Troy Fullerton of DownToJam helps musicians find each otherPublished on July 6th, 2015
Finding compatible musicians for your band can be frustrating. Troy Fullerton from DownToJam has set out to solve this problem. Musicticker finds out more about this project.
Tell us a bit about yourself - who are you and where do you come from?
My name is Troy Fullerton and I'm from little old Riverview, New Brunswick. I've played guitar and drums since I was 12 and I've performed live in bands over the years ever since. A good friend of mine growing up is a great guitar player and songwriter, and we wrote and performed together for over a decade. His name is Neil McWilliam, and he's also a co-founder of DownToJam.com.
I moved to Toronto, Ontario in 2010 and one of my goals was to start up a band and continue pursuing a music career. I became good friends with a guy named Shaan Singha (the third co-founder of DTJ), whose comment to me one day in passing led to the creation of what is now DownToJam.com.
Is this your first business endeavour or have you started other companies before?
This is my first business endeavour; but it's Neil's second, and Shaan co-owned a film production company in the past.
Tell us what DownToJam is. Where did you get the idea? When did you get started?
DownToJam.com is a free social network that enables you to connect with compatible musicians quickly and easily. We use a matching algorithm that generates percentages for every user and displays the percentages next to their profile on the site. The higher the percentage, the more compatible you are. If you prefer not to rely on the matching percentages to find your future jamming partner, we provide other ways to help you find him or her, including a comprehensive search engine. We also provide the option to post auditions, buy and sell gear, and scout out talent on our video/audio pages and on our blog.
The idea was born in early 2013. I was having a relatively difficult time finding musicians to jam with in Toronto. One day, I was out driving with Shaan when he began asking about my progress in starting up a band. I was having a terrible time; a lot of unsuccessful jams with connections I made on certain classifieds sites. He said "It'd be cool if there was a site out there, kind of like dating sites, but that matched you with other musicians." I sat on that for a minute or two, and said "Ya know what, that's an excellent idea!" Over the next few weeks, we brainstormed ideas, and then pitched the concept to Neil, who loved it and came on board as a third partner.
Tell us about your team.
In addition to being business partners we're great friends, and that has been a huge factor in why we're where we are with the website today. Neil is based out of Moncton, New Brunswick, and Shaan and I are in Toronto. Neil is the site developer, but we all have various responsibilities and areas of expertise. We meet once a week to discuss business development, and are in contact via email on a daily basis to ensure the wheel is rotating smoothly.
"We've helped musicians make connections they otherwise never would have made."
How did you find your first users?
In August of 2013, we called upon 50 friends with a range of skill sets to test the alpha version of the site. These 50 stayed on as members when we launched beta publicly on October 1, 2013. They were instrumental in spreading the word and promoting us on their own social media channels.
We also had some press early on, and reached out to fellow musicians through various online forums. Word of mouth played a huge part in how we got and continue to get users on the site, and we're amazed at how fast we've grown.
What kind of reception have you had so far? What are people saying about their experience with DownToJam?
The feedback we've received from day one when this merely conceptual has been overwhelmingly positive. As a company, it's important to us to be open to feedback and constructive criticism, and we continue to implement ideas brought forth by our online community. We've had people tell us that DownToJam is the best resource online for musicians. We've had people reach out and volunteer their services in any way they can. We've helped musicians make connections they otherwise never would have made. We've provided the opportunity for beginner musicians to put themselves out there and jam, and professional musicians to find other musicians of the same caliber to get into the studio and record. We've received nothing but positive feedback from our community, and it's been amazing.
In under 2 years from our beta launch (and just a few months from our official launch), we've had north of 10,000 musicians sign up from around the world. This happened with next to nothing for an advertising budget, so this tells us that those that do find us and sign up are also helping to spread the word. It's encouraging, to say the least.
What do you see as your strong points compared to traditional social media?
We're a niche social network. You know that if you sign up on DownToJam.com, you're only going to find other musicians who are seeking musicians, and you're able to easily filter through the musicians in your area to get exactly what you want. We're also very proud of our matching functionality and think it's another unique way to find those that meet your musical needs.
Can you tell us any examples of bands which have been formed through DownToJam?
We receive feedback from our members regularly that tells us they've found the musicians they need on DownToJam. If we help you meet other musicians and get out and start making music, that's the greatest reward of all and it's what keeps us going. We've helped musicians meet in order to form bands and other musical projects, and we've helped existing bands fill a void in their lineups.
What have you learned about community building through DownToJam?
We learned that people want and love to feel part of a niche community. People are excited about the website and they share it with their musician friends. It's an extremely important and necessary step in growing as a website; that is, impressing our early adopters and having them spread the word about their positive experiences on our site. Most people would rather join a robust community, so when our early adopters voluntarily recruit for us, that's hugely encouraging and most appreciated.
Will DTJ integrate with other social networks?
As we continue to grow, we're open to any and all ideas that will make finding musicians as easy as possible for our members. If integration with other social networks makes sense and will fulfill the aforementioned goal, then we'll look into ways to further integrate.
DTJ seems to be heavily based on user location. In your recent poll, users have voted that they would like to collaborate remotely. How are you going to help them find each other even if they’re far apart?
One of the best things about technology and the Internet is how easy it is to connect and communicate with people virtually. The idea we have is to create a platform that enables musicians to record and mix online, providing a whole other avenue for collaboration. When you have a website that is open globally, why restrict interactions to in-person sessions?
The vast majority of musicians, though, are looking for locals to jam with, but you're not only going to see locals on our site. You can currently search the entire world for musicians, which makes moving to a new city and finding musicians much easier.
Besides remote collaboration, what’s your vision of how technology is going to affect music making?
Technology has already provided ample opportunities for musicians to create and record, and so we're fully open to incorporating those on our site, as feasible. We see more online collaborations happening, more user-friendly tools for DIY recording/mixing/mastering, new ways to get your music out there and heard by larger audiences. From our perspective, we're equipped to adapt the site as needed to accommodate new technologies.
Are you planning on adding any specific tools for management, A&R or other music industry professionals besides musicians?
Currently, anyone in the music industry can sign up and select the appropriate profile type, which includes A&R, producers, managers, and so on. While the original vision was to use the site to help connect musicians, we're continuing to consider ways to help our musicians get connected with other industry people. We'll adapt the site as the need strengthens.
If DTJ will always be 100% free, have you considered making it open source and/or decentralized?
DownToJam's core services, including everything that is currently on the website, is and will always be free. Our business model includes other ideas that will generate income. At this time, we have no intention of being open source or decentralized.
How do you figure out what to build next? What plans do you have for the future?
In the early stages of the company before we had a site online, we brainstormed what we wanted on the site out of the gate, and what we could add in the future. We refer to this list as we continue developing. We also take feedback very seriously and meet about it as needed, so several of the ideas we implement come right from our community.
We're currently working on a program called V.I.P. Passes that we're rolling out in Ontario this fall. We're partnering with a number of music-related service providers who are offering discounts to DownToJam's V.I.P. passholders. Passholders are members of our site who will pay a monthly or annual fee to gain access to the discounts. Some of the providers include band photographers, music video makers, recording studios, rehearsal spaces, guitar and other instrument instructors, and so on. This is just one step in the direction of building an even larger virtual music community.
We have a number of other ideas, including the virtual collaboration as mentioned above, as well as holding contests and competitions, producing compilation records, implementing enhanced features, and more.
Is there anything you would like to say about your product? Here’s your chance to advertise.
DownToJam.com was built by musicians and so we understand some of the challenges musicians face. We're not a faceless corporation. We're grounded people with personality. We recognize that in order to make something the majority wants, you've got to listen to your community. We're all ears as we continue to grow to become the biggest social network for musicians in the world.