A new app plans to make life easier for people who make music. Ellie O’Byrne finds out how
GRACE Tooher is on a mission to connect musicians, and has ample personal experience of how hard it can be.
She’s the designer of a location-based social networking app, JamForest, which she hopes will move beyond being a “Tinder for musicians” to become a community of pooled resources, collaborations and mutual support.
Tooher, 28, was the vocalist with Tipperary band Staring At Lakes when they moved to Dublin to make a go of their musical career. Despite some initial success, life behind the scenes wasn’t so rosy. “We were working away doing crappy jobs at the same time; I was in a bookies, doing 13 hour shifts,” Tooher says. “On top of that we’d practice three nights a week, play a gig every second week. We did well in our little bubble in Dublin, but as soon as you get outside that, you realise that no-one knows you.”
Tooher also took on an MA in Creative Digital Media. When the band’s drummer departed in the lead-up to recording their album, they struggled to find a replacement. Her eureka moment came with the thought, ‘Why isn’t there a tinder for musicians?’
The idea became Tooher’s final MA project, and she began coding the app herself. After four and a half years with her band, Tooher bowed out. Replacing Staring At Lakes with staring at screens paid off; JamForest attracted two rounds of start-up funding amounting to €65,000, allowing her to work full-time in the lead-up to the launch, from her new base in Cork.
It’s a simple idea: whether you’re forming a band, an amateur who feels ready to jam, or a producer looking for session musicians for recording, you can create a profile, complete with embedded Soundcloud and YouTube examples of your work, and search other musicians in your area by instrument, genre, age, etc.
Similar ideas to JamForest are already on the market, mostly in the US, where they meet with limited success: Jamseek, Bandfriend and Wikker. But if they’re not being used by a large enough pool of musicians, they are pointless, Tooher says.
“If there are three musicians using it, there won’t be anyone nearby and they’ll delete the app. You can’t just launch an app, you have to build a community first.” She’s got big plans to create a “tribe” of potential app users through a series of showcase events. The first, at Triskel Christchurch in early March, featured Mongoose, Tigwara and Naoise Roo amongst others. The bands played a live gig, but also recorded one acoustic song each for JamForest’s all-important social media content.
The plans don’t stop there: “I’d love to run a tent at Electric Picnic; I want JamForest to be recognised as the brand that’s showcasing and connecting musicians. This year, we launch the app in Ireland. Year two is the UK and Berlin, and year three will be the US.”
Tooher envisages that the app itself will be ready to be launched in early May. What with the move to a new city, and the time that she’s been investing in her business, Tooher is looking forward to using the app herself, to reconnect with the music that’s been missing from her own life. “I don’t yet have the connections in Cork,” she says. “I’m dying to get the app up and running so I can meet a few guitar players. Even just to have a few cans on a Saturday night, and just jam.”
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