Michael Sieders chats StageFlix, the new on-demand Theatre streaming service coming to screens near you

In the last few years, theatre accessibility and viewership have been prominent topics of discussion.

COVID-19 induced shutdowns forced many companies to reevaluate their distribution models, and pivot to different formats – with restrictions in place, live theatre could not happen in the way we know it. Companies resorted to livestreams or posting recorded footage of their productions online, but it truly was a new learning experience for many. Enter: StageFlix.

StageFlix is a new streaming platform, tailor-made for artists, by artists. It will allow artists and creatives to upload their own shows or livestream productions while still retaining ownership of their work, as well as bringing in profits from the on-demand ticket sales – all which will be capped at $10 to maintain further accessibility.

Michael Sieders

Michael Sieders is the brain behind StageFlix, and is incredibly excited about this new venture. Michael is a graduate from the University of Western Sydney’s Theatre Theory and Practice degree in 2002. Michael has worked on various theatre productions as producer and has held positions such as Operations Manager for the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) 2006 – 2011, NSW Producer for Critical Stages 2011 – 2013, Producer for Performing Lines 2013 – 2014, General Manager of Aerialize 2018 – 2020 and now founder of StageFlix. Michael’s theatre producing credits include S-27  by Sarah (Griffin Independent 2010), Fool for Love by Sam Shepard (B Sharp 2010), The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Griffin Independent 2011), The Coming World  by Christopher Shinn (Darlinghurst Theatre Company 2011), Porn. Cake by Vanessa Bates (Griffin Independent 2012), Songs for the Fallen by Sheridan Harbridge (Rock Surfers Theatre Comapny 2012, The Reginald Season 2013 and Brisbane Festival 2013), Every Second by Vanessa Bates (Darlinghurst Theatre Company 2014).

How did you come to develop StageFlix?

Michael: I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half – it kind of started as a result of the last lockdown. We went into lockdown and everyone around me, myself included, lost our gigs and our jobs in the arts. I saw people pivoting to the digital world with varying degrees of success. I saw the arts sector throwing out content for free. That was heartbreaking as well, because to say that the only way people will consume what we have to offer is to give it away was really distressing. I thought there’s got to be something out there, a digital platform where we can earn money from our content and our work – and there really wasn’t. There’re things like Marquee TV, but it works on a model that is like every other streaming service where they buy your content, they own your content, it’s up there for a particular time and it’s subscription based, so it becomes a little bit murky in terms of who owns, who gets rights, who gets royalties, all of that kind of stuff. So I thought, surely there has to be something that we can put out into the world with the technology that’s available to us that enables artists, producers, organisations, creators, and makers of every genre to get their work out there, give it a value, and earn money from it without it being another free service on YouTube or another platform that people have to subscribe to. I thought the pay per view model really was the cleanest and simplest option, but it had to be an interface that everyone was really comfortable with. And so it kind of is a meld between, you know, the Netflix in terms of the interface but the iTunes in terms of the pay-per-view model.

How do you think StageFlix is going to change the landscape of theatre viewership?

Michael: I used to work in the touring sector, and I used to spend a lot of time in regional Australia. We talked a lot about the different types of shows that came to these regional centres, and how important it was to get a diverse range of performances out there. But what was lacking is that for those people who are in regional centres, just getting to watch something in their own town was incredibly inaccessible – I think price is a major factor, not only just geographically. But I also think about people who are differently abled, as well as those who can’t actually physically get into the space. And theatres can be an intimidating space, especially for children. If people can access live performance in a context that they are familiar with, then that starts their education process in the arts and hopefully gets them into the live space and watching it. And [StageFlix] is not just the prerecorded shows, there’s the live streaming element of it as well, which is also completely free for artists to apply for performance slots. They’d basically infinitely increase their capacity of their audience. This is just the first iteration of this platform, and I just really want artists to embrace it and use it.

Do you think there is room for both live performance and digital streaming?

Michael: I come from the arts, I’m a theatre producer. I love theatre and I’m a theatre purist. I would not want this to replace the live experience because I love it so much. I think it’s so transformative and so captivating, and there’s nothing else like it. But I think we need to be realistic and be non-elitist about what we do. We need to utilise this type of technology and we need to use it to our advantage. Even as an education resource – imagine if all of those those shows that we talk about when when we’re studying theatre are actually on there. And there’s research to back that up. You know, the Metropolitan Opera in New York have been streaming their content on demand for years, and there’s research to say that it actually has increased their live subscription base. As we’ve seen during the pandemic these last two years, a percentage of people have and will continue to engage in a digital context with live performance… I think there’s a place for it in a new world post-COVID, and I hope StageFlix has has a part to play in that.

For more information and to join the platform, visit the StageFlix website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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