Outwardly known to the universe as the saxophonist/guitarist for Pink Floyd, Supertramp, and Toto, Scott Page is so much more than a musician and performer. He’s also an entrepreneur and a technical phenomenon, serving as CEO for a master project called Think:EXP. It’s based in Los Angles and described by Scott as “a live immersive experience and media company,” with technology so advanced you might imagine it’s alien-driven.
Scott has also created Walt Tucker Productions, a post-production company including projects for the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Janet Jackson, Garth Brooks, Scorpions and several others. He also produced Tuneland, an award-winning CD-ROM game and educational title for his company 7th Level. Tuneland is the world’s first interactive musical cartoon with over 11 million titles sold.
Aside from all that, Scott is frequently invited as a guest lecturer and panelist at numerous new media conferences. He’s also a featured guest mentor on over 150 episodes of the weekly syndicated radio show, Business Rockstars, hosted by Ken Rutkowski.
With so much going on I was fortunate enough to meet Scott at a pre-Oscar soirée in Los Angeles, and was instantly intrigued and infatuated. Not knowing what a technological powerhouse lurked behind the cool, easy going, Pink Floyd multi-instrumental genius, I felt compelled to have a conversation with him. Still trying to wrap my head around Think:EXP, the newest, and most innovative, 360 Domed, virtual reality (minus the glasses), live Rock celebration currently on the planet, I decided to let Scott explain and that he did with the confidence of an avalanche, the persuasiveness of a tsunami, and the paramount importance of a raging hurricane.
Louder Than War: I don’t even know where to start…
Let me give you a bit of background, an overview of what’s going on. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur and tech guy for quite a few years, with a handful of companies in the tech space. I was fortunate to have taken one of them public – 7th Level – where I co-produced and directed the world’s first interactive cartoon called Tuneland back in the day. 7th Level is what really got me excited about new media and I’ve never looked back. Since then I’ve been the guy focused on bridging the gap between technology and entertainment. That’s what I’ve been working on for the last 20 plus years.
Tell us about your new company Think:EXP (Think Experience)
Our first Think:EXP experience is a Think:FloydEXP called Beyond the Wall, an immersive exploration of the music of Pink Floyd. Playing with Pink Floyd and understanding the power of that brand it only made sense to make this our first project. Our plan is to explore other great artists and possibly do a Think:BowieEXP, Think:HendrixEXP, a variety of different shows, all in this new immersive entertainment space.
I believe the future of entertainment and technology is accelerating at an extremely fast pace now because of three main drivers hitting their stride at the same time: bandwidth, low cost storage and horsepower. Horsepower meaning the power of mobile devices and today’s computers. The cost of computing has dropped so much along with instant global communications and sharing of media has changed the game. People are constantly being bombarded with so much free content through social media and other outlets that in order to get their attention you have to provide a different experience. And if done right, will pay for that experience. There is no doubt the next wave of entertainment for consumers is a truly immersive experience, and that’s where Think:EXP lives, creating these truly unique experiences. In fact, our first live experience is in a 360° immersive dome – like VR without glasses. In our first experience, Beyond the Wall, we explore the music of Pink Floyd with an all-star band: I’ve got Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction on drums, Norwood Fisher from Fishbone on bass, Kenny Olsen on guitar, who was a founding member of Kid Rock, plus, Roberta Friedman, who toured with me on Pink Floyd. On top of that we are also bringing in a slew of guest artists to give it a unique twist. We’ve sold out all 13 shows so far and it all keeps growing, so we now are on the right track. It’s wild – one of the craziest concert experiences ever. We’re doing it again April 5th and 6th At Wisdome LA.
This is amazing and impressive.
Thank you. It’s a lot of fun. The mission for Think:EXP is building a platform needed to support the new way artists need to grow their business. It consists of both the live show technology stack that’s needed to put on these immersive experiences plus the online audience management and media platform needed to stay in touch with the customers after the shows. The online experience provides on going engagement and adds a value-added subscription product business. Actually, we’re creating a whole new business model. People ask, “is this a tribute band?” I tell them “no, it’s a business model.” We are really trying to reinvent the entire space.
What do you mean reinvent the entire space?
As you know, today you can’t sell music anymore and you are vying for your audience’s attention that’s being eaten up by all the free content available today. Streaming has taken over and the number of streams to make any money is so high it’s impossible for most artists to make any money. So, what do you sell? The two things you can actually sell as an artist today is, first, the relationship – the fans want to get close to their artist and will pay for that relationship and second the experience.
Where are you going with Think:EXP
Think:EXP’s strategy is somewhat like combining elements of Cirque du Soleil-meets TED Talks-meets Burning Man! We are currently designing three mobile trucks that will house our digital circus and traveling domes. The plan is to tour cities around the country. It’s called The Grand Scientific Musical Theatre.
You’re my new hero! Tell me more about this Grand Scientific Musical Theatre.
I did The Grand Scientific Musical Theatre 26 years ago in Las Vegas at the Thomas and Mack Arena. The basic concept is marrying the most creative minds and latest innovations with the best of the best in entertainment to create experiences like never before. At that first GSMT show, we had the very first circular video walls, first 3-D audio in an arena, first real time 3-D talking head as the show host, voiced by Charles Fleischer the voice of Roger Rabbit, Peter Max was painting real time on silicon graphics machines– along with Cirque du Soleil, and a band made up of Graham Nash, Todd Rundgren, John Entwhisle from the Who, Skunk Baxter from the Doobie Brothers, Tower of Power horns and we even had an artist painting real time in Japan and streaming it across to us while John Anderson from Yes sang with the Nevada Symphony Orchestra. 16,000 people showed up and we raised $1 million for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That was in 1992, which was really early for all this and was tagged as the beginning of SillyWood (Silicon Valley and Hollywood). So basically, I’m now re-launching that whole concept again with the new company, Think Experience or Think:EXP
That is wild.
Yeah! It’s a lot of fun and we’re having a blast. Right now we’re in the midst of bringing on board a whole slew of the brightest minds on the planet focused on this new entertainment space and sponsors. THX is our first major sponsor and we will be working with them on taking live immersive audio to the next level. The idea is to create a playground for all these tech companies to come together with the latest, newest and greatest innovations they’ve got, and then marry all that into one great show that we can put out on the road. We’re also in the midst of a potential residency in Las Vegas.
You mentioned education as part of Think:EXP
Yes, that’s correct. A big part of our model is making education and learning a major part of our platform. So, if you can imagine it, at night we have the shows going on while during the day we have community events and speaker series all using this new technology that’s teaching and learning through play.
We’re also teaming up with different conferences to bring them this new experience to their events. The goal is to reinvent the conference and speaking space where we add a more entertainment experience to the model. Conferences can often be kind of boring, so we’ll start bringing more art, comedians, magicians, VR and AR and other unique experiences to these events. Then for the grand finale we tie everything together into one big and engaging show to conclude the night.
Tell us more about the Think:Floyd Experience.
Something else we’re baking into the pie for our first Think:FloydEXP is not just the live music but an art and memorabilia exhibit that goes along with it. The idea is that the minute you get your ticket the experience starts. Imagine for example – your ticket is like an old record cover and when you look at it through your camera phone using augmented reality the ticket comes alive. Then you walk through the exhibit dome where there’s a series of artwork and memorabilia that’s all tied to an interactive storyline that also comes alive using your phone to connect you to other interactive experiences. From there you enter the actual live immersive show.
That all sounds like something from a future universe. But then again, you’re talking to someone who doesn’t even know how to cut and paste.
Haha, cut and paste is a good one to learn for sure.
We basically want to push the limits in the entertainment space. We’re working on exciting new ways to generate revenue and make money in today and tomorrow’s new world. It’s all tied into creating an experiential base and then moving it all into a continuous online experience. Participants can receive not only premium content but subscription products that show up on your doorstep in the mail. Once we’ve tested the new platform, we can start running different acts and different artists through it. It’s a pretty complex process but we see the value already of assembling a platform for artists to actually start using this new form of experience for their own businesses. That’s where we’re going.
Was this originally your idea?
For the most part it pretty much originated from me but is really based on trends and working with my other business partners, I’ve been in the tech space for such a long time.
So, you might become everyone’s hero?
Lol. Not so sure about that, but hopefully we can forge new ground to help artists build a real business in a world where most of the music and content is free.
I understand you’re working with charities, can you tell me more about this?
Sure, a big part of Think:EXP is our belief in a “we first” strategy and building purpose into our business to help solve community problems. We’ve partnered up with the Harold Robinson Foundation, a nonprofit organization here in Los Angeles that’s working to empower youth in the inner city. They do incredible work for the community with programs that actually work.
Norwood Fisher, Flea from the Chili Peppers and I plus a whole bunch of other musicians are building a new music school in downtown Watts, right near Markham Middle School. This area is considered one of the roughest areas in the country. We are very excited about this project, it’s so rewarding to work with the kids and see their lives change. The whole idea is to build giving into all our projects to enrich people’s lives. The purpose of the Think:EXP’s entire system is to create a win-win for everybody.
That’s a very cool concept.
I see you also have been mentoring artists
Yes, I love teaching artists. As you know, it’s really hard for the new artist to make it today but I believe it’s still the greatest time in history for the new artist, but it takes a different set of skills. Because of technology everyone has the ability to bypass the middleman and go directly to the customer and take the order directly. That fundamental capability changes the game big time.
Artists need to realise they are not just an artist anymore: you’re really a media company. That’s what I try to tell artists: you’ve got to think like a startup now. You’re an entrepreneur.
The first thing I ask an artist, is this a business or a hobby? If it’s a business, then you must make money. You have to think of your fans as really your customers, plus you have to understand how to convert people into paying customers. Those are things you must understand today if you’re going to be an artist making a living in music.
You mentioned S.P.A.C.E the other day, what is that?
S.P.A.C.E. is a thing I teach which stands for: Story, Plan, Army, Conversion and Education. It’s a business formula designed to teach artists how to think like a startup business since the serious artist today have to think like that to succeed. I taught this at USC a few years ago. I used to lecture out there on this subject and then they asked me if I’d teach the class.
Can you please explain S.P.A.C.E.
This is really the new business formula for artists: it starts with Story. In order to rise above the noise and get anybody’s attention today you must have a compelling story. One of the most important parts of the story, that most don’t think about, is the key words and phrases tied to that story and how that can help you discover your audience through data. What’s incredible today is having access to data to target and go out and connect with like-minded people. It’s all about finding people that care about your offer as opposed to just throwing anything out there and hoping for the best. Targeting the right audience converts at a much higher rate and the story is what determines who your audience is.
Next comes P for Plan. I’ve adapted the Lean Startup Principles used today in Silicon Valley for tech startups and adapted it for artists. These startup business principles are mostly the same for all startup businesses. I use the Lean Canvas, a one page business plan which is one of my all-time favourite business tools. This exercise really helps you to define what you are going to do, and most importantly what you’re not going to do. It really helps you focus your plan of attack. If you’re starting a business, you can find the Lean Canvas at LeanStack.com. I highly recommend it to any entrepreneur wanting to start a business.
Next is A for Army – your army is your super fans and influencers that become part of your team and will help you grow your brand by doing tasks and helping with contacts – the goal is to build your team of people who really care about you and your project. On another note, we know that the passionate super fan is actually where the dollars are. By using data analysis we’ve learned an artist will generate roughly 50 percent of total revenue from just one to three percent of their audience. Super fans are the core.
Next is C for Conversion If you’re not converting fans into customers it’s a hobby. This is where I teach about conversion funnels – which is a topic on its own, I suggest for anyone interested to Google it, it’s a well-defined practice now.
And the last one E for Education which basically means you have to take time every day to learn the things I’ve outlined above or you won’t be able to execute your plan. With everything moving so fast an artist must stay educated on where the market is going.
Tell us more about how you came up with the S.P.A.C.E. formula
The concept that got me thinking and to develop the S.P.A.C.E. formula was based on The Thousand True Fans strategy. Meaning a true fan is someone who will spend $100 a year. If I have 1,000 fans who will spend $100 a year, there is my first $100,000. It’s a totally different model from trying to go big from the start and getting your stuff out everywhere. This instead is much more about going small but being very targeted and building a repeatable model around a smaller number of people and once it’s working, and only then, scale up.
How important a part do you think social media plays today for artists?
It’s a different game now. You must realise that social media isn’t just a marketing vehicle any more, it’s actually your business. Whoever owns the audience wins.
Are you planning on taking Think:EXP out of the country?
Yes. We’re headlining a big festival in Budapest on July 30 and we are picking up a whole series of other dates. Looks like we’re going to Moscow, St. Petersburg and a lot of other places, too.
What do you love more being an artist or a technologist?
I’ve been an artist, musician and technologist for many years – but I love being in the tech space and combining it with my art. To me they are both coming from the same place. Building a business is about being creative also so I approach them the same way.
Most artists I know don’t really have the business sense and are more on the creative side only, do you agree?
Yes, for most artists it’s not in their DNA. It seems so natural to me. My dad was a serial entrepreneur. So, when I was growing up, we had a donut business, lighting business, candy business, a boat business, I went through so many businesses on behalf of my dad, who was also a musician I guess it was ingrained in me and now part of my DNA.
I read somewhere that you also were on the Lawrence Welk show as a child?
It’s true. My dad was in that band for 14 years and I grew up hanging out at the studios during the early days of TV. It’s mind blowing to see how far we’ve come. Here’s a funny Scott Page fact: I’m the only guy on the planet who’s played in both Pink Floyd and Lawrence Welk! Now that’s a claim to fame.
I’ve always loved business: I’d be on the road with Pink Floyd and I would take all my free time to study. Since I knew I was going to be on the road for two years, I’d take up business pretty heavily. I’d be reading all of these business books and Gilmour would always ask me, “Hey, what are you reading?”. I’d answer a business book and that I was going to build a business. He would chuckle. That was clearly a motivator for me, happy to say it worked out.
Well I think it’s cool that you think with both sides of your brain.
The only problem with that is not knowing which side to listen to!
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.