What are the startups actually about? Disruption? Solving a problem? Creating something you love with those who share your vision? My guess is all of that and brokenmusic is a great example. With musicians on board, brokenmusic offers a great online solution for sound engineers and recording studios connecting them with music artists.
It’s a so called digital bridge and a marketplace that handles all the nuisance dealing with search, scheduling and booking music studios, while giving a possibility to sound engineers to list their services. Handcrafted in Germany the startup is looking forward to becoming the world leader with their solution for music and media production businesses. Valéry Döhler, the co-founder of brokenmusic gave us an inspiring interview.
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Me: I guess the fact that brokenmusic was developed by music artists, makes it clear how you came up with this idea. But anyways, was it a sudden enlightenment or a long elaborated plan?
Valéry: It wasn’t a long elaborated plan. The original idea to create brokenmusic came 2 years ago and we started working on the project about a year after. When I was at the graduate school I used to spend my time off with my brother. He is a musician. Back in the day he had a band room in our parents’ basement. I always heard their band wanted to find a producer, make a demo, produce music albums. So the guys were looking for sound engineers, recording studios. But it is really hard to get in touch with them. There is no way except telephone (which they don’t pick up often) to know if the studio is available so that you can simply come and record.
One day my brother said: «Why can’t we just do it online?» We checked if there is anything that resembles such service and there wasn’t. So we decided we could put all this experience online and make it easy. On the one hand musicians would be able to know which sound engineer or a studio is available, what it is like, if it fits or not, what the costs are. On the other hand the producers don’t miss any calls or any bookings, they are always out there to offer their services. This was the starting point and then we paved our way to what brokenmusic is now. We have been online for more than 6 months.
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Me: What does your team look like?
Valéry: We are the three founders — one of the guys is a developer, my brother is a musician and I am a business guy. It’s sort of these three angles. The team has grown since the launch and now there are other musicians and developers on the team.
Me: How can you describe the first month of work?
Valéry: Inefficient. If I could go all over again I would do things differently I guess. We wanted to be super perfect and super early, make the whole thing work at once. We wanted to do a lot more, not just recording studios but other things as well. So it turned out to be pretty stressful. That’s a traditional mistake. Thinking about it now, I would’ve done it step by step without trying to build too many features from the start. But on the other hand it led us to where we are now.
When we just launched, a music producer could put a profile of himself and say: this is how much I cost per day. Now we’ve put on a few more details like hourly costs, how much the studio takes for the whole band versus just a part player, mixing, mastering — all these technical issues in music. But that came mostly from the feedback of our users. Pretty much 90% of what we have now is advised by our customers.
Me: What was the first big success?
Valéry: The first big success was getting one of the greatest developers and a marketing intern. We discovered them without searching a lot before we went online. These two guys helped us through the rocky parts. We just got lucky. Otherwise it would’ve been terribly hard. I am not a developer, my brother isn’t a developer. So you are really dependent on them to make a great product. That’s why finding the right people to join the team is the biggest success a company may have in its early stages.
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Me: Speaking of monetization strategy. You take 10% from booking studios and there is a Go Pro offer. What is the main source of revenue for you?
Valéry: In order to attract customers to our platform we’ve put a lot of effort into taking great pictures for the studios. We corrected content, gave advice on pricing. We did this all for free because it served us well. Studios and sound engineers came approaching us asking if we could do more for them. So we are taking care of the basic stuff, but then if somebody is willing to upgrade, we will put some more effort into it. However, it’s not the way of making money for us. The core monetization is getting 10% from booking. This is something we can scale. Anything else is just extra to make the website more attractive for the customers.
Me: Speaking of recording studios. What kind of music producers are accepted on your website?
Valéry: We don’t let only recording studios on the website. If you are able to use Ableton, Logic Pro or other music software, you are categorized as a recording studio. You may only offer a few products. So it’s not just limited to what is known as a traditional recording studio. Anyone who is willing and able to produce music can sign up and put his offers online. It doesn’t matter if your service costs €500, €600 or €1000 per day — we try to make every sound engineer look good. We offer the studios to put on sound bites, references, some extras, like a note «drinks included» and stuff like that.
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Me: Are you operating in Germany only?
Valéry: Not exactly. That’s German speaking area — Germany, Switzerland and Austria. But we are going internationally available very soon.
Me: Could you say a few words about the competitors?
Valéry: The biggest competitor is offline. You either call the guy you know or google whatever you think is right. It’s the biggest enemy right now. Online platform is totally different than what you’ve been doing for the past ten years and it’s not that easy to change that. In terms of a direct competitor there is a website called SoundBetter based in the USA. But we are not really worried about them. Switching people to online and recommending the features that weren’t once needed — this is a real challenge.
Me: What features for sound engineers are you planning to implement further?
Valéry: One is an instant messaging feature. It’s a personal service. Customers need to be able to speak to the sound engineer or a producer and ask questions before booking. Especially when we go mobile, which is going to be a lighter version of the website with limited information about music producers. Another feature is videos and some references to the video. That’s what a lot of sound engineers asked for. We are going to move step by step and just listen to what the customers want. Right now I am satisfied with how the profiles look and the way we did it. Everything else is extra.
Me: I found on your website that the name brokenmusic means you want to disrupt the conventions of music business. Is it about going online?
Valéry: It’s about two things. When you build a startup company everybody tells you about disruption. So we were thinking: «Yeah let’s disrupt the name as well!» But the real reason is that A Memoir by Sting, one of the most popular biographies of musicians, has the same name — Broken Music. Sting basically disrupted the music as well having created a thing of his own. Majority of musicians know the name. Within the music industry it’s a huge term and people remember that.
Me: This sounds like an awesome idea! I wish you big success with disrupting the online music planet. Good luck to brokenmusic! Valéry, thanks for a great talk.