Nick and his co-founders Josh and Otto see their new app as solving an age-old student problem, namely that “anyone who has been to or hosted a house party knows that the music there is usually comprised of a nightmarish mix of drunk kids plugging in and out their phones, beer spilt on laptops, and long silences as people wait for their YouTube videos to load.”
DJs or playlists are not the solution, because they still fall prey to endless complaining about what is actually being played. “Every music service out there is designed to cater to your personal preferences, but most of the time when people listen to music, they are with other people. We wanted to build a music service that was designed to be used by multiple people at the same time, whether they’re hanging out with friends, at a party, or at a bar.”
The founders of Jam set out to democratise the choice of music, starting out with house parties as a “first use case”.
With Jam, “people can request any song they can think of, and up-vote others’ requests in the queue, so the most popular songs get played the soonest.” Eventually, Josh, Otto, and Nick hope that Jam will be able to automatically select the music played at an event based on the common tastes of those attending. They also hope to overcome the Spotify requirement, so that eventually anyone will be able to use the service from the music they already have on their phone.
The trio are all 22-year-old seniors in the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering. The project was conceived out of a senior design class, in a course deliberately designed “to give students an opportunity to pursue projects they might not otherwise have time for”. According to Nick, such creative courses are increasingly common in engineering schools, which now directly compete with tech start-ups for young talent.
Jam seems to form part of a common trend among tech start-ups, namely that it was begun as a group of friends aiming to create something useful for themselves, but soon transformed into an increasingly successful business model:
“We were all very passionate about Jam from the outset, so it was an easy decision to continue development when the class ended in December. From January to March we poured thousands of hours into the project, and finally released our first version in April.”
Jam has been hard work, but Nick says it has been “extremely gratifying” to watch its popularity grow. “Jam is really a passion project for the three of us, so even though it has been exhausting, it has also been a ton of fun. We have gotten a pretty amazing response from users; without doing any marketing or promotion, we have built up a base of several thousand users in 41 countries.”
Despite this success, the trio are still awaiting investment before committing to pursuing Jam fulltime. We get the sense, however, that they are reluctant to let go: as Nick says, “Anyone who has ever worked on a creative project knows how easy it is to lose objectivity; when you’re that close to something, when you’ve worked and worked and fretted about it for months, it is very difficult to put yourself in an outsider’s shoes, and you can never really know how people will react. I get a huge rush every time we get an email from someone telling us they love Jam, or receive another good review on the App Store, or watch as ten more people in another country download the app.”