Imagine if MTV’s Unplugged was resurrected in the form of an exclusive balcony showcase. What would you get? Balcony TV – an online music network dedicated to featuring artists performing on balconies across the globe. Stephen O’Regan, the founder of Balcony TV, was inspired by his very own Dublin, Ireland balcony experience and thus the interactive network was born. Stephen along with music industry veteran and GM of Balcony TV, Jeff Clyburn, have made it their mission to introduce both budding and popular musicians to the world’s music scene. They have a knack for what’s next and ear for what’s current. “In the future, as we grow we’re getting approached by more and more established artists. So, there will be more high profile artists doing Balcony going forward,” Jeff states. “We had Mumford and Sons in the past, but we had Mumford and Sons before they even got a record deal. We had Kimbra before her new song came out. We had Ed Sheeran when he was 17 or 18. Now we’re getting established artists reaching out to us because they recognize the power and reach of Balcony TV.” Balcony is certainly doing something right – it has amassed over 45,000,000 worldwide views. Balcony TV founder Stephen O’Regan talks to Life + Times about the network’s past and the process behind hosting a live show.
Life+Times: I love the concept behind Balcony TV. When did you first come up with the idea?
Stephen O’Regan: Well, Balcony TV really started in 2006 when myself and my two friends were sitting around our apartment in Brooklyn one day and I recall it was a very sunny day – which is a moment that’s not often the case. We used to go out on the balcony and put our garbage on it and I think I was slightly hungover on this day. I noticed that we did have a great view from our balcony, but we never really gave the balcony the love that it deserved with the great view that it had. I came back into my apartment and said to my two friends, “We should really use our balcony more, you know?” We came up with this idea for Balcony TV and my friends went out and got a television station on our balcony. Balcony TV and BalconyTV.com – I immediately just thought in my mind, ‘You know we really stood out pretty easy.’ Really when we first started off, the whole idea was I’d just get a camera and film on the balcony each day…go up and down the street. I got a couple of local bands and it really just became a music website by itself.
L+T: It kind of reminds me of MTV’s Unplugged from back in the day. I used to watch that religiously – Alanis Morissette, Nirvana, JAY Z, and all of those different sets. What’s different between Balcony TV and MTV Unplugged is the fact that it’s more interactive. In terms of expansion, do you have any global initiatives planned currently and for 2014?
SO: Balcony TV is a very, very simple thing. It’s just kind of growing in a very strange way. The fact of the matter is we get emails every single day from different cities that want to sign up to produce in the different places. We just launched in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and we recently launched in Athens (Greece) and New Orleans. I’d personally like to launch them in some more African countries. I think there’s big potential there. We have a bunch of locations across America; locations in Europe, we have lots of locations in Australia, we have lots of locations in Asia, [and] India. Africa I think would be a great opportunity to kind of bring in the local talent there to the world. I think it would be spectacular as well. Well, apart from that we are kind of working behind the scenes here. I think we’d like to look into Balcony TV show as well – maybe like a “Best of Balcony TV From Around The World.” People always say “Why don’t you do a record label” or “Why don’t you do a festival?” “Why don’t you this?” “Why don’t you do that?” It’s possible, but sometimes you gotta keep it simple.
L+T: Absolutely! I agree. Not everything has to be franchised out.
SO: Not everything has to happen!
L+T: You don’t need a festival or a magazine. That to me is actually kind of predictable. Stick to what you’re doing and keep it simple, people will know you for what you are. It’s not like, “Oh, I only heard about the festival” and so forth. Say someone from Johannesburg, South Africa wanted to curate a balcony show, what process would they take to get a band to do a showcase there?
SO: We have producers around the world and they produce a new show for us each week. Once you get the rights to produce for Balcony TV, the requirement is that you produce a new show for every week. It’s really become like a big global family of producers and we all talk to each other freely. It’s quite inspiring actually. What happens is when I get an email it typically sounds like, “Wow! Balcony TV is really amazing! I’m a huge fan. I noticed there’s no Balcony TV here in Caracas, Venezuela. Why is this? Is there any chance that I could do it?” My advice to that is if you’re gonna do it, you need to do a test show for us. You need a balcony with a great view and the pictures need to be good. They make a test show and if the test show’s okay and I get a sense that I can work with the producer in that place, we’ll give them the rights to produce – we’ll start doing it. It’s very simple really. We have about 45 cities and there’s about 30 cities that never got their act together. I always say to people when they start off doing is, “Keep it simple in your mind. Don’t overcomplicate it.’ At the end of the day, it’s just one camera on a balcony with a band. It’s strange within the recent year especially, a lot of us have really upped the picture quality and sound quality. Shows particularly in Brooklyn and Tel Aviv, Barcelona, and Johannesburg really up the ante in production. Does that answer your question?
L+T: Yes, it does. I was just really curious as to how the entire process works. I want to host one!
SO: The interesting thing about it is that the Balcony TV here in Brooklyn is done by two young guys who one of them works in a music venue and the other is a video guy. The guy that does Balcony in Nashville is a record producer. The people that do Balcony in LA are involved in copyrighted music. The Balcony in Sydney is a girl and handles the gigs. You have all these people around the world that do their own little thing that are kind of involved in music. There’s a lot of positive energy that comes off of it as well.