CEO of expanding music startup is the 'epitome of an underdog' | Crain's Nashville

CEO of expanding music startup is the 'epitome of an underdog'

Marcus Cobb came to Music City from Chicago to build music industry startup Jammber. | Photo by Sonia Ulrich. 

Big things are coming for the only startup with a presence in Nashville tackling the problem of managing payments and paperwork in the music industry.

Jammber, which recently graduated from the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s business accelerator Project Music, now boasts 10 employees in Nashville. CEO Marcus Cobb plans on keeping his office in Music City as the company continues to grow its presence in Nashville and beyond.

“In Jammber's case, we've had a terrific amount of support in Nashville. We've won the Game-Changer Award at the Nashville NEXT Awards. We have great investors in and around Nashville," Cobb said. "The Nashville community is growing, which is why I'm keeping my office there.”

Jeff Greene, Jammber's publicist, said the decision to focus on Nashville presence was easy. 

“When Marcus was deciding to open Jammber's Nashville offices, he had considered other large markets like L.A. and N.Y.C.," Green said. "But the majority of their capital was coming from investors and core customers already located in Nashville, so (Marcus) felt strong ties to the city.”

The company, which originally marketed itself as a “LinkedIn for the music industry,” pivoted during the 14-week Project Music in 2015, aiming to solve a persistent problem in the music industry tied to processing payments and paperwork in a timely, organized manner.

“There was a moment where I was in an office and I saw stacks and stacks of paychecks that were labeled ‘Return to Sender,'" Cobb said. "These were checks that went out to musicians and were returned because the information wasn't correct. I'm talking millions of dollars that never made it to people it was intended for. “We interviewed 400 musicians and found on average that 20 percent of their money was missing and they had no idea where it was. Or it was severely delayed.”

Jammber's role, essentially, is to cut to the chase.

"Jammber provides the solution to streamline and simplify paperwork, resulting in faster payments and accurate credits for all projects," said Garry Wall, a company investor and Sparknet Communications president. "This removes so much friction and waste from the system allowing labels, artists, and producers to save time and get their projects to market faster. It’s a game-changer." 

Case in point

Early in his career, artist Brian Cabby explained that due to a paperwork error, his name and studio were not included on the list of album credits for a pair of recording artists. 

"Being an up-and-coming engineer, I would have loved to put those names on my reel and credit list. Inevitably the songs came out on both artists' albums, but neither of the albums had my name on them," he said.

"All I have is the memory of working with the talented individuals, and there was no way to prove that I ever worked on the songs," Cabby said. "I was very young at the time and had no way of contacting anyone at the labels. And even if I did, I doubt they would change the credit list for someone lower on the food chain in the industry."  

Growth phase

After pinpointing both the problem and potential solutions, Jammber surged forward, and now plans to open up offices in London and Los Angeles this year. Cobb also revealed future plans for Jammber to expand into other industries.

“We're growing horizontally. We're not just in music anymore. The list goes on and on of the creative industries that we are looking to serve this year."

With all of this success, it’s easy to gloss over the fact that Cobb overcame enormous obstacles growing up in order to get where he is today. 

“I think I'm the epitome of an underdog in a lot of ways,” he admitted, sharing the fact that he was born in an impoverished neighborhood to an abusive mother and an alcoholic father.

Although support in his home life was lacking, it was the community support that fostered his entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, the start of his career as a technologist began when a computer teacher asked him and a friend to teach the class.

“I love how open he is with his story," said Rachel Knepp, a Jammber employee. "We all have those things that we went through and we don't want to put that out there, but that's one of the first things that he puts out there.

“Most young black men that come from an area like that do not achieve what he has achieved. He has persevered through all of it.”

March 13, 2017 - 11:41am