INTERVIEW: Sarah Chaplin of JazzLondonLive - online listings guide (Update after successful crowdfunding)

Screenshot of the JazzLondonLive homepage
JazzLondonLive, the new online listings guide to London's vast and diverse jazz scene, run by SARAH CHAPLIN and MICK SEXTON, launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its development in early May. The campaign was successful: 394 backers came forward, and just under £12,000 was raised. Sebastian asked Sarah to explain how they got to this point, what the current priorities are, and what happens next:

LondonJazz News: Congrats on hitting the target. Did some of the higher priced slots get taken?

Sarah Chaplin: Thanks Seb, it’s been a great experience running a crowdfunder campaign - nerve-wracking at times, but with about 10 days to go I felt confident that we’d make it, and we had a couple of jazz musicians who’d said they were prepared to step in and pledge what was needed at the end to reach the target. In the event, they still pledged and we made well over 120% of our £10,000 target including a couple of actual cheques that Mick received from people who don't like paying for things online. I was most surprised by our two highest pledges, which came completely out of the blue - one early on, a South African jazz lover from Putney who wanted nothing in the way of a reward and backed us with £500, and another was a tenor player I knew from studying at Citylit, who pledged £1000 towards the end of the campaign, for our ‘party package’ reward. Receiving those gave us such a boost, but we wouldn't have got there without the other 392 people who all backed us with smaller amounts - because that’s what it’s all about, everyone believing in the JazzLondonLive project enough to chip in what they can afford, and it all mounts up.

LJN: What is your commitment to the crowdfunders generally?

SC: We regard the crowdfunders as our most loyal supporters of JazzLondonLive, whatever they pledged. They will get special treatment: if they’re artists we will be creating their presence on the app first, if they’re venues, we have created an algorithm which pushes their listings to the top of the home page, and if they have asked for a mug or T-shirt we’re getting those printed right now, and hope they will use them or wear them with pride for years to come! At some point in the Autumn we will be holding a launch party, and the backers will be our VIP guests.

LJN: What comes next and what timetable / deadlines / key dates are you currently working to?

SC: We have had three meetings so far with our App developer, to ensure we are on the right track - it’s been a steep learning curve for Mick and me, but we are confident that we have a clear vision for a really useful resource that will appeal to its target audience. We are working towards a September launch for the app, in both its Android and Apple formats. The money raised via Kickstarter enables us to pay the developer for 6 weeks’ work, which should be sufficient to get it designed, developed, tested and published. In the meantime, we will be building up a head of steam on the marketing side, to ensure that everyone living in London and the South East who loves Jazz has heard about it, so that when it comes out, they know where to go to download a copy to their phone or tablet. We are already active on Facebook - where we have a group and an App product page - and on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, besides having attracted over 1000 followers to the beta version of the JazzLondonLive website, so the ball is already rolling.

Sarah Chaplin. Photo credit: Magda Modrzejewska

LJN: Has it been hard work? More than you expected? What has taken the most effort?

SC: At the outset, the tricky part was simply choosing the right template on Wordpress that would provide a distinctive look and feel for our listings site whilst being as straightforward and user-friendly as the printed leaflet which everyone was familiar. We opted for a lively graphical concept that conveyed the warmth and intimacy of the jazz club vibe while keeping the level of information on the gigs themselves short and snappy, so that accessing the actual information is surprisingly quick and intuitive. It’s been hard work creating something that behaves like it’s running off an efficient and up-to-date database when in actual fact it’s Mick and me making all the individual webpages up and adding the links by hand. That’s taken many hundreds of hours so far, but it’s also enabled us to test the concept with our users and obtain some feedback before we commit to a suitable approach with the App itself.

LJN: Are the venues doing what you want then to uniformly and reliably?

SC: A good few jazz venues pledged to the campaign, mainly the smaller or out-of-town ones who can already see the benefit to them in being listed on the App. We have also established contact with the major ones, and the fact that they’re following us on Twitter and retweeting occasionally indicates to us that they’re interested in what JazzLondonLive will do to help promote their programming. We have some early analytics now that show we are directing traffic to their sites and so we’re hoping it’s only a matter of time before they are ready to commit to securing a prominent spot on the App. We have almost arrived at a competitive charging formula we are happy with, which combines the capacity of the venue, the frequency of gigs and the average ticket price, which will provide excellent value for money in terms of the level of service we can provide that goes beyond a printed boxed ad. In particular, we were looking to preserve the equivalent to the free listings section that existed in the printed booklet, whereby any venue putting on free gigs will be listed free of charge, whilst the larger, more prestigious venues who are able to generate a high volume of ticket sales will pay more.

LJN: What is the basic shape of the site? / Where do you recommend newcomer browsers to start?

SC: The site is pretty simple really - you’re greeted by a friendly grid of images of around 100 individual jazzclubs, which if you scroll down you’ll notice take you from central London to outlying venues in places like Reading, Southend and Milton Keynes. Click on any of the images and you bring up this month’s listings for that club. Alternatively, click on the wide bar at the top and you bring up all of today’s gigs happening in London and the South East, and you’ll see that the banner area is in fact organised into the days of the week, so scrolling through them from left to right gives you access to the next seven days, with a couple of promotional pages in amongst them advertising a festival or an album launch. Along the top bar, as well as a search function, you have a quick way of finding jazz venues, jazz artists and all the news and reviews. There’s even a link to your site!

LJN: How do you flag up sudden gig announcements / cancellations?

SC: So far, we have put alerts onto Facebook and Twitter when there’s been a last minute change to personnel or running time, or a cancellation, as well as updating the page to reflect that change, where known. Swanage Jazz Festival had got missed from the main site pages this month, so we created a quick banner to advertise that for the organisers. We have also added any ad hoc gigs we think users will be interested in. We have even been putting in a link in bright green to any reviews of past gigs that have gone up on your site, so when people look back they will see which ones were reviewed.

LJN: Do you have plans for a print version?

SC: We are still looking into the idea of printing it. What’s more likely is that we will produce a printed poster each month for venues that would like some nice looking artwork to use to publicise their live music offer.

LJN: Where do you hope to be in 3 months? 12 months ?

SC: We hope to have launched the App come September and are looking to celebrate its successful take-up by the time the LJF comes around. A year down the line, since it’s an annual subscription based model, we would be looking to implement a serious update to the App based on feedback from a wide range of jazz fans who are regularly using it. So it will be up to what everyone else as to what that will entail. For now, we’re happy that it seems to be heading in the right direction; everyone who we’ve spoken to seems to think it’s something they will find useful and enjoy using.

LINKS: JazzLondonLive website
The JazzLondonLive Kickstarter

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