Startup Stories: Joe Lennon, Subwoofr

Cork Innovates spoke to Joe Lennon, to find out a little more about where his startup originated from and what the future holds for Subwoofr 

Tell us a bit about yourself your startup.

1Subwoofr is a platform that helps musicians to make money by selling subscriptions directly to their biggest fans. The digital era of music has made it very challenging for musicians to earn a living from music – first piracy and now tiny income levels from streaming services has made the gap in earnings between mainstream and independent artists greater than ever before. With that said, every artist has a strong core fanbase – be it 100 or 100,000 people – of fans who are completely dedicated to them, want to support them and be a part of their journey. To part with their cash, they want something in return – and while streaming is great for the casual music consumer, most hardcore music fans agree that something is missing.

Subwoofr works for artists and fans alike – by helping artists earn a real income stream through direct subscription revenue, and by giving fans the direct connection and content from the artist that they crave.

What is your vision for Subwoofr?

captureI want Subwoofr to be the default technology musicians turn to when they think about earning an income online. We have some way to go, but I fully believe we’ll get there. Although Subwoofr is a business, we are also on this journey because we want musicians to get paid what they deserve.

What have been your biggest hurdles as entrepreneurs, and how did you get over them? 

Being in a startup is a complete rollercoaster. One day you’ll have epic highs, the next you’ll have catastrophic lows. The ups-and-downs can be very hard to deal with. We’ve been through pretty much everything you can go through as a startup – and all in about 11 months. We’ve launched a beta, raised a little investment, went live with an artist, earned revenue by selling to everyone from signed artists like Mick Flannery to emerging acts like Rusangano Family and Jack O’Rourke. I’ve had my co-founder leave, I’ve gone from 2 employees to 5 and back to just me.

Reflecting on this year, I think the biggest hurdle is that entrepreneurship and startups is itself like an industry, and it’s hard not to get sucked into what you perceive you *should* be doing for things like attracting investment and getting early revenue. We hit this one hard, and our product drifted way off course in the process.

A year on, Subwoofr is finally getting back on track with the original vision and mission, with a renewed focus and commitment to not getting distracted by outside forces.

What are your views on entrepreneurship in Cork? 

22I think Cork is a great place to start a business. It’s cheap, an hour’s flight from London and small enough that an upsetting level of traffic means I get home in 25 minutes instead of 15. There are some issues – like the fact that we seem to change our mind about where our “innovation hub” should be every few years, to the point where now our startup ecosystem is spread around the outskirts of the city in several zones – Rubicon/CIT, Airport Business Park, Little Island, Mahon, etc. This makes it harder to forge a community as the limited number of startups we have in Cork are spread out all over the place. I’d love to see the city centre become a focal point of Cork’s startup scene again, and hopefully it soon will.

What motivates you – in other words – why do you do what you do? 

Because it’s the best job in the world. I spent eight years working in roles of all levels from graduate to exec, and I can honestly say I’ve learned more in the past year than in those eight years collectively. I also have complete freedom that you just don’t get working for someone else.

I can work wherever I like, whenever I like on whatever I like. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard, sometimes very hard, but it wouldn’t be any fun if it were easy.

I’m also motivated by seeing the hard work pay off and achieving great things in the process. Working in music you also get to meet some amazing people along the way, which is a big bonus.