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Community: The Missing Piece in the Music Industry

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Written by Stefan Aronsen - Co Founder

After years of attending shows, I found myself with a community of musicians for friends. I attend a lot of shows. For the longest time I thought attending two shows a week was normal. I loved going to shows and posting all my pictures on Instagram and twitter. One day someone I only knew through social media hit me up and asked if we could meet. 

That guy was Andy Freeman, I didn’t know then that we would eventually become cofounders together. We talked on the phone, he suggested we get a burger, we met and bonded well. He had a lot of plans for what we needed to create. We talked about creating a label, doing licensing, or maybe managing bands. I’m normally the one to chase wild ideas, but this time I asked if he would be down to simply meet again. However, this time we’d invite our friends. Both of our schedules were very full, but mornings were wide open. We planned an 8AM meetup and people actually came. Little did we know then that our meeting of two minds would become seven and we’d soon have meetups in twenty-two other cities. What could have stayed a small group now has multiple thousands involved.

While Andy’s plan to take over the SF music scene has morphed into something now located around the world, our goals haven’t changed. We wanted to organise people around positive change. We may have thought the change we needed was in the form of a business, our community helped us realise what was actually needed. At our first meeting, I was unaware of how hungry people were for community. As we started to grow, it became clear that the group had a vision for how BB should grow. Everything from the name to our vision has been a group effort. We may have started as a way to support the Bay Area scene, but now we have our eyes on the whole world.

When we started Breakfast in 2013 we knew that the music scene needed more resources. We didn't know that we started Breakfast because musicians were in need of community. At the time I could have listed out ten things that I thought that the our community needed. However, I would have been wrong about most of them. I thought people wanted survival advice, books on marketing, tips on email, booking and touring. I can write that advice down for you. However, after 4 years of doing BB I can tell you now that the reason people come to BB is for something that you can just write down. People come for the community, they come to make friends, and to meet future band members. At BB we it feels like we're surrounded by people that understand our needs. 

At a typical BB meeting we talk about booking shows, creating flyers, finding and audience. Our attendance can feel empathy for this struggle. By meeting in real life we bring people back into the mix. Social media has its place, but sharing a meal can’t be faked. To understand the music scene you need to sit at a table and talk with each other about your goals, successes and failures. It’s by participating in a movement bigger than all of us that we are able to find our purpose. Come to a meeting I think you’ll understand.

BB met in multiple cities for 3 years before I felt we were ready to launch our first product. We hosted shows, did residencies, toured to Denver for UMS and Austin for SxSW. These were all fun adventures, but none of them were sustainable alone. We needed something that could help foster growth for our meetups and help us keep track of our BB membership. There was talk of a database for years, but as much as we tried we couldn’t find a platform that could do everything we needed. Eventually I realised I needed to take a break from doing design for others and focus more time on creating for the Balanced Breakfast community. 

I sublet my apartment and traveled to my parents house near Portland, Oregon. You might say I hid in the basement and concepted ideas about what BB ultimately needed. Being away from SF gave me an open schedule and space in my brain for new ideas. After much deliberation, I realised we needed to embrace technology to help us accomplish tasks our meetup couldn’t. While BB was good at introducing attendees to each other, it didn’t help connect us to people in other cities. This was an area where developing an app could make forming new relationships in other cities easier.

In April of 2017 we made Balanced Breakfast an official LLC. Thus making a glorified hobby an official organisation. I think I waited to make this change until the last moment. Perhaps I was afraid that forming a business around a community movement could cause it to fail. In time I realised that big success could only come from big trust. I owe a great deal of thanks to my Levi Winkler who saw the efforts of BB and encouraged it’s growth towards becoming an official trademarked brand. He has taken on the operations of BB and has helped make the new app possible. It feels like one more example of how through the efforts of the group we have been able to make this community larger. 

With the newly added support and business oriented focus, I was able to spend the last 12 months creating something super special for BB. The app has 6 milestones that we will release over the next year. I tried to make the first version of the app heavily focus on organising the BB community. We hope that version one of the app establishes BB membership and a database of people in our local music scene. People have been calling themselves BB members for the longest time. We have never been able to clarify what being a member meant, until now. The app helps us establish membership, create community, and in time create perks for involvement.

With the introduction of the BB app, we now have the tool we need to find people in the music industry based on location, profession and skills. Our goal is to create a product that leverages existing API and fills the gaps where traditional platforms fail. We don’t intend to replace successful products like Facebook or Linkedin, but rather give you a tool that accomplishes things that they haven’t yet solved. We hope to help you create community by connecting you to the people in your scene that can help you be more successful. Whether you’re looking for a banjo player or a mastering engineer, we can help. 

We will continue to host meetups, in fact our hope is that the app can help foster even more IRL meetings. It is not designed to replace our breakfast community, but rather be a tool that increases its effectiveness. Our success has come from meeting around a table for a meal, that won’t change. We still rely on your involvement, and encourage you to participate in your local community. If BB is in your city, join us! If we’re not there yet, reach out to us, we’d love to work with you to get a group started in your city.


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