206: Changing The Musical Ecosystem One Connection At A Time With Josh Simons Of Vampr
It is not easy to build a social networking app that produces revenue, especially with meet platforms, which typically derive most of their income from user subscriptions. Josh Simons is the Cofounder and CEO of Vampr, an app that helps musicians discover, connect, and collaborate with fellow musicians, the music industry, and music lovers alike. Before becoming chief executive of a tech startup, Josh has been a singer and songwriter, enjoying a bit of success for a while and working with the likes of Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Confronting a dilemma for years about how to make money out of a meet platform without having to pressure his users to get subscriptions, he joins Mitch Russo to tell the story of how he and his team got his company to where it is now and what the app has in store for the music ecosystem in the near future.
Changing The Musical Ecosystem One Connection At A Time With Josh Simons Of Vampr
Welcome to this moment in time when you get to chill out, tune in, and extract wisdom you can use to grow your business with Your First Thousand Clients. We are here to support you by making sure you know what is working in business and in life. If you’re reading and have a business that is in need of some love, revenue and profits, I want to show you my product. It’s called Profit Stacking Secrets. It started out many years ago as a client assessment, but it became more and more of a tool and a system as the years rolled forward. Hundreds of clients later, I refined it to be what you need to grow quickly with little investment using strategy instead of cash. If that sounds good to you, go to ProfitStackingSecrets.com and get your copy. Onto my guest and his incredible story.
We all know the term starving artists and that could easily be extended to starving musicians too. After all, what are the odds of a musician making it much further than a weekend gig at the local Holiday Inn? My guest was a working musician with a third-rate manager who locked him into a terrible deal. He was trapped, financially frozen, and stranded at the same time for more than six months. He went back to manual labor until it was resolved. When it was, he spent five more years honing his craft, reaching his peak, opening for Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood after a sold-out arena tour, and finally to retire and start his true mission in life. He built a social network for creatives, musicians, songwriters, and producers. It’s called Vampr. He’s here to share his story about how you can start something small and grow it rapidly. Welcome, Josh Simons, to the show.
What an introduction. Thank you very much.
You’re welcome. Josh, it’s a pleasure to have you here. You have such a great story. Why don’t we start from the beginning and tell me how this all started for you?
I suppose the band is probably the most relevant starting point, which conveniently started not long after school. We’re not missing much by starting there. Starting the band in many respects and certainly in hindsight was my first experience running a business because musicians and bands, in particular, are all small businesses. That’s how they’re run. You’ve got a lawyer. You have an accountant. You’re trying to make money that can be reinvested back into the project so you can grow it. In a sense, I was running a business from the moment I left school. We started like any other bands, which you play in your local clubs and you graduate through them and play slightly bigger ones. Eventually, the song gets on community radio or college radio and then a manager takes notice so on so forth and so it goes. We were lucky. The first single we released was picked up by national radio in Australia, which is where I was living back then. The upside of that was that we quickly launched into the national spotlight there.
The downside was that we had to make a lot of decisions quickly that weren’t particularly well informed, such as the story you referenced with the management. We’ve had some dud lawyers who steered us down the wrong path and missed out on some big record deals. That’s the grim side of things. The flip side of that is I was lucky that in a year since the day we launched that band, I had been on national TV, national radio, and I’ve done one national tour. We got one of those lucky starts where you get shot out of the cannon that everyone kills for. We then had the slump that most people don’t recover from. Fortunately, in my case, we managed to rebound in a big way and reach heights that we couldn’t have dreamed of in those early days.
Let’s go back to a little bit of those events in your life. First of all, it’s rare for a band to start and become successful rapidly. I had a band in high school and we were successful. We started playing gigs for $50 a night and then went on eventually to be charging $500 a night. It was a lot of fun. We were kids. We couldn’t even drive. We had to pay for a driver. Here was the thing. There was this dream I had of being a rockstar. I woke up one day and realized that I could never be a rockstar. The true reason is that I never had any talent at all. As much as I enjoyed playing the guitar, I wasn’t talented at it. I had that moment where I said, “That’s not going to be where I end up,” which was great for me. Looking back, it was enabling me to move past that. It gave me the leg up in life. In your case, you shot out of the cannon quite successfully and quickly. I’m going to guess it was based on the fact that you had original music.
That moment that you described where an aspiring rockstar has that conversation with themselves where they get honest and say, “Maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was,” is an important rite of passage. There are many people who go down that path. It sets you up in life because it’s probably the first time you ever be real with yourself. It’s a real moment of growth. Despite the success I’ve had in music, I’ve had those moments too, where I go, “Why wasn’t the success a certain magnitude higher for any number of reasons?” Sometimes it’s talent. Sometimes it’s work ethic. Those conversations that you have to have with yourself as creators where you go, “Why isn’t this working,” are quite profound ones. If you utilize that moment or you take something away from it, it does set you up for a lifetime of being able to look out for yourself. I wanted to point that out. That’s powerful.
To go back to your question, we did have original music. We had good original music if I’m being honest. Every manager I’ve ever had has often suggested that I’d make a lot more money as a songwriter than a performer. That’s not to say I’m a bad performer at all. Being an artist means you have to be good at performing and songwriting. Most people aren’t good at it either. I was good at one and good at the other. That’s probably why we had a chance straight out of the gate. It’s discipline. There’s an element of having a good ear, but it’s something that you practice. It’s an exercise. It’s a muscle that you constantly have to use and refine and so is performing.Being a performer and a CEO of a tech company are not that different. You need to come up with creative solutions for both. Click To Tweet
I used to run on the treadmill like Beyoncé did and sing my songs out loud for 45 minutes so that when I hit the stage I was fit, I didn’t look lazy and I gave people their money’s worth, even if it was a $10 show. That’s the kind of work ethic that you need to have to make it big and to be taken seriously. We would play in the smallest venues in Australia and treated it as if we were playing Wembley Arena. We took it seriously. Sometimes that rubs people the wrong way. Usually, those people are bitter and jealous. It caught the attention of the people who mattered. I wouldn’t change a thing in that respect. I think it’s good advice. Treat it like you are playing in Wembley every night and you’ll probably get somewhere.
You’ve heard the story of how The Beatles launched their career in Germany and how they played basic local bars six nights a week until they honed their craft, honed their harmonies, and tried out different songs. Being a musician is in many ways a lot like being anything that requires honing of ability, whether it’s a writer or even a software engineer.
As a musician and a performer, you are A/B testing every night you go out there. In every interview I’ve done, people have said, “How have you handled the transition from being a performer and a songwriter to the CEO of a tech company?” The answer is it’s not all that different. You flex the same creative muscles in your brain to come up with creative solutions. It’s a different type of creativity, writing zeros and ones from writing notes on a stave. It’s not altogether that different in terms of the parts of your brain that you need to turn on and tap into to learn, interpret feedback, and to structure that into actionable items. It’s all the same.
I’ve been on a much more amateur scale. I’ve been both a coder and built a software company, and a musician and built a high school rock band and enjoyed the journey throughout. What inspired you to create Vampr? What were the steps you took in order to bring it to life?
I was inspired to create Vampr, which is a social professional network for creatives. In absolute layman’s terms, I’m a drummer looking for a band. I created it when I was in London in 2014, post that management situation you described. I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had a solid list of contacts in London. Once I had churned through that contact list, I was starting from scratch and I thought, “This is bonkers.” How have I charted in one part of the world and being respected by my peers in the industry and the public and then here I am in another part of the world and I don’t know where to go? It’s not that I’m not good enough. It’s that I hadn’t found my people. My tribe is what we refer to it a lot.
That prompted me to call my label boss from Australia who is my co-founder in Vampr and I said, “This is my situation. I wish there was an app like Tinder or something that you could put in what you were looking for in music and there it is.” He said, “It’s going to be a lot of work. Why don’t we build it?” I’m simplifying the story, but a couple of years after that. It started off as a bit of a part-time project. We scoped out a vision. After 24 hours from that conversation, I had made a Photoshop prototype where you could click through and that’s the first time I had ever done that. I was always savvy on a computer, but I had never written a line of code.
After that, Barry came up with the name of what we now call Vampr. We registered the company. All of this happened quite quickly. I was still working as a musician. He was still working in an executive and director capacity in other companies. There was about a twelve-month period or so where we had more luxury than a lot of other startups. We took our time getting to know what would be required like a graph database. I’ve never heard of that in my life. We had the benefit of time to get to understand the challenges technologically that we would be facing. We don’t even get started on the marketing side yet, that comes later. We spent the time understanding what the requirements would be from a business perspective and then going out and meeting the right people who could facilitate that in a cost-effective way. That came next. It was a gradual transition. It wasn’t like one day I hung up my performing boots and said, “I’m going to write a code.” It was not necessarily planned, but methodical transition from one role into the next.
There’s that moment that you described. I have the same moment in my life as many of us do, that moment where you describe a problem that you’re having to another person. Either the thought comes to you or the other person says it out loud, “Why don’t we build this?” It happened to me with my software company. That’s how I started time Timeslips Corporation, by sitting with my partner and describing my problem and him saying, “I can make a prototype of that.” That’s how the world begins. Let’s move this forward. You’re at a point where you have the idea. You’re spending time developing and defining the idea further. You’re still working. You and your partner still have an income. Where is the moment in time when you say, “Let’s burn the boats and do this full time?”
I can tell you the exact moment. As I’m walking off stage in front of 30,000 people, high-fiving Carrie Underwood as she was coming on to play next and we’re switching over, I started crying. I don’t know why but it was a full-body experience. I knew in my heart of hearts that would be my last ever show and that Vampr was demanding to be full-time. At that point, we had about 6,000 users in about 60 countries. It was becoming more and more time-consuming. I’d spend about $120,000 at that point, which seems like nothing now but it was a lot. The band was probably generating the same amount of income. It was getting to that push and pull moment where enough people around me were saying, “You can’t keep burning the candle at both ends and doing both.” That’s what happened there.
They both kept rising at the same time. Vampr was getting busier and more demanding. We had more and more team members. The band was getting more and more demanding with this tour. At that apex on the final night of that tour, I realized, “This is it.” That’s going to be the last show I’ll do, at least under that moniker and for the time being. I would need to take more seriously my role as CEO of this startup that was starting to gain some real natural traction. Twelve months after that, we had hundreds of thousands of users. We’re winning awards all over the country. That change in energy paid off. It needed that attention.
What I’m interested in is once you decided at that moment in time where you switched your persona to CEO. You’re living a little bit of a blessed existence with all of this because many more people have struggle much worse to get to that point. Here you were on stage with Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban and have that option of saying, “I’m going to hold on this for now and pivot into my software.”
I wouldn’t call that an option because what I’m emitting is all of the struggles in the music side of things. I fought for my place to be on that stage after ten years of doing various bad deals with people and put me in positions where they purposely stunted the momentum. Momentum is everything in the world of music. You can have a hit but if you lose all the momentum, you’re starting again. I had to start again many times. By the time I reached that stage, it wasn’t because I was necessarily famous and deserving to be on that stage from that respect. It was because Keith Urban watched a TED Talk that I did and loved the energy so much. He said, “I could have booked a more famous person, but I wanted to book someone who had the passion and deserve to be on this stage.” He wasn’t saying this in a negative way.
When you say privilege or choices, it wasn’t like I could then decide to do another stadium tour the following week. I would have been going back down to 300-people rooms. I would have had to have worked hard to maintain the new audience that I’ve gotten from this tour. We had done a single a month earlier that hadn’t performed well, although it’s since done increasingly well on Spotify and other DSPs. It wasn’t like I could keep doing that. That tour was an anomaly.
Here’s the moment that I’m looking for here. You decided that you guys are going to go forward. Did you have enough money on your own? Did you have to raise money? Did you have a clear direction and knew exactly what to do? Did you need to figure that out?
At that particular point, I knew exactly what needed to be done. We had a product that was competent enough that it could support the user base we had in terms of the backend and the infrastructure and how resilient it was. What we clearly lacked at that point was not product but marketing mass. I had a bit of an a-ha moment where I realized we can’t send that offshore or find some agency to do that for us. The only way that this becomes economical is if we learn how to acquire users ourselves for sweet FA. That would be a discipline. I knew in my heart of hearts that would mean somewhere in the vicinity of 1 to 2 years of sitting behind a computer and growth hacking it, learning how to buy ads, and do it cost-effectively. I didn’t know any of these terms. I knew conceptually and mechanically what needed to happen that I had to go out and walk that path.
At that point, we had done a small family and friends round. It’s $150,000. We had about $20,000 in the bank. We knew we needed to raise money. We knew we needed to learn how to market. Because of my position in music and having met quite a few executives, I was able to do an Angel round. It wasn’t easy. It took eighteen months to close this. I was able to start conversations shortly after that show with a lot of music executives. Music executives aren’t rich like telecom network executives. Music executives are earning $100,000, $200,000 a year. They don’t have millions of dollars in disposable income to throw into some kids’ ideas.Momentum is everything in the world of music. If you lose it, you literally have to start again. Click To Tweet
We had a competent pitch deck. We had shown signs of early traction with the several thousand users. We were doing everything the right way, structured properly, compliant, and all of that. We have a great brand. There are no two ways around that. We invested early on in good branding and supported that with the tone of voice and a certain language and rules that we’ve set from day one. We had quite a few things going for us. I picked up the phone and started chats that would take eighteen months to close. We were able to scrape together about $500,000 or $600,000. Keeping the company going while I was trying to close those chats was tricky. Also, learning how to market, getting married, and getting acclimatized to America. 2017 was by far the most challenging year of my life.
As you started growing this network and seeing traction, the way I understand it is like with Tinder, people would meet each other for the purpose of playing music together. How did you make money?
We knew early on looking at other meet platforms, which is the category of SaaS or app product that we fit in. LinkedIn and Tinder are two good examples where you’re on there to meet people you don’t necessarily know already. That’s a meet platform versus a friend platform like Facebook where you’re going on there specifically to connect with people you’ve had something to do with in the real world. Meet platforms make 80% or 90% of their revenues from subscription and about 10% from advertising and other ancillary revenue streams, whereas Facebook and the like make close to 100% of their revenue from advertising.
We knew that advertising would be a small part especially as we only had 10,000-odd users in the early days. You need tens of millions of daily active users before advertising becomes a viable revenue stream. It was always going to be subscription, but we knew that we could never charge anyone $1 to be on Vampr until there was a sizable community and value on there for them to find. You can’t ask someone to pay to be at an empty party. The focus was on building the biggest most vibrant party in the space and then introducing a premium version of the app which has a name now, Vampr Pro, in due course.
It’s a tricky tightrope you’re walking because you’re pouring money to keep this platform going. You’re investing every day not just your time and your sweat equity, but real cash into trying to get more and more people on here before you can charge.
I have dealt with Mark Cuban before and he’s politely refused to work with Vampr. I was watching Shark Tank and it occurred to me, we would never get past. In full disclosure, they’ve asked us to be on the show multiple times but we’ve said, “No.” The truth is we wouldn’t get past the Sharks like I wouldn’t get past round one in Australian Idol. The reason being is they would point out that our business is reliant on cash and that’s not a good place to be. I would probably agree that 99%, especially young first-time entrepreneurs, that would be a salient point to make and they should go back to the drawing board. What I’m doing isn’t for the faint of heart. Any successful social network has been built the same way, which is there’s an understanding in the game of bravery that you have to go and get a volume of users to make the value in it become obvious to all stakeholders and all participants.
How did you do that?
That was where that growth hacking I was referring to comes in. I always said there are different ways you go about doing that at different stages in your company’s lifespan. In the early days, we went on Craigslist. Me, one of my employees, and Barry, each of us would hit up 50 people everyday who were putting up listings in the music category like, “I’m looking for a drummer. I’m looking for a bass player. I’m looking for this, that and the other.” We would hit them up one by one on email. We didn’t write a script for this or anything. We’d say, “Have you tried looking on Vampr?” We’d then engage in dialogue. Often people would go, “This service does not have enough people.” They would point out various faults. We would make the point that, “If you’ll support this, then you might not have that problem in the future when you’re looking.” That was a manual way to get the first 5,000 to 6,000 users.
From there, 2017 was a bit of a crisis in many ways. There was a point where I wasn’t getting any love from investors. I was still having those Angel chats, but VCs in Los Angeles weren’t interested in the reasons we’ve discussed, the lines on cash and all of that. A fellow founder that I had met at a panel, he was a younger kid, he said, “Josh, I’m in the same boat with my startup. We’ve got 100,000 users and we can’t get any traction.” I’m like, “100,000 users? How did you do that?” He said, “Advertising.” I had never believed in advertising. I always made the association because of coming from music that advertising usually meant street press and magazines. We had a digital mobile app and the translation between the two isn’t cost-effective. He said, “Try some digital ads.” That day changed my life.
I know it sounds crazy but we wouldn’t dream of wasting shareholder money on digital ads. That was such a misinformed assumption. Once we did try digital advertising, it didn’t took long before we became absolute masters at it. We got our customer acquisition costs down to $0.09. It’s a process that I’ve developed. I call it the rinse and repeat method, which I’m not going to give away the secret sauce exactly. We now have no problem acquiring tens of thousands of users in a week if we choose to turn that on. Sometimes we choose to keep it off.
We probably don’t have any competitors reading, but we do have a lot of people who would love to know how to advertise on Facebook effectively. Maybe talk a little bit about the rinse and repeat method if you wouldn’t mind.
The process itself that I use and the way I track it with a spreadsheet, that’s the proprietary bit I suppose. The rinse and repeat stuff isn’t a trade secret. There are things called Lookalike Audiences, which I’m sure many of your readers will be familiar with. With a Lookalike Audience, you take your current database. I advise several other startups. I’ll give you the same advice here. They’ve all done much better me. They’re all making hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly recurring revenue, which is great. I’ve started with them in the exact same way once I learned how to do it with Vampr, which is you still need to growth hack your first 1,000 clients because you can’t create a Lookalike Audience from nothing. That’s a critical step. In order to get that first sample, you need to go out there and, as Mark Cuban would call it, knock on doors. Get those first 1,000 customers.
Once you’ve got that, you’re in a position to start doing Lookalike Audiences, which is quite simply uploading a table of email addresses and maybe first and last names into Facebook. It’s all hashed and encrypted. Based on the attributes that they know about those email addresses, they’ll create significantly larger lists of lookalikes, which are people who share similar characteristics. You can further refine it by dictating rules. They must like certain pages. They must be in certain locations and certain age groups and sexes, etc. The rinse and repeat model, the name speaks for itself. It’s about refining that and making that more refined each time you upload that list. If we uploaded a list of 1,000 people initially and then we did some marketing that was moderately successful and we got 10,000 new customers, you want to upload that 11,000 person list. Every time you upload that list, you’re getting more and more granular in terms of the type that it’s basing its Lookalike Audience. Your cost of acquisition goes plummeting down.
When did you start charging a membership fee? How many users did you have before you felt like you could justifiably ask for a membership fee?
We haven’t started yet. We’ve only announced what that service looks like.
How many users do you have?You still need to growth-hack your first 1000 clients because you can't create a lookalike audience from nothing. Click To Tweet
For our audience, this is an important point. It’s taken Josh to the point of needing and growing this thing to 650,000 people before he feels comfortable asking for money. Something had to support the company to this stage. You’ve been spending for years with no income whatsoever.
That’s not entirely true.
Explain the income.
In 2018, we were between rounds at that point. We had enough daily and monthly active users that I knew we could make some money to cover what I call the life support part of our budget. If everything fell apart, we’d still need these things if we were to keep the company alive. I’ll be upfront, that’s about $10,000 a month. I thought we need a way to cover that portion of it as a security. I started putting some energy into advertising. Advertising would never account for more than maybe 10% or 20% of all revenues, but we weren’t there yet. This was 100% percent of revenue.
I prioritize having conversations one-to-one with other brands in the space that were directly relevant to our user base. I only needed to cut 2 or 3 of those deals in a year if they gave me 2 or 3 months each to cover a year’s worth of this brand. I went and I did it, and I learned how to sell. I had never sold in my life. You go to conferences, make relationships, and follow them up. You fly to their headquarters, make your case, and show your numbers. At some point, they decide, “I’m interested in getting my brand in front of Josh’s Vampr user base.” That’s what we did, between that and several grants that we’ve gone for around the world. We’re an American company but we have an Australian subsidiary. We’ve generated revenues of well over $250,000. We have to generate revenue in order to support the enterprise. If we hadn’t have done that, arguably the company wouldn’t be here.
You’re doing a lot of what I did when I started. I didn’t pay my salary. I didn’t pay myself and my partner. We took every penny and plowed it back into the company. We figured out how to cover our living expenses on our own. I love seeing you do that and I’m thrilled that you have. Josh, we’re at the point in the conversation where I’m going to transition to the questions that will help our readers get to know you a little bit better. You’ve covered a lot for us already. The lesson here is that you have figured something out and then you stuck with it for years. Now, you’re about to launch the paid portion of your service. I’m excited about that for you because I can tell and I’m certain it’s going to be successful.
Thank you. All I know for sure is that if we were having this chat in a year’s time, I will be a different person. I’m consciously or acutely aware that once the focus switches to making money rather than spending money, it’s going to change the nature of the company. Probably it’ll change the corporate culture or it’ll change my character. I’ve got enough good mentors and people who have gone through that transition around who have pointed out that this will happen. I’ve seen some of these things change already as we’ve been designing this premium product. It’s the start of a new phase of my life and my company’s life. I’d be curious to follow up with you in about a year’s time and see how it’s going.
I’ll give you some counter advice. The advice that I would give you if you were my client is do not change. Hold onto who you are because it’s what got you here. It will get you to the next level no matter what. The changes you will experience will be exterior mostly and procedural as opposed to who you are. That’s my belief. I have gone through this. Stay focused on who you are. The feelings and desires, all of those things are part of you and they don’t change. The part that changes is you’ll learn more. You’ll have more experiences. You’ll understand what it means to grow a company through figures. That’s more of a procedural process than anything else. Let’s get on to getting to know you better because that’s what this is about. I’m going to ask you a couple of questions. The first one is my favorite that seems to be the readers’ favorites too. Here it goes. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
I’ve been giving this some thought from the start of this conversation. Can I give two? You’ll understand why when I say the two. I would love to either take a walk with Barack Obama or Donald Trump. The reason being I would love to understand one of their perspectives as to what’s going on. Given what they have access to and their insight into the country and into the free world arguably, and make decisions nevertheless in the way that they make decisions. I would be absolutely fascinated to pick either of their brains on that.
You probably have a better chance of getting that walk with Barack than President Trump. Trump is a little bit busy at the moment. Obama, on the other hand, might have some time for you. If I do set that up for you, is it okay if I come along and be a fly on the wall?
You can be a fly on the wall. I’d love to specifically hear Obama’s side and his view of what’s going on with the economy, with the middle-class being squeezed further and further. He came along with this vision of hope that reverberated around the world. I’ll never forget watching the night that he won and the chills on the arms. I was eighteen at that age, watching it in Australia. What he had set out to achieve and what’s going on are arguably two different things. I would love to get his candid view on that, not a rehearsed for political and TV response.
As a reminder, that moment reverberated in time to the election of John F. Kennedy.
I nearly said JFK, by the way.
It was that same feeling of hope and optimism after he was elected as to where this country could go and what this country could be. I don’t ever share political views on the show. This is not what the show is about. I will say this, no matter how good or bad you think our leadership is, as a democracy, we have the chance to change that every four years. That to me is the most important part. No matter what somebody does in four years, someone can undo in the next four.
My only concern is that over the last couple of decades, as a general trend, the middle class or what’s left of it has begun to vote against their own self-interest out of fear. I’m not talking politically left or right. I’m talking about things like voting for healthcare and for good reason because people don’t want to give up more of their taxes. They want to hold onto what little that they’re already making. It’s going to take a real transformational leader to come in and address some of these issues of inequality. I don’t have any suggestions as to how to fix it. The cost of food is a crazy thing here that you don’t get.Once the focus switches to making money rather than spending it, it's going to change the nature of the company and the entrepreneur. Click To Tweet
It’s because of the virus and what we’ve been through. We’re in a deflationary environment. You’ll start to see the signs of that as we go forward. I’m going to shift this conversation. I want to give you a little bit different perspective. We’re in a vibrational period as well. These vibrations ebb and flow throughout eternity. We’re at the peak of what I think of as the period of strife. I do believe that there is the Golden Age of Aquarius coming. Maybe it’s my 1960s and the flower child upbringing that I had. I’m optimistic about life, about people, about this earth, even about this country. I truly believe that things will revert back to that time when we once again can be one as a country and as a people. That’s my belief, my hope, and my optimism.
That’s a hope and aspiration that we can all get around no matter where you sit on the landscape.
Here is the grand finale question. It’s called the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world?
I hope this doesn’t annoy you, but I’m already doing it. With Vampr, we have helped people connect five million times. There are four weddings that I know of. There are people who have made it onto the radio. I can’t talk about it yet but there’s a female rapper who’s already had a Netflix show and she attributes it all to the person she met on Vampr. Being the head of a meet platform that has a free component and will always have a freemium tier that offers genuine life-changing solutions to people who were experiencing this creative frustration, I don’t know that I’m going to ever work on another project that gives back to the world or changes a scene as much as Vampr canon has. That’s not to say I wouldn’t want to go and do something again. The thing I love about SaaS in a certain way is that you are providing solutions at scale, which is a beautiful thing. If you can have that freemium tier built into the model, then there’s an element of philanthropy there. I know there are people who are cynical about that and will say, “It’s not free because you’re going to sell their data.” We haven’t so far and it’s not the plan. I love doing what I do. I feel like it’s changing the world one connection at a time.
It is, Josh. Here’s something I’ll tell you. If you hadn’t have said that your change the world plan was what you’re doing, I would have had to fire you as the CEO. You passed the test. You have a job for at least another six months and you can check back with me then. We’re at the point, Josh, where we’re about to unveil your free giveaway. Tell us a little bit about what you have for our readers.
We’ve talked a little bit about the premium tier of Vampr, which is launching. You will see the first-ever version of Vampr Pro. We’ve started to give hints on our website and stuff. We’re referring to it formally now. This product is coming out. It offers about twenty different features that you will never get on the free side of things. They’re all aimed at making you stand out from the pack. When you log onto a network with Tinder interface and there are 500,000 or 650,000 people on there, it’s important that your profile can stand out whether that’s through verification, additional media, certain other features on your profile that other accounts don’t have. That’s what we’re launching. We’re pricing it fairly at $4.99. We’re going to try and get more subscriptions rather than a higher price point with less subscription. That’s the plan that we’re going to test. For anyone who has made it this far and enjoyed this episode, all you need to do is write to us at [email protected] and say that you’ve read this blog. We will give you a 10% discount for twelve months on Vampr Pro.
That’s generous. I know it’s not a lot of money, $5 a month but, for musicians, every penny counts. That 10% discount is significant and worthwhile.
We’re also fighting as well with subscription fatigue across the board and even subscribing to Vampr, which is a personal development expense and $5 in PD is nothing versus Netflix, which is twice the price. You get all the movies in the world. They’re not in the same category. One is consumption and one is PD. Unfortunately, when it comes to subscription fatigue, people tend to bundle them all together. You are competing with these other subscriptions. We had to price it at a point that it was both fair to develop and being creatives. We’re not targeting the semi-professionals or the professionals here. They already have their networks. We’ll see. I think we’ve got it right. We’ve done a lot of research. We have three years of research into the price point and testing it. We’ve done so much testing with our audience and see who’s prepared to subscribe. Ultimately, the market is going to speak. Once it’s released, we’ll let the facts and figures tell us whether we’re right or wrong.
My gut feel is that a little good luck and a little bad luck. Bad luck is that you’re releasing it right as the unemployment rate is the highest it’s ever been in the history of the United States. The good luck is that there are more people that are more passionate about their own personal development now than any time in the entire history of this country. For $5, to be able to connect with others in your area on a premium level and find partners to play with, jam with, create music together and, who knows, create lifetimes together, there’s so much potential there. It’s well worth the money. I am happy to support you on that. Josh, it’s been a total pleasure chatting with you and talking to you about your life and about your adventure. Readers, if you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have, write in and let me know. Anything you tell me, I will pass on to Josh. You could log onto Vampr.me, poke around and see if it’s a fit for you. When you say it’s a social network for creatives, other than musicians, what other creatives do you support?
We did an entire crowdfunding campaign around that to raise some extra money to get us to this pro point. That whole campaign was based around building it out beyond musicians to more creative areas. One thing we have done methodically and calculated since day one is to add new categories based on demand. If someone emails me and says, “Add music lawyer,” I’m not going to add music lawyer, although I could with a couple of keystrokes as a backend addition to our graph. Once 100 lawyers get in touch and say, “Can you add lawyer as a category,” we then add lawyer as a category. We’ve been expanding beyond music for quite a long time. The way we describe it to investors and partners is we call it the music ecosystem.
Because of the nature of music, let’s think about that quickly. Film and TV have music in it. Any advertisements you’ve ever seen has a soundtrack. Music touches every other creative field. Every album you’ve ever looked at has a cover out that’s designed by a graphic designer, who’s technically not in the music industry but is part of the music ecosystem. I hope I’m making sense. What we’ve done is we’ve include every possible role in the music ecosystem, which invariably means we have dancers, actors, filmographers, and YouTubers. We have all these roles that aren’t technically music industry, but they’re music ecosystem. We try to equivocate that to when Facebook started off as colleges, then they added high schools, then eventually they added businesses. Now it’s everyone’s aunt’s favorite destination. They opened up quite strategically in many respects, owning one space at a time. That’s what we’ve been doing and we’ll continue to do that.
Readers, if you have any involvement at all or if music touches your business or your life, by all means, check out Vampr. Josh, thank you. We shall be in touch again soon.
I look forward to it. Thank you.
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