Analysis

Music Ally Startup Files: Jambl, the music-making app for non-musicians


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Music is different to other creative acts: there’s a palpable barrier to entry compared to, say, photography. Jambl aims to change that by making music-creation fun, simple and entertaining, but with a full industry vertical behind it. Can hits be made, remixed, identified, and fully exploited, all in one platform?

Jambl, which recently received half a million euros of funding from another music-apps firm, Gismart, is one of a few apps – like the recently profiled Voisey – trying to lower the bar of entry to music creation. What unites these apps is ease of creation, collaboration, and the aim of turning little loops of music into something more meaningful, workable and sellable.

Co-founder Gad Baruch Hinkis’ enthusiasm for Jambl is real. “Music is for everyone: you don’t need to be a genius with natural-born talent to have a great experience and connect with other people,” he says. His pitch certainly won over the judges of the Midemlab 2019 startups contest last June: Jambl won the music creation and education category.

Jambl has a glossy interface designed to make “non-musicians” comfortable, and a fun, kitchen-sink approach to music-making. Gad is an artist himself, and maybe his work with Berlin’s premiere (or perhaps only) sax-funk-jive-rap-electro-swing combo Dirty Honkers is what sowed the seed of Jambl’s eclectic, colourful, more-is-more approach.

For him, success hinges on marketing: “I describe our ambition in three words: ‘Nike for music.’ Jambl can also be a brand that tells people ‘you can be part of this too.’”

How does Jambl work?

Jambl couples an irreverent environment to win over those first-timers, with a smattering of in-jokes – one J Dilla-inspired sound pack, Dilla Pickle, has gherkin artwork – that nod knowingly to the music production geeks.

The characterful, colourful design is in sharp contrast to the DAW-derived look of some other apps in this space. Gad’s two points of reference are TikTok and Duolingo: playful and welcoming, but educational and deep.

In Jambl, music is performed, recorded and looped on a simple grid of dots. Sounds can be switched, muted and deleted intuitively. It’s recognisable and flexible for musicians, but simple and enjoyable for amateurs.

As with other music-creation apps like Endlesss, collaboration is central to the experience: a loop can be shared in the ‘Community’ tab, where it can be remixed by others, or it can bubble up the popularity charts. Spotting hits that emerge is part of Jambl’s plan:

“I imagine a world where we can automatically license content at the moment of creation. Instead of [a major label] signing ten or twenty successes per year, you can sign a million small artists and see who blows up. But you need to catch them when they’re small – and that’s the power of mobile music making,” says Gad.

What is Jambl’s technology and who’s using it?

Jambl has a lot of well-made sound packs, each in recognisable niche genres – with one or two new packs added per week.

Subscribers get instant access to them all, but you can unlock each one at a time by watching an ad. After Music Ally twiddled its thumbs through a 30-second video, the ‘Detour 909’ Acid House-style pack downloaded, and some Haçienda-esque squelching noises emerged.

And then… another unskippable 30 second ad played immediately upon saving this masterpiece. It’s frustrating, and intentionally so: Gad says he only wants the most committed users at this early stage. If you’re enamoured with Jambl, he reasons, you’ll either transition to a stiff $7.99 weekly payment or put up with the ads.

But the results are fun, and users can quickly make and remix short, satisfying loops. The question is: what next? Casual users may simply enjoy sharing their creations and seeing how others remix them, but if the desire to develop songlets into full-blown bangers arises, loops currently need to be exported to a DAW or synced to Ableton.

So will advanced musicians, who value their creative workflow, simply use Jambl as a scratchpad for ideas to polish on a laptop or do they want to stay in the app? Gad is betting on both, and deeper ‘Pro’ features are coming soon.

Jambl

How does Jambl make money?

Gad is candid about Jambl’s current, post-investment priority: quickly growing income by nailing user retention.

The rationale for aggressively pushing a £7.99-a-week subscription (the same pricing as sister app Beat Maker Go) whilst showing freemium users unskippable ads is that, by pushing away all but truly determined users, Jambl can get feedback, iterate and make its app super-sticky – then shift to full-on growth.

Two groups of users are of particular interest to Gad right now. The 13-20 year olds who want a quick and slick way to learn how to make the music they love, and the 40+ group of highly-engaged hobbyists.

This market, possibly burdened with spare cash and lingering memories of teenage hopes of being a musician, may have the inclination to pay the weekly subscription fee to rekindle that dream.

Gad’s also aggressive with his ambitions for Jambl: success to him is “at least” 10 million users within 12 months. Besides subscription fees, the idea of Jambl being an all-in-one beat making, discovery, exploitation, sync and marketplace service is tempting.

“We can monetise outside and inside the platform. Users could push a button saying ‘Monetise my music’ – then we could try to sync or sell the song. We could collaborate with an existing publisher or label here too.”

One market might suit Jambl particularly well: the selling of “type beats”. Today’s aspiring indie MC demands unique, cheap beats to buy and mumble-rap over. While decent beats can be picked up for a song (Lil Nas X made the investment of his life when he bought the beat that became ‘Old Town Road’ for $30, the overall market is sizeable: the Beatstars marketplace has paid out $50m to creators so far, while Splice has paid out $25m. In an ideal scenario, Jambl could cut out more than the middleman.

How is Jambl already working with the music industry?

Jambl’s perception-first approach needs artist clout. So one near-future collaboration would be with established artists. “The main thing that labels can offer us is access to musicians, so users can see a Jambl pack by a famous artist when they open the app,” says Gad.

In the longer term, he wants to take bigger bites out of the existing industry structure: imagine a world in which the next ‘Old Town Road’ gestates, develops and becomes an utterly relentless mega-hit, all inside one app.

“If a Jambl user is trending, we could sign a generation of songwriters from all over the world. Major labels are in a bit of a pickle: they can see who’s popping and offer them a deal but that artist may not now need the label at this stage in their career – they can monetise themselves.”

There are also potential artist-fan interactions: one of Gad’s ideas involves established artists releasing a Jambl pack based on a hit song, setting a song-making challenge, and seeing what fans come up with as they “collaborate” with their hero.

Can Jambl have its cake and eat it?

A search for “music making apps” in the iOS App Store initiates a long scroll through many apps with similar ambitions. Competition is fierce, and in the face of it, Gad’s focus on distinctive branding and marketing is understandable.

In terms of taking a Jambl loop and making it into the next ‘Old Town Road’, the current limitation is that the songlets are short, simple loops without pro-level polish and jiggery-pokery, but this issue may vanish when Jambl’s Pro-tier options and the ability to string loops into fuller compositions appear.

Just as no-one originally set out to become a “Youtuber” – they wanted to easily make videos about something they loved, and all the product placement and #rants about demonetisation came later – Jambl wants to create an environment where the leap to becoming a semi-pro musician (and all that entails) is more simple and more fun.

“In the end,” Gad believes, “Jambl will not reduce anything – it just means more music. Mobile music creation apps are creating a new market, and enhancing the current one.”

Need to know: Jambl factfile

Website: https://www.jambl.app
Category: Music creation
Headquarters: Berlin
Founders: Gad Baruch Hinkis, Marika Saridi and Andro Kubonin
Funding so far: €500k corporate round by Gismart in December 2019

Jambl is currently seeking to:

– Develop relationships with music influencers – established artists who can create Jambl sound packs, etc
– Founder Gad: “I’m looking for speaking engagements to tell my story, the vision of the company and talk about futurism and music philosophy.”
– “We are also always open for new collaborations with potential partner companies.”

Contact details: gad@jambl.app

Joe Sparrow

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