Yondr, a company that gives performing artists a way to keep cell phones and their attendant distractions out of the audience, has hit a milestone with its inclusion on the coming Jack White tour.
Musical artists such as Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys have used the Yondr system at various gigs across the nation, but White announced in January that he would use it for his coming 40-date tour. Company founder and CEO Graham Dugoni confirmed that Yondr and its lockable phone cases would be on site at every stop.
“To work with artists like him on a long tour, it’s great for us. It’s something we’ve been preparing for a while,” Dugoni said. White kicks off the tour April 19 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The tour, his first in four years, is in support of his third solo album, “Boarding House Reach,” which will go on sale March 23.
Yondr provides entertainers and venues lockable cell phone pouches which fans must use when entering the venue. Fans put their phones in the pouches, lock them up and put them back in their pockets or bags. They can unlock the phones when they leave the main performance area. The goal is to give attendees a more intimate connection with shows, and it also allows entertainers to keep their content from being streamed on the Internet.
The high-profile outing with White will expose Yondr to more venues, creating opportunities for new business as more musical artists become interested in the idea of prohibiting cell phones during their shows. Acts like White contract with Yondr, but venues can also pay to have the pouches as a permanent item, said Kelly Taylor, Yondr’s director of marketing.
The company doesn’t release its pricing publicly, but Taylor said for artists, “the price comes down to how big the show is and the frequency of shows on the tour.”
When Yondr first launched its lockable cell phone pouches three years ago, it was an uphill battle trying to get venues and artists to understand its purpose. “Now, we just explain how it works rather than why,” Dugoni said.
After patenting the product, Dugoni launched Yondr in 2014 and first gained tractions with big-name comedians such as Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, who didn’t want fans to see their latest comedy routines online before coming to a show. The service is also finding interest from areas such as schools, government buildings and courthouses, and summer camps, but the White tour points toward a growing presence in live music.
Taylor, said it’s no surprise that White is using the company’s product for his tour. “Jack White is one of the artists that, even before Yondr, was speaking out about phones at his shows,” she said.
“His tour is mainly in big rooms and arenas,” Taylor said. “That’s nothing we haven’t done before. We did arena shows with Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and the Misfits.”
White’s tour will travel across the United States, hit a couple of cities in Canada and then 10 venues in Europe, where Dugoni noted that the company had just finished a run with Rock. At least one Yondr representative will be at each show, ensuring venue staff knows how to use the lockable cases.
Training venue staff, Dugoni said, is a piece of cake. “It’s a transferable skill to put people’s phones in the cases,” he said.
Bobby Castronovo, vice president of event services at the 19,000-seat Barclays Center in Brooklyn, used Yondr when Chris Rock was at his arena in December.
“We were definitely a little hesitant about the whole process,” Castronovo said. “The Yondr people were there. They streamline it and they do a lot of advance work to figure out how many entrances that they have to work with.”
Getting fans in and out of the arena wasn’t as bad as he thought it might be. “It really ran really, really smooth, especially with the egress and getting fans back their phones. I was shocked,” Castronovo said.
Typically, it takes the packed Barclays Center about 15 minutes to get people out of the venue after a show, and Castronovo thinks it added 15 minutes to that process.
“Now that we’ve done it before, we’re definitely more comfortable with it. We really have no issues with someone who requests using Yondr,” he said.
Aside from the ease of using Yondr, Castronovo thinks it enhances the guest experience for the show. “We’re all for it,”
Increased business prompted Dugoni to open an office in New York last year, and the company is preparing to open another in the United Kingdom this year.
“We’ve hit the point where it makes sense to just have people” in Europe, he said.
The company is private and does not release revenue figures, but it’s growing on a monthly basis, Dugoni said.
“In the last couple of months alone, we’re hearing from everyone all over the world. We get multiple emails from people every minute on our website,” he said.