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As a freelance violinist and former auditor of the storied Trinity Orchestra, Luke Rynne Cullen had difficulty finding gigs.
Whether he was trying to get booked for a wedding or a sold-out festival, he didn’t have the contacts, struggled to access the market and found himself wondering ‘why there wasn’t a one-stop shop for musicians’.
That’s where the idea for Applaud, the gig-booking website he co-founded, came from and why it has become a rapid success over the past 18 months.
Rynne Cullen started pitching musicians on the idea last January and quickly got 50 sign-ups before building a prototype website and soon winning the Trinity College entrepreneurial society’s Dragons’ Den competition.
Applaud was accepted into the LaunchBox student accelerator after that, then the Startup Boost pre-accelerator last October, and the company now works out of Technological University Dublin’s Grangegorman campus as part of its New Frontier entrepreneurial development programme.
Rynne Cullen built the initial site on Squarespace but was eventually introduced to co-founder Jerico Alcaras, who ran against him to become Trinity Students’ Union’s entertainments officer and created the latest version of the site.
‘We didn’t know each other at the time and without a doubt it was a confrontational way of being introduced, but despite that we were really chill about it, and got along great,’ Rynne Cullen said.
‘We ended up both losing, and decided to jump ship and join Applaud together. He has a masters in computer science and has worked with a number of different start-ups and tech companies, so he bashed out the website in eight weeks.’
Since launching the new site at the beginning of August, 125 musicians covering folk, rap, rock, wedding bands and more have signed up without any advertising spend, and the company hit over €7,000 in total bookings in the past eight weeks.
Applaud now counts Richard Tierney, formerly of Aiken Promotions and global promotions powerhouse Live Nation, as a mentor and is seeking its seed round of funding to take things to the next level with potential funding support from Enterprise Ireland.
Patrick Monaghan, of Phorest Salon Software and another mentor to Applaud, said Alcaras’ role is to ‘automate’ Rynne Cullen, his method of collecting the required information, recommending acts and confirming bookings can be replicated via machine learning based on the data the platform collects over time.
The new site allows bookers for corporate events, weddings, clubs, festivals and recording sessions to list events and book musicians, with a booking feed to be launched in the coming weeks.
On the musician side, artists can create a free profile — or several profiles if they have, for example, a band, a wedding band, and a solo venture — with which they can link their YouTube, Spotify and social media accounts and respond to event listings with their quote, on top of which Applaud earns a platform service fee.
Rynne Cullen said they are hoping to add a stage plot creator to streamline stage setup and a bookings management system, complete with automated invoicing, receipts and a VAT component in the future ‘because a lot of musicians aren’t well versed in that’.
Applaud has provided musicians for events run by the GAA and Republic of Experience, and Rynne Cullen said that the business-to-business route has provided a lot of recurring bookings for the company.
Tierney has been the company’s main ‘point of contact’ in finding investors for seed funding, and Rynne Cullen said he could be trying to get some of his ‘heavy duty’ music industry contacts onside, which would tie into the company’s ambitions.
‘We want to be seen as an event partner, not an event organiser, like EventBrite positioning-wise. They’re an event partner — they’ll help you maximise your ticket sales, whereas we’ll be a music partner and help you book the best acts.’