Jon Niermann on Creating Loop Media, the Spotify of Music Videos
After graduating from the University of Denver in the ’80s, Jon Niermann landed his first job in the downtown Denver branch of DDB Needham. The agency handled movie premiere screenings at the time, and Disney was one of its clients. Eventually, Niermann took a gig with Disney, where he worked for two decades. He was president of Walt Disney International Asia and followed that with a seven-year run as president of games company Electronic Arts.
About six years ago, Niermann, who had moved back to Los Angeles, ended up at a recording studio once owned by Barbra Streisand. There, Billy Ray Cyrus was making the video for “Achy Breaky Heart 2.” Niermann met a guy in the studio who was talking about how much revenue music videos were generating on YouTube.
“I thought that all went away when MTV switched formats,” Niermann says. “I started looking and thought, ‘Holy cow — 40 percent of YouTube views are music videos. So this is how kids are seeing videos these days.’”
Niermann knew then that he wanted a piece of the video market. At that same recording studio, someone told him about Mark Vrieling, whose company ScreenPlay had purchased a massive video library from Muzak. The two eventually met, with Vrieling telling Niermann that he was sitting on the largest library of music videos in the world, bigger than what's on YouTube and VEVO. Vrieling also told him that he had just started to do subscriptions for restaurants and bars to play those videos.
Niermann raised enough money to purchase ScreenPlay and built a new company, Loop Media, on top of that. Loop Media now works with chains like Hard Rock Cafe, Yard House, Margaritaville, Texas Roadhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings to provide music-video subscriptions. Restaurant or bar managers can program what sort of videos they want to play from their phones or tablets using Loop’s app, from ’80s music during the day to Rat Pack-style songs at night.
“We cover everything from a single club to a university campus,” Niermann says. “It could be an airport, a stadium, bowling alley, doctor's office, cannabis shop, tattoo parlor or nail salon.”
The company also has a consumer component, where people can play videos over the recently launched Loop TV app for iPhone and Android. Loop is also available on all smart TVs, including Amazon Fire TV and Android TV-supported sets from Sony, Sharp, Philips and more.
“You can have your music videos playing in the background,” he says. “It’s a way better experience than YouTube, because you can choose your own playlist, invite your friends to watch together, and you can comment. You can put your picture on the screen with a video. There's all sorts of fun social things you can do.”
Last April, Loop TV hosted a virtual music festival showcasing nearly forty artists from eleven countries. Niermann says the company plans to have another virtual festival by the end of the year, possibly in early November.
While the festivals are one way to help independent artists gain exposure, Niermann notes that Loop TV also helps them with Loop channels.
“We have a discovery channel for independent artists, and we've got some other indie-rock, indie-pop, indie-rap,” he says. “We're really trying to create platforms for these artists — number one, to be seen; and number two, for them to earn some money. That's the main thing. And then we'll also offer some private type of experiences where fans can engage with them, and then that might cost a little.”
Niermann thinks back to the early ’80s, when MTV was in its infancy and how engaging it was when artists premiered videos and hosted events. He wants to bring a similar experience back with Loop TV.
“We're the only pure music-video app that's going on in the market, believe it or not,” he says. “It's crazy. And none of these guys are putting on a pure music-video app. Think of it like Spotify, [with] all the functionality of the audio side, but with videos. It’s just that simple.”