Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

INTERVIEW: CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF RABBL, WADE LAGRONE

interview by Rebecca Groom

In our latest Industry Voices series, we talked with Wade Lagrone, CEO and co-founder of RABBL. Using a different approach to booking, RABBL connects fans and bands through potential shows. The company’s mission is to have more fans listening to more live music, in more places. Partnering with multiple venues and with a growing community of artists, RABBL may become the new way to book all of your DIY shows.

RABBL, a play on the word rabble which means a disorderly crowd or mob, connects fans and bands with potential shows, or “rabbls”. The band, after creating an account, creates a rabbl and asks whether they should play in a town during a certain period of time. Fans can then vote with their credit cards, by reserving tickets, to say that they do want the band to play. The band sets a goal amount, and if enough tickets are reserved to meet the goal, then the band books the show, whether in a partner venue or a different one. Fans only get charged if the show is booked, and bands only receive the money if the show is performed.

We talked to Wade about booking shows, his motivation behind creating RABBL, and their continued growth as a company.

1. To start, please state your name and position with RABBL, and give us a little background about the company.

RABBL: I'm Wade Lagrone, and my title is CEO. Erik Needham (who is the CTO) and I founded the company and launched it about 7 months ago. We have tons of musician friends and we really wanted it to be easier for artists to tour and get gigs. It's been great working with so many artists already--we have almost 700 on the platform today.

2. The idea behind RABBL is interesting; having the bands ask the fans where they should play really creates a connection between them. Did that fan-to-band connection play a significant role when creating your company?

RABBL: It sure did. RABBL solves a lot of problems at one time--it gives a clear way for artists to get booked, and it helps venues take a chance booking artists they don't already know. But for fans it's an even bigger change. Because today, if you want your favorite band to come to town, you just have no real way to attract their attention. Posting comments on their Facebook Page works great for a lot of things but not at all for helping bands make a good decision about where to play. Fortunately, now there's RABBL. I grew up in a small town in Mississippi in the 80's, and believe me, the bands I was listening to and reading about in Rolling Stone were never, and I mean never, going to be coming to my hometown. Thirty years and RABBL later, they could.

3. You have previous experiences with product development and marketing, especially with online companies. Did this experience help when taking on your role as co-founder/ CEO?

RABBL: Absolutely. Marketing and product development are skills that help you figure out first what's needed and then how to get it done and ready for the world. That's everything from talking to customers and learning from what they say (and don't say) to working with designers and engineers.

4. The music industry is taking a shift towards the digital realm and a lot of bands are going back to D.I.Y. work ethics. How do you think Rabbl will help those bands taking the D.I.Y. approach?

RABBL: So many things are changing, and there are a lot of new bands. We think RABBL is a great help to DIY bands, because we really let them take control of their live performance. Once enough tickets are reserved, the band can book wherever they'd like--at one of our partner venues, some other venue, or for that matter in a fan's living room. There's still work involved, for sure, but with RABBL a band knows there's light at the end of that tunnel.

5. Since RABBL is mutually beneficial for bands and venues, have you found a greater response from bands, or venues themselves?

RABBL: Glad you asked. We have had great response from venues and have 10 already signed up in our Partner Venue Network. Our partners publish standards on our site that specify what needs to happen on RABBL in order for a band to get booked at their venue. It's a huge change, since in the past it was never very clear. And for any venue, it's an incredible relief to know in advance that the band you just booked is definitely bringing some customers through the door.

6. What are some of the difficulties you have faced or still currently face in regards to starting a music-based company?

RABBL: Well, starting anything is hard. And every time we run into a hard part, we think about how many bands are on the road at this very minute, somewhere, sleeping in the van and playing for gas money in the middle of nowhere! So sure, there are hard parts in our business--like getting the word out. But great companies, like great bands, have to pay some dues.

7. In your opinion, where do you think the music industry is headed in the next five years, especially in the live music performances department?

RABBL: Oh, I don't have a crystal ball! But certainly what we'd like to see in five years is a live music business that is more transparent, easier to figure out for everybody, and one where fans have a much bigger role.

8. Have you had any major success stories with a band booking a show through your website?

RABBL: Sure. Our latest show was by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They had a tour routed through the East Coast but weren't sure whether to stop in Baltimore. They settled that question using RABBL. They connected with a few local bands, created a rabbl that met its goal and then some, and played a killer show at Metro Gallery, a great venue. That's a win for everybody, and particularly for Baltimore fans.

9. Does Rabbl have any plans to expand or improve upon itself?

RABBL: We try to improve every day!

10. Finally, any advice to musicians, artists, and venues on how to have a successful show?

RABBL: We're still learning, but one thing we've noticed so far is that you still need some elbow grease to be successful, on RABBL or elsewhere. RABBL does lots of nifty marketing things for bands automatically, just because our technology is great, but promotion will always be important. Engaging fans is always hard work but it does pay off in the end.

Check out RABBL on their website and register to join their growing community!