A Freelance Musician Network

“Can I Build a Product?”

The idea for Arrow started over two years ago. As a professional musician and guitar instructor for over twenty years, I know this audience. I know how hard it can be to meet other musicians in your home town and nail down times to collaborate. I know what it’s like to be that young, hopeful kid who just wants to get his or her music out for the world to hear.

Having helped design SMB and Enterprise products at Volusion, I was eager to challenge myself to create my own product. I dug deep into startup culture. I listened to every podcast I could on the subject, read every Medium post and watched countless Y Combinator videos. More than just designing something I thought was cool, I wanted to know if I had a product that people really needed.

“Simplicity is hard to build, easy to use and hard to charge for. Complexity is easy to build, hard to use and easy to charge for.” — Chris Sacca

Musicians Want to Connect

There are numerous musicians in many levels of their professional development. There are teens and early twenty-somethings just getting their sea legs with songwriting or on their instrument. There are established bands who have put out records and toured the country over and over. And there are seasoned studio pros, both musicians and producers/engineers who have crafted countless recordings.

All of these musicians share the same problem – how can they affordably collaborate with other musicians all over the world? Whether it’s an 18-year old female singer/songwriter writing her first songs and needing help fleshing out her recordings, or a popular band that needs help mixing their new album. Maybe a savvy veteran musician or producer that can help others with their musical dreams. The ArrowApp connects users with the right musicians to help them realize their vision.

“Let’s Figure This Out”

In this marketplace musicians can 1) offer their services to prospective clients and 2) Hire musicians to play on, mix or produce their recordings. Arrow would have both a desktop and iOS app (only the iOS app is featured here).

Another key component to Arrow is its social network. I want Arrow to be more than just a marketplace – I want it to be a community. By including the social network element, Arrow can be a community of like minded musicians who can support and learn from each other. Rather than being a faceless online entity, Arrow would be a place where musicians check in on a daily basis regardless of whether they’re engaged in hiring or selling their services.

As we spend more of our times with our phones and less time in front of an actual computer, I felt the need for a robust app was very important. The main use case for the desktop app would to actually record, mix and transfer audio files. Everything else can be done with the mobile app. And done better with it. From notifications, to messaging and from an activity feed to search, the Arrow app is a musician’s conduit to an inspiring world of music.


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User Persona 1

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User Persona 2

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Create Seller Account User Flow

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Find a Musician to Hire User Flow

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Job Stories

I recently discovered job stories, which I think are more effective than typical user stories. They focus on identifying motivators instead of specific features.

“When I’m using Arrow, I want to discover and connect with other musicians, so I can grow my musical community.”

“When I’m using Arrow, I want to find musicians I can hire to record on my music, so I can have a more professional recording.”

“When I’m using Arrow, I want to find musicians that need my services, so I can make money.”

“When I’m discovering musicians, I want to quickly save them, so I can continue to discover and message them later.”

“When I’m contacting a musician for services, I want an easy and intuitive form to fill out, so I can get a quick response.”

“When I receive a request for services, I want a simple and detailed description, so I can respond quickly.”

“When I use Arrow, I want to be able to message a musician without requesting services, so I can make a friendly connection.”

“When I complete a job, I want a quick, easy and secure way to receive payment, so I can build trust with the company.”

“How Will This Make Money?”

Subscription Plan?

There were basically two revenue models I considered. First, a subscription plan, where a user could choose from a three-tiered plan – which included a Free Plan, a $30 a month Standard plan and a $50 a month Pro Plan. The advantage to this plan is that there would always be revenue coming in – regardless of how active the users are. The disadvantage is users have to pay up front.

Second, a commission-based plan. The company would take a percentage of the fees charged by an artist selling their services. The advantage to this revenue model is that the company would receive larger chunks of money, but if user activity isn’t high – then there would be little to know money coming in.

As part of my research for the product, I sent a prototype to over 100 musicians, designers and marketing people. I received a lot of great feedback. Overwhelmingly, people hated the subscription model. This is definitely leading me to adopt a commission based model.

“My initial thoughts on subscription vs taking a cut: for me I would never pay $30 or $50 month for this service. Unless it really proved to be a large source of referrals for me or opened me up to a tier of musicians / producers / industry people that I don’t already have access to by just using the internet.” — Johnny Sangster, Seattle-based Producer and Musician
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Where I’m at So Far

After analyzing the feedback from the people I sent the prototype to, I’m in the process of refining the features, design and revenue model. I’m also studying as much as I can about building a product team. And really digging into the details of what it takes to run a startup. It’s given me such a great perspective —one which has helped me immensely in my day job as a product designer. I now design everything as if I own it, which keeps me more engaged and present in the process.

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Copyright Zach Boyle 2021. All Rights Reserved

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