JamHub Allows Bands To Jam Without Interruption

When was the last time you listened to two bands trying to practice in the same room? Chances are that it was loud, confusing, and a big mess. One inventor is hoping to change that.

Steve Skillings is the inventor of the JamHub, a special device that allows bands to practice without disturbing anyone else in the room. Because of the limited amount of noise, bands would be able to practice in places that they previously could not. People in apartments would be able to jam without the neighbors knowing. It is a revolution in music for the average garage band. It even has the potential to help in the resurgence of music programs.

We recently had the opportunity to ask Steve a few questions about this innovative machine, and the effect it has had on the music world.

Tell us a little about the JamHub.

JamHub is the first and only “silent rehearsal studio” for musicians. It allows musicians to make music as loud as they want, without disturbing others, because everyone is jamming using headphones. What makes is special is that the experience for the musicians is like being in a high-end studio instead of a bad sounding garage or rehearsal room. Since the musicians are all using headphones musicians have the freedom to jam all they want without disturbing others (or provoking a neighbor to make a call to the cops). Because a JamHub jam is nearly silent, it opens up an opportunity for musicians to play more even if they live in an apartment, or a dorm, or simply living with others who need a break from the band. As for schools, JamHubs could be the catalyst for a music program resurgence. Schools that have set up rock music programs or clubs are getting rave reviews from students, teachers and administrators. For less than the cost of a tuba, a school can add a JamHub studio (including all the instruments) and let dozens of kids learn and perform the music that they love (the music in their iPod) which probably does not include a lot of tubas. (We have nothing against the tuba; we use it as an example simply to advocate for more budget to be put toward today’s music making styles and instruments.)

What inspired it?

A friend of mine was telling me that his son’s band was limited to 1 hour a week of jamming because they live in a duplex. I asked how they mange to get 1 hour a week and he said the neighbors are willing to leave the building for the hour the kids are jamming. After that discussion I realized that most musicians, myself included, own something that allows them to practice alone wearing headphones, and I wondered if there was simple way to interconnect those devices to allow for headphone jams. It seemed like such a simple idea, but after I did some research I realized WOW, I had found an amazing opportunity. I built a “proof of concept” by purchasing $700 in mixer parts and soldering and reconstructing them to make what would become the basis of the JamHub BedRoom model, which sells for $299.99. I tested it with my band and the results were stunning. Amazing clarity, individual mixes for everyone and we played until mid-night on a school night while the drummer’s house slept (my drummer uses electronic drums). After that I was hooked (and so was my band) and I had to make it happen.

How does it work?

It’s very simple to operate. Plug your instrument’s headphone output jack into the JamHub’s input jack, plug your headphone into the JamHub and start jamming. You can even record the jam easily on a computer or, with the model we call TourBus, internally to the JamHub’s SD RAM card.

How long did it take for you to bring the JamHub from idea to final product? What was that process like?

It took about 17 months from that first proof of concept jam until we shipped our first unit. That’s REALLY fast, so I caution other entrepreneurs on using that as a benchmark. I spent a lot of my career in product development and I have a lot of experience interviewing factories, hiring a product development firm and knowing what to look out for. We actually could have finished it in 15 months but I lost two months talking with a factory that I decided to pull away from.

What separates you from the competition?

Nothing. We actually have no competition at this time (and plenty of patents issued and in queue). Having no competition is both good and bad. We own 100% of the market BUT we are the only one building the market. When I was at BOSE we launched Quiet Comfort Headphones and owned 100% of the consumer grade noise canceling headphones, but as more and more firms entered the market and as they started advertising and creating awareness, the market grew. BOSE has less that 100% of the market, but the market is MUCH bigger now, so their overall business is of course much bigger. Being the first to market can be a long, painful journey. We’re off to a good start but it is still amazing to me that after a year of advertising and reviews and “LIKES” on Facebook that a HUGE amount of musicians have no idea that the JamHub exists. I meet a new musician every week that has never heard of the product. The good news is they love the product once they know about it or get to try it, but we still have a long way to go.

Looking back, is there anything that you wish could have been done differently?

I am sure there are many worth mentioning, but if I had to pick it would be that I really wish we’d started on the recovery side of the recession not on this continuing downward slope. I guess we didn’t really have a choice, but we are eager to see thing pick up. A JamHub can actually can save musicians money if they rent a rehearsal space so that has helped us a bit.

What are some goals that you hope to accomplish over the next year or so?

Awareness & demonstration are our #1 and #2 goals. We have raving customers, great product quality and a product that solves a real problem for many, many musicians. But musicians are hard to reach. We estimate that after more than a year of great reviews, monthly advertising and working with some great international distributors, that less than 5% of musicians know the product exists. We need help spreading the word so, if you’re reading this, please tell all your friends about JamHubs. ;o)

What are some lessons that your business has taught you?

I don’t think there’s enough space to list them all. :o) The biggest one I guess is to plan for uncertainty. It’s a bit of a paradox, but it’s true. So many things that we thought would go as we expected have gone quite different than we could have imagined. Our team is made up of “industry vets” and we have been surprised fairly often. The biggest surprise for me has been the fact that so many resellers and stores don’t deal with innovative products very well. A true innovation doesn’t fit their business model and many decide to sit on the sidelines and wait for the manufacture to figure it out … all over the world. I think that’s why innovators like Apple, Nike and Bose have setup their own stores. If they control some of the retail environment, they can guarantee a product gets a fair shot in the market. It’s almost a requirement today because manufacturers are expected to build the website, design the displays, develop the ads, place the ads, train the staff and create customer demand. I can’t even begin to count the number of stores (big and small) that have told us, “Once customers are asking for it regularly, I’ll start buying it.” In today’s world you must not underestimate your company’s role (and expense) in selling your product.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I love what our product is doing for the musicians, and kids getting into music, around the world and can’t imagine doing anything else. One of our customers posted on the Fender Forum, “This product has changed my life. Changed. My. Life.” That’s a fun thing to read. Another said, “There will come a day when we ask, ‘How did we survive without it.’” That kind of unsolicited testimonials can keep you going for a long time.

Do you have any advice that you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?

Building a business today is wonderful because you can do it with great online tools like RingCentral.com, Facebook.com, Google ad words, 3PL distribution and more. You can scale your expenses with the business. However, a lot of the places that you think you can count on might not want to help you until you’re in a position where you don’t really need them. Banks want you to have a lot of assets, but you probably don’t want to carry them, resellers will want a lot of margin and want you to do all the work to drive customers into their stores. It’s tough out there. Count on yourself, control what you can and I wish you all the best of luck!

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