College of Charleston jazz student develops app to connect local music community

Brandon Brooks, (center) a jazz major at the College of Charleston, developed a music app while studying at the school’s Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Technology, headed by Christopher Starr (Left).

Brandon Brooks doesn’t graduate from the College of Charleston until next month, but the enterprising musician can already call himself a business owner.

After participating in the college’s first semester-long Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Technology, or ICAT, program in the spring, Brooks was able to realize his idea for a program that could essentially be the LinkedIn for local music communities in Charleston and across the country — maybe even the globe.

Called JYVE, the program is a smartphone app that musicians can use as a platform for promotional materials like photos, music samples and videos. Ultimately, it will function as a GPS-enabled tool that artists can use to find other musicians nearby, which could come in handy when piecing together bands for gigs around town.

“So, say I needed a bass player for tonight’s gig, I could type in ‘bass’ for ‘which genres’ and it would say ‘these are the people available to you,’” Brooks said.

The app also can support a similar function for venues and booking agents searching for local talent, and eventually for audiences looking for live music.

Right now, the app is in its beta phase, meaning its still being tested to work out bugs, and 64 musicians in 12 cities along the East Coast are acting as the guinea pigs. That’s so Brooks and his team can gather feedback and iron out any kinks before a public launch.

“The first impression is the ... only impression you get,” he said. “People’s attention spans are maybe three minutes when it comes to apps. If they click through and it’s not doing what they want ... it’s hard to get that attention again.”

Brooks, a Greenville native who studied classical music at the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts and Humanities, originally came to the college to study music. More specifically, he came to study drums under jazz virtuoso and C of C professor Quentin Baxter.

“He definitely opened up my world in terms of music, not even just drums, just overall music, how to approach music, how to play the music,” Brooks said.

Through his studies, Brooks has become integrated in the local music scene, often playing around town with various friends and professionals, including Manny Houston, a hip-hop artist and Brooks’ roommate.

One day, Houston told him he wished there was an app that would help him find people to book gigs with. Brooks happened to be in an entrepreneurship class at the time, so he took the idea and applied it to a project he was working on.

Then last semester, when he was accepted to the ICAT program, he teamed up with three other students — Shannon Caulk, a graphic designer, and two programmers, Cassios Marques and Jake Marrota — to design and build the app and a promotional website, www.jyveapp.com.

The ICAT program pieces together teams of students from different majors that are interested in developing business ideas. In many ways, the semester-long course acts as an accelerator like the Harbor Entrepreneur Center. The teams are treated as small, infant-stage start-up companies and are mentored by established technology professionals and successful entrepreneurs.

After the course ended, Brooks continued working with one of his mentors, Chris O’Rourke of Soteria, who gave Brooks an office space for the summer.

O’Rourke said he believes Brooks’ venture will be successful.

“The thing I like about Brandon is both his passion and how he wants to present his idea. I think he’s smart about how he’s segmenting the app and focusing on geographic regions because taste for music ranges … what you find is different musical interests in different cities and towns,” he said. “At the core, being focused around musicians, and Brandon being a musician himself, I think those are the things you need to see an app succeed.”

Brooks said he’s willing to do what it takes to ensure the app reaches its potential.

“I graduate in a couple of weeks and then I really want to push this full-time. And I’ll definitely have to play gigs all the time, too, since I’m bootstrapping it,” he said.

Brooks hasn’t locked in any investors yet, but he’s encouraged by the number of people who have donated to his GoFundMe.com page, a fundraising website. He’s raised about $800 in less than a month.

“It’s crazy to see the people that believe in me and put down their own money for my dream,” he said. “I’ll keep bootstrapping until we get a product out there and can get some investments.”

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail