Passion. Focus. Determination. Mentors. Strategy. Execution and an iron chin.
Back in 2010, I had the idea to create a social network for the music industry. At the time, I was dr umming in five bands (including Skrillex and Christina Perri) and producing a weekly art and music event in Hollywood. Myspace had disappeared, Facebook didn’t embrace music, and LinkedIn was for my uncle and his office co-workers. I saw the need for a way to connect musicians. I spent a lot of time thinking about my idea until I finally had something that I felt was tangible.
I called my dad (who’s a retired entrepreneur) and pitched Jammcard to him. “That’s a great idea. You should build it,” he said. “But you’ll have to stop touring and making records, and go all in. This will take more time than you could ever imagine and you won’t be able to do anyth ing else.” He was right. “You can’t steal second with your foot on first.”
If you want to build a great company it’s not going to be easy, and if you want to build a great social network, it’s even harder. If you don’t strive to build something great and better than EVERYTHING that currently exists in the market, don’t bother.
I made a lot of mistakes in the first two years of building Jammcard. The industry refers to people like me as “first time founders” for a reason. There is SO much to learn. I can’t tailor this piece just for you, but now that Jammcard is off the ground and doing well, I can share with you some things I’ve learned.
The first thing you have to do is flesh out your idea. Think big, think long, think hard. It’s imperative to know two things: WHAT you want to build and WHY you want to build it. Once you come to a place where you feel you have formulated an idea for your company, then ask yourself “Why do you want to build this company?” Then ask yourself why again. And again. And again. And again.
Pro tip: Make sure this is all written down. Get it out of your head and onto paper.
Now that you have a solid idea for your company and reason to start it, it’s time to build your team. You can’t do this all alone. I HIGHLY recommend finding a co-founder. Find that person who has completely different skill sets from you, someone who excels where you are weak, and vice versa. That’s hard to find, just like finding a great manager or band member (it’s equally important).
Now, you need money. There are three ways to do that:
Fund it yourself, aka “bootstrap”
Raise investment money from angel investors
Raise investment capital from venture capitalists
Raising money is hard. It requires a deck, some sort of financials, and laser focus. These things can take weeks or even months to make, and are documents that are never really ever finished. They continually evolve, as will you, and your company. Investors want to know WHY there is a need for this. What problem are you solving, and why are you the right person to solve this problem? You will have to completely convince them of your vision and yourself as the founder in order for them to write a check. You’re going to hear a lot of no’s. Learn from them and keep moving.
Good news. If you have sold records, then you’ve sold a product, which means you’re already at the very least an entrepreneur. Building a band is building a brand, which is building a product. Bands are one of hardest products in the world to monetize, so if you have successfully monetized your band, chances are you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
When I’m music directing or mentoring an artist, I always make sure they understand this key fact: Artists are the CEO’s of their company. Managers are the COO’s. You must have the vision to run your company, and you must manage your manager. It is your responsibility to make sure everyone on your team is on brand, communicates, knows your vision and executes your vision.
Every company is very different. With Jammcard, we have an app that is an invite-only social network for music professionals. We curate live events featuring our members, and we get our members gigs as a service to our clients. We also create content and currently have five original web series, one of which, How I Got the Gig, is now in partnership with the GRAMMYs. I had NO idea I was going to be a content creator when I started Jammcard. We started creating content because we were having such a difficult time programming the app and getting it to an awesome place and I didn’t want to wait any longer to start building the brand. Our original content has become a way many people hear about Jammcard and is now one of our revenue streams. This is a prime example of why they say, “You must have the ability to pivot.” We’re expanding into multiple new markets this year and are poised to grow exponentially in the coming year.
Final thoughts: Build a team of people you enjoy being around, who are hard working, who believe in the company and believe in you. Find your customers. Listen to them. Be authentic. Go change the world and enjoy the ride.
ELMO LOVANO can be contacted on Instagram as well @elmolovano. If you’re a music professional, you can check out jammcard.com and apply to join the company’s network. Post your feedback. If you’re an amateur or a music lover, check out Jammcard’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. It’s constantly updated with new content on Jammcard members and information on the modern day music scene.