by Ed Lopez-Reyes
In addition to his work with Pink Floyd, Toto, Supertramp, and many other artists, Scott Page has endeavored in a pioneering entrepreneurial career. Page was launching interactive entertainment long before it became a necessity during the COVID pandemic: 23 years before Netflix's Bandersnatch, Page and his partners were trying to convince Hollywood to move from linear plots to interactive ones the audience could help mold. Page ushered the earliest efforts to reconcile technology and entertainment and is now in the thick of that convergence's maturity. He spoke to us about his most recent project, LIVN, fresh off a virtual performance with ThinkEXP for Burning Man 2020.
Ed Lopez-Reyes: Scott, what are you up to these days and how did the virtual Burning Man go for ThinkEXP?
Scott Page: The Burning Man was a virtual show this year, all based on Oculus Rift [virtual reality headsets]. It was an amazing project this year. It was the ‘multi-verse’ and all these companies built virtual reality installations, basically ways of entering and going through virtual Burning Man. It was fascinating because, you didn't even have to wear the glasses: if you just followed somebody on a Facebook Live stream you could basically walk all around the event with them.
To be part of that was really cool because it was the first time something of this magnitude – with all these companies building and merging it all together at the same time – happened. But I think what really came out of it was people. Because we're all cooped up now. We're all cocooned – we're home. A lot of people that probably never paid any attention to virtual reality and what it's like got to experience this. And even if you're watching it on a second-hand stream, you're saying, ‘wow, this is cool’. It's a person walking around, you hear people talking back and forth and you're like, 'holy cow, this is a trip.' So I think what it did was make people go, ‘wow, this is really going to be the future of entertainment, the next level of entertainment’. And I'm making a prediction that Microsoft is going to be massive in this. I think all venues are going to be both live and virtual, moving forward.
ELR: How do you feel this will flesh out as the future of entertainment?
SP: That's where we're going: because you're going to have a smaller amount of people at venues… but we can bring our friends in virtually. Friends can be in your feed. You can get them to come on in. I get into the venue and then I can connect with friends outside, get them in on the virtual feed so I can bring audience in from outside. My ‘super fans’: they buy the premium tickets, but they invite other people – and they get discounts on account of this. They become part of building my audience – build the audience, right? So I think it's going to happen. I think you're going to see that venues are going to need to change… all the venues, all the clubs… everything's going to integrate filming and streaming capabilities. And it just makes so much sense that you can bring in audience now and put them in these shows virtually.
ELR: You’re doing work on that plane, correct?
SP: That’s what LIVN’s all about: our whole concept of mashing the three big things together: One: the live performance – limited, high-end, live. Second: live-streaming, but the live stream is two-ways, it's not one-way – so we're really focusing on the interactive components of live streaming. Third: even though I can't hand you something through the screen I can have it delivered to your house. So that means we can be sharing – tasting a scotch together now!
People are starting to look at it in those terms: ‘Hey, let's get together Friday night. Everybody bring your best scotch, bring your best’ whatever. And we'll hang out and we'll chat with friends, smoke a cigar, whatever. So they’re interactive, virtual experiences; I can still go have a live experience and talk to friends and people, but I don't have to see them right in front of me. And I think the behaviors that we're seeing now are showing that it's actually more satisfying and it also frees up time, which creates a new lifestyle. Lifestyles are changing. Even with all of this is going on, I was seeing more people out, walking in the streets with their pets and their families, more people going out in nature. We slowed down. It was odd, really awkward at first. But, for example, I'm busier than I've ever been because instead of doing two, three meetings a day, I can do six or seven with no problem right now. And yet you still have time to have a cocktail, a barbecue, and to go hang out in the backyard.
ELR: I tried the live stream thing: I watched a Geoff Tate acoustic show and a Kingdom Come show. Both live streams – and both were great – and it was nice seeing this from the comfort of home. Not dealing with lines, people that aren’t there for the show, parking, etc.
SP: And now you're going to start seeing these drive-in things, right? So what I think will happen is people are going to start pimping their rides for concerts. These new drive-ins, it's like taking your living room to the frickin’ live show. So there's some very interesting behavioral changes taking place here. This is one of the most exciting times for me, from a creative point of view. ‘Cause there's so many problems that need to be solved, so many ways to rethink a lot of these things and it’s all about behaviors… and it ties in for me: all the stuff I've been working on from, you know, when I did MashCast; I was in the collaborative communications early on. And that's what this is. It's all collaborative communication.
ELR: That’s what comes to mind for me, it reminded me about your business work. Like when you met David Gilmour for the first time at Guitar Center in Hollywood - in that case a hybrid of your entrepreneurial work and your performance work: you were working on an interactive project way before this was on anyone’s radar and this is how you actually ended up connecting with Pink Floyd.
SP: Same thing, right. That's why I'm so excited. All the pieces have come together now. So the tool set is there. That's trippy, man. It's like all these things that we were trying to invent at that time. We had to figure out how to make a microphone.... how to make a tripod that was driving MIDI so that it could control another device, so that when you zoomed in the audio would too. Now you can do this stuff so easily, it's all happening.
I was putting sound and picture together back in the 1980s. I was thinking about all that stuff and working on it. And then I got more into it around 1985. We did ‘Push Back the Walls’ and ‘The First Dance’ and that’s how I met Gilmour. So this is just like that stuff. I was into early virtual reality back in the 90s around the first time it came out – and everybody said it was going to be the biggest thing, that it was going to happen. I was hanging out with Brett Leonard... remember Lawnmower Man? I was hanging with all those guys who were working on virtual reality stuff back in the day. All we did was talk about where things were going and playing with crazy gear in those days. So right now it's just a… it's like a culmination of all of those efforts. Things have finally gotten to the point where they’re so cheap – enough that anybody can do this stuff. It's almost an extension of one of my recent projects, Ignited Networks. That was a live streaming network with uploads and long conversations and people being able to upload content. You got a little taste of it [the author provided some feedback for Page on that project]. So I think about that now: if we were still going and had been able to hang on and come into this, then we would have been alright now, we would have been like God because our tech would be so far along. And it's exactly what people want right now.
A lot of people are now getting really frustrated with the networks, you know? The censorship: people are looking for alternatives.
ELR: What do you think happened with Facebook Live?
SP: Oh, well, everybody was gung-ho when it started. And then they figured it out: this is hard to keep up all the time. You know, the other day the lead singer from Fishbone says, ‘Oh yeah, dude. I was like all over it, but, dude, after a month of doing that every day… that's hard; no audience to feed off of, trying to be cool sitting there playing like that for hours by yourself… it’s hard.'
ELR: When I watched the Geoff Tate and Kingdom Come shows, that’s when I noticed that there’s an entire paradigm to develop for these – it’s clear these bands are used to interacting with the audience in specific places and now they need to fill that time differently during a performance.
SP: When you see what we've done at LIVN, we’ve brought the whole audience in, right around the band, monitors all around the band... and you're sitting there… it's like, everybody's in the front row because you can see everybody's face and then you can interact. The problem is when you stop, there's no sound, right? There's no audience, there's no reaction. So what I'm looking into is, you know the little reaction hearts on social media? If I can get access to that I can write a little piece of code so when people start hitting that it will send a signal that would trigger a soundtrack, an audience track. So the more feedback, the louder the audience sound gets.
ELR: And you plan to integrate this into your ThinkEXP shows?
SP: So what I'm going to do in our show, that we're getting ready to shoot, is I'm going to put a person in charge of this. They're going to be the sound effects person and they’re going to be there on stage. They’re going to control the audience so we can hear these reactions. They'll watch online response: I'm going to tell everybody, during the performance, ‘man, you hit those hearts!’ It gives us some love. And then what'll happen is that this team member will trigger the sounds on, until I can write a piece of frickin’ code so we can automate it.
ELR: So Scott, what is the relation between ThinkEXP and LIVN?
SP: It's a Think company. It's a Think production and LIVN is our network, our product. It's a new experience space. It's still EXP as well because we're trying to build a home experience. I want to send the audience a box. Right now we're making the first 50. We’ll send out boxes out for the performance and in those boxes the audience will get drinks, selfie things– for people to take selfies with… all kinds of party stuff. You can have your friends come over and hang out to watch this live event.
It can become a ritual; it becomes a thing where people open it up and they’ve got all kinds of cool stuff. Like for the Floyd night, I've got all these little USB-like globes that you can plug into your phones or you can plug them into the USB charger and it makes the whole room light up like crazy so you can set the atmosphere in your house. You’ll feel like you’ve got your own light show, right? You’ll have personal light shows while we’re on the screen, with a cool atmosphere around. We’re going to create this experience with them.
It will also have sponsored products. Beverage tasting: some kind of scotch or a wine. So it'll be something we can all do together. Some people will have the premium seats: that's the hundred people or so that can be on the screens – they'll be in the show. We're going to talk to them and we're going to bring them into the party.
ELR: Do you already have a website for it?
SP: We've got LIVN.live.
ELR: What can people expect from the first LIVN performance?
SP: The first show is going to be a variety show that features a number of our .Live experiences. So it's Saturday night live because we're going to have our cast of characters, but we're bringing in special guests to be part of the show too. We're setting up cooking outside, next to a food truck – and outdoor things. We're tying it to a cookbook that just came out as a benefit for autism. That book includes all these rockers: Steve Lukather, Steve. Vai… a bunch of them put recipes in this book and they’re selling it to raise money. Our whole model is we give forward. ‘Give back’ is over, given the circumstances. There's gonna be so many people that are gonna need help right now, after this shutdown… the impact is beyond what anybody's… with us cocooned in our house, people don’t get it. It's not going to be fun. As a society we’re going to have to figure out how we're going to be able to help certain people.
ELR: Will these events happen in more than one place concurrently in their in-person format?
SP: We're going to tie all those things together in Los Angeles – and the plan right now is to do a satellite of it in New York City. So when we do our show here, we're going to be broadcasting to a place in New York City that is going to be set up with screens. So the people there will also be coming up on screens in Los Angeles and Los Angeles people will be coming up there in New York City. An in-person event will go on in New York City too. So both places an in-person experience. And then we can send products there that people can interact with and even though it's a smaller group of people, they can still be part of the event.
ELR: With ThinkEXP, you're focused on Pink Floyd material right now, but you plan to explore other catalogs?
SP: Our whole model is about finding things that people are familiar with and matching them to new experiences. That's kind of the ‘think experience’ – Think EXP. We want to take the best of the best and figure out how we can do it. Kind of what like Cirque de Solei does… we do our own twist on it.
ELR: One of your first interactive projects, which was quite ground-breaking and even featured Gilmour, was Tuneland – it was a pioneer project in this industry, right?
SP: Yeah, that was the first project that we [one of Scott Page’s business ventures, 7th Level] did that got us some notoriety – that got us notoriety to go public. We went public and got funding off a dancing broom!
ELR: Can you explain?
SP: We used this dancing broom as a prototype, it was a scene that ended up in Tuneland: it was like Disney animation running on a computer. Nobody had ever seen that. Our team had written the engine and the code and all the technology. Tuneland wasn’t done, but we were able to raise the funding to complete the project based on this dancing broom. When George [Grayson: 7th Level Chief Executive and President] and I went around and did all the investor meetings – what they call a road trip – investment bankers set you up on a road trip – we went to New York City, Chicago… all these different places to meet with investors and do our pitch and in our pitch was this dancing broom. People couldn’t believe we could do this in Windows. These people wrote checks because we made that happen.
George was my partner at 7th Level, which was producing and produced Tuneland, and then I brought Bob Ezrin in. I had worked with George on the Grand Scientific Musical Theater; when Bob read about that in Billboard, and asked ‘what are you doing?’ I told him about 7th Level and said I needed help with it. Bob jumped on board and helped me out. That’s how it all came together. When Bob came to see the Grand Scientific Musical Theater at the Thomas & Mack Center, he could feel the energy of this convergence of entertainment and technology – the communication technology revolution. Once he felt that he said ‘let’s go – let’s do this!’
ELR: Was it the first interactive project of its kind?
SP: It was the first time Disney style animation ran on Windows. Once we did that we went out and acquired an animation company called Metro Cell and that became one of our authoring tools to create animation. It digitized hand drawn animation. Now we had people there on computers painting cells. That was a process we built. We created a whole reusable animation process.
We got 120 awards for that. It was winning everything, you know: all the magazines, every critic's choice, everything, because there was nothing like that at the time.
ELR: You were an adjunct professor at University of Southern California: what did you teach there?
SP: I taught SPACE. But I no longer teach.
ELR: What does that mean?
SP: Story, plan, army, conversion, educators. It was part of a music business class; SPACE is a business methodology. I had lectured there before – about this subject – and they asked me if I would teach a class on that.
ELR: Can you tell us a bit about this concept?
SP: Stories are the most important part in your marketing. What's the story? What does it stand for? What is its purpose? Wherever you are, your brand story is everything. What do you stand for? What is your process? What are you doing? That's the story that makes me feel compelled to get to do what you're asking me to get or to follow what you're doing. Then the plan. What I tell artists is no one really cares if you came from Cincinnati – nobody gives a damn. People want to know what you stand for, what your process is, what you are doing: that’s the story that makes me feel compelled to do what you’re asking your followers to do.
For the ‘plan’ I use lean startup principles, ‘army’ is your influencers and I’d teach how to interact with them – your super-fans – and then ‘conversion’ is about turning fans into customers. Conversion is about converting your fans into customers. Otherwise, it's a hobby. If you're not making any money, it's a hobby. It's either business or hobby. And then education because all those things, you have to get educated. Otherwise you can't do them. So that means you have to start learning. That's what I taught at USC. It was a business process that I developed. It's a business methodology, for any brand, person, or business.
ELR: Do you want to teach again?
SP: Not really [laughs]. It was terrible, dude [laughs]! I mean, those kids were so lazy – no curiosity. I was like, just blown away. I thought I was going to walk in, and I had this expectation: it’s USC, you're paying 70 grand [a year to attend]. I thought I was walking in and I was going to have all these kids that were going to just be so engaged. I felt like, ‘oh man, I can sell it’, meaning the material. I had these visions but it was the total opposite. They didn't ask any questions. They didn't do the work. They were lazy. And I brought people in: I brought in some great speakers and I'd get nothing but grief.
ELR: The Later Years: did you hear the remix of Dogs of War on A Momentary Lapse of Reason and have you listened to the remix of Delicate Sound of Thunder? Any feedback on these?
SP: I have heard parts of it. Not on an incredible system, mostly on my phone. Not even with headphones. But what I heard was great. I thought they did a really good job. It was fun to hear it differently. I was really happy with the Delicate Sound of Thunder video, what they did with the visuals and stuff. I thought they did a great job. It looked fantastic. Even though I love the original one, I thought it was really cool from an experience point of view; it was really nice to be able to focus on specific things a little bit more. I liked the way they cut the thing, a bit slower in the sense that you could actually watch the people in greater detail. You can focus on specifics a bit more. The one thing I did notice was they found the audio that was left out of the Venice show, originally. You couldn’t hear me in a part – I think it was during Money. When I saw this version of it, it was there.
ELR: I felt the new video for Delicate Sound of Thunder featured the touring band members a lot more – and there were more shots of the audience too.
SP: I was happy about that. I’m working with this editor, he cut my promo for LIVN. And he's fantastic. A cinematographer – he's a director and cinematographer. He's an Italian filmmaker. He’s a big Pink Floyd fan so I said ‘dude, would you edit my Venice footage?’ I have all this footage of Venice. I'm been looking into that right now. I'm going to take my footage and just try to up the quality of it, edit a piece of my Venice footage. There’s software that can upsample it to 4K. It's great. So I went back and started looking at it after I started thinking about this. It would be fantastic. That would be just like all backstage stuff. And then I'll do some voiceover and I'll talk about the stuff; we'll write a story around it and I can talk about what happened there. We've got so much there. I shot a lot of that footage, man. It doesn't have to be real long. It may be a short 15 minutes or something, you know, but it'll kick ass.
For updates on Page's work with LIVN, please visit LIVN.live. You can follow Page at facebook.com/iamscottpagefrompinkfloyd. You can follow Think:EXP at thinkexp.co. Photography and images courtesy of LIVN, Scott Page Archive, and Maggie St. Thomas.