Music is a highly collaborative creative enterprise, but musicians looking for gigs, sessions, or bands--and vice versa--still typically rely entirely on word of mouth or the wilds of Craigslist to find each other.
Los Angeles startup Jammcard is trying to change that with a sleek new professional social networking platform that is essentially a LinkedIn for musicians, tailored to their specific needs. In addition to helping musicians present detailed experience, endorsements, and contact information, and connect through messaging, a user's "Jammcard" also has a sections to organize links to audio and video files, and an events calendar for upcoming gigs.
And while there is a Jammcard desktop site, it is designed primarily to be used on smartphones, to accommodate musicians' mobile lifestyles. Users can even exchange Jammcards instantly by scanning a QR code. The iOS app is available in the iTunes store now, and will be followed shortly by an Android version on Google Play.
Jammcard was created by Elmo Lovano, a long-time session and touring drummer and producer who has worked with Christina Perri, Skrillex, Miley Cyrus, and many more, in addition to currently playing in four bands. Lovano toured from age 15 to 22, and then settled in Los Angeles, where he started a weekly show at Hollywood club Hemingway's Lounge called Camerata that ran through 2011.
"It was a place where I could play with my bands and I could have some of my friends' bands play, friends who were really talented but weren't exactly good at exposing or promoting themselves, and deserved exposure," says Lovano. "I thought I was just going to do it for four weeks. All four weeks were very successful, so we ended up extending it and doing it for 200 weeks straight, every single week."
About midway through Camerata's run, Lovano became something of a broker for bands and musicians. "People started hitting me up every day like, 'Yo, do you know anyone who needs a guitar player,' or 'Yo, I need a guitar player, bass player, drummer, producer, programmer, musical director,' whatever it was," he says. "I was always matching people together because, whenever you had a good match, it was always a really good feeling whenever someone was like, 'Oh, man, the guitar player you gave us ended up changing our entire band and being the best thing ever.' It's almost like hooking up two of your friends and having them go and get married and be happy and you're like, 'Oh, nice.' It's a really good feeling."
Realizing that there was no centralized online community for musicians to find each other, Lovano came up with the idea for Jammcard in 2009, but held off to pursue his own touring career.
"As my career was taking off and I was working with my idols, I realized that they were still booking, like filling a hole next Tuesday," says Lovano. "The reality of, 'Like, wow, the reality of the professional musician is freelance forever.' Even if you're on the biggest tour, or you could be playing a huge artist, the day you come home from the tour, you don't have a job. You always need to look for work and that was when I was like, 'Oh, my god. The professionals need this just as much as the amateurs needed it.'"
Currently, people looking to hire or connect with other musicians can browse YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or other standalone services, but those platforms tend to be for existing acts and aren't necessarily organized by individuals with specific skills. Craigslist is the go-to classified platform for most musicians, but there's no standard for the way information is presented or people are connected ("My little brother's been looking on Craigslist for players for literally six years and never found anyone stable," says Lovano).
While many musicians have Facebook pages, Lovano says that many he knows have stopped using it regularly for networking, and many useful functionalities require installing third-party apps. "The closest thing that there ever was [to an organized professional online community of musicians] was back in the day when Myspace first came out," says Lovano. "That was the essential place where all the bands were. It blew my mind that Facebook never grabbed onto that."
In real life, musicians often meet at bars and events, but exchanging information is often disorganized and it's difficult to capture who someone is or what they can do. "When I go out to a bar at night, I get into at least five conversations with different musicians," says Lovano. "Then I'll I have like 'Jared--bassist' in my phone, and in two weeks I go back and I'm like, 'Who is this?' Then I'll text them to say, 'Yo, what's your last name so I can Google you or send me a link.' Instead, I want their Jammcard."
A Jammcard user can add someone to their "chain," which is the list of people they work with regularly or approve of, and can message directly in the app. But users can also follow other users for updates on their music or schedule, and there is also a "Card Stash," where other musicians' scanned Jammcards go for later review.
"What Jammcard is, more than anything," says Lovano, "is exactly what I want to be handed by a musician and exactly what I want to hand them myself."
[Image: Flickr user Lance Neilson]