When Eline Leijten was singer in the Hermes House Band (2006-2010) she found out the music industry kinda lacks transparency. There were high margins, tons of different agencies and too much middle-men. With her current band, she still encounters a world that hasn’t changed a bit.
And when Leijten was still asked if she knew a great artist for a booking outside of her own network, and couldn’t find an easy solution, she came up with Plugify – a platform for music gigs.
Plugify is live now for almost five months. In that time more than 400 artist have a page on the platform, has several frequent bookers and is currently facilitating a booking a day. The startup also won the pitch competition during The Next Women Innovation Summit this May. We talked to CEO Eline Leijten about her first steps.
How did you get your first customers?
"Through a variety of channels. Firstly, we barely spent anything on marketing, as we bootstrapped this platform. We got our first customers through social advertising, word of mouth, media exposure, and by visiting potential bookers (such as cafes) in person to ask for their needs. I didn't just asked. We sat behind a laptop together, had my pen and paper ready and said: “just try to book someone”. This way I could spark their interest, by really seeing it in action. I really sensed the cafe owners gained my trust when I was there in the process. We now see those first customers returning to our platform."
How to take that process to the next level?
"By investing in growth hacking, through experiments with different sales channels, both online and offline – and measuring what works best for Plugify. For example, we plan to hire people who love our concept and can do bar-to-bar sales as we call it. Simultaneously, we need to further tailor Plugify to the needs of its users, by running A/B tests and acting upon the results."
So, how important is offline in the music industry?
"My experience is that offline promotion works really well. Trust is super important, this can make or break your business (next to that: the pricing of bookings). But offline promoting, as seen when getting the first customers, is becoming attractive because you can earn trust better. Don’t forget the power of personal contact."
Back to the online music industry: how to get good traction there?
"You should design the website so that every doubt will disappear at once. We do this by being transparent on the pricing, adding a very detailed specification of what is needed etc. We have the philosophy to make everything insightful on what’s needed in a booking. Being in a band myself gave me the proper experience!"
How to find balance between supply and demand on such platforms?
"We need a balanced growth. So we don't need too many artists when there are less bookers. We started with 100 artists from our own network – that quickly grew to 400. We found out that we don’t need to advertise on the supply side, as word of mouth between artists works perfectly. We focus on the demand side, especially since its such a varied market: you have weddings, cafes, events, corporate parties etc."
What's next for Plugify?
"We’re starting a crowdfunding campaign on OnePlanetCrowd, early August. We’re aiming at 650.000 euro to grow in The Netherlands and to make Plugify profitable. Next year we think about an international expansion, like in Belgium, Germany and the UK. We will mainly use the money to develop our product further and of course to fuel our growth, by hiring growth hackers. They are going to test multiple online and offline traction channels, and of course, that requires a budget too."
Why OnePlanetCrowd, as it has a social and sustainable flavor to it?
"I got a good feeling about OnePlanetCrowd, it’s such a great channel. They’re also aiming at ’social’ in a wider context. Our approach is to bring more music to the world; to invest in culture. They like this idea and we both think Plugify has a good fit with OPC supporters, which are very active. Also: it’s possible to invest for only 250 euro. We want to make artists on our platform co-owner. As for the majority of artists, the 1000 euro minimum investment on other crowdfunding platforms is just too much."
What would you say to fellow startup entrepreneurs?
"Sure, you should get your data straight. Measure and make choices based on data. But trust is key. You need to give the right amount of attention to your users. You can’t just grow and forget about them. Make them ambassadeurs. For instance, whenever users have questions about Plugify’s booking process, we immediately call them. We just organized our first artist event and there are definitely more to follow. Next to that we offer artists benefits such as a big discount on professional photography and videography. And whenever a customer requests the availability of an artist and gets no for an answer, we immediately come into action to make sure this user succeeds in finding another great artist. It’s all about giving them a great experience."
Photo by Anko Stoffels