Elmo Lovano began touring as a drummer when he was only 15. He won the Warped Tour World’s Fastest Drummer Contest at 16. He’s played with acts like Skrillex, Juliette Lewis, and Miley Cyrus. Elmo is a creative genius, superstar music director, and natural born entrepreneur. What stands out most, however, is how much he cares about people. At the height of his musical career, Elmo took a huge risk switching his focus to build a tech start-up that helps fellow studio musicians connect, create, and book gigs. In just a short time, the app has seen tremendous growth, investment from Quincy Jones, and is securing its place as a digital backbone of the music industry. Jammcard is a sacred, safe network for the musicians it supports…and Elmo Lovano is the man behind it.
Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.
*Since we recorded this interview, Jammcard has blown up. Their most recent JammJam featured artists like Ice Cube, Anderson .Paak, CeeLo Green, and the funkadelic master himself, George Clinton. We couldn’t be more proud of Elmo, and are excited to share his story with you.
Boye Fajinmi: Elmo. What’s up man?
Elmo Lovano: What up Boye?
Boye: How you doing?
Elmo: All is good man.
Boye: I love it. Dude, it’s been awesome hanging out today.
Elmo: We’ve been having fun. You got to see the office and we are at the house right now.
Boye: Do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?
Elmo: Hello listeners, futurists, partiers. My name is Elmo Lovano. I’m the founder of Jammcard, the music professionals network. I’m also a music professional; drummer, music director, producer, homie. Worked with a lot of artists and now I’m full-time working on my startup Jammcard, which is doing cool things and growing. I feel like it was a baby and now it’s a toddler, and it’s like running around and talking to people on its own.
Boye: I love it.
Elmo: And yeah, so Jammcard. We have an invite-only social network for vetted music professionals. It’s kind of like LinkedIn for the music industry, but with a curated member base of legit pros.
Boye: Nice. And it’s really been interesting to see the growth of it. I remember when I first met you, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m doing this thing, Jammcard.’ And you had the app, which was really cool. And now you’ve got Quincy Jones as an investor, you’re blowing up. What’s that journey been like?
Elmo: It’s been a journey, bro. It’s #startuplife. It’s crazy. Unpredictable. It’s cool. I’m totally happy with what’s happening. The direction that it’s going, the things that are happening for the company. Everything is organic. I feel like I have spent the last year and a half responding to opportunities that have been coming in. We just raised a round because I want to flip the script and start playing offense. Once again, startup life. There’s obviously fires every day that you got to put out, but it’s still going. There’s a lot of amazing people that have been reaching out that are supportive of what we’re doing, want to collab, want to advise, want to help in any way, or want to promote. It’s amazing dude. Honestly, I am super grateful and stoked. I think what I’m most proud of is how engaged the community is and how much genuine love there is within the community.
Boye: And are you at liberty to say how many people are using it?
Elmo: We don’t say member numbers because, since we’re invite only, we are quality over quantity.
Boye: I understand that.
Elmo: Yep. There we go. Future Party. So, I’ll tell you right now, we can easily facilitate anything that’s needed in the music industry. Especially since we are now in three cities, LA, Nashville, and Atlanta. In those three cities we can take care of whatever your need is, whether you are looking for musicians, producers, songwriters, managers, tour managers, production managers, studio engineers, orchestras…whatever.
Boye: That’s amazing.
Elmo: So, a lot of what we’re doing right now is building teams. But, what I am super proud of is that we have 48% daily active users. So, everyone’s engaged. You can’t buy that. You can’t mark a force of love on someone. I’m proud of how people are reacting, how people are authentically using it, the opportunities that are within it, the gigs that people are getting off it, and the teams that are being formed on it….if you go to #jammcard and look at what the community says or look at our App store reviews, anything you’ll find is overwhelmingly positive.
For example, we just announced in Billboard that Quincy Jones is investing fulfilling our seed round. I was super stoked to see that when we announced, people in the Jammcard app were posting, “So stoked that Quincy’s an investor in Jammcard!” “This is huge for us, fam!” “Let’s go get this Jammcard!” And I’m like, what kind of community does this? If Quincy Jones invested in Instagram, Instagram users wouldn’t be like, “this is great for us,” you know, they’d be like, “who cares, it’s business.” So, that’s what’s amazing. The community feels that it was built for them. I treat the Jammcard app like a gift, especially right now we’re not even monetizing anything. The top tours are being booked on Jammcard right now, and we’re just like, take it, take it, take it, Congrats!
“If Quincy Jones invested in Instagram, Instagram users wouldn’t be like, ‘this is great for us!’ They’d be like, ‘who cares, it’s business.’ So, that’s what’s amazing. The community feels that it was built for them.”
Boye: You don’t take a headhunter percentage?
Elmo: No. Right now the thing is to achieve use cases and to bring legitimate value to our members. That’s the focus. And, the first, most obvious focus was, create the app, make it usable, UI/UX, and then build the brand and the community because the community goes even further than the app. We also have five original web series which is cool because anyone can watch those since the app is closed off to just professionals. But the content is for anyone. Anyone can watch it on our Facebook, our Youtube, our Instagram. And it’s cool because it’s all the stories of our members. That’s another big thing that we’re doing and where we’re focused – showing that the people behind the stars are stars too. Showing that musicians matter, and that this is a giant market of really important people who have been neglected.
Boye: It’s interesting you say that. I think your average person doesn’t think about the musicians behind a lot of this music. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that producers and songwriters are becoming more of the celebrity or the star. Maybe it’s just because I love learning about these things and I live in LA, but even Benny Blanco, he’s got one of the biggest songs right now, “Eastside.” And he doesn’t sing. He produced it. It’s very interesting.
Elmo: It’s awesome and Benny deserves it. I think it’s happening in the community too, right now. There’s a documentary coming out that a friend of ours created, shout out to Butch Spyridon, that’s coming out next year about songwriters. I forgot what the title is, but it’s something along the lines of, you don’t know these people’s names and they wrote all the songs that you love and are your anthems.
*FYI the documentary Elmo is referring to is It All Begins with a Song: The Story of the Nashville Songwriter
Boye: You know what’s interesting though? It’s the same thing in the film industry.
Elmo: Oh yeah. People know your ‘Spielbergs’ but besides that, you don’t know all your screenwriters.
Boye: Right? It’s crazy.
Elmo: Or you don’t know all your production designers that are making the most beautiful sets you’ve ever seen.
Boye: What does Jammcard look like in the film industry?
Elmo: Oh man, when is this coming out? That’s something I could drop on you.
Boye: Oh snap, do it. Do it.
Elmo: We just funded and produced our first feature documentary. Our first JammFilm.
Elmo: JammFilms. We are about to announce it, actually. We’re just finalizing some contracts and then we’re going to send the press release. And then it’s super kosher.
Boye: Dope. So, I have a question. Why are you doing this?
Elmo: Jammcard is, I mean, the brand itself is technology. It is events and it is content. The whole thing is the music professional community. So, there’s essentially so many voids that we haven’t been taking care of. One of them is technology because, you know, as creatives we don’t use LinkedIn. The label people may, but not musicians. And we actually don’t allow label people into Jammcard. We work with them. Like, ‘Hey, we’ll help build your team and everything.’ But this is a sacred, safe, network. That makes our community feel even more proud of it, cherish it, and it makes them feel safe. Anyway, number one – technology. We don’t have LinkedIn, we don’t have IMDb for music. The Musicians’ Union is pretty horrible. Meanwhile, we’re a lean startup that can make decisions and move fast. So there’s the tech. The content aspect is telling our members’ stories in unique ways. Our first web series is called “How I Got The Gig” and we partnered with the Grammys on it. It’s an interview series where I interview pros on how they got their big gig. We did Miles Mosley on Lauryn Hill. We did Adrian X on Drake. We did Morris Hayes on Prince. We did Victoria Theodore on Beyonce. We did Brenda Lee on Ray Charles. And what’s really cool is we got them on the front page of Grammy.com. We did Rico Nichols on Kendrick, and it’s like “Whoa, you got me on the front page of the Grammys!” Not Kendrick, Kendrick’s drummer.
Boye: I love that.
“What I’m most proud of is how engaged the community is and how much genuine love there is within the community.”
Elmo: My whole thing is, you may be Kendrick’s drummer, but you still got 100,000 followers and those 100,000 people want to be you and look up to you more than they look up to Kendrick because they’re like, “I want to be that drummer.” It’s important to inspire people and to make people accessible in a safe way and to help them manage themselves. The artists have managers and agents, but all of your personnel doesn’t. Whether you’re a drummer or a tour manager or an engineer, you, 99% of the time, are representing yourself. But at the same time, you’re a creative which means you’re typically not the best businessperson.
Boye: What was the “aha” moment? Because you’ve been drumming for years, heavily networked, and this seems to be doing really well. At what point were you like, you know what, I need to do this?
Elmo: There were two. There was the point where I thought of it and then there was a point when I decided to build it…Because building a company, or a social network, or any of these things is hard.
Boye: People underestimate how hard it is.
Elmo: The moment when I thought of Jammcard was in 2008. I was throwing a weekly art and music event in Hollywood that was called Camerata. I started touring when I was 15. When I was 22, I came home and I saw that the art and music community was fragmented everywhere and there was no hub and I was like, ‘I want to make the physical hub.’ So, I made this event to be the physical hub for creatives and it ended up becoming that, which was amazing. It was a big success. I did 200 of them in a row, 200 weeks in a row. Sunday nights. Skrillex came out of there. Young the Giant, Miley Cyrus, and The Growlers came out of there. I met Christina Perri there and then ended up being her music director.
Boye: Wait, so are you saying Skrillex and Young the Giant became famous because of your event?
Elmo: I’m not going to say they became famous because of my event, but I will say that I gave them their first residency where they got discovered.
Boye: Oh, that’s amazing.
Elmo: Yeah. Young the Giant definitely. They were a Newport Beach band and they sent me their song “Cough Syrup,” which is now a huge hit. But even the demo of that song was very similar to the actual production recording. I was like, ‘This is a hit.’ They were the first residency I gave and they got signed to Roadrunner. And then Skrillex was the very last residency I gave. Deadmau5 came and saw him there.
Boye: Remember when Skrillex was Sonny from From First to Last?
Elmo: Of course, that’s where I met Sonny. Sonny and I were on Warped Tour together when I was 18 and he was 15.
Boye: Wow. I grew up in Minnesota and you I was one of those kids who wore the Chuck Taylors and loved all that stuff. I remember when Warped Tour came into town, Underoath was my favorite group, ever. And that year as we were walking in, these people handed us tickets and basically all we had to do was help for an hour and then we were backstage the whole day.
Elmo: That’s awesome.
Boye: It was. Anyway-
Elmo: I did Warped Tour when I was 15, 16, 18 and 21, or some shit.
Boye: Such a good idea.
Elmo: When I was 16 I won the world’s fastest drummer competition at Warped Tour in Las Vegas.
Boye: That is so cool.
Elmo: Yeah, it was my first competition. I was such a little kid.
Boye: So, sorry I interrupted. You were throwing these events –
Elmo: Throwing this event and then when the night became a success, a lot of people were meeting there and things were forming organically. Since I was the guy throwing it, a lot of people were coming to me being like, “Yo, I want a songwriter, I need a drummer, I need a bass player, or I need a manager.” I started playing matchmaker just because I love people.I love putting people together. I love collaborating. I started just doing that and whenever it worked it felt amazing because, to a creative, finding your equal, your creative partner, is the most important thing in the world. We had a lot of success cases come out of that and a lot of people make friends, and make bands, and make movies, and make whatever. While that was happening, I was like, wow, we need a digital platform for this to happen. We need a digital card so we can jam. We need a Jammcard. That was the first thought. I pitched it to my dad. My dad’s an entrepreneur. He was like, that’s great, and you should build that. But if you are, you’ve got to stop touring and you’ve got to stop making records. I was like, okay, cool well then I’m not going to do that because at the time I was 24 or so, and I really wanted to continue focusing on my drumming and my musical career, so I put it on ice. That was the Aha-thinking of it-moment
The Aha-I’m going to make this-moment was four years later. And, I thought about it almost every day for four years as I was on tour and I was growing as a professional. When Skrillex blew up, I was drumming with him and then Christina Perri blew up, I was drumming with her, and all these other people that were coming out of Camerata – I was working with them. I’m playing arenas and I have albums charting. And I was like, oh, okay. I’m at this level as an individual, as a drummer and everything. But if I got a label to give me a budget to build a band, it would all still be built via word of mouth. So, I was like, wait a second. I was working on records with older cats who are legends and who I was so excited to work with. And I’m seeing these guys, some of them are in their 60s, grinding as hard as me, and I’m 25. But, they’ve been legends for 30 years. That ain’t right. So I was just like, holy shit. The top tier pros need Jammcard as much as the amateurs, and the college kids, and the up and comers. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s almost annoying how long I had been thinking about this and hadn’t built it. So I was like, ‘I want to just to attempt to build it. And if it fails, at least I tried. And I’ll never think about it again. But if it works out, well then great. I’ve been thinking about this for so long.’ That was the moment I was like, okay, I’m going to make the leap and do it. It took a lot of sacrifices. I was at the height of my career as a drummer and a music director, and I quit to build my tech startup. And I knew nothing about tech. There was a huge learning curve, but I’m a resilient dude. I’m also street smart. I didn’t go to college. I’m a self-taught drummer, even. And definitely a self-taught entrepreneur. I’m very much a dive in and figure it out guy. I had never thrown an event before I threw Camerata.
Boye: Dude, super inspiring. It’s great to see that you really felt the need because you are the demographic. A lot of times investors are passionate about finding the person that is the literal DNA of the product. Which is really cool. And you’ve also kept the events going, right? You have this thing called the JammJam. What’s that all about?
Elmo: The JammJam is like a fucking dream world. The JammJam is one of my favorite things in the world and it has become a very valuable thing for the Jammcard community, too. The JammJam is our members-only event. We do them at pop up locations so you never know where it’s going to be. We only send it to our Jammcard member list. We don’t do Facebook, Instagram, or any of that until post-event. We send an email out that’s like, ‘Yo, JammJam is in three days at Tower Records,’ or wherever it is. We set up all the gear in a circle facing in and then the crowd is around the perimeter directly on top of the performers. But even the crowd is all of your peers. For the last one we did in LA, we took over Capitol Records and we did Ty Dolla $ign with this 10-piece band including Mike Morris, his music director, an amazing drummer, and keyboardist. Normally, Ty’s band is just Mike and a guitarist, Matt or Chuck, but for the event, we had two drummers, two bass players, two guitars, two keyboardists, talk box, and then,Ty. So it’s like 10 piece band, JammJam, live remix at Capitol Records.
Boye: Do you charge tickets?
Elmo: No, it’s free to get in…if you can get in. It’s limited to our members. We also allow other strategic people that can bring value to our members. So, even though we don’t allow label people in the app, there’s always some label people at the JammJam. There are always people from Spotify, from the Recording Academy, from TheFutureParty, things like that. Which by the way, the next one you’re there, bro.
Boye: I’m down. We should do one together. That would be tight. In fact, we were supposed to the first time we met.
Elmo: You’re right! Yeah, that’s so crazy. Well, now it’s time. You had TheFutureParty already out and I was just stewing on Jammcard still. When I showed you the app, that was a demo. Those were our prototypes, but anyway…
Boye: But now you have an office.
Elmo: We just got our first office which you saw. You were our first photo shoot in the office.
Boye: It’s at United Recording.
Elmo: It’s at United Recording, which is so sick.
Boye: There’s a lot of history to that place.
Elmo: There’s so much history in United. We’re so lucky man, that we get to be in there. It was built in the 50s by Frank Sinatra and his team. Frank Sinatra left Capitol Records, which was a huge deal when he left because he was the king of the world, definitely of Hollywood. He moved down the street, built out United and created Reprise Records. So, the first floor of United is recording studios. Studio A, Studio B and Studio D are legendary. All the rat pack stuff recorded there. Frank, Sammy, Ray Charles, Nancy Sinatra, all the way to like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Mother’s Milk, all the way to Thriller. All the way to the new 4:44 Jay Z, and the new Drake. It’s a completely legendary studio that is genre-less. A lot of what we do at Jammcard is keeping it genre-less. So, the first floor is all those legendary studios. The second floor was Reprise, and there are five offices upstairs. OUR office was Frank Sinatra’s office.
Boye: I didn’t know that. That’s sick!
Elmo: I didn’t know that either. I knew the Sinatra history, but we moved into the office like two weeks ago and I was excited just because as a musician and United is my favorite studio in LA, hands down.
Boye: I have to admit I had no idea until I was walking the halls and looking at all these photos. It’s crazy because it was kind of what you were saying, Frank Sinatra, Jay Brown and all these old guys. And then I’m like, oh, Rihanna and Jay Z and Watch the Throne. And Kanye, it’s insane.
Elmo: It’s everything from the old classic shit to the new hip hop shit.
Boye: It almost feels symbolic because you’re creating this new technology meets community in a place that has so much history. It’s interesting. How does it feel?
Elmo: It’s awesome man. It’s cool. I essentially toured from age 15 to 30 and then started Jammcard. I’ve never had an office job. I’ve never had a desk, besides my studio, but that’s a different kind of desk. It’s actually been fucking with me a little bit. I’m just like, ‘Woah. I’m in an office, but it’s unbelievable.’ I have my first office, but it’s in United so it still feels like me. I love it. We’ve got a key to United. It’s amazing. You walk in and you see all the records and you just know instantly that you’re there, you know? When you walk into the lobby you picture Michael Jackson walking in. You’re just like, damn.
Boye: Are they investors?
Elmo: No, they’re not investors, but, we are going to be working on some projects that haven’t been announced yet. There will be collabs coming out of there. And what’s really cool is that our members are there every day. They record there. And we’re plugged in. If anyone needs anything from United, I’m like, what do you need? String section? Co-Writer? What do you need? We can get someone in here for you.
Boye: Love it. One last question. What is a piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneur or creative who wants to do something unique on their own?
Elmo: Man, I’ve learned so much on this ride. One thing that I think is super important would be if you want to create anything, resilience wins. Don’t give up, ever. You will win. But, I think a more defined piece of advice I could give is if you want to create an app, what I highly recommend you do is step one, draw all the screens yourself. Think of every single screen from the welcome screen. You download the app in the app store and you open it up for the first time. What does the user see? What do they see after? Is it a social network? Are you creating an account? What is it? Think of every single screen that you possibly can, get the product out of inside you and draw it with a ruler. Trace your phone and draw it.
The better you have your vision, the better that you can expect it to be executed because if you’re just telling someone, I want a fitness app that does this and it takes your heart rate. If they’re a designer or a developer, they’re just going to make their interpretation of what you say unless you write out your screens and draw them all out the best you can. Step two, do not bring it to a developer yet. Bring it to a designer because development costs 10 times as much as design, and you do not need code at this point. There’s an app called InVision that you can load the files into and actually make it a clickable prototype that has no code, so you’re saving so much time.
Boye: That’s your sales tool.
Elmo: That’s your sales tool and you can use that to show developers. ‘Hey, this is what I want to make. Can you bring this to life?’ You can show investors, ‘Hey, this is what I want to create.` You can bring it to Quincy, you can bring it to whoever. I didn’t do that at first. I tried dev and we ended up spending three years in development creating prototypes. I could have saved a lot of time and a lot of investor cash.
“If you want to create anything, resilience wins. Don’t give up, ever. You will win.”
Boye: I’ve had situations where I’m like ‘Dang, that’s a hard lesson,’ but sometimes you need those. You know what I mean?
Elmo: You need it, dude. The first three years of dev was really hard for me. And it was a giant learning curve because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was learning. But when I reflect, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Now, I truly appreciate what we have and I’m a better manager because I had to get in dirty in order to try to fix and execute my vision. With that being said, learn from your mistakes and also learn from other’s mistakes. So, step one: draw the screens out yourself. Step two: find a designer to bring them to life and put it into InVision.
“I didn’t know what I was doing. I was learning. But when I reflect, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Now I truly appreciate what we have and I’m a better manager because I had to get in dirty in order to try to fix and execute my vision”
Boye: Elmo. It’s been great chatting. Where can we find you?
Elmo: Yes. So, me personally, I’m @elmolovano. Jammcard is @jammcard. Our Instagram and our Youtube are totally popping off. If you’re listening to this and you’re a music professional, you’re a producer, you’re a writer, you’re a manager, you’re a musician, you’re whatever, and you’re a pro, you can go to jammcard.com and apply. It’s super simple. We just ask you things like who have you been working with, touring with or recording with? Are you a member of the musician’s union? Who are you? And if you’re just a music lover or music fan go to our Instagram, go to our Youtube. There’s tons of content. Or on Facebook, free content, How I Got the Gig is an amazing show. They’re now playing it in Berklee. If you want to learn how to get the gig this is straight from the horse’s mouth. We have a show called Gear Goggles where we go to band production rehearsals and show what a production rehearsal is like. We’ve done it with Kendrick’s band, Kid Cudi’s band, Tears for Fears. We just did Shakira, Lorde. We’ve done some really cool ones where you can see behind the scenes on how their Ableton rigs work and that kind of stuff. It’s more ‘lifestyle’ than it is nerdy.
Boye: It almost sounds like a media company.
Elmo: Oh, the Jammcard media arm is growing. So, the app, if you’re a music pro, and if you’re just a music lover, check out our content.
Boye: Cool. Awesome man. Elmo, thanks for coming through.
Elmo: You know it, Boye.