Jump start: BookLive working to help musicians weather impact of coronavirus

Jared Judge
Jared Judge

BookLive founder and gigging violinist Jared Judge was playing the opening night of a community theater show in Waukesha when, during intermission, the director informed the audience it was also closing night.

“The mood shifted from this very happy-go-lucky performance to, ‘Oh my god, what is happening?’” Judge said. “This is our livelihood and we were sad to close the show we had worked so hard on.”

What Judge felt during that show is similar to what many musicians have experienced throughout the COVID-19 crisis – the rug being pulled out from under their feet, especially for those who have also lost their service industry jobs due to the coronavirus.

Judge launched BookLive in 2019 as a way to help musicians cultivate the entrepreneurial side of being a gigging musician. The startup’s software serves as a management tool, teaching musicians how to market themselves, price their services and enable web transactions so they can book gigs online.

With some musicians losing their primary source of income, Judge and his team needed to pivot to stay true to their mission of helping musicians make a living. In early May, BookLive launched “Virtual Serenades,” a feature that allows users to send friends and family a live recording of their favorite song performed by a local artist.

Virtual serenades have raised nearly $2,000 for artists so far with 10% of BookLive’s profits going toward Imagine MKE’s artist relief fund, which raised $200,000 to help musicians weather the coronavirus.

BookLive is also a marketplace for event planners or businesses in search of musicians for live performances. Even with the economy reopening, Judge still believes virtual serenades will have a permanent place in the startup’s business model.

“There will always be special occasions in your life where you might not be throwing a party, but you still want to make it special by sending a virtual serenade,” Judge said. “This might also be a way for people who are throwing live events to get a demo performance if they want to book them for the live event.”

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