The University of Notre Dame’s annual Idea Week will kick off Saturday with a concert from country music star Walker Hayes, and a South Bend startup will have a major focus at the show. Founded in 2020 at the Idea Center at Notre Dame, Juke has developed an app that founder and Notre Dame alum Griffin Eaton says allows for greater fan interaction and creates a new revenue stream for artists.
The company, which won the 2021 McCloskey New Venture Competition at Notre Dame, has been involved in the lead up to Saturday’s concert with fans voting for their favorite songs, two of which will be performed by Hayes during the concert.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Eaton said being involved in the Idea Week concert is symbolic of the university’s influence on his entrepreneurship story.
“What we had [in the McCloskey competition], we were very small; maybe we’d gotten $10,000 in revenue if that,” Eaton said. “Two years later, to be at the Joyce Arena where I’ve seen hundreds of basketball games, just to see our biggest show yet, it’s pretty fantastic, and it all was a result of Notre Dame, the relationships. They stepped up and said, ‘This is really cool. This is an interesting aspect to a show we can put on.’”
The Juke app allows fans to vote on the songs they want to hear most at a show, post photos and messages on a pre-concert activity feed, and make song dedications, among other uses.
For example, an artist could allow fams to vote on which song they would want to hear in an encore, and users could cast their vote, typically paying for additional votes, which creates additional revenue for the artist.
The partnership with Notre Dame for the Idea Week concert included free pre-show voting where any fan attending the show could choose their favorite song from a list of five created by Walker Hayes. They could also upload messages and dedications to Hayes as well, which really struck Eaton.
“One woman in particular, her message to the artist stands out because she had this story where she had a stroke, and she used his Tik Tok dances as part of her recovery,” Eaton said. “I mean, who would’ve ever guessed that that would be the use for your Tik Tok dance. There were tons of just great messages.”
Eaton said Juke was originally created to specifically target musicians, particularly smaller artists who needed to grow their brand and create new revenue. But that model proved difficult, and last year, the company targeted new distribution channels.
“We really decided to start focusing on larger production-type companies, and that allows us to basically have a more direct sale, have more of a B2B model,” he said. “We could expand our pricing model to be true SaaS instead of just a fee-based revenue model. And the beautiful part is that basically is building out features for venues, and venues ultimately will be the key to get us to that end artist.”
Walker Hayes is not the only major artist that Juke is working with this spring. The company is also partnering with rock band Matchbox 20, initially for a livestreamed show in May.
Eaton said working with such high-profile artists adds credibility to the company’s platform.
“It starts to open up that door to that market because there’s a lot that goes into producing a show of that size, and so introducing this new like fan engagement element is an entirely different wrinkle,” he said. “And then secondarily, it certainly is validation that this is something that people want to do not just at a small, say, brewery level, or even a 500-cap room.”
Since the McCloskey competition, Juke has grown to six-figure revenue numbers in 2022, and the company is aiming to hit $1 million in revenue this year.
Eaton said he wants Juke to help bridge the disconnect among artists and fans, while also helping venues of all sizes drive demand for their shows.