Trailblazers is an MBW interview series that turns the spotlight on music entrepreneurs making waves in their local markets, who have the potential to become the global business’s power players of tomorrow. This time, we speak to Jake Zinn, founder of US-based music release notification app Beepr.
It’s 11:59 PM on Thursday night and your phone starts buzzing with notifications.
You unlock your phone and are greeted by the black and orange notification colors of the BEEPR app. Did your favorite artist drop an album? A single? A feature?
BEEPR will tell you which of your selected artists released any music and will automatically redirect you to the song or project.
The music notification app, which currently reports to reach 250,000 users, and claims that it will have around 1,000 artists in its database by September, was founded by Jake Zinn in 2018, soft-launching in Spring 2020. At the time, Zinn was still a student at the College of Charleston, where he studied Arts Management in the Music Industry.
“[I] was generally unaware of when my favorite artists were releasing music,” Zinn tells MBW. College and high-school students especially, he says, are so busy with schoolwork hobbies, or sports, that they find little free time to relax, much less time to track upcoming music releases. BEEPR aims to fix that.
The company serves as an on-demand, artist-by-artist opt-in notification service that claims to make it easier for music listeners to stay up to date with new releases.
BEEPR users can choose to receive notifications for album/single announcements and releases, interview releases, general artist news, and more.
The startup says that it prides itself on being a destination for what it calls ‘true artist-to-fan’ connections outside of artists’ direct communication channels.
The startup’s founder, Zinn, claims that the vast majority of his company’s growth has come from word-of-mouth marketing and organic growth.
In fact, Zinn claims that BEEPR “[hasn’t] spent a single dollar on marketing”.
In this interview with MBW, BEEPR founder Jake Zinn discusses his inspirations, challenges, app monetization, his company’s youth-focused marketing strategy, and its long-term ambitions to branch out beyond music….
What was your inspiration for starting BEEPR?
When I was in high school and college, I was managing and tour managing a group of local artists. I was in the know about when my artists were releasing new material. On the other hand, I was still a huge fan and consumer of music and was generally unaware of when my favorite artists were releasing music.
ESPN had this really cool feature that they launched where you could opt-in to these hyper-targeted notifications which would show you injury reports, halftime scores, quarterly scores, etc. I now had this sports information that I loved seeing being directly delivered to my home screen. [I thought], what if I could do the same thing ESPN did, but for music?
When I was in high school, I pitched this music notification idea to SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and a few other companies but they didn’t seem too interested at the time. I ended up going to the College of Charleston, studying Arts Management in the Music Industry and continued to tour manage a collection of local artists.
During my sophomore year in college, the idea for music notifications popped up again, so I decided to test it out with some friends and received positive feedback. I got to thinking that maybe this music notification idea could be an app or a company that would actually be useful to the general public.
I started building BEEPR in 2018 and we did a quasi-soft launch in 2020. Some of my friends ran meme pages on social media, so we were able to start marketing the app on their pages for free. We actually saw kids downloading the app from these adverts and pure, word-of-mouth marketing took over from there.
What are some notable successes and struggles you’ve had since BEEPR’s 2020 soft launch?
I’d say the number one success we’ve had was recently hitting a quarter-million users and 100,000 monthly active users. We haven’t spent a single dollar on marketing and have had pure, organic growth through social media and word-of-mouth.
A challenge we’ve had to maneuver around is the fact that I don’t consider BEEPR to be a social media company, but a notifications company. With all these social media apps like TikTok or Instagram, companies are always competing for users to stay on their apps. We don’t care if you use our app that much, just press on the notifications when you receive them.
“I’d say the number one success we’ve had was recently hitting a quarter-million users and 100,000 monthly active users.”
Another challenge is teaching people about BEEPR’s philosophy, that every notification you receive is something you asked for and opted-in to.
When you see our colors, our name, and our notification sound, we are aiming to make it clear that these notifications are for you, not for us. It’s a lot different than the majority of apps nowadays where you receive notifications prodding you to open, and subsequently remain active, on their app for hours.
Are you monetizing BEEPR?
We are monetizing the app, but we never want to monetize off of our users. We also don’t want advertisements that will sacrifice our in-app experience. Sure, there are advertisements that we could do, and sometimes we will do, but users will never notice. For example, on BEEPR’s home page, there is a spotlight section that features “Songs Of The Week” that we are able to monetize.
We are also monetizing with labels right now. We have this cool A&R tool which enables us to find independent artists that are trending in the back-end of the app really early. We started to notice a while ago that users would search for these smaller, independent artists on our app and we wouldn’t have them in our database.
We would find artists like Jx.Zero, who had this song titled Playboy, which blew up on TikTok. We found him trending on our app’s backend with 30,000 monthly active users across streaming platforms, so we sent him to a label and he got signed. Jx.Zero now has 2.2 monthly active listeners and Playboy has accrued over 50 million streams to date.
There are other ways that we are going to monetize with labels that we haven’t rolled out yet, such as through portals and community-engagement features.
What are your plans for the app’s future?
What’s next for us is trying to add every single artist on streaming services. This will always be our goal, since there are new artists popping up every single day. We want to become the go-to music company for not only users, but also labels.
There’s two sides to it where on one hand, we want users to think that “BEEPR knows first and it will tell you first.” On the label side, we want to use our app for anything to do with announcing or rolling out an album/single, pre-save links, music releases, artist engagement, and more.
The entire, long-term goal of this, however, is to become a full-service notifications company. Why are we searching for information, news, and content that we love on social media when it should be brought directly to us via notifications?
Imagine expanding beyond music into television, film, gaming, books, or any other form of content. A user can opt into a specific, focused notification and BEEPR will bring that content to the front of your screen as soon as it becomes available.
How do you decide which new artists you add and how often do you update the list of artists?
Right now, we base our new artist additions from what people are searching for in our app. Mike Dimes, for instance, was searched for 5,000 times, so we added him.
We’re also about to announce partnerships with two record labels. They have a combined roster of around 350 artists that we are going to add into the BEEPR database. There isn’t really a scheduled aspect to updating our artist list but we typically release updates in batches.
How do you feel about Spotify’s new releases bell feature and what differentiates it from BEEPR?
I actually love the Spotify bell. Sure, we know that music usually drops at midnight on Thursday, but there’s always those surprise drops. Even if you take the surprises out, Spotify’s bell feature still requires you to open their app, click on the bell icon, scroll through what’s new, and see if you want to even have that artist in the bell section or want to listen to their new song/album.
For us, I don’t really mind other apps adding these new music features, just because they’re not notifying you. I truly believe a notification done correctly is one of the most powerful tools within mobile phones. Your lock screen is so powerful. Before you do anything on your phone, you look at the notifications on your lock screen.
Statistics show that people are listening to new music less and less vs. “catalog” music. What’s your take and does this phenomenon affect BEEPR?
People are listening to new music more than ever, but they aren’t retaining and replaying it. People will listen to a song and then throw it away. They want to know what’s coming next.
Regarding BEEPR, replay and retention is not our problem and doesn’t really affect us. Our issue is being first to know about new releases so that we can notify our users.
There’s things that we are doing with regard to catalog music that can be positive for both BEEPR and the music community, though. We are launching a new feature called “ephemeral communities” in the near future which will act as a pop-up chat room for new releases.
We created a Discord bot called “The BEEPR App Bot” that can go into Discord servers and send new music alerts via Discord’s push notifications system. We started noticing that when we were pushing out these notifications, people would click on the Discord alerts and hop into threads to talk about a new song. As soon as the song or album stopped, they would all leave the thread.
So, we are going to create the “ephemeral communities” feature to allow our users to join chat rooms where everyone is listening and commenting about that release together and at the same time. As soon as the song or album is finished, the “ephemeral community” chat room will automatically disappear. It’s going to be a very “you had to be there to experience it” type of feature.
What’s your long-term ambition with the company?
BEEPR is a company that has the potential to be used by the entire world. My mindset is to continue building BEEPR out. I will never stop so long as people continue using the app.
I see BEEPR going further into the music industry and being the number one source for labels to use for rollouts, and the number one place for people to learn about new music releases.
Trailblazers is supported by Believe. Believe offers advice to independent artists and labels, in addition to distributing and promoting their music through a portfolio of brands including TuneCore, Nuclear Blast, Naïve, Groove Attack and AllPoints.Music Business Worldwide