Vancouver's Dan Mangan knows what it's like to play for 30 people in a club that fits 400.
"It feels really disheartening to be on stage," Mangan said. "It feels kind of pathetic. From the audience's perspective, they kind of feel bad for you."
But it's a much different experience if the room is small.
"If you can play to ... those same exact people in a room that only holds 40 people, all of a sudden your experience is no longer about being in a vacuous club that feels awkward," Mangan said.
"You're in this intimate space where now magic can kind of occur."
That's why — based on the feedback of more than 2,000 of his Facebook followers — Mangan has co-founded Side Door, a start-up that aims to connect up-and-coming musicians with audiences and hosts in small venues across the country, including individual homes.
Fixing live music's pain points
Mangan had been kicking the idea around for a while with co-founder Laura Simpson. But they wanted to make sure they were on the right track. So Mangan put out a call to his Facebook followers to find out what aspects of the live music experience were bothering people.
"We could not believe the response," Mangan said. "It was amazing how personal and how unique all of these gripes with going to see live music [were]."
Respondents talked about everything from transparency issues and perceived gouging from the ticket industry to late start times to tall people blocking shorter people's view of the stage.
It's not that Mangan doesn't like large shows — he cites a 16,000-person Radiohead show at Thunderbird Stadium as one of his favourite concert experiences. But with Side Door, he hopes to facilitate small, one-off shows for emerging artists in unique, intimate venues, which he hopes can alleviate some of the problems people identified in the survey.
'A sustainable touring economy'
Beyond being memorable experiences for audiences, Mangan said smaller shows are a boon for artists still making a name for themselves — both experientially and financially.
"If you play a house concert, let's say 20 people pay 20 bucks. That's $400," Mangan said. "[But] if 20 people pay 20 bucks at a club, you walk away with $40.
"So here's a situation where you can pay for your gas. Sometimes you even stay with the host," he continued. "It's maximizing the efficiency of touring."
Mangan said the relationships formed in these intimate spaces are invaluable and can last an artist's entire career.
He speaks from experience.
"I knew that if I could play to smaller audiences that cared, not only am I making more money and creating a sustainable touring economy, but I'm also actually creating relationships," he said.
"And I'm still friends with some of the people whose couches I crashed on 10 years ago. And to boot, some of those people who were at those tiny little shows — they've been to 20 shows since, you know? And they are the deepest, most loyal supporters that I have."
Side Door is still, as Mangan puts it, "extremely beta," with a full launch yet to come, but anyone interested in playing or hosting such a show can sign up on Side Door's website.
With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.