In Focus
May 9, 2018

The Trinity Duo Striking a Chord in the Music Industry

Neil Dunne and Zach Miller-Frankel are hoping their company can change the way the music industry operates.

Edward O’LoughlinEntrepreneurship Correspondent
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Dominic McGrath for The University Times

Things are beginning to take off for Andrson, a new startup founded by Trinity duo Neil Dunne and Zach Miller-Frankel.

The day I interviewed them, they’d just come out of a productive meeting with a keen venture capitalist. The previous week, they’d pitched at the Tech Summit, while they’ve also piqued the interest of the national media.

Not bad going when you consider that Andrson was just an idea 18 months ago.

Dunne and Miller-Frankel first met in Trinity – at Trinitones choir practice to be precise – so clearly both have a genuine and keen interest in music. New York native Miller-Frankel actually studied opera and French as his undergraduate degree in the US and set up a music management business in New York before coming to Trinity for his business master’s.

Miller-Frankel had a brainwave at choir practice one day, scribbling down his ideas in a note and passing it to Dunne across the library. The idea? A digital artist and repertoire app. Over the next few months, Andrson began in earnest.

The great thing about our app is that it doesn’t lie

They both bring different things to the business. Mill-Frankel has his business nous, while Dunne studied engineering and has established links to the Irish music industry.

While they developed the prototype app themselves, they’re now outsourcing the development process while also protecting the intellectual property around this.

So how does Andrson work? Essentially Dunne and Miller-Frankel are establishing a global platform for undiscovered singers and bands. The app is intended to cut down on the legwork for the agents, music executives, record labels, talent scouts or whoever may be looking for a particular style of unsigned artist.

Instead of trawling for hours through Youtube, Spotify or Soundcloud looking for fresh music talent, Andrson provides a site dedicated to unsigned singers and bands. Andrson uses predictive analytics and an artificial intelligence algorithm to allow users to search by geography, age, gender and more.

So if you want to find a male vocalist within a 50-mile radius of Dublin, aged between 25 and 35 that can sing 80 per cent like Hozier, their app will do the initial trawl and give you a list of suitable suspects. If you were to look for people who described themselves as singing like Hozier, you would probably get a much longer and less accurate list, and it would take you a lot longer to compile. “The great thing about our app is that it doesn’t lie, you will get an accurate list”, Miller-Frankel says.

For the undiscovered artist, it is a new vibrant mechanism to present their wares and offers the potential that someone could be discovered and signed up by a manager or record label. It is also a way for like-minded musicians to find each other and collaborate, based on proximity, style and sound. For the talent scout it could be the “ultimate one stop shop”.

The business model has a number of income streams, namely a monthly-fee paid by the unsigned artists and bands to be on the platform, as well as a fee for the music agents or executives. They also charge a “success fee”.

To get off the ground they have put in €20,000 themselves, with support from friends and family, and have managed to secure a further €100,000 from an Irish angel investor. They are currently aiming to raise a further €430,000 by the end of May 2018 and plan to have a new version of the app ready to go live by the end of June.

From summer onwards, they intend to run Andrson as a pilot in Ireland over a six-month period, where they say they already have a user-base of over 7,000 artists. “The music talent in Ireland is phenomenal, so it is really a great place to run the pilot”, Dunne says.

The pair are certainly ambitious, with plans for expansion to Europe, the US and eventually Asia. The music industry, they rhyme off, invests $4.5 billion in artists and repertoire annually. Clearly, they want a slice of this.

The music talent in Ireland is phenomenal

They are building a small team to ensure they are able to manage the pilot phase over the next six months, backed up by a strong team of advisers. They are now based out of an office in Harcourt St as they position themselves for expansion. Yet like most startups, they’re being careful with money.

Despite the Trinity connection, they pair decided against applying for summer accelerator programme Launchbox. However, they say they’ve received great support and advice from College and beyond.

“Ireland is an incredible country when you ask for help. We did and we got it, time and time again. There wouldn’t be anything like this sort of organisational and networking support in the US”, says Miller-Frankel.

“Even when people could not help us themselves, we never got a brush-off, we always got introductions to others who could help. We were shown the next stone to stand on”, Dunne adds.

Andrson has come very far, very fast. So what is their ultimate goal? Interestingly, their ambition is for a “buy out” – they intend building this to a certain level, before hopefully being bought out.

They have other music-related ideas and are itching to start on them when the time is right. With success already beckoning, don’t bet against the duo hitting the high notes of the global music industry.

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