Bakstage takes on the Clubhouse model, but with more control for creators

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‘Video killed the radio star’: That’s how the song goes. But if you look around, radio or rather audio is getting its revenge in 2021. Everyone is building an app for the hot ‘live audio chat’ space, thanks to Clubhouse, the invite and iOS-only app, which has seen tremendous growth. The latest live audio app is Bakstage from New York-based Flyx, an entertainment driven social network.

For co-founder and CEO Shashak Singh, Bakstage complements their main product Flyx and its audience, though it will launch as a standalone app. There will be an option to go to Bakstage in its main Flyx app as well.

“Flyx is a social network for people to share what they like, what they are watching and where to watch that content. It is primarily a content discovery platform. After watching something, a lot of users were looking for a space to discuss a movie or show or even a cricket match,” Singh told indianexpress.com over a call on why they felt the need to create this app.

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The company, Singh claims, wanted to create forums last year, and even tinkered with the idea of podcasts, but then decided to do Bakstage where people could interact with the conversation, rather than keep it one-sided as is typical in a podcast.

Focus on content creators

In terms of technology, there’s not much to differentiate them from Clubhouse, the app everyone wants to copy these days. But Flyx wants to pitch Bakstage as something different from a content perspective. “We wanted to create a space where users discuss movies and behind the scenes. Cast and crew members can also come and discuss,” he explained.

Shashank Singh, co-founder and CEO of Flyx media.

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The focus will be on getting content creators to the platform to host their own shows. The idea is also to encourage those who are into live speaking and can hold an audience. So talk shows, live singing, local artists, perhaps even cricket commentary along with books and storytelling is the kind of content Bakstage wants to create.

Just like Clubhouse, anyone can create a voice room and invite others as speakers, while the audience can join in as listeners. Opening the app shows that there is an option to raise one’s hand inside a voice room, though a moderator or creator of the room can disable this. Listeners and speakers can also invite others into the room and of course, there is the option to leave quietly.

One difference is that Bakstage will let creators have the option of recording their rooms from day one, something which Clubhouse does not offer or encourage. The logic here is if creators plan shows, or discussions, they would ideally not want to lose that. Bakstage will also support an option to upload these recordings to different podcasting platforms, which could open up more revenue options for those who create such shows.

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Monetisation tools

In fact, this is also the reason why the app will also look to encourage ways of monetising such shows, though tools for this will only be available later on. Incidentally, Clubhouse has just launched an option to pay creators on the app, and said it will not take any commission from the payments.

“We want to become a marketplace where they can find an audience. Subscriptions would be like you have fans who can pay to support your content. We are looking at multiple monetisation tools, including tipping. We are also looking at shows where creators can sell tickets,” Singh said, giving an example of perhaps live and exclusive shows taking place on Sundays where only the first 100 members get to login via tickets.

The company is also exploring the idea of sponsored shows, though it says a large chunk of the revenue would go to the creators, while they would take a minimal technology fee.

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Currently up to a thousand people can join the room, while eight speakers can be part of the discussion, including the moderator. A moderator will have the power to downgrade a speaker as a listener or vice-versa. The company says they want to scale up to 5,000 people in a room, then 10,000 and eventually maybe look at 100,000 users in a room, though that will be some time away.

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Community policy

Singh is a bit unclear on how to police the platform though. He said they have strict community guidelines and users will be expected to abide by these — no, the platform does not record rooms as evidence.

While users can report a room and Bakstage will take down any room in violation of its policies, the enforcement efforts will be community driven. He admits the room can only be taken down when someone reports it while it is taking place live. Once the room ends, reporting a room won’t be of much help. .

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Singh accepts that discussions on the issue are still evolving and they also need to ensure privacy of users. “We need balance on that. We might record, but the users have to know that the rooms are being recorded,” he said, adding that they are still consulting lawyers on what will be the best route. Eventually they might keep the recordings for a fixed time frame.

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