How Greg Spero’s Jump From Tech to Music Inspired Him to Put the Artist First

The pandemic is a blow to any artist who loves to perform live – and Greg Spero is no exception.

The 37-year-old musician who lives in Los Angeles has spent the better part of the past two decades recording and streaming, including a four-year tour with Halsey – during which he played a sold-out Madison Square Garden. sold out and performed at Coachella – and conducted the jazz band Spirit Fingers. But when things came to an abrupt halt in March 2020, he quickly turned around: instead of being a full-time performer, he focused on finding a new way to help people in need. performing for money.

That desire prompted him to launch Pitch (formerly known as Weebid), a startup he describes as “the first fan-initiated crowdfunding platform.”

The concept is simple: When a music artist joins Pitch, their fans can visit their profile and – you guessed it – recommend ideas to them. Want to have your favorite band play in your small midwestern town? Or have your favorite artist cover one of your favorite songs – or hey, even write a book of poetry? You can post your idea on the artist’s Pitch profile and pledge some money to it; Other fans can also join and when those ads reach a certain amount the artist is aiming for, the artist will do as requested.

“When the pandemic hit, I thought I needed to do this,” Spero said. TURN by phone. “I’m the only person in the world building this platform and it needs to be built because this can be world-changing for artists.”

One reason why Spero was so excited to pursue this daunting task? It allowed him to re-ignite his passion for technology, which began at a young age. Spero taught himself HTML and started a web design company when he finished middle school in the late 90s, helping build websites for his father’s friend’s businesses in his hometown of Highland Park, Illinois.

Then, after graduating with a degree in music from the University of Illinois, Spero attempted to juggle work both in the tech world and as a professional musician. The combination did not go well.

“I thought I could do both right out of college. And I’m not satisfied either,” Spero said. “I hate my life, because I work eight hours a day in technology and eight hours a day in music, and I am not an expert in them. Nothing grows in such a way that I know I can grow something.”

Spero said his life changed at this point when, aged 23, jazz icon Herbie Hancock introduced him to Buddhism. (Spero met Hancock by slyly maneuvering backstage at one of his performances, after wearing a suit to make him “look like a big chronograph.” When Spero asked him how to “unleash his greatest creative potential,” Hancock jumped at the opportunity to tell him about his experiences with Buddhism and meditation; the conversation dragged on. four hours.) Soon after, the inspired Spero went on a month-long backpacking trip to Thailand.

“I stay with people who are living on a dollar a day and are happy. They are happy human beings and I am not a happy human being,” Spero said. “[I thought] ‘there’s something wrong here.'”

Greg Spero Aloe Blacc
(Credit: Emanuele Pica)

Upon returning to the United States, Spero gave up his business life and devoted himself to music, fearing that otherwise he would forever “regret”.

Spero moved into his grandparents’ basement and began practicing piano religiously. That decision paid off for Spero, who spent the next four years of his life building a career in the Chicago jazz scene. After touring with artists like the late John Blackwell and winning Best Jazz Artist of 2013 at the Chicago Music Awards, Spero moved to LA, feeling that he had matured as much as he could. possible as a musician in Chicago.

A year of nonstop encounters with musicians around LA finally paid off, when a mutual friend introduced Spero to Halsey just as her career was beginning. He spent the next four years as her keyboardist – a competition that began with club performances in front of 80 people and culminated with a performance of “Saturday Night Live” on Sunday. 2018.

Those years were not only imperative to his creativity and sanity, Spero says, but also the premise for him to lead Pitch.

“I was an artist before I was a tech guy,” says Spero. “And Pitch was born from my own experience as an artist… I want to be creative and I want to empower creativity.”

Pitch does this, Spero says, by creating a win-win scenario for both fans and artists. Fans can pitch any idea to the artist, Spero says — “anything stupid,” including illegal or immoral or pornographic pitches, gets pulled by the filter. down – and artists can make comments against them – and get paid to do so.

“The pitch helps create new relationships with fans and people who want unique interactions,” singer Aloe Blacc told SPIN. “The ability to request fan requests is helpful, because crowdsourced ideas can highlight ideas that artists have never considered. With Pitch, the artist gets to decide on the idea and its merits, while fans have the opportunity to pledge funding to make it a reality. “

In addition to being one of the first artists on Pitch, Blacc also recently participated in the platform’s biggest event to date. On March 31, Pitch held a live concert to benefit Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion. Blacc sang “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye and was joined by 20 other musicians, including Macy Gray and Moontower. The five-hour event raised $36,000 to aid Ukrainian civilians.

“I am passionate about using my voice for positive social transformation… I want to be a part of this cause because my heart goes out to those who are suffering and in need,” Blacc said. “I am so glad we were able to raise the money to support families seeking refuge from violence.”

Other artists on Pitch include Herbie Hancock, Judith Hill, Eric Bellinger and Darryl Jones. Producer Quincy Jones is also on the platform and has received one of Spero’s fan-favorite pitches to date – for Jones to build an 8-bar piano for producers to use in their songs. Fans have pledged $2,238 to the idea so far.

On the business front, Pitch gets a 10% cut of any pitch an artist follows. Compared with the exorbitant rates that record labels take from artists – aside from many artists’ disappointment with streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music – Spero is optimistic that the deal will appeal to musicians. to the platform.

“Artists are really getting hurt right now,” he said.

While the digital revolution has made it easier than ever for musicians to reach their fans, Spero said, it has also made their art less scarce — and therefore less valuable. more valuable. “Artists have more power than ever, but they’re making less money than ever before.”

Pitch wants to change that reality, one fan idea at a time.

https://www.spin.com/2022/05/greg-spero-pitch-interview/ How Greg Spero’s Jump From Tech to Music Inspired Him to Put the Artist First

Emma James

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