The right music can transform a boring night out into a night to remember. For venues and hospitality businesses, music creates atmosphere, attracts new customers and encourages them to spend more. And after COVID-19 lockdowns temporarily pulled the plug on live music and gigs, the industry is ready to roar back to life.
Muso plans to play a big part in turning the volume back up on live music and entertainment. Founded by co-founders Jeremiah Siemianow, Brandon Crimmins and Alan Jin, Muso’s booking platform makes it easy for venues to discover and work with entertainment artists. With more than 2,000 artists in its books, the startup is now gaining popularity among large venue and hospitality groups and it has used the last nine months to develop new products to capitalise on its momentum.
We spoke with CEO Jeremiah Siemianow about how the business has adapted in 2020 and what’s ahead for 2021.
First, how did you come up with the idea for Muso?
“There were a few experiences that led us to believe that there was a gap in the way venues and artists found each other and connected. First, my cofounder Brandon, who worked for a venue in Melbourne at the time, observed how difficult it was to find and book quality artists. Between cancellations, double-bookings and miscommunications on things like equipment and payments, it was rarely a smooth process and he’d often be left scrambling for a solution at the last minute.
“On the other side, Alan was a musician in a band and was also finding it difficult to secure bookings with new venues. I had previously worked in hospitality and real estate, so we all brought different perspectives on how the process would be improved and the value it would offer venues. The more we discussed the problem, the more we realised it was worth exploring further. We started by getting feedback from 140 different venues and used those insights to develop our MVP.”
“The product started as a way to connect artists with venues for bookings and to simplify planning and payments. We quickly went from 400 artists to more than 2,000.”
Australia has taken a strong stance on COVID with many states imposing strict restrictions that would have slowed your early momentum. How did Muso adapt through those changes?
“We were fortunate to have support from quality investors who advised us on putting together a dozen different COVID hypotheses to guide our strategy. These plans gave us a clear framework on how to make decisions quickly as the situation evolved.
“We knew pretty quickly, however, that the hospitality industry was going to be negatively impacted. So one of the main priorities was to focus on building our community. Music artists were losing their livelihood, so we wanted to come up with ways we could help them get through an incredibly tough period and to bounce back quickly when things opened back up.
“We launched Muso Meets, in which we interviewed key industry leaders and ran panel discussions and workshops, to help educate and upskill artists. We also launched Muso Mates to organise small social groups for artists to connect and provide support and accountability for one another weekly during lockdown. We had five different groups with around 15 to 20 artists in each.”
“These initiatives, along with our re-brand, have really engaged and strengthened our community. We’ve built a lot more trust among artists and increased our awareness and reputation among artists and venues, and we’re now seeing the benefits of that as restrictions are eased.”
You also used the COVID period to focus more heavily on your product development, particularly for larger venue groups. How will these improvements help you grow?
“Definitely. Since late 2019, we had been ideating on an enterprise version of Muso for large hospitality venue groups and we used the Covid period to fast track that idea into a development reality. We had built relationships with organisations like Australian Venue Co, which has more than 150 venues across Australia and New Zealand and were receiving more inbound opportunities, so we knew there was a great opportunity.
“We want Muso to become the industry standard for live entertainment, so we’ve focused on the features that embed us in the market. We’re now giving entertainment and hospitality groups greater visibility of bookings across their network, and full transparency on costs. Instead of keeping track of bookings on a per venue basis, they can get one invoice and eventually will be able to track ROI across their group. We’ve now signed Australian Venue Co as a customer and we’re confident it will be a game-changer for their business and also support artists to have access to a wider pool of gig opportunities.”
Looking at how venues and artists have adapted through COVID, what changes do you expect to see in the live music industry over the next year?
“The music industry has been very resilient; just like us, they pivoted quickly to drive other income streams, focus on streaming services and using social media to expand their audience base.”
“Music is part of the fabric of our social experiences, so it’s already coming back quickly across the country but I do expect some elements will change as things continue to reopen. For bigger artists and venues, we’re seeing plans for more frequent, more intimate shows as opposed to large, ‘one night only’ events. Events will likely become ‘hyperlocal’ as many continue to work from home instead of getting together in the city, which will pave the way for ‘The Local’ to reignite itself as the home of live music.
“At the upper end of town, we’re also seeing artists and venues collaborating more on experiences to mitigate the impact of reduced capacity. I expect things like artist meet-and-greets or tickets bundled with food and beverage packages will be more popular next year to encourage fans to come to the venues earlier, attract more foot traffic and increase average spends.”
What’s next for Muso?
“Having signed Australian Venue Co, we are focused on rolling out Muso across all of their 150+ venue locations, including expanding into their locations in New Zealand. Gigs with existing venues are starting to come back, but we’re also focused on engaging with other large venue groups, including looking a bit further afield and working with partners to getting a foothold in the US and UK.”
“We are building a stronger revenue base so that we can continue to develop and improve our products and services and are currently working on new solutions to increase venue patronage from foot traffic and helping venues maximise their entertainment ROI.
Investor Perspective on Muso:
Investible joined Alberts Impact Capital, Unified Music Group and notable angel investors in backing Muso in late 2019. Investible’s Investment Director Daniel Veystblit says there were a number of factors about the business that attracted investors’ attention.
“Muso is led by an incredibly high-energy founder team who have consistently demonstrated that they have the passion and drive to succeed. Building a two-sided marketplace is never easy but Jeremiah, Alan and Brandon have identified a significant opportunity to improve the way artists and venues connect and work together. The development of its enterprise solution only solidifies its potential to become a staple in the live music scene and continue to grow internationally.”