Startups made in Austria X – Online jam sessions with sofasession

Vienna on Mar 17, 2015
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Musicians know the problem: you are looking for a lead singer for a concert, want to try a newly written song with a cello player or you just want to jam together with another music enthusiast. Finding the right person is not that easy. The online platform sofasession is connecting musicians around the world and makes finding each other a piece of cake. But not enough: the software enables joint online jam sessions in real time. So if you are a piano player living in Chile you can now easily jam with a drummer in Tokio and using the Premium version you can even record your piece.

Our March startup: sofasession

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photo by sofasession

sofasession – who and why?

Co-founder Helmut Herglotz, guitarist, was in the situation that he was urgently looking for a singer to join him on stage. It took him very long to find somebody suitable. Next problem was to find suitable place for rehearsal. Since then Helmut, together with co-founder Marian Tokar, is working on a solution to make the lives of musicians easier. The founders: “The idea was to build an online platform where audio data can be transmitted in real time to make it possible to play music together no matter where you are based.” The two started with an extensive research phase, brought new people into the team and published the first version of their platform in July 2014. Since February this year the users can already enjoy the improved second version.

The two founders themselves are passionate musicians. Marian is a professional guitarist, gathered experience on stage, in the studio and on the street and plays both jazz and rock music. He knows perfectly what musicians need in the different phases of their projects. Helmut plays the guitar since more than 20 years, was part of various bands and shifted his focus from hard rock music towards pop and jazz. The two music enthusiasts met while working on the same real estate project a few years ago. They both have a similar background in music and education. Helmut laughs: “We understand each other implicitly.” A team of five developers is supporting the founders’ mission and the startup is planning bring a new team member on board who should handle sofasession’s marketing activities.

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The sofasession team (left to right) Stefano Bider, Benjamin Kiesl, Ryan Nore, Marian Tokar, Fabian Artacker und Helmut Herglotz; photo by Gabriel Ptacek

Marian and Helmut are born entrepreneurs. sofasession is for them the perfect combination of their professional backgrounds and their private passion – music. Helmut’s prime challenge was to get acquainted with the technical background of their product. He studied the basics of coding and spent many hours reading about the most important technical details. Like for many other startups financing was and is an important topic for sofasession. With personal investments and external funding the startup is in comfortable position. Investors and VCs are also knocking on their door showing their interest. “It’s important to not lose focus.”, claims Helmut. “Only drawing up concepts of how your product could look like is not enough. We always try to push implementation forward. Otherwise we would only run in circles.”

How does sofasession work?

Musicians from all around the world can register quickly and easily. At the moment the platform counts about 1000 users. Once registered you can directly search for suitable counterparts to play with. So if you are looking for someone who is playing bass and focuses on jazz you might find the exactly right person sitting in Paris. You just agree on a time together and start jamming together, everyone in the comfort of his/her own living room. Your audio data is transmitted to your colleague in real time. There is no video on sofasession to guarantee fast and high quality transmission of your audio. Electronic instruments can be directly connected; vocals and the sound of acoustic instruments are transmitted via microphone.

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screenshot jam session; photo by sofasession

The feedback on the platform is positive throughout the community, especially among those who are geographically dispersed. Marian remembers: “A singer living in Amsterdam told us about her joint music project with a piano player in New York. They were really happy to have found each other. We also heard about a drummer form Norway collaborating with a jaw harp player from Russia.” The startup is getting valuable feedback from the community, a lot of which was already implemented in the second version.

sofasession is available as a freemium service. This means that musicians can register and use the basic version for free. The startup earns its money with the extended premium version, which is available as monthly subscription. This way the users can get more storage and the possibility to record the jam sessions (feature available from Q2 2015).

And what about the future?

The startup’s primary goal is the growth of the sofasession community. The team will present its service at the music fair in Frankfurt this year. New users are usually convinced in personal conversations during concerts or on music platform online. The team is furthermore planning a cooperation with an Austrian music festival. The startup already established a small office in Berlin and is planning to expand to other markets in 2016. In March the team will present the sofasession platform at a festival in Texas to slowly enter the US market. Yet, at present the focus is still put on Austria, Germany and Slovakia.