Flawless-Startup-Execution-during-a-Pandemic Award: Verzuz

Last week, I watched my first Verzuz battle. This is a live-streamed event where two artists or producers compete by playing various songs from their catalog. It’s part battle, part concert, part live stream. It started in March as an impromptu five-hour live Instagram battle between famous producers Timberland and Swiss Beatz. Twenty-two thousand people tuned in. It’s since morphed into a sponsored event, and millions tune in to see an epic musical battle. Apple Music and Twitter are now involved via a formal partnership.

Last week’s battle was between two Atlanta rap icons, Jeezy and Gucci Mane. I live in Atlanta and I’m a huge hip-hop fan, so I was eager to see it. I didn’t know what to expect since it was my first. It blew my mind! The two rappers performed their songs on stage in a back-and-forth battle that was well-thought-out and sequenced like a concert. But the songs were chosen in real time as the event unfolded. Each rapper would pick his next song on the basis of what the other had just performed. The result was an energetic event that was the pandemic version of a live concert. It was great.

During the show, I happened to notice that 1.6 million people were on Instagram, live, watching it. My jaw dropped when I saw that figure. It’s reported that Instagram live viewers peaked at 1.8 million and 5.5 million accessed the event over all streaming platforms, including Apple TV. Those numbers are insane.

Timberland and Swiss Beatz are on to something huge. In my opinion, they followed the startup playbook perfectly. They noticed a problem (no live performances). They created a quick and nasty MVP (an Instagram live session). They found product–market fit and scaled their solution with partnerships and sponsorships. All in a matter of a few months. They’ve essentially created an opportunity for millions of people to attend a live concert series from their couch. Something tells me Verzuz’s success will force the music industry to rethink live concerts and have a big impact on how we experience live music!