Located within the historic Merchandise Mart on the 12th floor, 1871 has been welcoming tech startups and creatives since it’s inception in 2012. Within three years, CEO Howard Tullman has been enhancing and expanding the 75,000-square-foot space with plans to add another 20,000. Depending on the monthly membership, all members have access to classes, industry seminars, shared co-working areas, locker rental and a community of industry professionals from a variety of fields. One of the startups that has been making strides within the music industry is Jammber. Since it’s arrival in 2013, the company has moved toward bigger markets in 2016.
1871, a tech incubator, we are immediately attracted to all of the the art covering the lounge areas and feel at ease.
CUSP Magazine sat down with CEO and co-founder of Jammber Marcus Cobb. Cobb is not your typical entrepreneur. He grew up with a family of musicians and a skilled coder, oversaw and owned software companies and was even a lingerie designer, all of which helped to shape who he is today. Now working on Jammber, all his work has come full circle. It’s not surprising seeing as he’s no stranger to innovation and progress.
Jammber gets its name from the combination of the music term jam and the word members. It has come to signify the music community to Cobb and his team. In 2015, it went through an intensive 14-week program at Nashville’s music tech accelerator, Project Music, which has helped it launch. Since then, it has been carving out a path and adding a level of transparency to the music industry.
Cobb notes that for people to understand why Jammber exists, they first have to understand the problem. The entertainment industry makes billions worldwide in revenue and often times can lose touch with the people that do a lot of the leg work.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that almost 30 percent of that never makes it to the people that it’s owed to. If a guitar player is making $50,000 a year and it takes eight months or even two years to get paid, that’s a huge problem,” Cobb said.
To ease the paperwork that’s been an industry staple, Jammber automates all the processing, union forms, tax forms and payments. So in the case of the guitar player, they would get paid in two weeks instead of months or years, because it’s more about taking care of the creatives and helping them efficiently get paid for their work. There’s no hang up or waiting around.
Cobb noticed within the music community that certain tools were missing and started the process to change that. There are a few companies that offer similar services like DocuSign, but not to the extent that you can receive everything all in one place as is the case with Jammber. Cobb said the their website is mainly for people on their desk, which can do three things for them. Anyone can schedule whatever is coming off from creative sessions (i.e music video or song recording) in one place. From there, they can share it with their entire team. Jammber is a part of the scheduling process and makes it easier to find people to work with rather than chase them down for one song, album or music video. Lastly, all the paperwork gets automated. Click the people that need to get paid, and it gets sent automatically to their accounts. The app works as an extension of that and is useful for anyone from artists, hair stylists, producers and engineers, to name a few. Jammber can be used on the go as an app and will work with anyone over text and email as well.
Last year Jammber added label Big Machine from Nashville among other companies that are interested.
“I would say in a nutshell, part of why Jammber is growing so fast is that the timing is right,” Cobb notes. “The industry is ready for a change. I would say probably about 70 percent of people out there get what we are doing and want to be a part of it.”
Another important part of what Jammber handles is giving credit where it’s due. Cobb recalls a situation that happened to a friend, Biran “Cabby” Cabanatuan, which ended in a dropped credit to his work on an album for Justin Timberlake.
“It’s so easy to take credit for granted, and for a lot of creatives it’s not even about the money. It’s about having their name on something that they want to be a part of. When you take that away from them, you take away not only the credit, but all the energy they spent to be at that moment in time,” Cobb said.
Jammber never forgets a credit, and they never lose track of what a person has done with their work. The idea is to continuously build their work through their resumé, which is just as important as the payment is to the people diligently focused on their life’s work.
Headquartered in Chicago and with offices in Nashville, the next step would be to expand. Jammber is bringing in developers, new technology and operations in Chicago, as well as sales people from L.A. and New York. They are looking to expand to other cities by the end of the year. Chicago will always hold a special place for Cobb, as it’s his favorite city on the planet, which boasts plenty of diversity, unique tech talent and capital.
“There are three things that motivate people,” Cobb explained. “One is money. The other is impact and recognition for impact. The third one is being a part of something bigger than themselves. Creatives are usually the last two, that’s why they are starving artists. They don’t just want to sign their name to any piece of work, but they do want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. If you pay them, then that’s great. Then there’s money to grow from there. That’s why we exist.”