. From month to month we have a ratio of 20-25% of our  viewers are DJs themselves; there’s great link between artists supporting artists. The comments are really supportive and we have a super diverse audience of fans from around the world. 

Most exciting thing we’ve found is that our viewers are incredibly engaged. The average time of watching a Chew stream has been 18-22 minutes. We’ve compared that to Facebook Live, and the average viewership there is 38 seconds, and that’s not taking in to account that 70% of those views never turn the audio on. For a DJ stream that’s pretty shocking. 

We’re building an audience of people who give a sh*t about the content. We’re also pushing people into the chat. Any show that gets more than 2 people in chat will on average stream significantly longer, and the viewers will engage significantly longer. We’ve got lots of exciting things to come with the chat that will take it further away from the plain text chat. 

LiveList: What plans do you have in the near-future for Chew?

Ben: If only you were speaking to me in a month! We have some really exciting stuff coming which we’re still testing. We’ll be trialling some stuff on some of our bigger partnership shows and some of our older fan base. Check Chew over the next month! 

We are releasing our own custom desktop app which will make broadcasting much easier for DJs. Until now DJs have been using OBS which takes a while to get your head around. Our app will make it much easier for DJs to stream: coming in the next month or so. 

LiveList: Where do you see the Livestreaming industry moving?

Ben: It’s really interesting to watch, especially with the fact that it’s become so popular now: Periscope and Meercat are examples of this. As the awareness of how easy it is to livestream it will only become more commonplace.

With music we can watch what happened with gaming. The young audience you see on Twitch.Tv; there’s no real divide between content creators and content consumers. Lots of people who watch also stream. We haven’t seen that in music so much. We have big stars using FB live and Boiler Room and stuff, but the switch will lead to big changes is when the fans start creating their own shows at a faster rate that the industry is creating content. 

The audience is the same between music and games, but there’s nothing in music that appeals to that audience at this time. My feeling is, being in the industry for a few years, is that music is always slightly behind in some respects regarding media and tech trends. Music is still trying to fit people into the old models. As the tools become easier to access we’ll start to see that shift in the music space, following the gaming space. 

LiveList: Any plans to expand? 

Ben: Yes! We’ve actually expanded our London team quite significantly, only because we were very small before. We’ve now got three people full time in London, plus a small network of contractors. We’ve also hired two senior roles: a head of partnerships and a head of artist relations, both of which have got significant industry careers behind them. I’m personally very interested in how we expand to the USA. 

When I was out last time I went with a subtle purpose with scoping out where the Chew US office will be. 

LiveList: Tell me about your blog and the Chewhiker trail.

Ben: Yeah! My blog is benbowler.com and the most recent posts on there follow my trip to the states in February and March of this year. I got to a point where Chew was expanding really quickly from the audience basis. Lots of the growth was happening in America. I wasn’t sure what the audience was. I felt like I needed to connect with them more.

I booked a ticket to LA without a return ticket. I sent an email to the top 100 new Chew users in America before I flew out. After I landed I had over 60 responses. For the next six weeks I stayed with a different Chew user every one to two nights; visited 10 cities all based off votes form the community. I streamed on 8 different Chew.TV user streams.. I learned so much about the different communities on Chew, and how forward-thinking our users are in each of their different communities. 

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