Like that song that’s playing in your Uber? Chances are, your driver is being paid to play it to you. That’s if you are in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Philadelphia or DC, where a startup called Steereo has been recruiting rideshare drivers to become mobile music promoters. Steereo has teamed up with 15,000 drivers thus far, according to company CEO Anne Kavanagh, and is getting ready to expand to a slew of additional cities in the coming months. “The rideshare economy has now become a real thing,” she said. Steereo’s founders got the idea to use ridesharing as a vehicle for music promotion while sitting in a Lyft after CES 2017, according to Kavanagh. Their driver was very enthusiastic about the music he was playing, and the founders realized that they were his captive audience. They asked the driver if we would accept money to promote music in his car, and he was ready to sign up. Steereo started testing the idea with a small pilot program in September of 2017, and began operating in earnest last year. The interest from drivers has been huge, said Kavanagh, prompting plans to expand to San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, and Chicago by March. The startup currently charges labels and managers $0.05 per minute of music played to rideshare passengers, with drivers receiving a $0.03 of it. Drivers play Steereo’s music through a dedicated app, which promotes tracks with voice plugs, and also tracks whether the car is actually in motion. On average, drivers make more that $120 per month with Steereo, according to its website. That may not sound all that much, but it’s a stream of ancillary income that can help drivers grow their total monthly earnings, argued Kavanagh, who likened Stereo to services that allow drivers to sell snacks, or place advertising on top of their cars. “We all contribute to additional income for the driver,” she said. But does Steereo actually work? Will riders remember those songs, to the point where they look them up on Spotify, or possibly even check out a band’s next gig? That’s a question that the company can’t quite answer yet, with Kavanagh only pointing to anecdotal evidence. The startup plans to run an in-depth study to verify its impact on streaming plays and more as part of an artist-in-residence program soon. Beyond that, Steereo is also looking to empower artists and managers with additional data insights, and ultimately establish itself as a way to break new artists to the Uber- and Lyft-riding masses. Said Kavanagh: “We want to be the go-to source for new releases.”


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