'Entrepreneurship's Hard': The Weeknd, TikTok and the Hunger for Virtual Audiences

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

'Entrepreneurship's Hard': The Weeknd, TikTok and the Hunger for Virtual Audiences

The Weeknd is set to perform live on TikTok tonight, showcasing not only the Grammy Award-winning artist's talent but also the fast-growing company that will turn him into an avatar for the performance.

Wave creates digital avatars for musicians to put on shows and interact with fans in real time. Its partnership with TikTok, the besieged social media app known for short dance videos, provides the Los Angeles-based company with its largest platform yet to showcase what it can do.


"This is the biggest concert we've ever done in terms of the number of attendees," Wave co-founder and chief executive Adam Arrigo told dot.LA. He expects millions of people to tune in on the app that President Donald Trump has threatened to shut down. That would far surpass Wave's recent draw of over half a million fans to a John Legend virtual concert.

The Weeknd concert will stream live on TikTok's official account, @tiktok, at 5:30 p.m. PST.

The Weeknd is set to perform live on TikTok on Friday, August 7, 2020.

TikTok's reach — over 800 million users — makes it an attractive partner for advertisers and others trying to grow and highlights the conundrum companies face in working with them.

Most of Wave's virtual concerts have been broadcasted on YouTube, Twitch, video game platforms and VR devices. TikTok is a new way for them to build audience.

The social-video company reached out to Wave, Arrigo said, and built out its platform to integrate Wave into it.

Arrigo said he's not worried about the ongoing tensions surrounding TikTok. On Thursday, President Trump issued an executive order that effectively gives TikTok 45 days to negotiate a sale to an American company before being banned. The president has cited national security concerns related to TikTok's sharing data with the Chinese government and offering a platform for the Chinese Communist party to spread disinformation.

"That hasn't been a concern," Arrigo said, "based on everything they've said with their servers. We trust them as a partner."

Arrigo said the folks at TikTok "never seemed worried" about the U.S. government's increasingly vocal concerns over its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

As for how the still-unsettled saga may affect future projects, Arrigo said he is guided by his company's artist-first values.

"Entrepreneurship's hard," he said, "so I think ultimately it's about what you can and can't control…(For us) it's really about, how do we support creativity, support music, especially at a time right now when musicians need every avenue possible to make money. A lot are in danger of not being able to make a living."

The pandemic has stamped out most live performances, making platforms like Wave increasingly attractive to artists and the entertainment industry. In June, the company raised $30 million. It has since been focused on growing its executive team. In July, it brought on former Riot Games executive Jarred Kennedy as its COO, and Arrigo said more C-level hires are coming.

The Weeknd is not exactly a struggling artist. His recent album "After Hours" is the most-streamed R&B album in history, and the song "Blinding Lights" has inspired over 1.5 million TikTok videos.

Arrigo, a musician himself, said the partnership with The Weeknd was a big score for the company.

"Often for artists it's hard to work with new startups because you want your brand and creative qualities to be up to par," said Arrigo, whose home office includes his electric guitar, jazz bass, and keyboard. "We pride ourselves on being authentic artists on both the music and the visual level."

Arrigo likens a good company to a good band, where members collaborate best by listening to each other. Friday's event, to him, is a culmination of lots of hard work across several Wave teams, including engineering, business development, product management, and event producers that "continue to break down boundaries of what a concert can be."

"(This) is going to be our first real example at scale of what's possible now," he said, "and it's really just the beginning."

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

LA Venture Funds


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