Business Rx: Jam My Jam wants you to share the headphones

May 15, 2011
The entrepreneur

Megan Monroe, a PhD student at the University of Maryland, is always on the search for the next hot song to listen to as she walks from place to place on campus. With the help of Jonathan Speiser, Monroe created a mobile application that allows people to check out what passersby are listening to, helping music lovers at the university expand their musical horizons and linking students who might not otherwise connect.

The pitch

Monroe

“Jam My Jam is a Web site and mobile application that allows students to broadcast their musical predilections to their friends, their classmates and anyone else who may be sniffing for a new jam. The concept behind our site is to tap into the thousands of silent, headphone-clad passings that occur across our campus on a daily basis. As students trek to classes, offices and labs, they’re locked in: eyes straight ahead, absorbed in their own world of music. Imagine if you could stop to ask each one of them what they were listening to. Jam My Jam handles this interaction seamlessly, without breaking stride.

“In addition to providing a fun interface for students to share and discover new music, Jam My Jam taps into a previously elusive data stream: What are college students listening to — not just in general, but in real time, minute by minute? We want to utilize this data to bring new music experiences to our users, without compromising privacy or the listening experience.

“Jam My Jam was just selected as the winner of a campus-wide mobility contest, so we have money to keep us going. Right now we are trying to figure out how to get the word out to the University of Maryland campus. Students are skeptical of new apps that integrate Facebook, but in our case, we’re leveraging only a few key elements of information to provide a much larger social experience. We’re hoping that students will realize that the ride is worth the fare.”

The advice

Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“You need to get the relevance of what you’re doing communicated through Facebook. Every time someone jams a jam, plug it in as a status update. Facebook has already trained its users to check in on a minute-by-minute basis to see what’s going on with their friends. Use that platform to spread your app and make it work. Give users the opportunity to share and connect around music and emotions.

“I think you also need something that gives Jam My Jam more relevance than just proximity to other people listening to their music — tie the music into how users are feeling rather than their location. It’s cool to see and sample what people around you are listening to, but you need some context, too. Location might be a draw at first, but in the long run I don’t think it will be enough to keep users coming back. For example, I would care more about what my friends are listening to and what music mood they are in than what strangers around me are listening to. If you start from your existing relationships with your friends and use status updates on Facebook tagged with a sentiment or emotion, that will spread your network. I’m not saying get rid of the location component altogether, but also add the emotion component.

“Make the Jam My Jam app a shared user experience. Create an opportunity to connect people with a finals week jam or a nice weather jam — something that brings people together. The whole value of your platform is connecting people through music, so stay focused on shared connections and generating a Jam My Jam buzz with the people you already know.”

The reaction

Monroe

“What we’ve developed so far is definitely focused on exploring new music on campus. Interestingly, my favorite part of the app is that I can see what my friends are listening to and text them about it, so I think focusing on sharing music among Facebook friends is a great idea. I was already enjoying that social aspect of the app without even realizing it.

“For sure, our next step is to incorporate some kind of social feedback component. We will add a Facebook status update component to the app this summer. I also have a bunch of other ideas we are going to explore more this summer. Right now we are only set up at this university, but our goal is to blow it up here and then take it to campuses across the nation. I think your ideas will help us on our way to achieving our goal.”

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