It was great to see Zudio Music take out first prize at the recent Melbourne University Entrepreneurs Challenge (MUEC) with their Band Manager service. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, knowing the guys behind it and how much effort they’ve put in over the years, it’s nice to see them earn a bit of kudos. Secondly, because it is a great example of a new business venture doing something fundamentally useful for their target customers. And thirdly because it is a powerful example of what I’d like to call "cultural entrepreneurship".
Melbourne is widely regarded as the most cultured and European of Australian cities. Arts, fashion, food, events, culture – it’s about enjoying the good life, rather than worrying about who has the faster car or bigger TV.
By providing an online service to help bands and musicians get themselves organised, Band Manager helps support and grow the wonderful cultural life in Melbourne. And like many cultural entrepreneurs, the business grew out of the passion and experience of the founders – they were solving a problem they had personally encountered in managing indie bands.
The Band Manager Toolkit
That solution took the form of a calendar-based application to help organise (notoriously disorganised) bands. Around that core platform they have built a range of simple yet powerful tools for bands – including updating the band’s website, keeping track of their playlists, distributing their music online, and managing their fan database, including sending emails and SMS messages about upcoming gigs. They even help bands claim their live performance returns from APRA (which few typically get around to doing otherwise!)
That’s not to say that Band Manager is perfect. For one thing, I’d like to see them shift their revenue model towards ‘pay as you go’ services (like email and SMS delivery) and remove the setup fee that creates an unnecessary barrier to trial. But at least they know their customers and have developed a product that solves a real and valuable set of needs.
Other Cultural Entrepreneurs
The good news is that Melbourne has many entrepreneurs pursuing opportunities that enrich the cultural life of the city.
RedBubble is one example, an online art gallery and creative community that is among the more successful of Australia’s web 2.0 startups. Chocolateria San Churro is another, bringing the joys of Spanish chocolate culture to locations around town. The Rooftop Cinema in Swanston St and Moonlight Cinema in the Botanical Gardens have become popular destinations for film-lovers and anyone who likes a good outing. And an interesting startup to look out for is Laneway Magazine, an online publication (coming soon) which will celebrate Melbourne culture and lifestyle.
No doubt there are plenty more out there. Feel free to add to the list!