A former rock star musician and Brandery alum has re-entered the startup world with a new venture that he hopes will better connect fans to the concerts and events they want to see.
Eron Bucciarelli, the original drummer for the early-2000s platinum-selling emo-punk band Hawthorne Heights, and the former founder of Cincinnati startup Soundstr, which celebrated a 2018 exit, said his new venture, Tixxy, a concert recommendation chatbot, is ready for relaunch after a more than one-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tixxy, an entertainment startup, uses a free SMS chatbot to recommend concerts coming to town – but only the ones you care about. It links your Spotify or Apple Music account to a database of concert dates, using your zip code and basic travel preferences to predictively text you show info.
The idea came from Bucciarelli’s own experience as a touring musician. Fans would consistently miss out on shows because they didn’t find out about them on time – or at all. He said on average, around 40% of tickets go unsold, a number that’s remained unchanged for years.
As live music returns, albeit slowly, Bucciarelli said artists will need to rethink how they reach fans about upcoming shows, especially given a dropoff in the number of alt weeklies available and social media overload.
“Going back to our time in the band, we would always come through on tour and inevitably somebody would hit us up, even going to Myspace days, saying, ‘When are you guys coming to down?’ And almost every single time it was like, ‘We were there last week,’ or, ‘We were there yesterday,’ and I got really aggravated with this awareness problem over our concerts,” Bucciarelli told me. “That’s how far back this problem does. It’s something nobody has ever fixed.”
To use Tixxy, fans simply register, connect their streaming account and answer a few questions. Artists don’t need to do anything; so long as their show information is up to date. Tixxy partners with Ticketmaster and AXS, two of the largest ticketing companies in the U.S., in order to sell the concerts and events it helps link fans to.
Tixxy makes money by taking a small percentage of ticket sales completed through its system. The chatbot is offered for free and there are no ads. Buciarelli said privacy is also top of mind. Tixxy’s business model means there’s no incentive to sell data to a third party.
Bucciarelli chose SMS messaging because it's proven most effective in reaching fans – about 10 times more effective than push notifications, for example, and with far better returns than email or paid social media marketing.
Tixxy has been in hybernation mode since the onset of the pandemic. Buciarelli said the startup soft-launched just three weeks before Covid-19 hit and caused world-wide shutdowns. But, as things open back up, and as vaccine rollouts accelerate, he said the timing was right to start again.
“I think the timing worked out to our advantage – people are going to be really hungry for concerts, and there’s going to be a lot out of concerts out there,” he said. “People are going to need a way to filter through the noise.”
Tixxy is Buciarelli’s second startup venture. He successfully started and sold Soundstr, a music monitoring device company, to New York-based Vnue (OTC: VNUE) for an undisclosed amount in 2018. More recently, Buciarelli joined as a founding LP of The Fund Midwest, a first-check, early-stage investment group headed locally by Chris Bergman, former founder and CEO of ChoreMonster.
Since the exit, Buciarelli worked at Procter & Gamble’s Alchemy group, the company’s internal tech startup, before joining Kroger’s e-commerce accelerator leading product innovation teams. He’s been working on Tixxy in his free time. So far, the company has seven total employees, who also are working on the business on the side.
One big takeaway from the Soundstr exit: Tixxy will likely wait to raise capital until it has a more concrete understanding of its business model. Doing so will allow the startup to move faster and at better valuations, he said.
“Even going back to my musician days, the more you can do on your own to grow your own following, or to grow your own user base in the case with Tixxy, the more leverage you have in any kind of conversation with a record label, or a VC today,” Buciarelli said. “We will have a firmer platform to stand on when we go into those conversations.”