Plugify is going to transform the live music booking industry completely just like Uber disrupted the taxi world, or Airbnb the hotel industry. That is what Karens Grigorjancs, co-founder of the startup Plugify and graduate of the EIT Digital Master School, expects to happen within a year. Other booking agencies will be left standing. Last month, he started a crowdfunding campaign that has already raised more than €573,000.
It all started with an idea that came to Eline Leijten, former singer of the Hermes House Band. She noticed that it was pretty hard to book a music artist, an ensemble, a DJ or a band. So she thought that there should be a platform wedding planners, pub owners, event managers or people who want to enchant their party with chamber music could easily book artists.
Having an idea does not make you a startup yet. So she set out looking for someone who had technical skills to develop the platform and knew how to start up a business. 'That happens to be me,' says Grigorjancs, who just finished his EIT Digital Master School in ICT Innovation in the summer of 2015. 'I had a technical education and learned innovative and entrepreneurial skills, that made me the perfect co-founder.' And so he started his first job as a co-founder of a brand new startup that has the potential to rock the music scene.
Not letting any time go to waste, Karens wrote his first line of code on October 1, 2015. In that very same year the graduate was able to start registering artists. 'We invited artists from our network to drop by for coffee or a beer and to fill a profile on our website. We learned a lot from their feedback. We appeared for example to have too few categories, and artists with rare instruments were not easily to find. So we started to optimize immediately. The scope grew bigger than we had anticipated.'
After fifty artist profiles were registered, things began to snowball. These artists invited their friends and they in turn encouraged their network to make a profile for free on Plugify. On March 7, the site went live on the internet with 180 artist profiles who could be booked.
An artist can register for free. Monetization occurs when people actually make a booking through the website. "So there is no risk for the artists." Plugify makes a commission of 12% of the revenue of the booked artist(s) - 8% if an artist is booked frequently. Gregorjancs says this pricing is way below the traditional booking agencies charge. "Normally a booking office charges a commission starting at 25%. This industry is very non-transparent and often maleficent. Some agencies charge even 100% commission!"
Also the customers are better off, Grigorjancs, explains. 'The prices for booking artists are lower because artists guarantee the lowest price and a lot of the work for booking an artist is automated.' Up to June there have been 70 bookings for artists on this new platform.
So far, Plugify has been financed by the own savings of its co-founders, around €20,000, the cost of the third co-founder they hired recently not included.
Now they are in need of more staff, artists and customers. On August 9, 2016 they started a Dutch crowdfunding campaign on Oneplanetcrowd.com. Within a week they already raised €271,000. Due to the amount of requests for an English page, the companions launched also an English page on the crowdfunding website. At the time of writing, September 5, 300 people have already invested already €573,000. There are still 3 days to go to reach their goal of €650,000. The campaign closes on September 12th.
These people funding are artists - "the minimum investments is €250 instead of the average of €2 000" - for family, customers and investors. Most people however cough up more than the minimum: Gregorjancs says the average amount of investment is around €2 000. 'Some people even invest more than €10 000.' The graduate is so happy with the early success of his startup. 'We see that for example pub owners who have already used Plugify want us to stay and therefore invest in us.' Also he sees that since the campaign started, the performance requests and artists are coming in real fast. The number of registered artists has now increased to 450.
The money raised will be used to hire people. Plugify is in need of a full-time IT-person, a salesperson and some interns. The vacancy for the IT-person is almost filled. 'We are having conversations.' The most important purpose for the money is an 'aggressive marketing campaign to fuel the growth,' Gregorjancs says. With this he means that he wants to hit the Dutch market hard and fast. 'We want to gain a foothold on the Dutch market. So we will turn on a marketing machine. We target at student associations, events offices, pubs, wedding planners etc. We need to grow as fast as possible to reach as many artists and customers as possible. People are waiting for us.'
The co-founder knows that he will make no friends in the book-an-artist-industry. 'But that will probably change. We are the Uber or the Airbnb in the music industry,' Grigorjancs says referring to the platform that also connects demands and supply on a low level entry.
The Netherlands are just a beginning. Once the Netherlands is conquered, Plugify is ready to rock the European booking market. 'I think we will talk with the EIT Digital Accelerator program by that time!'
After completing his BA in Computer Science at the Technical University Delft, Karens Grigorjancs choose to gain a double master degree in ICT Innovation at the EIT Digital Academy. He studied one year at the Technical University Delft and the second year at Aalto Technical University in Finland.
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