Santa Monica-based company Handmade Mobile Entertainment created an app called The Angel Network, an online fan club and social network for the R&B star. Since launching in December, the app (called TAN for short) is raking in over $50,000 a month from about 52,000 users. Songz's rabid fan base purchases credits to put towards virtual gifts, greater access to their idol, and pure bragging rights.A spot at the top of the "Instant VIP" board, for example -- which gets your profile on the app's homepage -- can set users back more than ten dollars. Credits can also be earned through sharing TAN content on Twitter and Facebook, thereby luring more fans to the service.
Another way the app generates revenue is through Songz's day-to-day interactions with fans. If he posts a text message, for example, that might be free to all users -- but to view a photo or listen to a recorded message might cost 100 credits. (Credits run on a sliding scale, from 99 cents for 100 to $24.99 for 5,000.) Eventually, some premium content, like behind-the-scenes videos or song clips, will probably cost more.
Handmade CEO Neil Goldberg is reluctant to discuss the details of TAN's business model. "I don't spend my time thinking about money, money, money. I spend my time thinking: How do I make people have a great experience?"
Ok. In any case, when asked to confirm the Billboard numbers, the pride in his voice is unmistakable: "When Trey has 300,000 people on this thing, we'll make him $250,000 a month." Considering that Songz already has over 6.3 million Twitter followers, it's not a far-fetched goal.
Goldberg traces his interest in changing the way people consume entertainment back to a light-bulb moment in the late '90s, when he was introduced to the first video-on-demand service. A Dutch company called Diva had been pitching the concept all over Los Angeles with limited success, but Goldberg, then a vice president of production at Warner Bros. Pictures, was instantly on board. "I think I look at the world differently," he says, sipping an Arnold Palmer at a café in Brentwood.
After his work with Diva and other early on-demand providers like Akimbo and On Demand Media Group, Goldberg next ventured into social media with a company called SayNow. The concept was simple: Allow users -- especially celebrities -- to record short voice messages and post them on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.
"Voice and video matter a lot," Goldberg explains, because they forge a connection between artist and fan that goes deeper than a 140-character tweet. "When you give people something that's meaningful and emotional, good things happen."