Although COVID-19 disrupted live music events for the foreseeable future, disappointing festival-goers and concert fans, the pandemic ended up becoming an opportunity for entrepreneurs and businesses to think outside the box when it came to how we engage with and consume entertainment.
One entrepreneur in particular took full advantage of the immense cultural shift and ended up creating a space that benefitted both fans as well as artists. Meet Sarah Figueroa – the CEO and founder of Geojam, a music app that allows artists to bring their fans one-of-a-kind experiences and interactions just for streaming their music.
Her company began right before COVID and had to pivot to an entirely new concept once the pandemic changed the world we live in. Her story of perseverance and creativity is impressive, to say the least.
Sarah has a tonne of experience in building consumer businesses and marketing solutions for international brands and large-scale events. She exited her first business in 2015 and has been recognized for her work in the music industry by Google. Geojam was featured in the New York Times in 2020 and Sarah was lauded for the way she pivoted her business model to find success in an ever-changing industry.
We had the chance to speak with Sarah about the creation of Geojam, her love of music, pivoted during 2020, and being a woman in a male-dominated tech world.
Tell us how the original idea for Geojam came about?
Geojam was founded in 2019 by myself and our current Chief Revenue Officer, Sam Krichevsky in New York City. We were all friends working within different segments of the music industry and all felt like there needed to be a better way for artists and their fans to have more meaningful connections. This is still the core mission behind Geojam today and we’re thrilled to see the interest that this fundamentally simple idea has driven so far.
Where did your love for music, and experiencing live music first begin?
Music is my passion and it’s woven into who I am as a person. I was raised in a large Cuban family, so from a young age I was dancing and listening to music with loved ones. My culture has been a driving force in many of my decisions, and with that culture comes a love and appreciation for music and connecting through music. I also danced throughout grade school; music has always been part of my life. When it was time to get into the “real world” I was instantly drawn to the massive industry that accompanies music, specifically live shows and events. I was working on sponsorship packages at multiple companies before I started Geojam, but what we’re building now is much closer to my core beliefs on what music should do, which is bring people together in unique and impactful ways.
How did 2020 force you and your co-founders to shift the focus of your business model, and how were you feeling through this turbulent year?
We were in a situation where we had to shut down our in-person growth strategies, which forced us to take a hard look at our platform and our growth model. We started focusing on not just exposure but on building a useful, digital-first app that drove value in several ways for both artists and streamers. We quickly realized that we already had multiple offerings in place thatartists could tap into to increase things like fan engagement, revenue opportunities and streaming numbers – all digitally. This was highly coveted by these artists in 2020 given that live events were on the shelf.
Throughout the pandemic, we continued to build on digital-first ideas like our Jam Shop, allowing users to engage for points they can redeem for unique items/experiences, and our incredible Emerging Artist program, which gives up-and-coming music talent exposure on our app to reach new audiences. Leading with a digital-first approach in 2020 allowed us to scale more efficiently while reaching broader audiences in a more impactful, pandemic-friendly way.
How has Geojam enabled more undiscovered artists to get in front of more fans digitally, in a way that would be hard in the physical world previous to 2020?
Geojam brings an advanced sense of community to music streaming. It breaks the traditional algorithmic way of music discovery and puts it back into the hands of people. Through Geojam, people now more than ever can discover their favorite emerging artists and expand their genre pallet. Our platform allows communities to digitally connect and experience a new era of music interaction. Prior to 2020, it was less desirable to interact digitally with your favorite artists, but now with innovative platforms like Geojam, we provide the next-level experience in artist interaction.
How has Geojam enabled music lovers to get up close and personal in different ways with their fave artists?
Whether it’s playing video games, eating tacos, or flying on a private jet with your favorite artist, Geojam gives fans exclusive access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences with their favorite artists and creators. We have built an arena for artists and fans to experience moments together by fostering direct fan engagement.
Being a female founder and CEO and raising funds in a male-dominated investing world, can you share any barriers or setbacks you faced along the way, and the biggest lessons you learned?
Being a female founder has meant that I need to bring my best effort each and every day to not let it be something that holds me back, but instead propels me forward. This go-getter mentality and always having my foot on the gas has sometimes actually been a mentality that causes me to be slightly impatient and move a bit faster than a situation may call for. When you’re raising funds, you have to be patient but also know when it’s time to be strong and stand confidently by your success and your offering.
As a female in those situations, it’s sometimes hard to find the balance between patience and aggressiveness because you’re conscious of how people could possibly label you. It’s best to not worry so much about that, but to instead know that you’re in a great position and you need to exude confidence but also practice restraint and patience in some scenarios. It’s this balance that will in the end land you in the best possible position with people that value you and are on the same page.
Given that you have experienced the highs and lows of starting various companies, and survived starting a business right before a global pandemic, what advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Simon Sinek says it better than anyone, Start with Why. If you know WHY you are doing it, not just what you’re building, it’s so much easier to pivot, remain nimble, and thrive during the twists and turns. Take a step back and think, is this going to get us closer to our mission? Build around that.
The flood of digital music platforms changed the music industry forever, and now so has COVID. From your perspective, what does the future of fandom and the music industry look like?
The state of the music industry is as strong as ever. Artists have lots of new music they are waiting to release, the live touring business is going to rebound to historic proportions by next summer, and Geojam is helping accelerate connectivity and awareness for artists and fans more than ever before. Music is the most widely consumed form of media, and with Geojam the world now has a hyper-connected medium to engage with their favorite artists, friends, and fans just like them.
Who are some of your favorite artists to listen to right now, and whose music gets you through the rough times?
I’m reinvigorating my relationship with my 7th-grade self at the moment through Pop-Punk. So anything produced by Travis Barker. I’m excited about anything from Willow Smith, too. In my crowd on Geojam, you’ll find a mix of Rufus Du Sol, Vintage Culture, Kid Laroi, and Olivia Rodrigo.
For someone interested in checking out Geojam for the first time, what do you want them to know?
Geojam is fun with your friends. Invite them so you can share music with each other. Also check out the Jam Shop, where you can buy awesome things with the points you earn on the app.