Is MusicSpoke ready for funding?
When Jennifer Rosenblatt and Kurt Knecht of MusicSpoke completed the NMotion accelerator program last summer, they were adamant about not raising money. “I’ve said it often, ‘I’m not going to raise money for the sake of raising money.'"
When Jennifer Rosenblatt and Kurt Knecht of MusicSpoke completed the NMotion accelerator program last summer, they were adamant about not raising money.
“I’ve said it often, ‘I’m not going to raise money for the sake of raising money.’” Rosenblatt said. “And if I do raise money, it’s because I to know exactly what I’m going to spend it on.”
The couple received pushback from some who kept asking why they weren’t raising. They moved forward anyway.
“We were given other advice: Spend the next 4-6 months figuring out what moves the needle,” Rosenblatt said. “Figure out ‘if we apply pressure here, how does that increase sales?’ Because then you’ll know, if I put all the money here, here’s what will happen.”
MusicSpoke is an online marketplace for sheet music where composers retain the rights to their work and get paid. In the current publishing world, sheet music publishers can take almost 90% in royalties.
After NMotion, the team focused on bringing on board well-known, in-demand composers and building up their platform.
That work appears to be paying off.
Buzz in Salt Lake City
In February MusicSpoke set up a booth at the American Choral Directors Association’s national conference in Salt Lake City. The couple is elated at the response.
MusicSpoke received attention from many of the national choral music blogs and magazines, including New Music America and Choral Journal.
“Three of the top selling composers in the industry came up to us and said, ‘Can we come on board?’” Knecht said.
MusicSpoke also created a relationship with two-time Grammy awarding winning conductor Charles Bruffy.
“We had Lee Kessleman and Daniel Gawthrop, huge names in the composing world, come up to us and say, ‘People have been talking about you. We wanted to come over and see what’s going on,'” Knecht said.
The attention MusicSpoke received was the direct outcome of months of strategic marketing.
“It was really cool to see people come up and say, ‘I’ve read your blog’ or ‘I’ve seen you in Choral Net online,” said Rosenblatt. “We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time generating content and working on our inbound marketing strategy, so it was really cool to see that pay off.”
Gaining legitimacy in the market
When MusicSpoke pitched their idea to potential customers last summer, several were interested but wanted to wait and see. Those same composers came up to MusicSpoke at the convention and asked if they could come on board.
Many composers are turning to self-publishing but struggle to market their work and drive traffic to their site. That’s what makes MusicSpoke special.
“[Being at the convention] validated us by saying, ‘We’re going to be at these conferences. We’re going to be marketing your stuff for you. We’re going to be pushing your stuff. We’re actively working to feature the composers,” Knecht said. “People saw that we’re not just talking. We’re going to be actively marketing their work.”
Rosenblatt sees their marketing and branding as key for gaining credibility in their marketspace. According to Rosenblatt, MusicSpoke’s competitors at the convention lacked a strong marketing strategy.
“Sometimes people discount the importance of swag,” Rosenblatt said. “But having that solid image that says, ‘We didn’t just get this printed at Kinkos. We’re for reals, we’re here, and we’re going to promote your work–it goes a long way to establishing credibility.“
Happy composers, happy conductors
Six of MusicSpoke’s composers were at the convention.
“I was blown away by how overwhelmed and appreciative they were for everything we are doing for them,” Rosenblatt said. “We had ‘meet the composer’ events, and there were people lined up to talk to them.”
At music conferences publishers often sponsor reading sessions where conductors can sing through 10-12 pieces that publishers are attempting to push. According to Knecht, conductors typically leave with maybe 1-2 pieces they can use. MusicSpoke put on one of their own.
“One conductor said, ‘This is the best reading session I’ve ever been to. We could use every piece in this,’” Knecht said.
Ready to raise
Rosenblatt and Knecht said that their February sales were double December’s sales.
Following the convention, MusicSpoke sees the potential to expand their marketplace beyond sheet music.
“Our tagline is ‘We’re building the world’s largest marketplace for artist-owned sheet music,’” Rosenblatt said. “We’ve talked about this as a marketplace, but we haven’t moved past sheet music before.”
At the convention Rosenblatt realized that they could become a marketplace for all kinds of music performance products.
“We have a much bigger picture of what the overall platform looks like, way bigger than when we started NMotion,” Rosenblatt said.
Is MusicSpoke ready for investment?
“I know where to spend the money now,” Rosenblatt said.
We’ll share event highlights, founder profiles and feature stories digging into all things related to Nebraska startups and small businesses. Delivered on Wednesdays.