Written by Andrew Seale

Ivan Ng isn’t out to fix the broken music industry; he’s out to bypass it entirely with Wave, a platform connecting artists directly with their fans.

“It’s kind of silly that in 2015, you’re booking a venue the same way they were doing in 1960s or 1980s,” says Ivan. “When we started looking at it from our point of view and the musician’s points of view it didn’t seem like a very streamlined process.”

So Ivan and co-founders/team members Aditya Surabi, Zachary Yale, Nicole Boudreau, and Aidan Boudreau, have proposed a new model – let the fans vote.

“Essentially we allow fans to campaign or crowdfund a show,” explains Ivan.

Wave starts with the musicians setting their show goals/ticket sales to a number that makes financial sense for them. The cost of every ticket is predetermined and once the show meets the goal, Wave arranges the venue.

For the co-founders, who pitched their concept at StartGBC’s pitch competition in the spring presented by the Digital Media and Gaming Incubator at George Brown College, Toronto seems like a logical home base. For one, it’s home to several of the country’s largest music festivals and countless venues.

Yet it still fails to be a stopping point for some of the independent bands Ivan and his friends want to see. They either bypass Canada entirely, he says, or they come to Toronto and sell out of tickets because the venues are too small to hold their whole fan base.

“This platform allows them to see and say ‘oh, we have a huge following here,’ ” says Ivan. “By voting you can see the number of pre-purchased tickets.”

It offers a bit of a guarantee for artists, making it a little easier to chart tours. But Wave is still in beta testing and Ivan says there are no illusions about the struggle ahead.

“In order for this to work you have to have fans and musicians – fans won’t come if there are no musicians and musicians won’t come if there are no fans,” he says. They’ve placed their focus on finding musicians to partner with, to grow with and entice through Wave’s behind the scenes analytics showing where the bands have sway.

Toronto’s the litmus test.

“Toronto is our test bed – it’s an area we’re familiar with, we know a lot of venues and a lot of people in small independent bands – so it really does make sense,” he says also pointing to the large talent pool. “After Toronto we want to expand south of the border immediately.”  

In the meantime, it’s about using the sprawling music scene in the city to test out Wave’s hypothesis.

“If your priority is to make money or generate a profit, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” says Ivan. “Our main focus is our users… if it’s successful the money will come – it’s always better to have 100 people love you than to have a million people think you’re okay.”