Jammber enriches the lives of people in the entertainment industry, all over the world, by giving them tools that empower and enhance the creative process. Ultimately allowing them to do more of what they love, giving them superpowers they tell their friends about.
Why don’t people get paid in the entertainment business? Red tape and the complexity of project management. Jammber, the automated platform for entertainment rights and business management, wants to change this, doing for the entertainment industry what PayPal did for online payments.
“For every hour of studio time, there are a few hours of paperwork,” states Marcus Cobb, the developer and designer who co-founded and now heads Jammber. Dozens of people touch each studio track, and they need credits, tax forms, and other compliance measures. That leads to a whooping total of 450 hours of paperwork.
The delay of paperwork, from union timecards to I9s, does more than drag out project timelines. It means that session players and songwriters sometimes wait years to get paid for what should be a simple business arrangement--if the check ever comes at all. Similar tax and reporting forms demand the same data but have to be filled out multiple times. The industry doesn’t do direct deposit. The pain points are legion.
Cobb and the Jammber team have bootstrapped their way to a solution, taking a lean, mean entrepreneurial approach to a broad and complicated problem set. Jammber manages the entire music production process, keeping track of everyone involved, making sure the work flows, letting collaborators sign off on important steps digitally, and helping labels and artists file forms correctly. It’s a perfect fit for the music business, though Jammber has seen interest from other industries with similarly complex workflows and project management tasks.
“No one is capturing this data at the studio level en masse. Some other platforms and services are trying, but they don’t touch the whole ecosystem, including the paperwork,” Cobb explains. “Jammber captures a holistic view of the process as early as possible.” This holistic vision has led to partnerships with major players in HR and other fields, like ADP.
Cobb has been fascinated by computers and machines since boyhood, building robots and programming games starting in grade school. Growing up in an extremely tough neighborhood in El Paso, Cobb was in the peculiar position of being both scholarly and gifted, and surrounded by poverty and violence. His passion for computer science and determination to gain a decent education drove him to seek something else, and eventually he landed a job as one of the youngest team leaders at Microsoft.
He honed his skills in the corporate context, moved into consulting. Cobb, however, longed to do something substantive, something all his own. A friend and colleague Adam Clabaugh, Jammber’s original co-founder, agreed. “We stopped dead in our tracks and we did a show and tell. I had all these business plans in notebooks,” Cobb recalls. “We came up with five criteria: Something we were passionate about, something with residual income, something we were proud of, that impacted people for the better and that had the potential to one day become a billion-dollar business.”
They wrote the earliest iteration of Jammber up on the whiteboard. It had promise. The two shut down their consulting business more or less overnight.
To his surprise, Cobb found himself diving into the entertainment business. The technologist also had an artistic side, both in music and fashion. He created intimate apparel lines. He worked on a music video for Pitbull. He worked to put together a girl group, a process he found rife with frustrations. These diverse projects gave him a keen awareness of the faults and injustices of the creative industries, how difficult it was to keep on top of a project and how much many entertainers and musicians struggled to get a couple hundred dollars from a few hours of work.
Their original idea won the team a spot in the Nashville, TN music business accelerator, Project Music. The program introduced them to major players in the industry, from label heads to rock stars. It got them thinking. “Project Music pulled back the veil of the industry and we saw how the money moves,” says Cobb. “We saw that 30-50% of people don’t get credit for their work or don’t get paid at all, or get paid years later. We knew we had to do something about it.”
They were on week twelve of a fourteen-week program. But they decided to tear down their plan and start from scratch. “We did a shot of tequila and pivoted,” laughs Cobb. “We pitched Jammber that Friday. We got a standing ovation from the musicians in the room. Two investors pulled me aside and said you’re making a huge mistake. One told us we had lost our marbles.” That was in April, “but she wrote the first check in November. She saw the problem and saw we were creating value.”
The value stems from the combination of workflow management and savvy about the extremely siloed and fragmented processes of the music business, where the various stages of a project may involve completely different teams with different needs. It tracks all credits and payments, creates accurate metadata from day one, notifies all collaborators when certain tasks are due or completed, and allows them to sign off digitally on important paperwork.
“On more generalist platforms, team workflow isn’t really addressed well, in terms of automating compliance, nothing like the way Jammber works as this automated business manager for creatives,” Cobb notes. “It applies across agencies. I’ve had construction companies and health companies come to us, curious about how they might use our tools. I think that this is the natural evolution of the technology. We understand now what collaboration looks like online, and we know now how to shape it to maximize efficiency.” It’s a factor long missing from the music industry, something Jammber promises to change.