Your favorite artists need touring musicians. Get to know Jammcard
When an artist needed a backing band for decades in the studio or on the go, their main option was to search their contacts to find musicians to play with. Elmo Lovano wants to change that.
Lovano, himself a longtime touring and session drummer who has worked with the likes of Miley Cyrus and Skrillex, launched Jammcard in 2017 and has created one of the most comprehensive databases of professional musicians to hire in the music industry. His goal: modernize how artists find musicians to play with.
“I basically wanted to do what I wanted to do when I was performing most,” says Lovano. “The only other option is to send a bulk message to 20 people and hope you find someone. Whether you’re an up-and-coming talent or collaborating with Beyoncé, the entire creative side of our industry relies on word of mouth. There is a better way to do this and I want to create the global database of the entire live music industry that is searchable and bookable to help musicians get more work.”
Most of the time, artists and their teams don’t have many options other than word of mouth to find potential musicians to play with. Artist managers often text musicians they know, ask their friends, or seek other recommendations to find band members to support their clients. Jammcard doesn’t stop the search, but ideally it at least formalizes it and allows an app to curate choices for a customer rather than aimlessly browsing.
Lovano’s startup grew in ambition and to date has secured $5 million from investors including legendary producer Quincy Jones and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin. Today, Jammcard has 10,000 professional musicians on the platform in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York and Atlanta, the country’s four major music hubs. Lovano also teases that the platform will open to international markets soon. Jammcard is very picky as musicians must pass a vetting process to prove they are full-time, professional musicians working in the industry.
Tom Windish, a high-profile agent at Wasserman Music who represents acclaimed artists such as Lorde, Billie Eilish and The XX, is a regular Jammcard user who frequently uses the platform to find musicians for up-and-coming artists. He recently used Jammcard to find a guitarist for singer-songwriter Danielle Ponder, whom he manages. The greatest potential use for the service, Windish says, is for smaller artists who lack the capital of more established artists.
“Writing messages, asking friends of friends, that works if you’re well connected, but not everyone. You are thinking of the financial aspect here; It becomes a huge financial hurdle for international acts to get visas and bring a whole band from abroad,” says Windish. “As a solo act, it doesn’t make much sense to fly a band in, but what other option do you have when you come up? This is a real option. You can find good musicians and save tens of thousands of dollars by bringing a band. Most artists don’t have thousands to spend on it [and] they can’t afford a musical director, that’s a better alternative.”
Lovano says he’d eventually like to expand the app more to include less-established or amateur musicians, and to start with, the company launched Jammcard Mentors earlier this year, but to attract top-notch talent to the launch, Jammcard needed to make sure the most of them are -demand touring musicians. The strategy seems to have paid off; Jammcard musicians were hired to work with them Harry Styles, Gwen Stefani, the Chainsmokers, Zedd and Christina Perri, among others. In Perri’s case, the company says, Jammcard provided all of the musicians she recently hired for a number of talk show appearances, including the today show, ellen and the Late Late Show with James Corden.
Jammcard could also have appeal in the post-Covid touring environment, where many musicians and road crew members have stopped touring altogether or found a new direction of work, requiring artists to find new people to tour with. According to Lovano, Jammcard recently reached similar usage figures as before live music was shut down two years ago.
Perhaps the most distinctive (and assertive) offering comes from its exclusive parties called JammJams. The events, which began as informal jam sessions at Lovano’s house a few years ago, have evolved into bespoke private concerts, the most recent of which received a sponsorship from Sony-presented gospel choir The Samples, best known as the collective responsible for him collaborating with Kanye West for Sunday worship sessions.
The Samples played for a few hundred Jammcard members and other music industry friends in late May at a nondescript studio in Frogtown, Los Angeles. Lovano, who looks and sounds a little like Jeremy Strong and resembles an investment banker more than an accomplished musician, ended the night pounding the drums and playing with a rotating hodgepodge of musicians.
Jammcard makes its money through various avenues such as sponsorships and corporate partnerships. For example, the JammJam with the samples was a partnership with Sony. Jammcard also charges a 10% fee for those booking Jammcard musicians.
For now, membership is free, but Lovano says the company may charge a subscription fee. Jammcard is only a few years old and not yet profitable, but Lovano says this is the company’s first year focused on revenue and that artists spent $500,000 in the first half of this year to support musicians over to book the app.
Matt McGuire, drummer and musical director for The Chainsmokers, is also active on the platform and frequently uses it to hire musicians for many of the duo’s television appearances, album release parties and other one-off events for the group. McGuire estimates he has hired over 20 musicians through Jammcard and notes that while his own network of musicians comes first, a service like Jammcard is convenient and helps give someone a chance.
“We’re picky about our choices, so it makes sense to go through the app because we’re confident we know the people we’re seeing are professionals,” says McGuire. “It also allows us to give musicians opportunities that probably wouldn’t have been considered before, as it expands the choices. Elmo is making a platform that fills a hole that still exists in this industry.”