Q+A: Josh Ellstein, Backstage
Backstage is currently the biggest online casting platform in the US, providing actors and performers with the tools they need to build a profile, land auditions and receive career advice. Not only that, Backstage is also the place for casters to find talent and post jobs. That amounts to over 100,000 members and 4,000 opportunities posted every week! With offices in LA and Boston too, Backstage are relative newbies to the DUMBO neighborhood. Yet, it seems that calling this area of Brooklyn their New York home was a great decision for this company. Our intern, Beth Flaherty, sat down with President and Chief Operating Officer, Josh Ellistein, to find out more.
Can you tell us a bit about how Backstage got started?
Backstage "Magazine" was founded in 1960 as a trade publication focused on the business of acting. In 2011 we carved out the brand/business from the rest of the Nielsen Media Trade publications, which are owned by the investment bank, Guggenheim. We then rebranded and modernized Backstage with a mission to help performing artists manage and grow their careers online.
Can you tell us a bit about what Backstage does?
Today Backstage provides aspiring and professional artists a platform to manage their careers. This include benefits such as creating a comprehensive, industry specific focused business profile. We also provide a messaging and community platform to interact with other artists and industry professionals, which is currently the largest and most trusted casting-call job platform. Not only this, but we also have a large array of content and tools for artists to continue their career education, market themselves and manage their overall careers. The new backstage provides industry-professionals powerful tools to perfect their process of finding, evaluating and hiring talent. In the last 2-years, Backstage has expanded from a focus on actors to also designing career platform products for musicians, bands, promoters, dancers, crew and voiceover talent.
What is the office culture like?
Our office culture is very unique. Our team is a nice balance of technologists, performing artists and business professionals. We subscribe to a self management style, and therefore have a very flat team structure, for both engineering and operating roles. Our culture differs a little bit from traditional venture backed technology platforms in that we are focused on profitable short and long-term growth, as well as allowing our team members to have a real work, life, family balance. We do a lot for fun as a team too, mostly around the nature of what we do here! We have musician office-performances at our office (aka Office Gigs) and often invite other companies in the DUMBO community. We do a lot of outside events together as well including curling, the annual Greenway Bike in Brooklyn and lots of office sponsoring food and drinking.
What do you like about DUMBO and how did you end up here?
We moved from 770 Broadway in Astor Place to 45 Main St in DUMBO in 2015 for a lot of reasons. The office space that we have now, I feel, really meets the character and working style of our company. We have an open office plan with lots of conference space that promotes collaboration and cross-team communication. Of course, there's a big technology culture in DUMBO too, which means we get to collaborate with a lot of companies in our building. We've worked with Prolific on mobile design and development, and we've partnered with Tunecore, Songkick and Crowsurge on musician platforms called Sonicbids and ArtistData. Lastly, two thirds of our team here in New York live in Brooklyn, mostly in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, so the location is very convenient for most of us. It means we have 4-office dogs, including my dog Oscar!
Favorite spots in DUMBO?
We are huge fans of after work drinks (and food) at Gran Electrica, especially the outdoor space. A lot of the team also love the food trucks on Water Street, and we even have a slackbot that gives us an update of the food trucks available each day! For me, Foragers is an unbelievable staple - I wish they would open up in Brooklyn Heights as well! We all loved 66 Water Street too, so the closing was sad, but recently we have started meeting up after-work more at the Hop Shop and on Pier 2. Oh, and when we have to go away, Oscar loves Cheeky Dogs!