Report On the Past Five Years
Hi everyone. CEO Scott Winters here. 2024 is just around the corner. It seems like a good time to take stock. To that end, here is a brief report on Ion Concert Media.
I started working on an idea that would eventually become Muséik in 2010. By 2012 the first working prototype was complete and being used in concerts. The company was founded in 2015.
Early efforts focussed on selling the software to pro orchestras, where I had many connections. The going was slow and the market was skeptical. Much effort was spent on business organization and fund raising; very little effort was spent on content development and marketing. The software was developed enough to be considered a minimally viable product, two patents were filed, and great progress was made in understanding the intricacies of what the technology could do. But little revenue was generated.
Current company VP Timothy Shade came on the scene in mid-2017. He led an effort to pivot away from the pro orchestra market and toward the education market. Almost immediately the company showed tangible signs of forward momentum. By the close of 2019 the company was entirely focussed on developing content for educational ensembles and predicting strong sales growth in the years ahead. The challenge of producing content in a fast and efficient manner was not completely solved, but the issue was now fully recognized as a strategic priority and solutions were being developed.
Ion enjoyed six or seven months of strong sales growth and increasing market traction before the world stopped in March of 2020. The company had just been awarded a Launch MN grant from the State of Minnesota, which provided financial support through 2020 and into 2021, but sales shrunk to almost nothing as live events stopped and schools went to distance learning. We ended 2021 with less than $8K in revenues in that year.
But by that time Muséik had proven itself enough that closing the company down was never even considered. We knew we had some very special technology and resolved to wait out the pandemic, as long as that might take.
A FRESH START
In the fall of 2021 bands and choirs were meeting in person again, orchestras were playing for live audiences, and everyone everywhere was determined to celebrate the ability to present live concerts. Ion's two "big" titles at the time (Pictures at an Exhibition and The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci) were in demand everywhere and our smaller titles were selling better than ever.
For the first few months we assumed the jump in sales was driven partly by the exuberant post-pandemic atmosphere and that things would settle down given a bit of time. But that has not happened yet, and we don't see any signs of a slow down in the foreseeable future.
In July, 2022 we premiered the multimedia components of Julie Giroux's composition "Blue Marble" at a major educational conference in Texas. That premiere put Ion Concert Media on the radar of influential conductors and decision makers around the world. It brought us our first contract with a U.S. military service ensemble. And it led to another major commissioning opportunity.
By January of 2023 it was clear that sales volume was straining our back end systems. The website, CRM, order processing system, contracting, HR, bookkeeping, and many other internal systems were improved or rebuilt through the spring and summer. New staffing hours were allocated and the software went back into development; all in anticipation of long-awaited acceleration in the market.
We still ended 2023 with sales well below $100K, but with seven consecutive quarters where revenues doubled (often going well beyond doubling) in year-on-year comparisons, each month has brought more and more confidence that what we are watching is the start of our dreamed-about "hockey stick" growth curve.
Yes, our numbers are still extremely small, which means we would need many more doublings before we start generating "real" revenues. But we have the advantage of seeing what is on the horizon and the phrase "exponential growth" has started to enter our vocabulary. There are projects and opportunities and developments not yet ready to be discussed in public that are forming in the distance like storm clouds.
Last week Tim and I attended the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. It is always where we do the best business all year long. But a change was palpable this year: customers (some very big customers) asked us for meetings for the first time ever, simple accidental conversations snowballed into major sales opportunities (including some amazing opportunities overseas), and the size and scope of commissioning opportunities grew beyond recognition when compared to previous years.
We have a long way to go, but as we walked the halls in Chicago I just kept repeating, "I think the dam is breaking." Now that I have had time to slow down; to process the events of last week and contemplate our workload for the spring, I am more confident than ever - the dam has broken and we indeed appear to be accelerating.
Stay tuned, I suspect the story will start to become quite interesting from here forward.