Music and Political Science Graduate Dominic Go ’10 Builds App to Feature and Pay Freelance Musicians | News | Department of Political Science

From an early age, Dominic Go was attracted to music. Living just a quarter mile from the University of Notre Dame campus, he could hear the Fighting Irish marching band playing on football game days. Although he didn’t play a tuba or any other brass instrument for that matter, he did sing. All. The time.

“I was number seven in a family of eight kids and I was always singing,” he said. “I was the annoying little brother.”

In sixth grade, Go’s music teacher encouraged his parents to enroll the crooner in voice and piano lessons. They followed the advice and soon Go was playing piano and guitar, singing and dreaming of being a professional musician.

When college came around, because his father worked in Notre Dame’s information technology office, Go qualified for tuition assistance. “It was hard to pass up, but so was a degree from Notre Dame,” he said.

While on campus, Go majored in music and political science. In addition to his formal musical training and performance, which relied heavily on opera and classical technique, he joined the Notre Dame Glee Club and The Undertones. While the all-male Glee Club performed traditional and barbershop quartet songs, The Undertones were an a capella male pop group whose on-campus concerts sold out. He also performed in the regional musical theater as a side gig.

He found more than his voice at Notre Dame, he found Colleen Huml. They have since married. “She was the manager of Harmonia, the all-female a capella group and I was the manager of The Undertones. We had our own Perfect something competitive is happening, but eventually we got together and started playing together.

A passion for the music industry

After graduating, Go was initially set to pursue a professional music career. “I had doubts. It’s a very binary industry. Either you’re incredibly rich or you live in poverty, there’s not much in between,” he said. “Even touring musicians do it out of passion. There just isn’t enough money in it.”

He finally decided to give it a shot. “I had devoted my time at Notre-Dame to music, putting aside my other interests. So I had to try,” he said.

Further roles in regional musical theater and performances in bars and clubs followed. And when Better World Books, a socially conscious online second-hand bookstore, offered him a job as a project manager with a flexible schedule, he accepted.

His day job was great and he had the opportunity to explore another interest – technology, especially data analysis and coding. For the next 16 months, Go worked on the technical side of Better World Books under its first boss, Paul Drake.

“He was amazing. He kind of saw potential in me, and so he gave me the autonomy to follow my interests,” Go said. “But I still had a passion for the music industry. the music. I just had to go from another direction.

Go formalized his technological background, moved to larger institutions, and eventually cultivated over 10 years of experience in the field. Throughout this period of professional growth in tech, the income disparity in the music industry – largely due to the fact that if an artist wanted to succeed, they had to go through a “kingmaker – bothered him.

“Technology could be the solution”

“In the beginning, talented musicians had to have a major record company behind them to pay for all the initial costs of recording, marketing, booking appearances, and managing distribution channels or subsequent records and CDs. When Pandora was founded in 2000 and Spotify in 2006, they solved the distribution problem by disrupting the music industry with live streaming. But there was still a big problem. Independent artists were still not making money,” Go said. “That was a problem for me. I thought technology might be the answer.

His “aha” moment on how to share the wealth with all musical artists came during a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. “I heard a busker singing on a street corner and I was floored. The guy nailed his song. but I had no money and there was no Venmo at the time. I felt really bad, but it got me thinking about a new way to pay artists.

The new path eventually became the Tambr de Go company, which he began building in 2015. In 2018, he completed the prototype and launched the platform and app. Tambr’s mission is to give all musicians a way to be heard while allowing them to monetize their music in new and fair ways. Fans then also had a way to find and support emerging talent and established local bands.

Tambr operates as a freemium model. Musicians who use the platform are free and they retain full ownership of their music. Users can listen for free but ads are part of their experience. Premium users who pay $7.99 per month hear no ads and can listen to music offline and support the artist of their choice. This directs $2 per month from their subscription to their favorite artist.

Go said some people are rolling their eyes at Tambr, being just another streaming service. But when they understand that 25% of the subscription goes directly to an artist, they are all in. “We are not trying to differentiate on price. We’re cheaper than Spotify and Pandora, but more expensive than a service like Ultimate Guitar Tabs. Pricing is really about trying to strike a balance in the market against our competitors. »

To gain traction, Go approached musician friends from his Notre Dame days as well as his professional career. Many gladly downloaded their music. Go, meanwhile, continued to iterate on the platform. In 2021, it added live streaming capabilities. Performers embraced it, with some doing more sets produced from a club or other venue, while other performers broadcast from home. Listeners can donate to artists with just one click. The Tambr app is available on Google Play and the App Store.

“Some musicians stream live performances every week. They’re really excited to have a new tool. It’s the most rewarding thing for me.”

Tambr scaling

In 2021, Go also earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. He laughed at how it happened. “My wife wanted to go to medical school and let me know that she would be spending a lot of time studying for MCA. I wanted to spend time with her, so I decided to study for the GMAT, the college preparatory test. I had no intention of going back to school. When I got a better score, I didn’t want to spoil it. I focused on economics and entrepreneurship and loved it.

His MBA came at the right time; he is now focused on scaling Tambr. At first, $200,000 from friends and family funded the business. Today is positive cash. Go is preparing to launch a $700,000 pre-seed funding round, with proceeds going towards user growth.

“To give new musicians a pathway to build their careers and thus have a real impact on the artist community, we need hundreds of thousands of users,” he said. “Fortunately, it’s very doable.”

Regional groups often have over 20,000 followers on social media platforms like Instagram. Converting them into premium Tambr subscribers can generate significant revenue. “If only 1,000 fans join Tambr as premium members and nominate the group, that’s $2,000 in predictable monthly income. There are other ways for musicians to make money on Tambr, such as direct donations and merchandise sales.

Fundraising has been Tambr’s biggest challenge; the space is filled with Spotify, TikTok, Apple and Amazon. Tambr isn’t after the masses, however. Its target audience is young audiences who enjoy finding new bands and solo musicians and appreciate the social mission of supporting emerging artists.

“When people say, ‘Do we need another music streaming service?’ my response is, “Do we need another shoe company? and then I point to Allbirds, which also has a social mission and is very successful. They have a good product as well. As a company of consumer products, we need to deliver every experience,” said Go.

It is gratifying for Go to see the joy of the participating artists. “Some musicians stream live performances every week. They’re really excited to have a new tool. It’s the most rewarding thing for me,” he said. music myself.”

His advice to others dreaming of starting a business: Be open to suggestions.

“I spent far too long not taking comments. He’s your baby and when you get feedback it feels like a personal attack. … Learn to discern useful and useless advice. Startups are a tough journey. We all need advice.

Originally posted by Melanie Lux at ideacenter.nd.edu on June 22, 2022.