Interview with Jeremy Schulz of R-Evolution
What’s better than ending a long week by throwing down a couple of brews and splitting a round of nachos and wings? Well, throw in good conversation with belly-busting laughter and it doesn’t get much better than that…and that’s exactly what R-Evolution Industries founder Jeremy Schulz and I did last week at Lake City’s Elliott Bay Brewing Company.
Before we dug in deep, our off-the-record interview was an hour long, full-on, hands-on, interactive show-and-tell. Because R-Evolution Industries is the first interactive merchandising company in the world, it may be difficult to appreciate and understand its value, its place. I admit that I had difficulty trying to recognize its worth. BUT…that was just by reading about it. I highly recommend taking the extra step by going to the R-Evolution Industries website and viewing the demos and getting started sections. What you will read on the website and below will all make sense and “come to life”.
Somewhere in between sips of beer and swapping war stories, we were able to squeeze in an actual interview. Jeremy, thank you for taking time out of your busy life to meet with me to discuss R-Evolution Industries, band/brand management, drumming, music, life in general (and a few other things that just can’t be printed!)
One Louder Magazine: What is R-Evolution Industries?
Jeremy Schulz: R-Evolution Industries is the world’s first fully interactive merchandise company and we connect brands to mobile fans through this interactive merchandise.
OLM: Right! You showed me a t-shirt with a Personal Redemption Code (PRC) on it, the band/brand deciding if it’s located by the tag, on the sleeve, wherever they decide. Then the user scans the PRC with a QR reader on a mobile device. What does this PRC contain?
JS: Yes. We make and manufacture interactive merchandise and for this case we’ll say “yeah, it’s a t-shirt.” With a PRC, we took standard 2D QR code technology and put a twist on it. Our Personal Redemption Code is compatible with any 2D QR code scanner out there. The difference between a QR code and a PRC is that every PRC is unique. So if you have a thousand hats, shirts, caps, bags with PRCs on it…they’re all unique. A thousand PRCs. And they all have a one-time deliverable. So if we’re talking about music, the band puts out their album t-shirt – and it’s got the PRC technology in it – then you scan it with your 2D QR code scanner and have their “merchandise”, as chosen by the band (or brand).
OLM: Earlier you were showing me that each band (or brand) can decide what they want to share on this interactive merchandise? So if they want to give away concert tickets or if they released a new single, they get to decide what’s shown on each PRC…
JS: On the brand side, they would go and simply build an account on our site – or have us do it for you – and basically when your merchandise: your hats, t-shirts, bags or whatever…when your “interactive merchandise” shows up (with the PRCs on it), the brand has an account on R-Evolution Industries with a dashboard, and they’re able to control their “micro mobile site”. They can go on there and upload new pictures, new social feeds, all of that stuff…the brand can go on there and upload new incentives, or just one incentive (like an album download), download a new video to each end user. It can be one and done or an ongoing thing; it’s all up to the brand. That’s what the magic is behind R-Evolution and our Personal Redemption Codes.
OLM: The idea came about while you were on tour with Seattle-based band Underride. You noticed that people were buying shirts, but not the music…so your idea was to include a PRC on each Underride t-shirt sold so people could have the music on their mobile device simply by scanning the PRC with the QR reader on their mobile device, right?
JS: Sort of. The idea didn’t start with the band Underride. I’ve been a professional touring musician for the past 15 years and being a hired drummer…let me back up. I thought of this idea in 2009 coming home from tour in my own band, Hakai, and we had sold so many shirts that I was thinking “wow, people still need to be leaving with my album…I should embed the album in the shirt.” And I was laughing, “haha, no way that can exist.” So I thought of a way to develop it, now fast forward – I got hired to do the drum gig for Underride. They took me on tour where I met the singer, Brian Michalski. I found out about his business degree and all that. We ended up rolling out with the very first prototype with Underride because we were doing a national tour. That’s when we perfected the offering and found out that it worked. People were already buying our t-shirts. They had a shirt in one hand and guess what they had in their other hand?
JS: Their phone. How many people are at your show that have a phone? They have a shirt in the one hand, scan the PRC with the phone in their other hand and “Bam!” now our album is on their phone. They already have the shirt…and there you go!
OLM: What other merchandise can be used besides t-shirts?
JS: We’re a fully interactive merchandise company, so shirts, hats, bags… Currently we’re working with vendors to hopefully someday be able to put this all on hard goods: water bottles, USB drives, Barbie Doll heads…
JS: Yeah, absolutely! You just have to remember that every single PRC is unique. We never duplicate the same PRC twice. That’s because every one of those represents an end user. So whatever brand ends up with that PRC, now they’re able to connect to that person on a one-to-one connection and be able to reconnect and reconnect and reconnect with that one person.
OLM: This revolutionary idea isn’t just for bands, though. How would other brands benefit from R-Evolution?
JS: Yeah. So my wonderful CEO told me right off the bat, “Hey Jeremy, this is a really great thing, but you have to think…there’s a bigger picture on this. This isn’t necessarily band-specific because a band really is just a brand. There really is no difference. They market, they put out fires, they need merchandising, they make Facebook posts… A brand, whether it’s Nike, NFL, UFC or KISS or Van Halen; they need people to buy their stuff or they’re out of business.” So that’s when we really decided that this is an all-purpose kind of use.
OLM: What steps did you have to take to get R-Evolution from being just an idea to being a full-time business?
JS: It took A LOT of work! So I went out into the desert…and I’d never done peyote before. [Pause]…no, just kidding! I had a very clear vision of what I wanted, so it took me writing down my clear vision of exactly what I wanted and I pretty much…just like when you’re in a band and you’re trying out members or playing clubs, it’s just about the numbers. I started talking to everybody I knew, talking to as many different web developers as I could and used all my contacts saying, “hey, here’s my idea.” I had everything drawn up, I’d get on the phone, so a lot of cold calling…a lot of hard work. The old-fashioned, do it yourself, get it done type of work.
OLM: I imagine there was a lot of NDA (non-disclosure agreement) signing during this process?
JS: Yeah. I also got it into the patent-pending stage immediately and then after that spent a bunch of money on that whole process, how do you do it, etc. Yeah, I have a whole desk full of NDAs!
OLM: In order for it to be successful, what is the role of R-Evolution and what is the role of the band/brand?
JS: Great question. So, we provide a one-to-one connection. Our biggest value proposition is that all brands (or bands), whether you’re Nike or someone else, everyone’s already buying your merchandise. Whether you’re Microsoft at a Technical Education conference, giving away t-shirts, or you’re Grand Theft Auto and having an event for a game download, or your kid listens to Van Halen and there’s a concert…you’re putting out merchandise and your fans are buying up your merchandise. R-Evolution helps you connect to your fans through that interactive merchandise. So we’re providing a new, unique experience in an oversaturated market because everybody’s doing the same thing. Everybody. Everybody’s already buying shirts. What if you, as an end-user, bought a shirt that has the new album in it, or can say “I just got the new [Seattle] Seahawks shirt that has the stats of my favorite quarterback, his music playlist and workout regimen!” Now you’re standing out in front of everyone in the entire industry. So that’s R-Evolution’s role. We provide a better experience, a better mouse trap.
The role of the brand is to be frank and to be honest. You actually have to be able to provide content that people want. We have a saying at R-Evolution: VIP incentives equals VIP results. So if I’m the Seattle Seahawks, and I say “here, buy my interactive t-shirt and you can get one penny off a corn dog.” Well, that doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t care. I don’t eat corn dogs. Or, you could buy my interactive t-shirt and not only will you get into the game for free, but you get to meet [Seattle Seahawks quarterback] Russell Wilson after the game and sit in his hot tub!” So that’s the role of the brand. Actually think about what you will provide. Times have changed. You need to connect with your fans on a one-to-one basis.
OLM: The NBA’s New York Knicks are using R-Evolution. What other bands/brands would you like to work with?
JS: We’ve only been officially launched as off January 2nd, 2014. Everything else before that was beta. We were working the kinks out. Even the New York Knicks were beta. We were still figuring this thing out. But now that we’ve launched, it’s on. I would like to work with all social and mobile-first companies that value the importance of a one-to-one connection with their fans. All brands that are hell-bent on being relevant in the new mobile revolution that is happening right now. You’d be surprised. Those brands are very apparent, the ones that are sleeping and the ones that are awake. The ones that we’re naturally aligning with are the ones that are awake.
OLM: And so the ones that are awake, you see who they are. Who are they and who would you target? Who would you like to have on board? Do you have a top-3 or top-5?
JS: Yeah, sure. I think Vans is a no-brainer because of the Vans Warped Tour (which we’re already talking about doing something with the Vans Warped Tour). Music is very culture-based. Of course anything sports-related. How many people in sports arenas have their phone on? Two or three? Maybe four? Five?
OLM: Have their phone on?
JS: Everybody! Exactly [laughs]! So what if they were able to get the t-shirt that they were already getting at the sporting event, be able to scan it and interact in real-time which our platform does. And this whole idea was born with the music industry in mind, so forward-thinking, direct-to-fan style bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails…those bands that have really targeted going straight to the fans. Jay-Z. Guys that are “disrupting of the system.” This product is absolutely for them. This is why it was made. Guess how much R-Evolution takes from each download? Zero. [Pause]. Zero. We don’t take anything. It’s a better alternative than iTunes, it’s a better alternative to anything out there.
OLM: Ok, so if Pearl Jam calls you up and says “…we want to work with R-Evolution”, you would say…?
JS: I’d say, “Pearl Jam…A) we’re local and B) we can provide a turn-key solution for you. Your fans are already buying the shirts. Now they’ll buy the shirt with the album embedded in it, going straight to their smart phone. And you guys still retain all your rights and royalties. We don’t get anything from your album. You buy the merchandise from us and you get everything else.”
OLM: That’s one example. Pearl Jam. And you also mentioned Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails and Jay-Z. How do you plan on making these partnerships happen?
JS: I got some tricks up my sleeve…and I have a rad beard [laughs]. Otherwise, I can’t talk about it.
OLM: Ok, let’s use One Louder Magazine as an example. How could R-Evolution benefit OLM?
JS: R-Evolution could help One Louder Magazine connect with the fans on a deeper level because they would be able to provide content instantly through the merchandise. One Louder Magazine already has t-shirts. The fans can buy the t-shirts, bags, hats, whatever… connect it to their phone and they’ll be able to do social shares, tweets, be “brand managers,” propagating the causes and tell everyone on their friends list, “hey, I just got this awesome shirt like I’ve never seen before through One Louder Magazine, you’ve got to check them out, they’re awesome!” And One Louder Magazine could give their fans special content that they can only get as a reward for buying their shirt. For example, “hey, we’re going to do a raffle ticket and the winner gets a cruise on the Puget Sound…or a free entry to Déjà vu” [laughs…Ed note: Déjà vu is a gentleman’s club in Seattle, WA].
OLM: What does your day-to-day entail?
JS: I get up at 6 in the morning, get the kiddo off to school while I pound about three cups of coffee and at this stage it’s really just picking up the phone. Interactive merchandise has never existed and now it’s up to me and my company to educate the world on it. So we’re doing it old-fashioned style. Pick up the phone and call people and tell them about interactive merchandise and what it could do for their brand. I start in the early morning and do that all day until early evening, then jump into teaching drum lessons until 9 or 10 at night, then jump back on R-Evolution ‘til about midnight, then go to bed. That’s what I do. No rest for the wicked [laughs]!
OLM: What’s the future of R-Evolution? What would you like to see happen? How can R-Evolution be even better?
JS: The future of R-Evolution is working with the government to get these PRC microchips implanted in every single person. We’ll be able to track you’re every move…”you’re not leaving work!” Just kidding [laughs]! Currently we’re the only fully interactive merchandise company in the world. When someone says “I need a Kleenex”, they’re not thinking “I need a tissue”. When somebody thinks, “Man, I want a soda pop”, they say “I need a Coke” or “I need a Pepsi”. We want to be the Nike, the Coke, the Pepsi of interactive merchandising. There are already other companies coming out that are trying to do what we’re doing, but we do it way better.
OLM: If you’re better than everyone else out there, there are still ways for R-Evolution to improve. How?
JS: Oh, absolutely, yeah! The ways that we can improve is by listening to our customers, listening to our clients’ needs and wants…and always being ahead of the curve, being ahead of the technology.
OLM: What do you like to do when not focused on R-Evolution? What are some of your hobbies/interests?
JS: To be honest with you, I’m a total nerd. R-Evolution and my music are my loves. R-Evolution was born out of my being a professional musician. To me they are one and the same. R-Evolution was born out of passion, so that is my passion. And if I’m not doing that, I’m doing my other passion which is playing my drums and doing music. When I’m doing my music I’m thinking of R-Evolution and when I’m doing R-Evolution, I’m thinking of my music. I don’t really have days off because this is what I do, this is what I love to do. My family is so supportive, that even when I’m hanging out on family day doing family stuff, we’re still talking about R-Evolution, we’re still talking about drums and music. Lucky for me, I have a wife that listens to me and bounces ideas off of me and stuff. I use my total ADD and OCD to my advantage. So that’s what I do. And I do it healthily, too, because it makes me happy.
OLM: How can people find out more information about R-Evolution?
OLM: The desert island question: if you could take the collected works of five artists, who would the five be?
JS: Black Sabbath, Dio, Pantera, Iron Maiden and then a mixtape of Mastodon, Gojira, Neurosis…and the voices of my wife and kid, ‘cause I’d miss them.
OLM: Other than the wife and kid, you just listed a bunch of horns up high metal bands. I’ll bet you have some guilty listening pleasures, though. Who are they?
JS: You’re absolutely right. Although my son is also a metal head, he has an infatuation with Katy Perry. It’s been so cute to watch him dance around, so we do a lot of Katy Perry. And because I’m a ginormous hippie, I also listen to a lot of reggae. That’s not a guilty pleasure, though. For a guilty pleasure, I’d have to say Justin Timberlake is pretty dope. Straight up. I don’t think that guy has a bad song. The guy is a bad ass. And I also like Jay-Z. He’s kind of a rebel. He’s been doing things his way. He’s cool. And I gotta say Macklemore, too. I like Macklemore because I like his approach of what he’s done and I think he’d be a perfect candidate for R-Evolution. I think he needs to call me. [Laughs]. See what I did there?!
OLM: What have been some of your favorite releases this year?
JS: The new Gojira is…out of this world. Awesome! There are so many that I can’t think of off the top of my head. There are a lot of local Seattle bands that I’m into right now: Ancient Warlocks, Curse of the North…great bands! I’m really fortunate to be living in an area that has some of the best music coming out right now.
OLM: Anything else to add, Jeremy? This is your R-Evolution chance to be heard.
JS: No, I think you covered it all. We’re good to sign off. Shazbot, na-nu na-nu [laughs]!
OLM: Cool, thanks again, man! Hey, Pearl Jam, Macklemore…give this guy a call. Yesterday! (425) 890-9086 or shoot him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org