Photo Credit: William DeShazer Photography
Thirteen music-focused entrepreneurs from around the world descended on Nashville Thursday night to pitch their startup ideas as they were introduced to the community as the newest members of Project Music Portfolio.
Project Music Portfolio is a year-round, industry-leading entrepreneurship program designed to accelerate the success of growth-oriented, music-minded startups. It connects startups to advisors, music industry partners, and other resources to take their startup to the next level without wasted time or effort.
The startups were in town for two days for Project Music Portfolio’s First Look event. For most teams, it was their first time in Music City. They spent their time immersing themselves in the Nashville’s music industry with advisor meetings, visits to partners including Warner Music Nashville and CMA, and more. Their time was highlighted by the First Look pitch event with a crowd of Project Music and EC advisors, members, and others from the Nashville community.
We took a few minutes to talk to each startup about their companies and their time in Nashville. Take a listen.
Austin, Texas-based startup Only in VR, is building the world's largest library of 360-degree music-oriented content. CEO Michael Hodson spoke about the geographic challenges posed by live shows, and how technology can provide new revenue streams for artists, labels and venues.
“Really excited to be part of Project Music with those introductions and leads and mentors that can help us expand into the area,” Hodson said.
Cori Banyon, CEO and founder of AndMe.TV, is creating a virtual meet-and-greet platform that gives artists flexible space to engage with fans. Currently based in Charleston, South Carolina, the company wants to foster authentic "off the stage" interactions between artists and their public.
“I was the disappointed fan at a meet-and-greet experience that fell short. And I went home that day and I wanted to use my skills in tech and marketing to build a virtual space for these artists to interact with their fans that’s authentic, it’s secure, easy, simple,” Banyon said.
Cameron Gibson, CEO of JamFeed, is developing a music news feed that keeps fans up-to-date in real time without the hassle of scouring blogs, news and social media. The Austin, Texas-based entrepreneur is marrying the music tech culture of his home city and the industry infrastructure of Nashville.
“People really need to know what’s going on with their artists across all areas, from news to social media to new music, etc. We saw an opportunity - we noticed that most people are in the streaming business, they’re in the concert business, but we live in a world where content is king,” Gibson said.
Jonathan Spangler, CEO of Ciari Guitars, has invented "the first symmetrically-folding guitar in the universe" – the Ascender premium travel guitar. Based in San Diego, California, Spangler hopes to ease the anxiety of millions of guitarists flying with instruments by teaming up with Project Music.
“I ditched my corporate legal job to do this full time. So, I’m all in,” Spangler said.
Cheryl Potts, founder of CEO of Cleerkut Royalty, is establishing a cloud-based music business platform for self-released artists, independent music creators and music professionals that automates administrative tasks in the industry and helps creators own their music. Based in Washington, D.C., Potts is joining Project Music, which she says will "assist in industry immersion" by allowing her to meet and network with major players in the music industry while her app continues changing lives.
“Copyright and royalties can be confusing and complex. A lot of artists who are putting out their own music may collaborate with others and do not know that the producer may own that sound recording. Or they may think they own that sounds recording, but they don’t know that they need to put it in writing and decide who owns it,” Potts said.
Naveen Sridhar, CEO of Soulsence, is sharing the stories of how fans and artists connect to music with weekly events and social networking. The San Francisco, California-based company gives people a dedicated social network where anyone can capture life's soundtrack and talk about how they connect to each song.
“I wouldn’t always share my stories out loud, verbally, but I would share a song on Facebook to try to convey what I was feeling with that song, and a lyric that went with it. And I found that Facebook isn’t really the place to share that. It’s about everything - it’s food, it’s travel, etc. So there needed to be a dedicated place for music,” Sridhar said.
Sam Tharp, CEO of Fretish, is connecting guitar players, instrument collectors and artisan guitar builders to eliminate the stress behind the retail process. The Boston, Massachusetts-based sharing platform allows people to list guitars for short-term rent in local areas.
“Whether it’s your heart or your home or your automobile, people are becoming much more inclined to share things that they had otherwise never considered sharing,” Tharp said.
Dr. Jenna Paley, CEO of Project Decibel, is saving ears with her startup – a concierge audiology practice and one-stop shop for custom ear gear. Based in Chicago, Illinois, the Project Music-partnered company is based around hearing loss prevention, and has teamed up with construction companies, athletes, bartenders, and others to provide hearing protection for at-risk populations.
“We’re really passionate about the music industry because it’s a really high-risk population of people that are unregulated. There’s no government saying that, ‘oh, if you’re employed by a venue, as a front-of-house engineer, we don’t actually, by law, have to provide you with ear protection.’ Those people are really at a high risk for hearing injury,” Paley said.
Seth Hillinger, CEO and CTO of AudioDrops, is creating a location-based music discovery platform that allows people to leave music "drops" at real-life locations. Headquartered in New York City, AudioDrops is teaming up with Project Music to enable artists to engage their fans in new and interesting ways.
“Artists don’t make as much money selling music anymore and we saw this as a really interesting economic model for them to partner with brands. We want to be at the center of the band, brand and fan triangle,” Hillinger said.
Jason Burchard, CEO and Founder at Rootnote, is building a platform for supporting and investing in musician-owned companies in partnership with Project Music. The Nashville-based entrepreneur aims to help artists who want to build not just a successful music career but also a company around themselves by bridging a gap for investors interested in the music industry and creating a financing and equity-based investment model.
“We noticed that there’s a massive need from an artist’s perspective, for support and help for those entrepreneurially-minded artists who want to build not just a successful music career but also a company around themselves,” Burchard said.
Meredith Collins, CEO of Hookist, is building a collaborative writing platform where well-known artists write original songs with fans. The New York City-based startup creates new revenue streams for artists and brings communities together by creating authentic and meaningful ways for musicians to engage with fans at scale.
“In a way, we’re crowdsourcing a song with a well-known artist judging and refining it,” Collins said.
Robb Dillon, CEO of Smashmouse, is revolutionizing hands-free control of digital devices with his universal pedal. The Atlanta, Georgia-based entrepreneur has partnered with Project Music to reduce musicians' irritation when dealing with tech and their instruments. Using technology as a driver for growth in the music industry, he aims to create a solid base of users, explore how apps can further improve the music experience and bring his project to new industries, including the healthcare space.
“I started playing guitar and encountered a universal problem that all musicians have: If we’re using technology more than ever to learn, record, play and perform music, but we have two hands on our instruments, how do we do both?” Dillon said.
NFCSound is an ultrasound barcode that can be encoded into a unique audio stream. Any device with a speaker can transmit it and most devices with a microphone can decode them. It can complement existing networking technologies or to work in offline environments. NFCSound does not require you to go through any server and the encoding takes place in the device itself.
"This is totally an offline process. We can engage you even if you don’t have a sim card or even if you are in a place that doesn’t have connectivity. As an example, imagine that you are in an airline. Airlines have 0% engagement. We can turn it into 100%.", said CEO Daniel Waiss.