In the summer of 2017, Phish held their historic Baker’s Dozen residency at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Across 13 nights — from July 21 to August 6, 2017 — the Vermont jam band performed 237 distinct songs without repetition, with each night taking on a specific donut-flavored theme. With a run time of around 34-and-a-half hours across 26 sets, the group served up 176 originals, 61 covers, 19 debuts and 23 bust outs (with a gap of 50 shows or more).
To fans, Baker’s Dozen marked one of the band’s finest runs since the late-1990s. However, the run earned recognition from the outside world as well, with the quartet earning a banner in the rafters of MSG for their record-breaking residency.
—Ming Lee Newcomb, Jambase contributor
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Josh Katz, the Founder & CEO of the live-event ticketing regulatory platform YellowHeart and self-proclaimed Phishhead.
That Friday afternoon at the YellowHeart office, Josh delivered a very revealing tale that marks the single, defining event that put into motion the creation of his latest music-business focused project, the blockchain technology-assisted Yellowheart. Josh previously created, grew, and sold El Media Group, which creates custom background music and curated playlists for the premiere high-end hotels and restaurants around the world.
But in the summer of 2017, Josh owned one title above any other and that was ‘Phishhead’.
Urged by his wife, a fellow and perhaps even more devout Phishhead (we will let them decide who wins that competition), Josh found himself with the responsibility of buying two tickets, some nights four tickets if friends were joining the couple, to the 13-night concert event of the summer at Madison Square Garden, Phish’s Baker’s Dozen.
Josh reached out to a professional at Phish’s management company (who is a childhood friend) prior to the event and was able to gather tickets to the shows in a good section of the Garden. After the first night’s concert, it was clear that for the rest of the 12 nights, the real Phishheads were ticketed on the floor where the real action took place.
Urged again by his wife, Josh called to have all tickets changed to those coveted floor seats, but this time was told that there were none to be given. Being true and devoted Phishheads, Josh couldn’t take no for an answer and began fishing around the internet through the secondary ticketing market for floor seats to the Baker’s Dozen. Josh found floor seats at somewhat reasonable prices for the next few nights, but by show six or seven, Josh was dishing out $500 a ticket and sometimes spending $2,000 to $2,500 a night to gather the right tickets on the floor of the Madison Square Garden.
Then that revelatory moment came sitting in the Garden during one of the 13 of his favorite band’s summer concert series. Josh describes the moment,
“I’m just freaked out that I’m sitting at the shows of this iconic band that I just spent $2000 to come to… so looking at the ticket that I just bought and written on the ticket is $70. What? I needed some insight on how $70 a ticket is getting traded to me for $500 and, at that moment I realized the money I paid, none of it was going to the guys on the stage. If it was going to the guys on the stage, I would be totally fine with it because, Hey, they’re the performers, they’re the ones who are taking the risk putting on the show. I’m fine with that. But all that money… it’s going to a third-party middle man. That’s the issue.
Josh was infuriated by the idea of the scalpers on the secondary market getting to pocket the majority of the money he paid to see his favorite band. So, the next day he went back to his office. At that moment in the summer of 2017, Josh had ventured into cryptocurrency and blockchain world and started a little crypto trading business. When he told some of the people he worked with about the Phish ticket debacle, a very interesting thought came about with blockchain technology. If one of the main thrusts of blockchain technology is to cut out the middle man, could it do that for the ticketing industry?
With one question, the events that would eventually lead Josh to create a blockchain-assisted platform called YellowHeart were set into motion. From that first question, Josh thought perhaps you could create a smart contract between artist and venue concerning revenue and the blockchain technology could control a digital; file, or a concert ticket, from creation to showtime, leaving no time for the scalpers to get in the middle. Josh employed tech developers to help him build a prototype, and when it worked, the music fan that lived at the center of Josh went all in and he had no other choice, but to make this a reality for all fans to have the ability to buy reasonably-priced concert tickets knowing that the money spent would be going back to the people who deserved it, the artist.
Josh called the company Ticket Chain, Logical.
No one liked the name. Too technical. Too blockchain-ey.
One night soon after Ticket Chain (the name) met its death, Josh was in his kitchen when his 11-year-old daughter’s cell phone started buzzing like mad. So being a good dad, he was looking over his daughter’s conversations when he was met with emoji after emoji of which he could not really decipher. Josh was amazed there was this whole new language that his kids were using to communicate. Through all of the tiny pictures on his daughter’s phone, one image continued to pop out to him. It was a yellow heart. That yellow heart that stood for compassion and care. That yellow heart that signifies a heart of gold. Josh thought that it was the perfect symbol for what he was hoping his new company would stand for within the music industry. And it fit.
YellowHeart was born from an emoji on an 11-year-old’s cell phone and Josh knew it was the perfect fit.