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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Help MusiciansConnect.net reach the next star!

Vote now!MusiciansConnect is entered in a business start-up contest at pitch.co.

Please vote for our idea!

From Ben Seigel


"In the fall of 2001, I was looking for musicians to form an original group.  I didn’t have much success with available methods for reaching people—bulletin boards, online ads, word-of-mouth, and I grew frustrated.  In response, I built MadisonMusicians.Net to support Madison, Wisconsin-area musicians in their search for players, gear, and instructors.  Over the years, MadisonMusicians.Net has registered nearly 2,000 members, and been instrumental in the formation of area bands. It has also connected gear sellers to buyers, teachers to students, and stores to customers.  And as a site user, it helped me too—through the site I found a recording engineer for my album. Madison is a very small market, so the site has been run virtually as a non-profit since its inception.  Because the site yields no profit and I have other commitments, site features and usability have languished in recent years.  However, the model works!  I've long considered that a redesigned, re-focused site would be very successful in larger cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, New York.  For comparison, Madison, Wisconsin has about 230,000 people, and MadisonMusicians.Net has about 50 instructors listed. By contrast, the Chicago Metro Area has over 9 million people.  A proportional instructor count for Chicago would be about 2,000.
After several false starts, I partnered with Corey Losenegger, an seasoned web developer, who is building the site on an open source platform with an expected launch in Summer 2010."

Launch

We plan to run a short public beta version for Madison, migrating all MadisonMusicians.Net users while providing a range of feature upgrades, including user photo uploads; capturing instrument skill levels; complete, editable instructor biographies; sign-up via Facebook Connect; and more.
Following our Madison launch, we will add a large metropolitan area and aggressively market the site to the region's musicians.

Marketing

We plan to use clever, inexpensive marketing to reach our target audience. This may include:
  • A presence at music festivals like Lollapalooza
  • Partnerships with music stores, instructors, schools and venues
  • Viral video, gear giveaways, contests
For me, one of the best things about marketing MusiciansConnect is that it’s totally natural to discuss with any musician I meet.  If I see someone carrying a drum, guitar case, or bass amp, I can easily and naturally strike up a conversation and hand them a business card. Since 95% of the site is free (we will eventually charge for instructor listings), I can heartily promote it all day long with infectious enthusiasm. It is a self-perpetuating business—the more musicians that use it, the more useful it becomes to all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

By AMERICANS for AMERICANS

I have just recently been blessed with the opportunity to... "interview" a newly found and extremely admired Facebook friend in... facebook messages! The creator of the newly released "Pledge Ring".

Merely beginning as a note to applaud his effort, the correspondence soon turned to something bigger. It is my great honor and pleasure to introduce both "Pledge Ring" and it's founder, John Neary. A man for whom I am very proud to call exactly an AMERICAN.

The following is a completely unprofessional attempt at an interview. Fortunately, John carried it well!




SWB:
John, I would like to explore "Pledge Ring" more.
I am a rabid advocate for "messages" and the many forms they take to get to us.

May I ask? Do you mind my "rummaging" about pledge ring over the next day or so and publishing an article on my blog page? http://patsaid.blogspot.com/

I want to see these pieces go even further that the "Nails" did when they came out.
I am very glad to become acquainted with you and your efforts young man.
I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

JN:
No problem Patrick! I appreciate your support. Feel free to reach out with any questions. I think there's a "silent majority" who love many things about this country the way it is. That doesn't make for good headlines though "news: everything is fine" :) The pledge of allegiance is a beautiful and simple oath. I'm very proud of it and wear my own ring every day to celebrate it.

Much luck to you

John



SWB:
My new young friend, you are an "OAK". :-)
We are certainly in "a time", and many, many are going to be pressed.
I think "John Neary" was born "For a time such as this".

JN:
Lots of great questions Patrick! I'll do my best to answer them concisely here:


SWB:
What brought the design to mind?














JN:
1. I was born in Ireland and grew up there before immigrating here (legally!) 10 years ago. I always wore a traditional Irish ring and at one point realized I needed to let my past go (but not disappear) if I was going to truly immigrate. I wanted something to celebrate my new life in the US and when I finally became a proud US citizen in 2007 I committed to having a custom piece made for myself to celebrate the occasion and to recognize that I was committing to making the US my home, for me my wife and my son. I settled on an idea for a design to represent the oath I took when becoming a citizen and decided to represent the pledge of allegiance iconically.

2. The emblems were hard to settle on but once I got them 'right' it felt like they couldn't be anything else.
The star for 'One Nation' was taken from the idea of how we have 50 stars on our flag for our states, but that really we are collectively 'one state'. Hence, one star.
The 'under God' piece was difficult. I had people telling me to skip it completely but I refused to. From what I learned about the US, it was really founded on Christian & Jewish values, so I happen to agree with the place Under God in our pledge.
Also, as an immigrant it's not my place to question the status quo anyway.
You buy into a culture, or you don't.

I love everything about the US and what my life here has become so I'm not about to create something that symbolizes some alternative version of the pledge. Lots of people love it just how it is. I settled on a cross because I'm christian but I do want, at some point, to create another line with the star of david for our patriotic jewish brethren.
The rest of the icons were kind of simple if you ask me . . . just the best way to symbolize the concepts. The 'heart' for indivisible is probably the most cryptic but I think it's the right icon for that concept.


SWB: Have you had prior jewelry/accessories experience or interest?

JN:
None. But my uncle in Ireland, Aidan Breen, is a known silversmith so he helped me (with his son) to create the prototypes.


SWB: With so many marketers/entrepreneurs online and well, failing everyday, how did you arrive at your current professional web site, and "clean" marketing plan?


JN:
I did web design at one point in my life so I created the site, brand and logo myself (well, I had some help with the logo). I don't have a budget really (this is a side-gig) so I'm starting slowly. I'm hopeful that if the idea takes off I'll make my investment back and maybe enjoy a nice income off it some day. In the meantime I genuinely believe in the product and am so proud to see others enjoying the jewelry and celebrating our pledge of allegiance with pride. I believe in the idea.

SWB: Is "Pledge Ring" a one shot wonder, or are there more designs and pieces on the way?

JN: We just released a 'narrow' ring that some female customers have asked for. We have a pendant and a dog tag too. In the coming months we'll come out with a cross and bracelet. THe products will all have the standard 6 modern icons but as I said earlier I want to produce a jewish version of each piece at some point as well - the timing will depend on the economics.



SWB: Can you recall the pivotal moment when decided to take Pledge Ring from concept to reality?


JN: I think this is covered above but it was really becoming a citizen that triggered the idea. When it comes to actually deciding to build a business from it, that was based on 2 things.
The first: I got great feedback from friends and co-workers who encouraged me.
The second: a year ago i donated my kidney to my sister.
The operation was rough and the whole experience just gave me a new perspective on life. I have a day job that I enjoy but I thought I should just try something entrepreneurial that I could believe in and have a passion in.

SWB: Where did you find your inspiration/calling for Pledge Ring?

JN: I think this is covered above.

SWB: Do you easily see that the values instilled in you from childhood are the seeds of what you produce today as an adult?

JN: Absolutely. I was blessed with a great family in Ireland. My late father was hard working, honest, sincere, fun and conservative. My mother is supportive, determined and deliberate. My siblings are great people and we all get along well (1 brother and 2 sisters).

SWB: John, I appreciate this opportunity to help promote a clear statement of faith, patriotism, and value system that made this country so great and demonstrates the blessing of One Nation Under God.

JN: It's my pleasure to share this with someone who is genuinely interested.

Cheers,
John