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News July 26, 2019

Australia’s Josh Simons talks ‘muso’s equivalent to Tinder’ Vampr

Senior Journalist, B2B
Australia’s Josh Simons talks ‘muso’s equivalent to Tinder’ Vampr

Josh Simons is a guy with more than music on his mind. The Melbourne artist and entrepreneur is co-founder of Vampr, a social app that helps creatives make sweet, sweet music together.

Once touted as a muso’s equivalent to Tinder, it’s evolved into so much more than a hook-up tool.

Today, the platform boasts a network of more than 450,000 users, accounting for more than 4 million connections and upwards of 24 million swipes made. Business is getting done, its execs say.

And those figures are bound to climb as the company embarks on a new phase of growth, fuelled by capital raising. Australia is a big focus.

Vampr was born out of necessity. Simons hit on the idea while hunting for musicians to take out on the road with his band Buchanan.

Frustrated by the music industry’s outmoded networking model, Simons joined forces with Hunters & Collectors guitarist and ARIA Hall of Famer Baz Palmer and built their own. Problem solved.

“The obstacles aren’t talent or ambition,” says Simons, Vampr’s co-founder and CEO, in a statement accompanying the company’s new equity crowdfunding round, which is now open. “We simply didn’t know the right people. There had to be a better way. With Vampr we are striving to eradicate this pain point for the next generation of creative souls.”

vampr creengrab

Fast forward a few years, and the app is making the right tune with the tech community. In early 2018, Vampr earned a nod in Apple’s Best Apps of The Year list, and more recently scooped honours at the Lovie Awards in Europe and took home glory at SF Music Tech in California.

With an advisory board featuring Warner executive Nick Feldman, former Napster President Matt Addell and others, Vampr has successfully completed two prior rounds of capital raising.

In time, its team intends to expand its network, connecting with the hundreds of millions of people immersed in the creative arts, from filmmakers to fashion designers, actors, animators and, of course, musicians.

TIO caught up with Simons for a look under the hood of Vampr and its ambitions to become “a LinkedIn for creative community”.

Vampr iPhone

Vampr iPhone

TIO: One of the pressers says there’s potentially one billion-plus creative hobbyists on the planet. Are they all invited into the platform? Is there a “door policy,” a vetting process, for entry?

Josh Simons: There has never been a door policy with Vampr. Some of our competitors — Jammcard comes to mind — have had a door policy from day 1, and we understand from a quality perspective why another company might justify that approach.

For us it simply wasn’t appropriate for the audience we’re speaking to, if not completely contradictory to our core belief and messaging that musicians and creatives, particularly those just starting out, should have more access to like minded enablers in the field, not gatekeepers dictating when your time has come.

In time, I understand Vampr will open up to creatives across other media, from film, TV and elsewhere. Surely there’s a risk the platform could become cluttered?

We have steadily been adding categories to the platform since our beta launch in 2016. These category additions have always been driven by demand. So when we launched we might have been talking to drummers, bass players and band members only, but over the past 24 months we’ve started working with labels, venues and lighting technicians. I believe we have around 53 categories to-date.

We view the opening up of Vampr to additional creative categories as similar to when Facebook moved from a college-only platform to include high schools, and so it went over time until now where it’s everyone’s aunt’s favourite online destination.

We’re still very early in the startup life-cycle but we have learned that by servicing a niche group of people effectively, building that trust and gradually expanding field by field you can create a FOMO in the wider market, which can then help to drive massive expansion.

To be clear, we will remain a hyper niche platform servicing creative’s needs first. In that respect, little will change.

Where does Australia and its creatives fit in the Vampr mix right now. And how do you see Aussies feature going forward?

With active users in every country on the planet we have worked hard to not only support the language and nuance of other cultures but to also highlight some of the incredible connections that have been formed in those places.

Striking that balance hasn’t been easy from a marketing or social media perspective as Baz and I are by no means the authority on what constitutes an Indian or Brazilian banger – but thankfully we have enough users and ambassadors in those places that we get a feel for what should be highlighted and re-broadcast back to the wider Vampr community.

Australia fits into this bigger piece, although it is one of the larger userbases on Vampr. Despite all of this, as Australians it is hard not to get excited about a fruitful Aussie Vampr connection when it comes across our desk. We’re probably guilty of acting that little bit faster to shoot a video and broadcast it online. Chalk it up to a hometown bias.

With this investment, how do you plan to market the platform in Australia?

Vampr is a mobile social network which means most of our advertising is digital, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s more cost effective to bring awareness of Vampr to a potential new member on the device they will be using our service on. The difference in marketing towards Australians from say Americans is simply the tone of voice from a marketing perspective.

One added benefit we have here in Australia is the sheer number of live gigs that occur on any given night of the week. This high volume of supply means that sponsorship of shows here is more feasible than it is in other Western countries, so you can probably expect to see some more offline marketing here in Australia than perhaps in other countries.

You’ve got roughly half a million on board. You’re targeting $3 million in revenue and 10 million users by Q1 2021. How do you plan to get there?

One of the reasons that other startups in this space have been unable to get to that next stage is because they’ve assigned their limited seed resources into building a superior product or attracting star developer talent or brand ambassadors — people.

From the outset Baz and I agreed that a social or professional network is only as valuable as the size of the community using it. No one wants to turn up to an empty party.

As a result we prioritised our limited time and resources into building a predictable growth engine, ahead of those other areas. We know quite reliably how many users we can onboard for a specific marketing spend if it’s going through our growth engine.

With respect to revenue and growth assumptions we have been wholly transparent on our campaign page as to our historical growth, how we use that data to set future projections, and ultimately how we have come to beat past year’s growth forecasts every year since launch.

Subscription adoption rates are the only part of our business model untested, with assumptions based on industry benchmarks. We’re very confident that with a fully subscribed round we can meet our targets.

Vampr suggests a blood sucker, which record labels have been historically accused of. The platform is a facilitator, a connector. How did the name come about and how does it represent what you do?

To vamp in music is for a group of people to play “a short, simple introductory passage, usually repeated several times until otherwise instructed.” This sums up what it means to collaborate creatively and in some ways what it means to put yourself out there and network with others. As for the ‘r’ at the end? It just works.

The crowdfunding campaign is live with a 10% discount for the first $250,000 of investment.
Visit Wefunder.com/Vampr for more information.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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