Dream City Music is a business that brings live music to private events such as weddings and corporate outings. Jared Judge is the founder.
ME: How did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
JARED: Good question; I met Allison many years ago when she was first starting Wisconsin Music Ventures. We actually realized that we had the same mission of supporting artists in what they do; obviously we had different ways to go about it, but I really believed in what she was doing and wanted to be a part of it. I joined, and I’ve also done a couple presentations and been a part of some panel discussions. I’ve been enjoying all the content that they put out.
ME: Awesome. That makes sense because I know you’ve both been involved with No Studios.
JARED: That’s where we met, I believe.
ME: What do you have to say about that space? That’s where Allison and I first met in person too!
JARED: No Studios is a great space. It’s conducive to creativity. With a stage there, the sky’s the limit; you can have performances, you can have talks, plus the cafe’s a great place to meet new people. Having an office in No Studios has been awesome; I love walking to work because I don’t live that far away from it, but the space itself is priced affordably for a growing business. Dream City Music and BookLive are my businesses, and I think that the creative energy and convenience of location are really great fits for what we do.
ME: That makes sense. They have great couches (laughs). It’s certainly a valuable workspace that I hope continues to be utilized effectively.
ME: How is Dream City Music structured? Do you have like a rotating cast of musicians?
JARED: So Dream City Music has two distinct branches; one is Dream City Strings, which is a string quartet where we focus on private events mainly. The other facet is Dream City Jazz, which is a jazz combo with piano, drums, and bass that also focuses on private events. I started Dream City Strings back when I was in grad school studying music at UW-Milwaukee, and I was struggling with job prospects after graduation. I was failing at auditions because I really wanted to be a professional orchestra conductor and kept getting second place, which was really frustrating and meant that I wouldn’t have a job waiting for me. I wanted to make some money playing music; I didn’t want to be a music teacher because I already had a career as a public-school music teacher and didn’t want to do it again. I also didn’t want to work not in music, so I saw if there was some way I could start something right then while still in the safety net of grad school. My music teachers didn’t really provide me direction with that, so I wound up going to the business school joining a club, and they helped me launch Dream City Music. We decided that we were going to target the private events market because there’s money in private events; as a musician, you’re solving other peoples’ problems where they need entertainment for their guests while having a budget to do that. Private events pay thousands of dollars; you just have to know how to break into that market, and that’s where I think a lot of musicians don’t always know what to do. I definitely didn’t know how to do that before but luckily the business school taught me some marketing concepts and how to sell, so I put together this website to sell me and some of my friends as a string quartet. Very quickly, I had people saying they wanted to hire me for their wedding or nonprofit gala. It was great because we had a set group of four people playing, but then I kept booking more and more and we quickly ran out of time to get more gigs. Then by accident, I double-booked us.
ME: That’s the worst.
JARED: Yeah, it was really scary. I asked myself if there was any way I could hire another set of musicians and play two gigs at the same time. Luckily, I was in this music school community that had fantastic musicians I trusted enough with another gig for us, and that’s when Dream City transformed into not just a group of four but a roster where we could rotate people in and out.
ME: Sounds like it worked out then!
JARED: It did. The most gigs we’ve ever played was seven at one time, which was honestly too much and was very stressful (laughs). They all worked out; I was just nervous the whole day.
ME: I get it. That’s a lot of heads to keep track of, but it’s cool that you’ve been able to prosper and proliferate as a business. Like you said, live entertainment is in high demand, especially during wedding season.
ME: What’s going on with BookLive?
JARED: Getting back to that previous story about how we managed seven gigs at a time, anyone who’s ever run a band knows that it can be like herding cats; they don’t always respond and do things on their own timeframe, plus keeping track of everything is a headache. Even before that situation, I had been doing multiple gigs in a day and was using spreadsheets and email threads to keep track of everything; I thought I was super on top of things, but one day when I was taking my wife on a date to an apple orchard, I got a phone call from a wedding planner asking where the string quartet was. I went through all my notes and couldn’t find this gig, and in all my efforts to be organized I missed a gig, and I felt really crummy about it. Later, I had this idea of if Uber had all these apps to manage drivers and people who need rides, then why is there nothing like that for musicians? I couldn’t find anything that worked for my needs so I created it, and now we have an all-in-one software system that helps musicians marketing themselves to get more gigs, mostly still focusing on private events. But it also manages all of the back office so that they can handle as many gigs as they want and raise their prices accordingly.
ME: Right on. We’ve all done it, double-book ourselves. It sucks. But it sounds like you took a difficult situation and responded to it responsibly and proactively through creating this platform.
JARED: Yeah. Since we’ve launched BookLive and are using it for Dream City, we started having other musicians asking if they could try it out, and now we have over 2,500 musicians currently using it.
ME: What do you have going on in the next couple months?
JARED: I’ve got a couple things going on and I’m really excited about them. First, I’m in the process of launching Full Time Music Academy, which is a training program that teaches musicians how to break into private events, or if they’re already in private events how to get consistency so that they can earn a predictable income every month. I’m teaching a lot of marketing and sales as it relates to live music, like the missing pieces that nobody learns as a musician. Then we recently launched Dream City Jazz, so that has a lot of gigs coming up. We also launched an electric violin division called Extreme Strings; imagine electric violin with backing tracks like a DJ playing along with it. We’re really excited about that, so be on the lookout.