South Bend-founded Juke app helps audiences connect with live performers


Have you ever attended a concert hoping that the artist would play a particular song?

Besides holding a sign with your request, you probably weren’t able to communicate this to the artist.

So far.

With the Juke web app, founder and CEO Griffin Eaton found a way to capitalize on what audiences need most: interacting with the musicians they love.

Eaton got the idea for the app while attending a concert.

“I was watching an artist play…and he was playing mostly originals…and I remember thinking he was really talented and…I’d love to hear how he made any song his own because he had a unique voice … I would pay him a hundred dollars right now to play a cover and make it his own, but I didn’t know what covers he could play,” Eaton says. “I didn’t have any money on me… and it’s embarrassing to get into the group. That was the first (idea): If I care that much, I bet there are other people like me. »

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Although Eaton claims he’s never been able to play an instrument, he’s figured out how to market people who do.

As Juke takes off in the world of mainstream entertainment, here are a few things to know about the company:

1. Juke was founded in South Bend

“South Bend is like any city in the United States,” says Eaton. “There are musicians. There are venues that want to make music. There was already this environment where we had enough musicians playing in the area who were already feeling the pain. The other thing is that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Bend over the past 10 years…has gotten better every year. There were so many resources available to me to go through the process of validating a prototype.

Eaton’s mastermind came to fruition when he found a coder in the South Bend network and investors in town who wanted to back the idea, like institutions like Notre Dame.

“Notre Dame’s business plan competition was available,” says Eaton. “We ended up winning that, which gave us funding. Subsequently, because Notre Dame is tied outside of that area, we were able to convince one of the top venture capitalists in the country, Tim Connors, to join as a co-founder…I think that’s It was a big chunk: leveraging both the city’s resources…and the extension to Silicon Valley.

With the help of these local investors, the business grew 30% month-over-month, Eaton says.

2. Juke is a jukebox for live music

Juke, Eaton says, allows the audience “to have a voice, but that’s on the artist’s terms.”

He compares performers to chefs curating a menu at a restaurant, giving the crowd options to choose from, such as songs on their set list, or experiences to enjoy during the concert, such as a drum solo, serenade personal at their table and dedications to someone in the audience.

Although the audience can request an unlimited number of experiences, artists control what they accept from the audience.

“Audiences crave to have a voice and to interact with artists,” says Eaton. “Even at a bigger gig, when people are holding up posters…because there’s no technology there, there’s no good way for hundreds or thousands of viewers to influence the show…so we’re giving them this simple channel to be able to take what could be many messages from the crowd and dilute them into one.

3. App includes Hungry Artist

Eaton designed the app to help artists “monetize their talents, as well as raise money for local charities where it’s used.

“We thought, ‘Could we close that gap? Can we help address these unmet audience needs and do so in a way that serves artists? “, He said.

The app allows requests to be made only when a tip is tied to the request, compensating the performer for each specialty they can provide. Artists can set their own values ​​for certain songs or actions. Audience members are also allowed to tip the performer through the app.

Umphrey's McGee used the Juke app during their November 14, 2021 concert at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend.  In doing so, the band and app raised $7,000 for the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Financially, Eaton knew this idea was working since the first event Juke worked at the Morris Performing Arts Center – Umphrey’s McGee last November 14th.

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“I think the first time we used it in a concert setting was a big step because it was incredibly successful,” Eaton says. “Ninety percent of the 1,500 people who were there…opened the app. They were given the option to choose the reminder…and one in five made a paid transaction. This generated $7,000 for the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Not only did Eaton find that people were willing to pay for the experience, but that people enjoyed being part of the concert with the artists.

4. Juke is growing fast

“I was really convinced that if it works for artists in South Bend, it will work for artists in Austin, Asheville (North Carolina), and Nashville,” Eaton says.

The company is currently moving its talent around the country, learning how it can serve all artists with varying motivations.

“We want to continue to expand nationally and have a presence in every major city as well as every mid-market town, like South Bend,” Eaton says. “Also, as we build this, we’re going to be able to start aggregating. The live music industry is really fragmented. As we build our user base of artists, listeners and venue partners, we will begin to build a live music network. By having this network, everything we do only grows in impact, so we can start helping direct listeners to bands and shows that people… will already love.

5. Juke cares about the experience of artists and audiences

“My favorite thing is to hear about the artist when it’s working and when he sees he’s making more money and having fun,” Eaton says.

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He says a 10-piece band from Nashville came up to him after the show and told him the app had completely changed the way they play. The group had the most fun performing in years, he said, and loved engaging audiences that way.

“It’s getting these types of feedback that are most meaningful to me,” Eaton says.

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