Mixhalo isn’t just for music; Staples Center will use it for sports events. (Getty Images)
Company, with Staples Center as client, looks to remake how we hear live entertainment
The mix is off at a concert. The dialogue at a Broadway show is moving too fast. The star player for a sports team makes a critical play — and from the upper deck, it’s tough to tell exactly what happened.
The fan experience isn’t always up to snuff, and in an age where pristine concert live streaming and high-def sports broadcasts are commonplace, ensuring the engagement of those who leave the comfort of their living rooms is increasingly important.
Enter Mixhalo, which is aiming to revolutionize how we hear live entertainment and has already garnered support from industry heavyweights such as Red Light Management and Another Planet Entertainment, artists including Metallica and Aerosmith, and venues like Staples Center.
“We’re really trying to democratize music for everybody,” said CEO Marc Ruxin. “We want every seat to be the best seat in the house.”
Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger founded Mixhalo with wife and fellow musician Ann Marie Simpson after realizing that all concertgoers should have access to the pristine soundboard audio he hears with in-ear monitors on stage. Longtime agent and WME head of music Marc Geiger invested and subsequently connected Einziger and Ruxin.
By the time Ruxin joined Mixhalo in February, Einziger had already been working with Chief Technology Officer Vik Singh, who came over from esteemed networking company Cisco Meraki, to develop local networking technology that would allow anybody to stream soundboard-quality audio from anywhere in a venue to their own phones and headsets, without relying on Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity. Mixhalo also is developing a dynamic latency system, planned for 2020, to ensure that audio delay adjusted based on a user’s spot in a venue.
“By the time you deal with crowd noise plus distance from the stage, you’ve got a pretty lousy experience,” Ruxin said of the live experience sans Mixhalo.
Ruxin compares Mixhalo’s business model to the adoption of high-definition TVs: Consumers were satisfied with lower-definition broadcasts for decades, until higher quality became available, at which point the choice became a no-brainer.
“TV through HD just looks better,” he said. “Music through Mixhalo just sounds better.”
Because advances in the home viewing experience have disincentivized live attendance, Ruxin said non-music applications for Mixhalo were immediately apparent to him.
“I was thinking back to the days when my father used to bring a transistor radio to Cleveland Indians games so he could listen to the play-by-play,” Ruxin said. “It’s kind of weird: You pay more for less when you go see something live. Unless you have a courtside seat, you’re getting a worse view of the event, and you get no audio.”
It might seem counterintuitive to put on headphones at a concert or sporting event, but for true music or sports fans, Mixhalo — which will offer a software development kit for events and venues to integrate the technology with preexisting apps — will introduce welcome enhancements.
Investors and clients have taken notice. Foundry Group, an influential venture capital firm that has also invested in companies such as Fitbit, led Mixhalo’s $10.7 million Series A round of funding, announced in July, which also included contributions from Red Light, Another Planet, Superfly’s Rick Farman and Rich Goodstone, and C3’s Charlie Walker.
Metallica demo’d Mixhalo for VIPs on its latest arena tour, and Another Planet deployed it at its San Francisco festival Outside Lands. In the sports realm, meanwhile, Los Angeles’ Staples Center announced a partnership with Mixhalo in September, bringing the service to Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Sparks games.
“Mixhalo is fundamentally changing the game for fan experiences, and we’re proud to be the first arena on the planet to bring this cutting-edge technology to our guests,” Staples Center President Lee Zeidman said upon the deal’s announcement.
Going forward, Mixhalo wants to bring its “holy grail” of sound experience to new markets and venues, from music to sports to Broadway shows, Ruxin said, adding that plugging into audio “the way you can with this, it’s profound.”
Correction: The name of Mixhalo co-founder Mike Einziger was spelled incorrectly in a previous version of this story.