Julia Wilde, the CEO of the Dumbo peer-to-peer startup that helps musicians and audio pros make money off idle musical equipment, Sparkplug, has pretty much decamped to Austin till South by Southwest (SXSW) is over.
“We’re about to see 10,000 musicians descend on the city. It’s exactly why Sparkplug exists,” she told us during a phone call from Austin. Lots and lots of acts are going to need what the industry calls “backlining” for their show. It’s a catchall term, she said, for renting equipment that you need but can’t easily bring along in your van.
We previously covered Sparkplug when the team appeared at the New York Music Tech Meetup in Bushwick.
For lots of startups, getting to SXSW can be a gamechanger if your venture manages to standout in the din. For Wilde’s company, getting there before the event is potentially an even bigger opportunity.
Austin is full of musicians, as everyone knows, that means its basements are clogged with idle gear that could be up on Sparkplug, waiting to be rented. All the better if that gear is up on Sparkplug when there’s a dramatic spike in the amount of gear needed in the city. The site has seen hundreds of new listings in the last several weeks, Wilde said.
The company is not discussing total user or total inventory numbers at this time, Wilde said.
Wilde’s role thus far, she added, has been doing the work of business development and inventory building. She’s doing a lot of it face-to-face, going to studios with lots of equipment and bands with ample supplies, explaining the service, onboarding and encouraging them to spread the word. And that’s what she’s doing right now in Texas, traveling around Austin and showing people in the industry how the internet can make their living more sustainable.
“Once people are in town,” she said, “it’s too late for the moment.” If she can get lots of inventory onboarded in the state capital now, there’s a chance that lots of it will get used at SXSW. Then, every band that uses it will go back home and, potentially, onboard their own idle gear in cities across the country.
She expects to basically be there from now to the end of the music festival, in the wee hours of March 23.
As a New York City-based company, Wilde said the inventory here is already strong. SXSW was an opportunity to make a splash in a way that fit with what the festival is about. Once that’s over, she said, the company will shift its attention to the demand side. That is, Sparkplug will start to work with venues to educate them about how the service can help acts playing in their space.
Wilde will also be speaking on a panel at SXSW Interactive, alongside Etsy and Airbnb, discussing building trust in peer-to-peer marketplaces.
“I think the sharing economy is one of the most exciting paradigm shifts,” Wilde said. She added that she thinks it’s key that these services specialize in a market. Greenpoint has Rentah, where you can post anything to rent. Wilde believes its better to focus in on a community. It builds trust and it may also enable your site to meet specific needs.
For example, whe she spoke at Livestream, she wrote about how a rental for a recording studio might come with the option of adding on sound engineers to run the recording session. Important customizations like that could easily be missed on a site working to be all things for all people.
Sparkplug has four cofounders. Three of the four work in the music industry in different ways (two are occassional musicians) and saw a need for the service.