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BandHappy.com: A Music Community Platform Offering both In-Person Lessons or Online Lessons Anywhere on the Planet via a Video Chat System

http://www.bandhappy.com/

Bandhappy is the global marketplace for live, in-person music lessons that take place either online through our private custom video chat or on-tour as musicians travel from city to city.

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We had a very interesting and lengthy interview with the awesome and cool entrepreneur Mr. ‘Jonathan Rivlin‘; Co-Founder & Vice President, Operations of the US (Maryland)-based start-up “BandHappy”.

“BandHappy” connects teachers and students in a one-of-a-kind music community, offering both in-person lessons or online lessons anywhere on the planet via their custom-built, in-house video chat system.

Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Rivlin’ regarding his company “BandHappy”;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “BandHappy” is all about? 

Bandhappy is THE global marketplace for live, in-person music lessons that take place either online through our private custom video chat or on-tour as musicians travel from city to city.  

Our mission is to help musicians earn a living from their music, to further the cause of music education in the world, and to train the next generation of musicians. 

2. When has “BandHappy” been founded? And what stage is “BandHappy” currently at? 

Bandhappy was founded in 2008.  We did a phased soft-launch in mid December 2011 and fully launched bandhappy.com on 1/9/12. 

We are fully commercialized and are earning revenue. 

We have been online uninterrupted since launch and have built a user base in the tens of thousands that spans over 100 countries.


3. What is “BandHappy”’s business model and how does it work?

Bandhappy earns a commission for each lesson that is taught through our system. 

As a marketplace, anyone who has demonstrated musical skills (by way of our review process) can offer their services as teachers. 

Teachers set their own schedules and rates. 

Students can search for teachers by name, band, instrument, and genre. 

The lessons are scheduled, paid for, and taught all through our website.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

Matt was introduced to Jonathan by way of a mutual family friend. 

We both come from the same home town and went to the same schools – separated by about 8 years.  Andy was also referred in by a mutual family friend, who coincidentally happened to live 2 doors down from Matt.

 Matt Halpern:  Founder and Vice President, Product Development.  Matt is a world renown recording artist, performer and clinician.  Matt is the drummer for the progressive metal band, Periphery.

Jonathan Rivlin, CPA:  Co-Founder and Vice President, Operations.  Jonathan is a classically trained clarinetist.  Jonathan has over 15 years of experience as a CPA and has managed 3 other startups previously.

Andy Meister:  President.  Andy is a veteran entrepreneur who leads the company in strategy, technology, and business development.  Andy was a co-founder of Aether Systems and helped to grown that company from a few employees to thousands of employees around the world.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

We offer a comprehensive solution to our members. 

They can meet up, schedule, pay for, and have live music lessons through our site. 

Our attention to detail, driven by Founder Matt Halpern’s relentless focus on every aspect of the musicians’ experience is what differentiates us from other options.

In terms of what’s new about us; it’s not so much what is new, it’s how we are using new technology to solve old problems. 

We see ourselves as the culmination of a 60+ year trend in remote music lessons. 

The first products were LP’s that could be purchased in a store. 

The student would play the LP and read out of an accompanying book. 

Eventually, the LP’s became cassettes, then CD’s, then VHS and DVD’s, then streaming videos over the internet. 

We bring the live 1on1 experience of the music teacher back to remote learning.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “BandHappy” achieved so far?

Bandhappy has built a following on our Facebook page of over 26,000 people. 

Over 14,000 people have created profiles on our site and have become members of our community. 

We have had over 1,000 musicians apply to teach and have approved about 700 so far. 

We have members from all 50 states and over 100 countries. 

Primary market activity has been from North America and Western Europe. 

We are starting to see growth from Asia and Australia as well.

We have commercialized our prototype and created an enterprise grade business solution with a 24/7/365 uptime. 

We have actual sales coming in – starting the day we launched.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “BandHappy”’s competitive advantage over them?

There are other sites that are in segments of our space.  They can be classified as follow:

“Online yellow pages” – these are essentially directories that allows people to search for a music teacher by city and instrument. 

Offerings are sparse and students have no idea what they’re getting.

“Prerecorded sites” – online retail stores where one can purchase a DVD or download a video.  These offerings are not live; there is no feedback from a teacher.

“Private/Closed Sites” – these sites serve a limited number of instruments and have a small number of teachers.  These sites take a very high commission on the teacher’s lesson fees.

“General lessons sites” – these sites allow people to meet up for online lessons for music, language, cooking, yoga, etc.  There is no focus on any one topic. 

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

We are pretty far away from SV and therefore, raising capital has been a challenge.  

We joined a public incubator and through their guidance, we applied for a program that is funded by our state’s business development office. 

The process for this program was grueling and ultimately made us better entrepreneurs and a better company for going through it. 

We used the funding from this government agency to then attract matching funds from private investors.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand? 

People don’t understand the ubiquity of live video, or the younger generation’s embrace of this technology as mundane. 

We were featured in the June 2012 issue of Inc. Magazine and one of the VC’s that reviewed our company said that we should focus on local in-person lessons or vocal lessons only because it was too hard to have a music lesson online. 

It’s hard to keep a straight face with a comment like that – we host lessons on all instruments that literally span the entire globe. 

The ability to take a music lesson with your favorite artist is something that appeals on a deep, visceral level – it’s what compels people to sign up and come back for more lessons.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

We are relentless in our drive to make the best possible site for our users. 

Everything we do is to help musicians earn a living from their music and to help students and fans connect with their favorite artists so they can gain the kind of knowledge they really want. 

We are by musicians for musicians.

11. If “BandHappy” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

We have a near unlimited potential within the music space. 

In addition to branching out into other genres, there are ancillary parts of the music world that will ultimately come into our site.  

With that said, once the business itself has been matured and perfected, it can be “reskinned” for other verticals.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “BandHappy” based on?

Matt, our founder, was a struggling musician who was tired of waiting tables in between gigs. 

He wanted to be able to focus 100% of his attention on his music. 

Teaching music lessons helps the teacher refine their own skills as a musician in addition to providing an income. 

Matt wanted to be able to teach his local students when he was out on the road and his fans from the road when he was back home. 

There was no one solution to make this process easy, so we created www.bandhappy.com

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

We’ve learned so much from our students and teachers. 

Things that we thought were important at launch turned out to be less so in actual use – and vice versa. 

We’ve built an involved community that has been vocal about the features they’d like to see on the site. 

The process of creating a company out of nothing and bringing it to the public is not an easy thing to do. 

We’d like to say thank you to Guy Kawasaki for all of his books, especially, “The Art of the Start” – should be required reading for any entrepreneur.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Finding the right office space that can accommodate our needs. 

In addition to the usual office infrastructure, we also need a room for practicing our instruments – can’t do that in a cube farm. 

Also, keeping up with the demand from our members for adding new features to the site.  There are only so many hours in a day.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

Teachers can now earn a living from their own music – in a revenue stream that is non-attachable by greedy record labels. 

Students and fans can now get access to their favorite musicians. 

Both students and teachers can rest assured that we are managing the process and keeping things fair and user-friendly for all. 

Parents can vet their kids’ teachers before committing to purchase, they no longer have to schlep their kids through traffic for a lesson – and because the teacher is their kids’ favorite musician, they don’t have to nag them to practice.

16. How did customers/users find out about you?

Two months prior to launch, we created the Bandhappy Facebook page. 

Matt gave a series of demos of the site to musicians that he toured with. 

These musicians then posted on their own bands’ Facebook pages that they would be teaching on Bandhappy. 

By the time we launched, we had thousands of followers. 

Since launch, our company has attracted users well beyond our initial marketing push; it’s taken on a life of its own. 

17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?

Our current and target customers/users are one and the same. 

Our site is for musicians, wherever they are, whatever they play, and however they play it. 

Our students can be broken down into a few categories:  kids in school, young adults fresh out of school, and older professionals/hobbyists.  But this is just a start!

18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

New teachers find out about us from other musicians that they network with. 

Once they get approved and setup to teach onsite, they post to their fan bases and the students come in because of their loyalty to their favorite musician.

We’ve “colonized” a few music schools to start with and are now starting to expand to other schools.

19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?

“Thank you Bandhappy for putting money in my savings account, for the first time in my $#$@! life!” – Ricky A, teacher on Bandhappy.

This quote above came into our general customer support line about 2 months after we launched.

We’ve received a lot of praise and thanks from students and teachers. 

Though we are grateful to hear the kudos, we never rest on our laurels and are constantly working on improving the site and our processes.

20. How are you going to scale?

Technologically speaking, we can scale at any time.  Thanks to cloud servers and managed hosting environments – (who wants to own their own servers anymore?) – We can easily handle any traffic that comes our way. 

The way we grow is by expanding into other genres as well as other parts of the music world.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

The one feature that we haven’t added yet has been the community forum. 

We’ve had a lot of requests for it – and it’s something we’ve wanted to put in even before launch. 

The problem has been having the staff to manage it.  As we’ve been able to raise some capital, that staff can now be hired and we’ll be adding the forum soon.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

We are already global.  Because our business is setup to run with minimal intervention on our part, any musician from anywhere in the world can use our system at any time. 

We have a lot of users in Western Europe and Australia. 

We’re also seeing growth from countries throughout Asia, Central America, South America and the Middle East.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

Our goal is to be the world leader in online and on-tour music lessons. 

Currently, the market for music lessons is highly fragmented and there are no strong players at a global, national, or even regional level. 

We are working on “Bandhappy 2.0″ that will be more user friendly and contain the features that our users have been requesting. 

This and a comprehensive marketing campaign (we’ve done very little marketing so far) will help us get into new markets and expand our business.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We will be looking to hire an engineer and a marketing person within the next 90 days. 

Though we haven’t posted any openings yet, we welcome any interested candidates to submit a resume, cover letter, and list of references to contactus@bandhappy.com  (This is our general customer support email and is monitored by our entire team). 

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

We are currently actively raising capital at the angel level.  Our current round is a Convertible Bridge Loan structure. 

Once we have met certain self-set goals, we are planning on a VC round at a later time to help us aggressively capture our market. 

Potential investors must meet the requirements of a Sophisticated Investor as defined by the SEC. 

Inquiries should be directed to Andy Meister – ameister@bandhappy.com

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

Always be reading.  We are constantly reading new things; books, articles, within our industry and totally different from our industry. 

Start with anything by Guy Kawasaki. Also, don’t fall in love with your technology. 

We tell ourselves that we are not a tech company; we are a music education company that uses technology.

27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

We are honored and humbled by the feedback we have received and by the people that have found their home on bandhappy.com.

We are grateful for the trust that has been placed in us by our students, our teachers, our partners, and our investors. 

We take each day as a challenge to re-earn that trust anew. 

Please direct any inquiries to contactus@bandhappy.com and be sure to mention how you found out about us.

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